Author: Lil-Yasha PM
A not so typical slave story. POST MANGA. Brother fic. NONYAOI. Inukag. A long One Shot. WINNER-Best Dark Fic/Horror, IY Fan Guild, 4th Quarter 2009!Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Hurt/Comfort - Inuyasha & Sesshomaru - Words: 21,225 - Reviews: 41 - Favs: 128 - Follows: 11 - Published: 08-20-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5318878
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
DISCLAIMER: Implied mature themes. The song included in this fiction is a Japanese folk song. It can be found on (http :// www. mamalisa. com /?p= 830&t= es&c= 85). MP3 included.
WARNING: Spoiler alerts for the manga.
LENGTH: 51 pages on WORD
Suikan: the outer jacket Inuyasha and (possibly) Sesshomaru wears.
Hakama: the pants Inuyasha and (again possibly) Sesshomaru wears.
Hadagi: Inuyasha's white under-shirt.
Obi: a long sash which ties around a person's middle when a kimono is worn. Sesshomaru wears one.
Kimi: She Who is Without Equal.
NOTE: The names for Miroku and Sango's children were made-up. As far as I know, they were not named in the manga. I felt as though Kimi's name meaning was ironic, since she has a twin. And since Miroku always hoped for a son, but perhaps felt it would be impossible with his curse, I named the boy Satu, a fairytale come true. Just some interesting tid bits for you.
This fiction is not connected to SHARED SINS. This is a large attempt on my part in keeping Sesshomaru in character. Try not to read unless you have time on your hands. Enjoy!
Miniature fingers reached out into the air, grasping for a wayward leaf hanging low on a tree branch. The rough edge of the leaf tickled the pads of her fingertips, just out of reach, and a youthful grunt interjected the song she had been singing.
"How happy. Spring has come over the Sumida, rowing up, rowing down in the low sunbeams. Ah, almost…there!" A corner of her tongue peeked out between her lips.
Because of the unexpected baritone, Rin lost the balance she had precariously placed on her tip toes. "Oh!" She caught herself in time and twirled happily to the owner of the voice.
"Lord Sesshomaru!" Rin giggled happily but her grin faltered into a little pout when she glanced up at the leaf. Out of reach.
The Daiyoukai calmly strolled up the grassy hill and eyed the girl and her predicament. Jakken, panting, quickly followed after him. The toad looked at Rin exasperatedly, "Rin! Must you run so fast!"
"I'm sorry Master Jakken. I am just sooooo happy to be traveling with Lord Sesshomaru again!"
The toad harrumphed. "Yes, yes, and your time in the human village has dulled your senses, girl. You should never stray so far away!"
Sesshomaru made his way closer to Rin, causing Jakken to fluster about in an attempt to keep up.
"Did you hear my song, Lord Sesshomaru? I learned it from Lady Kaede. It is about cherry blossoms!" Rin pointed up at the leaf, talking faster with excitement as her lord came closer.
"It's too early for cherry blossoms but I thought that leaf was pretty like a flower. That is why I was trying to bring it down, so Lord Sesshomaru may see." Sesshomaru didn't answer her. His amber eyes flicked over the simple green plant.
"Silly girl," Jakken snorted. "Lord Sesshomaru has no interest with a tree." He proudly nodded his head around his Staff.
But with a serene slide of his left arm, Sesshomaru plucked off the leaf and handed it down to the girl. Rin laughed shortly and held her palms out to catch it as it floated from the Youkai's slender fingers. "Isn't it pretty, my lord?" She held it up to a shaft of light filtering in through the branches. It caused the green skin to glow and illuminate the intricate veins.
"Yes, Rin." Sesshomaru said, his voice gentle and monotone. Jakken's mouth fell open.
The trio continued on their journey down the other side of the hill. Rin ran around, her arms held out, watching with delight as the leaf fluttered. Amidst her panting breath, she sang: "How happy! Spring has come over the Sumida, rowing up, rowing down in the warm sunbeams. Drops from the boatmen's oars look like cherry blooms. How can I describe for you the view o'er the streams?"
Jakken followed her antics with his bulbous, amphibian eyes and sighed. "It has been long while, has it not Lord Sesshomaru?"
Sesshomaru did not answer. He walked with one hand placed on the billowing boa over his shoulder. But although he was quiet, Jakken knew well from the years of travel that his master agreed.
"Things have changed so much since the victory over Naraku." Very much indeed, the toad thought. The world was quieter, brighter even. There were moments of extended monotony since interludes with a fan-blowing woman and other creatures of dastardly size and deed didn't occur anymore. But, if he were asked to comment on the state of things, Jakken found it all very soothing. It was pleasant to return to simple travel, even with a hyperactive human child. But…if he were asked to admit on that matter, he was glad for her returned presence as well.
"Rin also seems to be doing well in the village of Edo amongst the humans. She has grown taller!"
"Yes," Sesshomaru said slowly. "She has."
Jakken glanced briefly up at him and felt a rare twinge of courage. His mouth acted upon it. "It was a good choice, Lord Sesshomaru, to place her in Lady Kaede's charge. She has learned much." The courage quickly died. "Oh, but excuse me my lord, I would never question your intentions! Your decisions are always correct and admirable and—uh--!"
The toad spluttered into self-reproach. He waited for an irritated whack on the head. But nothing came. Sesshomaru walked on, showing no sign he'd even heard the toad stammer. His attention remained on the humming child.
"Uh, yes, um…" Jakken cleared his throat. "Um, Rin!"
The girl turned and called over her shoulder, "Yes, Master Jakken?"
"Uh, what would you like to purchase when we arrive?" Rin paused, her head tilting to the side in contemplation.
Since Sesshomaru had ordered Rin to stay in the human village of Edo, she'd only been visited by him once or twice a month. A small present would always be left behind. Rin certainly had plenty of beautifully crafted kimonos, for instance. Years had gone by. Houshi-sama, or Miroku, and Sango-san's son was walking now and playing with his twin sisters. Good money, and the occasional rice bundle, came into the little village due to Miroku's successful exorcism and Inuyasha's extermination with the Tetsusaiga. Rin helped with chores and learned about medicinal herbs, bandaging wounds, aiding the sick, and anything else deemed beneficial to her. She'd even learned to defend herself. The days stacked on each other—lessons and meals and chores and playtime with Shippo (when he wasn't training to be a top-ranking kitsune) and all the other children. Rin had never been lonely and time dulled the ache in her chest from not seeing her lord's face every day. She'd never made a fuss over his decision to leave her in the village. Her lord always knew what was best for her. But, nonetheless, when Lord Sesshomaru and Master Jakken came to the village, announcing that they wished for Rin to travel with them to a special city, her answer was made without any hesitation. Yes. If only for a short time. Rin yearned for the old days of travel and even demon-slaying. Anything. As long as she was with her favorite person again.
Rin finally shrugged. "I am not sure. I am in no need of anything. I am just happy to be with Master Jakken and Lord Sesshomaru again!"
She walked beside them now, fingering her leaf thoughtfully. "Maybe, if it is alright with Lord Sesshomaru, I will purchase a present."
"A present? For who?"
"Maybe for the twins, Kimi and Kamin, and little Satu. Or..." Rin's features fell and the leaf drooped in her suddenly placid fingers.
"What is it, Rin?" Jakken asked, surprised by her sudden about-face.
"Perhaps I should purchase a present for Kagome…when she returns."
"Ah, yes," the toad mumbled. "I did not see her at the village. She's traveling you say? With Inuyasha of course. I did not see him either." Although that wasn't uncommon on their short trips to the village. Naraku was dead. Sesshomaru had regained his arm. Yet the tension between the two brothers lived on.
Rin nodded, her brows knitted a small fraction. "Kagome is not traveling with Inuyasha. She is… searching for him."
"Yes. Inuyasha left to…'take care of business'—"her words bounced haltingly, indicating that they were someone else's words, "because some villagers went missing. Everyone thought it was a demon. But…Inuyasha didn't come back."
"Perhaps the world is finally free of another hanyou!" Jakken said happily.
Rin softly scoffed, affronted. "Inuyasha is very nice, Master Jakken. He has protected the village many times. And you're wrong! No demon was ever found. There wasn't any blood or…anything."
She glanced briefly at Lord Sesshomaru. "He has been gone for a long while. I have lost track. Kagome keeps searching but she comes back, finding nothing. Everyone is getting very worried." Rin's little hands tightened around her plant.
"I was so excited, I-I almost forgot…" Her words were tinged with guilt.
Jakken frowned and looked at the ground. "Missing? Well…that half-breed idiot has been known to get himself in trouble. What do you make of it, my lord?"
Sesshomaru's features were tight and cold. "It is none of my concern."
Jakken gaped like a fish before answering. "Ah, yes! Yes, of course!" Lady Kaede, the monk, and the taijiya had made no comment about Inuyasha's disappearance with his lord. Apparently, they knew well of what his opinion would be. None of his concern. As it should be, Jakken thought firmly. Inuyasha had always been a half-brained mongrel, constantly getting himself and others in dangerous altercations. Why, the toad could very well argue that Inuyasha was the cause of Naraku's existence. Correct or no, he could still argue it! But Naraku was an old story. And this was none of their concern. So Jakken tossed the matter out of his mind.
However, Rin was visibly saddened by her remembrance, or lack thereof. Jakken sighed. "Do not worry, Rin. Inuyasha will return. Hanyous tend to be hard to get rid of."
Rin looked back at the dazed toad, crumpled on the ground with a knot on his head. Rin wasn't sure why Lord Sesshomaru whacked him but, she hesitantly smiled, it was another thing she had missed.
"Wow. Oh, wow. Lord Sesshomaru, this is amazing!" Rin fluttered along the stoned path, neck craning to see the top of buildings larger than she'd ever seen them. People milled about in large numbers. Some even traveled on carts carrying sweet-smelling foods. She spun around and around, trying to take in all the hanging lanterns and intricately curved architecture, all of the chatter of the city-folk. "What is this place? It is so big!"
"Of course it is big, girl. You have never traveled to a city before. Spending all your time in small fishing villages would restrict your knowledge of the world." Jakken received another painful whack from Sesshomaru. As he struggled up from the heated stones, Jakken grumbled to himself. It had been weeks since his last punishment and yet the moment Rin returned…He questioned his initial gladness.
Rin beamed up at Sesshomaru, full of awe. "Lord Sesshomaru, no one is afraid of you." A Daiyoukai in the middle of the street and none of the villagers cried out "demon". There were some wary or stunned faces but no one bothered them.
"It is because this is no ordinary city, Rin." Jakken answered, rubbing his sore skull. "It is the only place where demons can trade with humans. It is secretive, which is why we had to travel through the barrier." The barrier kept the city hidden to the naked eye and the magic caused unknowing travelers to pass right around it. Only those consciously searching for it could enter. Those who lived in the village were not permitted to leave. And those who traveled there for trading purposes had to make a terribly binding vow to keep its location secret. Jakken wanted to explain all of this but Rin had no interest.
"Oh, wow! Look at that!" She bounced away.
Jakken sighed heavily. She's older and is still so easily distracted. He warily spoke to his lord, "What shall we purchase, Lord Sesshomaru? Did you have anything special in mind?"
Sesshomaru, again, had his eyes on Rin, keeping track of her in the traveling crowds. "No," he said simply.
Jakken, confused, followed through the streets and vendors. Well then, he thought, then this trip was simply for Rin. He would always wonder despairingly why his lord favored that girl so highly. To even travel to a city Lord Sesshomaru detested. Humans and demons exchanging goods and favors? It was aggravating and on the verge of blasphemy. But alas, here they were. Rin, overflowing with excitement, couldn't settle down long enough to even consider making a purchase. But maybe that was the whole reason Lord Sesshomaru had chosen this particularly interesting city in the first place. Jakken mentally shrugged. He would always wonder…
Rin's eyes were wide as she watched a man prepare a dish out of octopus and batter. He flipped the animal all around, spinning knives so quickly that it blurred into gray and glinting light. She clapped her hands when he sliced clean through a tentacle, a perfect cut. The man beamed and with his free hand, the other twirling the knife, handed Rin a small plate, steaming balls of batter placed delicately atop it. "For you, young child. A free sample."
"For me!" Rin nodded politely and took the food. "Thank you so much!"
"You are very welcome. It is for being such a wonderful audience. Be careful! It is hot."
Rin poked one of the treats and sighed in pleasure at the heat. She thanked the man again and hurried back to Sesshomaru and Jakken. "Look, Lord Sesshomaru! Would you like to try one?"
"Silly girl! You never remember. Lord Sesshomaru does not eat human food." Jakken loudly scoffed.
"Oh, Master Jakken," Rin shook her head. "If you wanted one, you could just ask."
She experimentally squeezed the soft batter and saw a hint of a purple suction cup. But her attention was diverted when she saw a group of people huddle down the street around a makeshift stand. They spoke fervently amongst each other. Most seemed human to her but if she paid attention, Rin could make out pointed ears or swishing tails in the crowd.
"What is happening? What are they waiting for?"
"It seems to be a special preparation. Perhaps it is an auction of rare and valuable items." Jakken said with interest.
"Wow. An auction. Would it be alright if I watched for a time, Lord Sesshomaru? I've never seen an auction before."
Sesshomaru inclined his head. "As you wish, Rin. Express your desire if you see anything you would like to purchase."
Rin's cheeks pulled up into a bright smile, not only at his request but because he had spoken so openly to her. She could read him well but it was still nice to hear his voice. Lord Sesshomaru had a wonderful voice! "Thank you, my lord!"
They walked over to the stand. At first, the girl was concerned that she wouldn't be able to see but once people and demons alike recognized Sesshomaru as the Daiyoukai lord he was, they allowed them to pass with respectful bows. The trio made it all the way to the front. Rin suckled on the batter-covered octopus, being mindful of the vapors of heat, and watched with fascination as a strange man walked onto the stage.
His robes were composed of the most colorful fabrics she'd ever seen on a man. They floated around him like a cape, sweeping the sky each time he moved his arms. And he moved his arms a lot, with grand expression, enunciating every syllable he boasted.
"Ladies and gentleman," he exclaimed. "I have traveled far to bring you the rarest, the most valuable, the most desired items in all the land. I have traveled oceans! I have come from places you could only imagine—where deserts of sand cover as much earth as you can see; where jungles blanket the sky above you and house creatures of every size. I have traded with men of every color, with demon of every species. I have done it all!"
He pointed dramatically at the crowd. "Just for you.
Just so you may have the opportunity to purchase what you cannot gain anywhere else."
He clapped his hands and bursts of smoke billowed out from behind him. Rin jumped. The crowd made loud noises of admiration and approval.
"Let us begin, shall we?"
Rin's empty plate lay forgotten on the ground. She shouted out in glee along with everyone else as a bird, standing behind the orator, opened up its large tail. Feathers of green and blue and patterned circles interlaced outward like a geisha's fan.
"Behold!" The orator said, "A bird painted by nature. What shall be your bid? Who will fight for the chance to own such a brilliant piece of living tapestry? A certain treat for any kind of celebration. Impress your friends. Dare I say your in-laws?" The crowd laughed loudly and erupted into shouts of bids.
Rin listened and watched, impressed by how the orator could distinguish who had made the largest bid and award him for it. After all these items, both living and not, of wondrous creatures and magical ink pots or brushes or lamps, the orator kept Rin's rapt attention. She had not made a move to purchase anything—it was all too grand and expensive to her—but Rin enjoyed the spectacle. Even Jakken was astounded.
"I have never seen such a bird before!" The toad said. "Where could he have found it?"
"I don't know but isn't it beautiful? Don't you think so, Lord Sesshomaru?"
Resolute amber eyes glanced down at her and there was a spark of amusement. "Yes, Rin."
The orator clapped his hands again, gaining everyone's notice. "Ladies and gentlemen, you have been a wonderful crowd. Spectacular even! I am humbled to know that I have been able to bring such beauty and splendor into your lives. It makes my days of long travel worth it. And to reward you of your city's hospitality towards me and, of course, to reward you for being so responsive…I have saved the best. For last." Another plume of smoke and suddenly there were two beautiful women, wearing such short kimonos that Rin felt embarrassed. They smiled brightly and held the cords connected to the curtain behind them.
The orator leaned closer to them and his voice lowered. "I must warn all of you. What I shall present to you next has never been seen before in your homeland. But in a land of mountainous insects, where the sun is larger and hotter, these are so valuable…they are constantly stolen from their owners. Even killed over. They are greatly desired. Worth a fortune!" He smiled.
"But I like you. You have been so wonderful to me that I will sell these rarities to you at a very reasonable price. So reasonable that I should have you arrested for stealing from me!" Some chuckles. Some excited shifting.
He turned to his waiting ladies and lifted his hands. "Behold!—I shall show the first of a very small collection."
The cords were pulled and the curtain was lifted. Behind the fabric…
Was a person.
Rin tilted her head, confused. After the bird, she'd expected something…more.
One of the ladies walked over to the man and shooed him downstage. His head remained bowed. There were strange spots on his skin, iridescent. They sparkled in the sun. The orator walked over to him and placed a hand under the man's chin, lifting him up to show his face. Rin sucked in her breath softly. The man's flesh glinted beautifully but his eyes were empty and tired. They stared out without seeing.
The crowd was hushed, confused as well.
"This, my friends, is possibility," the orator cooed. "He has been trained to be anything you wish him to be: a worker, a friend, a husband. A lover. He will willingly do anything you tell him to. But don't just believe me."
He stepped back, harshly removing his hand from under the man's chin, and snapped. "Sit!"
The man did what he was told. No hesitation.
The orator walked around him. "Perhaps the harvest is running late. He will do the work for you, at top-rate speed. Or perhaps a customer has made an order you can't possibly do by yourself. He will do it in time and with quality. Chores. Watching the children. Protecting your property. He will willingly do it all. It's his job. His purpose in life. He wants nothing more. He is your…may I say it again? Possibility."
There was a moment of silence.
"Anything?" Someone cried.
"Anything you wish," the orator said.
"But why?" Another person said.
"Because he wants to of course! He is a being with a rare state of mind, someone who wants to please others at all costs. He would be bereft without this meaning."
Another silent moment.
"50,000 yen!" Someone shouted.
"50,000? He did not travel all this way, from a land where people murdered for his assistance, for such a small price! Do I hear another?"
Rin was stunned. Although a good portion of the crowd moved away from the stage, grumbling. Incrementally, the remaining horde battled for the right to own the man on stage. When the sparkling man was sold, he was ordered down to his new owner and he knelt on all fours, touching his head to the ground.
And then the orator brought out more.
"I don't understand," Rin said. The crowd had gotten voracious as men, and even women, of different colors were being sold. Some had strange eyes. One could shape shift, to everyone's astonishment. There were even a few humans snuck in. All had some sort of impressive ability or characteristic and this "rare state of mind" that the orator argued was invaluable.
But to Rin, they all just looked sad and exhausted.
"Who are these people, Master Jakken?"
The toad answered coolly, "They are slaves, Rin."
"Slaves? Like servants?"
"No. They are lower than servants. Lord Sesshomaru has servants in his estate in the Western Lands. They have specific tasks to cook and clean or the like. But they are paid, perhaps with money or privileges. Many have chosen to remain for they are loyal to the family. But slaves…they are expected nothing."
Rin looked over these odd people, these "slaves", and couldn't understand the burning feeling within her. She knew what pity was and what disgust was and this felt like both…but also something more. Something indescribable. It made her a little ill. She wanted to leave. Desperately.
"Lord Sesshomaru, could we, uh…?"
"And now the final one! He is the rarest of them all. Capable of great speeds, great feats of strength. He knows how to fight. He knows how to track and to hunt. He has the capability to smell and hear over long distances. And he has a magical sword…" The orator lifted a brow and grinned.
"Ladies and gentlemen! I present to you…
The crowd immediately went still. The orator knowingly nodded as the curtain was lifted. "Yes, you heard me correctly. A hanyou. A mixed blood. Of both human and demon. A rarity in itself to find one alive and grown! And surprisingly, he is a top specimen. But why don't you see for yourself…"
The women brought forth a person of moderate height. It wore a large robe, a hood covering its features with darkness. When it came close to the orator, he dramatically pulled back the clothing and revealed a shock of shaggy hair. Brutally cut short…
And Rin was close enough to see two triangles flick weakly atop the crown of its head. The orator seized the hair and tugged, confirming Rin's fearful premonition when the face was revealed.
Rin was too shocked to even gasp.
The robe was removed to show Inuyasha in only hakama pants. It was disturbingly odd to see him shirtless. His broad shoulders and tailored abdomen was skinnier than anyone would have believed. Without the long locks of thick fur, he seemed…younger, more vulnerable despite the lined muscles and sword at his side. His arms hung loosely. Unlike all the other slaves, chains were attached to his wrists and ankles.
"He is a beauty isn't he? Eyes of gold. Hair of snow. Young, full of vivacity. I should keep him and try my hand at selling him to royalty but…ah, I have a weakness for all of you." The orator winked, "What do you say? Who wants him?"
Rin, panic burning at the fringes of her self-control, stared open-mouthed into Inuyasha's half-lidded eyes. The amber orbs were dulled. Unseeing. Devoid of…anything. His lips were parted minutely and he did nothing about the hand craning his head back. No shouting. No scowling. No temper. No…Inuyasha! Rin swallowed dryly. She never interacted with the hanyou that much but she knew him well enough to know that…this wasn't right!
She fervently looked to Master Jakken's open-mouthed stare; to Lord Sesshomaru's face. The Daiyoukai had said nothing but his face was tight and his eyes were narrowed. Rin could see a hand clench around Bakusaiga, the sword he'd obtained when he had defeated Magatsuhi and surpassed his father.
"Who would want a half-blood?" A person yelled. Similar cries rose up.
The orator held up placating hands. "I understand, I understand. But believe me when I say that he is more splendid than all the rest, strong, resilient and…" the crowd wasn't buying it, so the orator winked again. "Remember: you can do anything you want with him."
After some consideration, bids were scattered up in higher demand than before. The orator gleefully went from one price to a higher price and onwards. Rin's heart picked up tempo. Inuyasha had finally been found. Only to be sold to the highest bidder and taken away forever? How could they find him then? If she didn't do anything, she would let Kagome and everyone down. She would let Inuyasha down.
Grasping, Rin reached for Sesshomaru's sleeve and fervently tugged. He looked down at her, not hiding the sharp disgust in his gaze. "Lord Sesshomaru, please…I know you hate your brother but…please…"It was all she could say, her tongue felt heavy and useless. Please save him, Lord Sesshomaru.
Sesshomaru held eye contact for a brief moment longer and then he went back to Inuyasha's half-naked form. It would be mindlessly easy to pick this Sesshomaru out of the crowd, yet the hanyou stared on unaware of his brother's presence. Pitiful, he thought angrily, a son of a great Inu-no-Taisho being reduced to such a class. It will not do. You are truly weak, Inuyasha, to allow this to happen to you. With an easy push off the ground, Sesshomaru landed beside the orator on stage, effectively stuttering him off balance and reducing the bids to shocked murmurs.
"Wha—what? What are you doing up here? Who are you?" the orator said.
"It is Lord Sesshomaru, the lord of the west!"
"The home of the Inu-Youkai!"
The orator blinked owlishly but then quickly pulled together his composure. "Ah, royalty. I humbly welcome you to my stage. Tell me! Do you wish to buy this creature?"
Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes coldly. The orator stiffened, his grin faltering.
"What?" The orator shook his head. "Excuse me, but I shall gladly release him to you if you offer me a bid. It is only fair."
"Fair? You are not one who should speak about fairness." Sesshomaru cracked his knuckles, allowing his claws to turn acid green. "Now. Release. Him."
"B-but what is the meaning of this, my gracious lord? I have done nothing wrong. I am a simple seller! A traveler of lands! If you wish to claim th-this specimen, I must ask you to pay! I am a man who lives from paycheck to paycheck! I cannot simply let him go!"
Sesshomaru whipped out his hand, grabbing the orator around the throat. He lifted the choking, ridiculously clothed man and caused his toes to scrape along the ground. The crowd shrieked and hurried to flee. "Let him have it!" "I didn't want a half-breed anyway!" "Hurry!"
Soon, Rin and Jakken were the only ones close to the stage. The curtain-holding women had also run away.
The orator quivered in Sesshomaru's grip and futilely pulled at his fingers. "P-please…!"
Sesshomaru glanced at Inuyasha, who although freed, had not moved from his spot. "What have you done to him?"
"I-I don't know what—"
Sesshomaru shook him once, violently. "What have you done to him!"
The orator clenched his eyes shut and gurgled out, "W-we…broke him…"
The man winced from the growl. "We have our methods. H-he was a fighter. It took…everything we had to d-do it. B-but he's reverted now. H-he'll do anything you say! Please! If y-you let me live, I will give him to you!"
Sesshomaru spat out in low disgust, "I have no use for him. But you will do as I commanded." He dropped the man without warning. The orator fell to his knees, gasping.
"Y-yes…yes of course, my gracious lord."
The orator snapped his fingers. "Hanyou! C-come here!"
Inuyasha's ears tweaked and with a small assent of his head, he went to the orator. A key was pulled out and the chains soon clanked onto the wood-paneled ground. Inuyasha's arms fell, looser from the released pressure. But he made no indication that anything had happened. He stood there, without a sound. Sesshomaru frowned with more strength. What is the meaning of this? He has said nothing about my presence.
The orator stood, rubbing his neck. "I d-do not understand why you're d-doing this but can't you see? He cares nothing for the freedom! Why not let me sell him?"
"Because," Sesshomaru snapped, "he is not yours to sell."
The orator grunted, a hand shot through his chest, and with a last bubbling breath, he slumped to the ground once Sesshomaru brought back his appendage through the lungs. Inuyasha slowly turned his head to peer at the lifeless man. Blood pooled out, close to touching his bare feet. There was a small flicker of…understanding in the amber depths. But nothing more.
Sesshomaru made a soft click with his tongue, indicating his displeasure. I will do no more, Inuyasha. "You are free. Carry on with what you will."
Sesshomaru turned and proceeded down the stage steps.
Sesshomaru did not think anything of it, at first. Not until he told Jakken and Rin they were leaving and the hanyou continued to tread after them.
"My lord," Jakken whispered. "What is wrong with him? He appears to be sleep-walking."
"Maybe he doesn't know the way back." Rin looked over her shoulder. Inuyasha's head was bowed, ears drooped.
Sesshomaru paused. And Inuyasha did as well. The Daiyoukai kept his face and tone impassive. "I will not aid you in your trek back."
Inuyasha lifted his chin a small fraction, as though he was trying to hear Sesshomaru better. But he made no answer. Instead, with smooth movements, he got to his knees and bowed forward; forehead hovered over the stoned floor, his hands respectfully placed in a triangle formation on the ground before his head.
"Inuyasha…" Rin said.
"Lord Sesshomaru, he—he is bowing to you! The half-breed mutt is finally paying his proper respects!" Jakken hopped up and down. "It's about time, hanyou. After putting my lord through so much trouble, you should grovel at his feet!"
"Jakken," Sesshomaru intoned. "Silence."
The toad gasped. "Ah, yes! Yes, my lord."
Sesshomaru stepped forward and peered down at the hanyou. "Tell me. Why do you bow?"
Inuyasha spoke and his inflection was unchanging. Rin felt ill again at the emotionless sound. "Because you are my new master."
The hanyou answered, "Yes, master."
"Why am I your master now? I did not purchase you." Before Inuyasha could answer, Sesshomaru imperceptibly shook his head. "Rise and explain."
Inuyasha did so, eyes downcast. "You killed my previous master so I am yours now to own."
"Ah, the auctioneer, my lord!" Jakken said. He yelped and covered his mouth.
Sesshomaru ignored the toad.
"Cease your acting," he whispered. "Do you not recognize me for who I am, Inuyasha?"
When the hanyou did not answer, Sesshomaru bent to one knee and forced his face up. "Look me in the eyes," Inuyasha did so. "Do you not recognize me?"
Inuyasha flicked over the Youkai's features. As he did so, he seemed to grow weary. But no hint of recognition lit the amber irises. "I recognize you as my master." Sesshomaru released his chin and leaned back, remaining on one knee.
How could they have broken you so completely, Inuyasha, to have you not even know your older brother's face?
"Lord Sesshomaru? He is calling you master." Rin wrung her hands, curious but concerned. "What has happened to Inuyasha?"
"He is a slave now, Rin." Jakken announced.
Sesshomaru studied his brother's empty face. "They have broken him."
"What are you going to do about him, Lord Sesshomaru? Why have you not told him to stop following us? Do you really wish to keep him as your slave!" Jakken stumbled, quickly righted himself, and hurried back to his lord's side. "My lord?"
Rin looked back at Inuyasha again. Sesshomaru hadn't said a word, simply stood up and walked on. Inuyasha obediently followed. They had left the city and all of its strangeness behind them. Rin wasn't sure what their destination was now. Were they taking him back to the village, to Kagome and the others? Or was Jakken correct in assuming that Sesshomaru wanted to take advantage of Inuyasha's reverted mind? She couldn't believe the latter. Lord Sesshomaru may not prefer his brother but he would never do such a thing. Never.
Sesshomaru stopped, eyes forward. "Jakken."
"Do not question me any further."
The toad flinched and hastily bowed. "Y-yes, my lord. I-I shall adhere to your wishes!"
Sesshomaru glanced at Inuyasha, no longer heeding Jakken's dramatic cries of loyalty. Adhere to my wishes? Will you really do the same Inuyasha?
"We shall rest here for the night. Jakken, fetch wood and prepare a fire."
"Uh…yes, my lord." Jakken, confused, gave a parting look at Inuyasha and scampered off.
With the toad gone, Sesshomaru focused on the half-breed. "Inuyasha," he said in a low tone.
The hanyou made no movement.
"Inuyasha." A little louder. But still nothing.
In a sudden flash of insight, Sesshomaru remembered the orator's last few moments. "Hanyou! C-Come here!"
Brows furrowed tight, Sesshomaru whispered, "Hanyou."
Inuyasha made a small start. "Yes, master. What is your wish?"
It cannot be. "Tell me your name, hanyou."
His ears twitched once in an irritated fashion but then swiftly drooped. "My name, master? It is whatever you wish it."
"Do you not remember it?"
He appeared to be wilting under some unseen force. His voice was greatly fatigued, "It will be whatever you wish, master."
Sesshomaru stalked closer to the boy and regarded him with quiet disdain. "Look at me."
Inuyasha did so.
He was punched straight in the mouth.
Rin flinched, covering her lips to keep herself from calling the hanyou's name.
"Tell me your name." Inuyasha slowly rose back into a straightened position, fingering his swelling jowl. His fingers trembled, ever so slightly. Weak.
"It is…whatever you wish."
Sesshomaru punched him again on the opposite cheek, crashing the half-demon to the grass-packed ground. The Youkai was inwardly piqued at the sound Inuyasha emitted when he was struck, like a wounded dog when it was kicked in the face. "Tell me your name, hanyou! I tire quickly of this act."
Again, Inuyasha quickly righted himself. He sat on his knees, a position of submission. His lip was cracked and bleeding. It was difficult for him to speak past the bruising. "I'm sorry…master. I am unable to answer…your questions…as you desire. You may…continue to punish me…as you see fit."
Punish? Sesshomaru glared, out right. He was reminded of when he'd witnessed father's blood overtake the hanyou, prompting him to kill human bandits. Sesshomaru had felt this same soft derision then. This displeasure. They were destined to fight until they died—but he would not battle Inuyasha if the half-breed wasn't in the right mind. You are no longer the Inuyasha I know. This would need to be corrected.
"You will not address me as master," Sesshomaru said. "It is unbecoming from the likes of you."
Inuyasha nodded. "What do you wish for me to call you?"
There was challenge in Sesshomaru's voice, not unlike when he'd demand Inuyasha to withdraw his sword in the past. "Remember my name on your own." He walked away.
Inuyasha gingerly stood. He swayed a bit but kept himself from falling. Rin was startled when his eyes flicked over to her. He bowed low in Sesshomaru's direction. "Very well. I shall address you as Lord Sesshomaru."
Sesshomaru sat against the base of a tree and did not answer. He refused to look at Inuyasha anymore.
Gravity pulled him down relentlessly. It took all his strength not to plop to the floor. The muscles of his back and neck argued against being ramrod straight but his master had already enacted punishment not long after gaining his ownership. He must be polite. He was not ordered to sit or to help with the fire but his master did not say a word otherwise. He reproached himself for acting out of turn since his master was displeased greatly with him. But all he could think to rectify it was silence. This wouldn't be difficult. His thoughts were sluggish and hard to maintain for longer than a few seconds, never mind a conversation. It would be best not to be heard. He had been taught that. Forced to learn.
Pain flared up in his mind and the dark walls encased within his thoughts pulsed with strength, blocking out the memories. His master demanded for his name. But he wasn't supposed to have a name. It was beaten out of him, bled out of his memory along with the filling of his veins. His master had said he should recognize him. And something teased and mocked him on the other side of the wall when he looked at his master's face, or heard his master's voice, but the knocking made his head hurt. Made the gashes which had healed send out phantom tendrils of heat deep into the flesh of his back. No. He didn't have a name.
He wasn't supposed to have anything.
The air grew cooler as the sun lowered over the knots of hills. Rin absent-mindedly noticed the dancing flames but her thoughts were focused primarily on the hanyou sitting far back from the campsite. He looked like a meditating monk and hadn't moved a muscle for hours. She contemplated ardently and flicked her gaze over to her lord's serene face; his eyes were closed, seemingly uninterested in everything around him. Including his newly acquired slave. This prompted her bravery and she came to her feet. Jakken watched her go, his mouth open to speak, but he soon turned back to poking the fire.
Inuyasha's ears acknowledged her. She settled herself before his stock-still form and craned her neck to appear into his face. He didn't know his name. Lord Sesshomaru had to call him hanyou. But it wasn't within her to say the word. "Um, excuse me?" She patted his knee. He was unresponsive, the amber distant.
"Um, uh…you can sit by the fire. It's warmer over there." Slowly, awareness returned to him and she was vastly relieved when his eyes caught hers at least once, before sliding away. Inuyasha's cut fur moved slightly by the almost unseen shake of his head.
Rin gently coiled her fingers around his clawed hand and she was troubled by the icy skin. He allowed her to lift the appendage up. It was boneless in her grasp and she could feel the small tremors travel up and down the nerves. She tugged. "It is all right. Come. You can't sleep over here. It'll get really cold." His head lowered a small fraction and shook slightly again.
"But why?" Through his bangs, Inuyasha glimpsed at Sesshomaru. His ears lay back, hidden in the scraggily hair, and he turned his face away. "Oh."
Rin was at a loss but then a rich timbre of a voice spoke out over the night air. "Do as she says, hanyou."
The ears flicked forward in surprise.
Then his fingers wound around Rin's in return. She smiled, tentatively, and when she tugged him up this time, he rose to his feet. She led him to the fire and he needed no order to sit down beside her. Rin patted his hand comfortingly. "There you go. Isn't that better?" He nodded.
Time passed without talking. As Inuyasha stared into the fire, Rin noticed his eyelids flutter. He determinedly tossed his head. Rin, daunted, saw him carefully pierce his leg with a few of his claws. He made no noise of discomfort and was obviously attempting to keep his actions hidden. He was trying to keep himself awake, Rin realized. "Um…you can rest if you want to. I'm sure you're tired," she whispered sadly.
Inuyasha licked his lips and he appeared apprehensive for a time. Finally: "I do not require it, mistress. It is my duty to protect." He spoke haltingly and impressively low, as a child would when telling a dangerous secret. His ears were trained on his master by the tree.
The poor hanyou stiffened when Sesshomaru said, unyieldingly, "You will sleep, hanyou."
For the first time, a great desire bloomed in Inuyasha's eyes. He turned his head to Sesshomaru's direction, hint of wary pleading in his tone. "Sleep?" The word left his tongue strangely, giving the impression that it was foreign to him.
Sesshomaru kept eye contact with the hanyou. "Yes, you will sleep." He added as an afterthought, "Until your body is completely satisfied."
Inuyasha's hands fisted into the material of his hakama. "I do not require it…" Inuyasha's voice threatened to crack. He is giving his master options, Sesshomaru thought curiously. But the boy was pale. He was deprived enough that Sesshomaru had been dully impressed he'd sat awake and tense for so long. It was unacceptable.
"Will you argue with me?" the Daiyoukai murmured.
Inuyasha went rigid, panic sparking briefly before his bangs concealed his face in shadow. "Never, Lord Sesshomaru. I will do as you say." Nearly self-consciously, Inuyasha lowered to his side and curled tight to himself.
Sesshomaru watched as his breathing deepened. It did not take long. Air streamed from Sesshomaru's nose.
Almost like a sigh.
He lingered in the gray muck between sleeping and waking. His ears and eyes remembered random stimuli from the day before. The hateful man he didn't want to call master, face twisted up with yelling. Garbled cries of numbers and pleas. A surge of overwhelming power. Hand covered in dripping blood…blurring before hitting his face. Tell me your name. Tell me your name.
Do you not recognize me?
His lungs emptied out, releasing him to the outside world. He struggled to open his eyes and could only do it a slit. The fire was gone; the wood ashen and shriveled. There were no shadows on the grass. The sun was high.
Electrified fear seized his chest and he lunged to a sitting position. His head immediately swam, dots slithering out over his vision. He moaned softly and one hand had to shoot out to prevent gravity from winning over him again. The sun was high. It was the afternoon! But he couldn't stand up right away. He had to wait achingly for his eyes to clear. Hurry, he reprimanded to himself. He was never to sleep that long!
"How do you feel?"
The master! He bit out a gasp and tried to move into a bow. But Lord Sesshomaru's hand stopped him; held his chin firmly. Heart beating rapidly and causing a small sickness, he inwardly yelled at himself for not sensing the master's presence sooner.
"I-I'm sorry. I…overslept." He couldn't move away. He was forced to maintain eye contact with the master, which he blearily thought was the intention.
But Lord Sesshomaru didn't seem displeased. "You did not answer my question."
Thoughts moving quicker from rest, he answered, "I feel at top health."
The master mulled over his words thoughtfully. He tilted his head to the side a centimeter. "You lie."
"But you did," master softly said. Something altered in his expression and it made the hanyou's hackles prick. "You are not at full health."
His very body seemed to want to obey those words, causing his stomach to grumble loudly. He winced at the organ's betrayal. The sickness heightened, souring his mind, and he clamped his muscles tight to prevent himself from whimpering in pain or swaying from nausea. He would surely be punished.
"As I thought." Lord Sesshomaru caressed his fingers away. "You possess knowledge in hunting?"
He swallowed, senses strained and awaiting another strike to the cheek. Or worse. "Yes, Lord Sesshomaru."
"Very well." The master stood. "Go then."
He blinked owlishly. "What…uh, Lord…?"
"I will not supply food for you. Hunt. And do not return until you succeed." The master turned away, preoccupied with the young girl and the obnoxious toad.
He hastily obeyed the order but when he met the tree line, he paused. His hand hovered over the rugged bark. A wayward thought wiggled into his consciousness.
It told him he could flee.
But days, weeks, months—years?—of violent training rose up from the depths of his broken self and crushed his hope that he would ever be able to do such a thing. Shoulders slumped; he jogged off, feeling as though he had just been disloyal. To himself.
"Are we going to take Inuyasha back to the village today, Lord Sesshomaru?" Rin tied some flowers together, never having grown tired of the task despite her growth.
"Humph. It would be best. Inuyasha is not Lord Sesshomaru's responsibility!" Jakken grumbled; his head was already covered with leaves and petals.
"But he does not remember anything, Master Jakken. He has been hurt," she looked to where Inuyasha had run off to, "very badly."
"So he should be left with Kagome and everyone else at the village to deal with. Who knows, maybe the environment will trigger his memories. But it would be better to take him there straight away before he becomes any more of a nuisance."
Sesshomaru accepted the flower chain Rin handed to him. It dangled gently in his grasp. He contemplated Jakken's words. Inuyasha was never his responsibility, no matter how desperately father had tried to bring them together. Tenseiga was once part of Tetsusaiga but was casted off, making it a servant to the Sword of the Earth. Father tried to coerce me into protecting Inuyasha through the sword. But now Inuyasha lived against his personality and believed himself to be this Sesshomaru's servant. It all had a taste of irony to it.
It would be easy to leave Inuyasha at the village. A simple order. But the notion made him wryly irritated. All these years of insults and battles, this Sesshomaru had attempted to put the hanyou mongrel in his place. Now through a mysterious handling, Inuyasha was broken into politeness and obedience. And he was unsatisfied with it. More irony.
"Rin," he said softly. "Do you miss the village terribly?"
"Huh? Oh, well, I've only been gone for one night Lord Sesshomaru. I do not miss it yet."
He fingered the subtle skin of a petal. "Would you be opposed to returning later than planned?"
Rin very well gaped at him, although her expression was cutely astonished compared to Jakken's spluttering. Her mouth slowly turned up into a smile. "I am not opposed, Lord Sesshomaru. Are we going to help Inuyasha become Inuyasha again?"
Sesshomaru chose not to answer. Inuyasha had returned, sooner than he'd expected. A plump stag was draped over the back of his neck, stiffened hooves bouncing lifelessly over his shoulders. There was a string of blood droplets across his nose. Although his face was guarded and poignantly aloof, Sesshomaru could detect a shadow of ecstasy in his eyes—as only a successful hunt could bring to an Inu-Youkai. Sesshomaru recognized it well. It was a secretive thing, woefully diminished in comparison to how Inuyasha was before. But it was a good sign. A good first step.
Inuyasha noticed their watching and his ears swiveled back. The ecstasy was swallowed up by a deadpan partition. He was self-conscious again, lowering the stag first before lowering into a bow. Sesshomaru's lips thinned. He spoke, "You were successful."
"Yes, Lord Sesshomaru." Emotionless. Careful. "How would you like it prepared?"
Sesshomaru's brows lifted. Jakken, indignant, shook his Staff of Heads. "Foolish hanyou! Lord Sesshomaru would never eat something like that. It is below him! He would also certainly never eat something killed by your hands!"
Inuyasha, still bowed, visibly flinched. His scent spiked with panic. Punishment, Sesshomaru realized; he waits for it. He fisted his hand around the flower chain and pummeled the toad's skull into the earth. "You will never speak for me, Jakken." But the toad couldn't hear him. Swirly-eyed, Jakken had been knocked out.
"Rise…hanyou." Inuyasha cautiously did so. He still brimmed with anxiety. "I told you to hunt for yourself."
Confusion cracked through the mask of slave-hood. His master's voice was devoid of any anger or disapproval. It was said simply, so simply that it knocked the poor hanyou off-kilter. Inuyasha swallowed and looked over at the large stag. "Myself?" he seemed to whisper to no one in particular.
"Yes," Sesshomaru replied. "You are weak from hunger. It will not do."
Inuyasha's ears twitched guiltily. Still without his hadagi or suikan, he peered down at himself, at the indentation of rib. They grew more pronounced and shadowed as days passed. He had been given enough to survive when he was with the previous hateful master. And that was all. He felt something akin to shame. It will not do.
Sesshomaru stifled the yearning to sigh. His little brother was still so dim-witted. "Eat it all, hanyou, until you are satisfied. Prepare it the way you prefer. Do you understand now?"
The hanyou's chest swelled in and out with full, heavy breaths. He looked up at Sesshomaru and chose to meet his eyes dead on. It lightened Sesshomaru with a small approval. He was testing him, trying to find deceit. He allowed it; preferred it. Another good sign. He would have his brother return before continuing their life-long battle. I will not slay you when you are not yourself, little brother.
In measured movements, Inuyasha pulled the stag over to the empty fire circle, composed of stones. He reached for the pile of wood Jakken had gathered the night before, still fixated on his master. Inuyasha paused, waited for his master to laugh wickedly and take it all back, but it did not occur. Sesshomaru leaned his head back against the tree and watched him, mildly. Still confused, willfully dampening his tiny hope, Inuyasha proceeded to build up a fire. He kept the stag close. Just in case.
Jakken awoke to the enticing aroma of sizzling meat. Rin had wandered over to Inuyasha, watching with as much fascination as she had with the octopus-man. Inuyasha not only had found meat on his hunt; he'd also brought back other materials, somehow carrying it all back with precision. A flattened stone. Different greens. Sesshomaru had grown equally observant as Inuyasha created a makeshift fryer, using the flattened stone as a place to heat the meat into shriveled jerky. It was still crude but effective. Inuyasha skinned the stag expertly, piling up the body parts: one for organs, one for the thigh muscle, etc. He wasted nothing. Rin had been wise enough to hand Inuyasha a water canteen and Inuyasha used it for washing, having grown brave enough to travel to the nearby stream to refill it when need be, no longer asking for his master's permission.
At first, Sesshomaru had found it all inaudibly distasteful. Cooking his food like the humans, even sprinkling herbs upon the meat. But as Inuyasha worked, he frequently plucked raw meat into his mouth, a fragile flash of contentment appearing over him each time as he chewed. Inuyasha followed his order and ate and ate and ate. He did it calmly, strenuously so, but never paused in the act of fulfilling his stomach's veracious and long denied need. Soon only the antlers, the skin, the bones, and a small amount of flesh were left. Inuyasha cooked the rest of it, adding to a sizeable pile next to him.
He licked his thumb and rocked back on his haunches, peering over his work. He was startled when Rin clapped her hands. "Wow, In—uh…wow. I didn't know you could cook! You do it so well." Inuyasha lifted a brow, puzzled, and then glanced at his pile of jerky. He picked up a steaming chunk and presented it to her.
Rin cooed with astonishment. "Oh, can I have it?"
Inuyasha nodded. He eyed her nervously when she popped it between her lips. She chewed thoughtfully. Incrementally, Rin brightened with enjoyment. "That's delicious," she said, her mouth still full. "May…may I have another?"
He was taken aback. But weakly, the muscles around his mouth threatened to flick into a smirk. Inuyasha waved a hand to the pile, inviting her to it. Rin gleefully thanked him and took another. Inuyasha soaked in her mumbles of "delicious" and "yum" for a time before he blinked in remembrance. Stealing a glance at his master, Inuyasha gathered the unwanted remains of the stag and walked far off into the trees.
Rin watched him go, chewing. "What is he doing?"
A few minutes later, Inuyasha returned, dirt bespattered and smeared over his torso. "He has buried it," Sesshomaru intoned. Wise. Gratefully clean. The cadaver would attract unwanted scavengers. However, the blood had stained the campsite. But they needed to continue on their travels anyway.
Inuyasha rubbed his dirt-crusted hands and turned to the stream that ran fairly close to them. He knelt on the bank and splashed water up his arms, his abdomen. He scrubbed his face and even ducked his head in to tousle his hair clean. Shaking, much like a dog, Inuyasha returned to them. He ate some jerky and appreciated the clouds, satiated but not against more food.
Jakken grunted in disgust.
Rin and Inuyasha turned their heads to the sound. "Master Jakken, would you like to try one? They are very good."
Inuyasha regarded him, bored.
"Would you like to try one then, Lord Sesshomaru?"
Inuyasha nearly choked. Sesshomaru regarded him, seemingly bored. He allowed Inuyasha to fidget under his gaze before he answered, "It is not mine to take, Rin." It was satisfying when Inuyasha's expression creased into stunned confusion. Ever so slowly, with Inuyasha obviously doing his best to quell the small shakes in his fingers, he picked up a piece of what he'd made.
"If it is your…your wish. I would be…honored." Befuddlement was thick in his tone.
Sesshomaru stood, startling them all. He glided to Inuyasha and dexterously accepted the meat. Inuyasha blinked, looking over his fingers in wonderment; he had barely even felt the object leave him. Worry clouded over the poor hanyou as Sesshomaru straightened and placed the meat into his mouth. Rin, wide-eyed, was spellbound, never having witnessed her lord eat anything before in their presence. Sesshomaru stroked his thumb deftly over the corner of his lips when he was through. He nodded down at Inuyasha.
"You've done well," he said evenly.
His long white hair and royal suikan flowed through the air when he gracefully turned. Inuyasha scrambled to douse the fire, rip fabric from a pant leg, and gather his jerky. He, Rin, and Jakken hurried off. Inuyasha walked far behind all of them, his heart barely calming down. The words echoed in his head. Even though the wall refused to part with anything, he was certain that he'd never heard such a deep, polished voice say a sentence like that before.
Not to him.
Before landing on the grass a close distance to the city's barrier, Sesshomaru and his wards had traveled by air, cutting their travel time in half—to a simple, few hours' journey. But the Daiyoukai had chosen to walk back by foot, making the trip considerably longer. When the travel mates were composed of a toad-demon with stumpy legs and a young girl who needed occasional stops to rest her little feet, not to mention the stops for meals, the trip would certainly take more time. They traveled leisurely. Occasionally Rin would point something of interest to her, to which Jakken would reply sarcastically—sometimes he was raptly bopped for it but never with much violence—Sesshomaru only half-consciously regarded them. Inuyasha found their antics intriguing. There were moments, while he watched and listened, when his amusement would tilt into a feeling of surrealism. Like he knew he was seeing something he'd known about…but knew he would never witness…
Hours passed and dusk approached again. The hanyou inwardly winced because it was his fault half of the day had been wasted. But Lord Sesshomaru made no comment about it. Their trek moved from grass, to rocks and mud-caked sand. Inuyasha could smell a hint of spice to the air. There was the sound of bubbling.
"Lo, see the cherry trees that stand in the morning mist. Hear them speak to me in a tender tone. In the eve I love to see the waving willows. They stretch their hands to me strolling alone.
Oh, see the—"Rin's song was paused when she climbed up onto a large rise of rock. "Lord Sesshomaru, it is a hot spring!"
She pointed to the other side. "It looks clean and no one is around. May we camp here?"
Sesshomaru approved in monotone. Without being asked, Inuyasha gathered wood and built up a fire. Jakken was surprised but he sat back with a content look on his face and watched the hanyou work. Meanwhile, Rin tiptoed over to the steaming water, removed her sandals, and ducked her feet in, sighing in childish pleasure.
Inuyasha wasn't cold, not with the hot spring so close, but he had built the fire out of a strange habit. He held his fingers over the little flame and was transfixed by the dancing light, transfixed into a rising feeling of…déjà vu. Behind the wall and the smoldering wood, there were voices. Voices talking, voices laughing, voices shouting in mock anger, a hand slap, an order…he unconsciously leaned forward and a tinkling sound met his ears. He looked down at the rosary resting on his chest. No one had been able to take it off. He frequently forgot it existed, so familiar its weight was. Where had it come from? He fingered it questionably, lifting it up as far it could go before a sizzling pink light touched his prints with warning. It grew too heavy and immediately fell back.
Sit. One of the voices said.
He stilled. The simple word landed harshly in his inner ear.
He gasped, startled back into reality. Although that word landed harshly on his ears as well. "What--?" He wilted into himself when he realized it was his master who had spoken. Speaking out of turn. Stupid.
But once again, no punishment. No flicker of anger. "Inuyasha," Lord Sesshomaru repeated. "It is time you know your name."
"Yes," he felt a little off-balanced and didn't know why, "it is…as you wish."
"No," Lord Sesshomaru replied with a little more bite. "It is not the name I give you as your master. It is the name father bequeathed you when you were born."
Something crumpled in him without warning. His throat was dry. "Father…?"
The baritone voice shivered down into a whisper, "Does your name not resonate with you?"
The dryness tightened, choking him, and choking him. The voices screamed.
Sit Inuyasha. Inuyasha, watch out! Inuyasha, I have to go back. Put me down, Inuyasha! Inuyasha, you should be more careful of your words around her. Inuyasha, are you alright? Thank you, Inuyasha, for saving me. I'm sorry, Inuyasha...were you waiting long?
Tell me your name!
It's Inuyasha, damn it!
NO! NO! YOU HAVE NO NAME!
"Ah….ah…" Shaking hands unattached to his body rose up and clenched his bursting brain. He didn't have a name. He wasn't supposed to have a name. A name equaled unbearable pain. Behind the wall, the name existed and if it stayed there, he would be fine.
But that wasn't right!
Anger and shame, fear and disgust, it was choking him and choking him.
It was his…
It was his…
"Inuyasha…" Who said that? It repeated. "Inuyasha…Inuyasha…Inuyasha…" That was his name. It was his. It was his! It was his! And they tried to take it from him!
"Inuyasha!" A new voice, disconnected from his throat. Fingers on his chin. Crack. The wall was down. The pain cut off. But he had it back. He wouldn't let it go, not this time. Inuyasha looked up into his master's face and those looks knocked on his memory. This Youkai-man was something more than his master. He had said his name before, in many nuances of emotion…long ago…long before his old master had been killed by this Lord Sesshomaru's hand. Inuyasha was sure of it. But the wall was down. He only wanted to take one thing. For now.
"Inuyasha," he whispered. "That's my name."
Lord Sesshomaru, his master, was stoic. But slowly, the stone crumbled into a look of deep approval. He nodded firmly. "Yes. Yes it is."
Sesshomaru, once again, removed his fingers when Inuyasha's cloud of roiling emotions dissipated. The hanyou's breathing, which had risen to hyperventilation, but somehow had repeated his own name between the inhales, returned to normal in diminutive degrees. It had been an interesting reaction. The glow of deep-seated recognition. The sudden blow-up of panic and fear. The way the mouth stretched back into a soundless scream. The mantra. Finally, the warm expression of understanding and awe—that's my name. Interesting indeed.
But a sound-filled scream interrupted any more musing on the matter.
"Mistress Rin…" Inuyasha was too slow in rising. Electrified and full-blooded, Sesshomaru was already at the water's edge by the time the hanyou muttered the name. The bubbling water rippled with mocking gentleness to the echoing sound of Rin's scream in Sesshomaru's ears.
What had happened?
"Did the mistress fall in!" Inuyasha looked up and down the rocked-in bath. Giving Sesshomaru one horrified glance, he jumped into the water without any preamble. It rose swiftly to his chest. He frantically spun around, trying to peer through the murky depths, feeling with his hands and feet. If she had fallen in, wouldn't she still be struggling? Wouldn't have there been more than one scream? Even the ripples of her plunge had already faded. "Where did she go!"
"Inuyasha," Lord Sesshomaru's voice was thick and commanding. Inuyasha's hackles rose at the tone. Obey. He turned to his master, will already congealing. He was startled to see Sesshomaru removing the fanged armor from his shoulder, ripping at the cords and obi which tied his thick outer robe to his body.
Inuyasha nodded. He immediately dove. A moment later, he felt the viscous world undulate from Sesshomaru's skilled slide into the water.
"L-Lord Sesshomaru…?" Jakken tapped the water with his Staff of Heads. Droplets lapped at the wood and were his only answer. "L-l-Lord Se-Sesshomaru? Inuyasha? R-Rin…?" It had been countless minutes and no head had reemerged from the hot spring. How deep was this damnable bath? Jakken thought, apprehension rising to panic.
On cue to his curse, a deep, airless thump ricocheted beneath the surface. Circles spread out in answer, twisting Jakken's reflected face. Another thump. Another…
"AH!" Released from the silence of oxygen deprived water, Inuyasha's half-clad form erupted into the air, yelling and gasping and clawing at the warped tentacle squeezing his chest.
He was pulled back under, blurred. Waves washed up onto the steaming rocks.
"Inuyasha!" Jakken finished crying. He stood and, shaking, pointed his Staff of Heads down. "Show yourself demon! Release my Lord Sesshomaru…and-and everyone else…this instant! O-or I shall melt your water with my fire!"
The murky water started to glow yellow and Jakken reared back to his backside, feeling a premonition. Whips of energy broke through the water, slicing at where Jakken's head had just been. Following the familiar attack was Sesshomaru, waterlogged and carrying an unconscious Rin in his arms. He jumped high into the air, droplets flying, plummeting down onto Jakken's upturned face. Sesshomaru landed as gracefully as ever. Although, with bangs suffused to his forehead and fabric hanging heavily off of him in such a way that he looked smaller in stature, the gracefulness of his landing was all that was characteristic of his regal nature.
"Lord Sesshomaru! You are alive!"
The demon-man decided not to answer to the obvious ridiculousness of his retainer's statement. Of course he was alive. He focused on gingerly lying Rin down on the rocky shore. Her skin was pallid and her chest did not rise. She does not breathe, unease filtered in beneath his calm. The bath was deeper than expected; pulling down into a large underground cavern layered with rock and the bones of the demon's many victims. Wrapped around in suction cups, Sesshomaru had witnessed the last of Rin's air bubbling out of her lips before being able to get a hand on the monster who held her. The fish flesh had been strange, untouchably slick in one direction and so rough the other direction that it caused a metallic grind against Bakusaiga. The contact would have surely ignited sparks if done in fresh air. It had taken an unacceptable amount of time to break Rin away. Fortunately, in typical fashion, Inuyasha attacked brusquely and stole away the demon's attention. Even without his full memory, Inuyasha still fought…like Inuyasha, dodging and swiping maniacally, leading tentacles upon tentacles astray. The last he saw of the hanyou boy, he was being pulled back down, a dark cloud of blood pooling around his flailing claws.
He had little time. Acting instinctively, Sesshomaru pulled Rin gently into a sitting position. Her head lolled back, revealing the thinness of her neck, and then fell forward harshly onto his shoulder. Sesshomaru proceeded to pat her back with quick jabs, being mindful of his strength, but being forceful on purpose. Would it work? Would he need to breathe air back into her lungs? The demon inwardly winced when his heel struck her and a spasm worked through Rin's little body. Coughing and retching and lung-screeching gasps followed. He held her and rubbed her shoulder blades soothingly, wondering if she would bruise. Her ribcage swelled out, taking in one shuttering breath, and it was released warmly against Sesshomaru's chest. The heaviness of his relief was not shown in his face but by his hand when he gently propped Rin against a large rock next to them.
Weary brown eyes peered up through damp lashes. "Lord…Sessh-sho-maru…the Youkai…"
He did not look back but his shoulders felt heavy with the awareness that Inuyasha had not returned to the surface. "Jakken," Sesshomaru intoned. "Help Rin to the fire."
The toad hastily did as he was told, doing his best to be gentle with the trembling girl as they climbed the outcropping of rock to the other side. "Lord Sesshomaru," Rin said in a compilation of a hiss and a whimper, "where's…Inuyasha?" She struggled against Jakken's webbed hands; she wanted to see her lord answer.
But Sesshomaru did not. His attention was focused on the calming water. How long could a half-human hold his breath?
Coming to a decision he refused to question, Sesshomaru stepped into the water…
Diamond shards sliced through the viscous layer, followed by a roar of white light and a roar that came from two throats; one agonized, one angry. Once Tetsusaiga's attacks dissipated, Inuyasha could be seen, dismembered tentacles and other fleshy debris floating around him. The water darkened by the Youkai's blood. And perhaps with Inuyasha's as well. There was a deep cut across one of his brows but that was the extent of his injuries that Sesshomaru could distinguish. Inuyasha swam awkwardly toward the shore, panting, and dragging a transformed Tetsusaiga with him. The hanyou was not given aid when he crawled onto the sand and he flipped around to a sitting position, feet still dangling in the water.
Inuyasha could smell Rin behind him. He looked up at his master and huffed, "I-is she…alright?"
Sesshomaru considered him a moment before answering. "Yes."
Relief was heavy on his face. The hanyou leaned back and gave a loud sigh. "Good."
"You remembered how to use Tetsusaiga on your own," Sesshomaru said. He remained standing, contemplating the sword in Inuyasha's hand.
"Tetsusaiga?" He seemed to wake up to the item in his possession and held it up for a better view of the massive size. The fur around the handle was soggy and stuck to the skin of his fist. Tetsusaiga…Something similar to when he heard his name occurred but it was softer and more controlled. The remembrance was kind of like recalling the function of a mathematics problem. The wall wouldn't allow him to go through another emotional tirade, not again so soon. Instead, Inuyasha was filled with the simple feeling of recognition and acceptance: this was Tetsusaiga, his sword, his way in protecting those he cared about. He slowly smiled.
His old masters had tried to take it away from him once. Inuyasha couldn't remember what happened next—their training methods had been too difficult, had made him angry, and then he woke up to blood that was not his own. By chance, he had found Tetsusaiga again amidst the dead bodies and was calmed. Those who remained learned quickly that it shouldn't be taken from him again. They found ways to keep him from unsheathing it: chaining his hands, chaining the sword, etc. Soon, like the rosary around his neck, Inuyasha had come to absorb the weight of Tetsusaiga as just another part of his body as he became more distracted and more filled by the threats, the beatings, the lessons, the…
How had it happened? Inuyasha thought, features suddenly twisting with deep concern; he brought Tetsusaiga close to his chest. How had he come to forget about this weapon at his side? Pain from memory laced up his body but the wall kept the images and sensations away. It was something awful. Something that had broken him. Whatever had made him this way, it was all something he was not ready to face now.
Sesshomaru witnessed the dark horror emerge in Inuyasha's golden eyes and determined that it was unbefitting. "Inuyasha," he called to gain the hanyou's attention. It worked; the horror was slowly blinked away. "Do you remember it?"
Inuyasha looked over Tetsusaiga again and squeezed his hand. The sword transformed back to its contained self, scratched and uninteresting. "It is mine," he whispered. He sheathed it and came to his feet, his face composed with strength. "It is mine to use to protect what's important."
The master, the elder brother, nodded his agreement, satisfied.
Elicited by the call, Sesshomaru turned to make his way back to Rin and the fire. Over his shoulder, the water burbled in a disconcerting fashion. It was quick. Inuyasha gasped. Rocks rubbed together, disturbed by running feet. The unmistakable sound of Tetsusaiga beginning to emerge. Sesshomaru whirled around, in time to see it all. Another unmistakable sound came:
Ripping flesh. The squish of forced apart organs. Dripping blood.
Pain touched Sesshomaru's abs but it was not serious enough for his concentration. He looked down, transfixed by Inuyasha's back where a foreign shaft of scales and spikes jutted out and disappeared into the depths of the hot spring. Tetsusaiga had not been taken out in time. Slowly, Inuyasha's hand released the hilt and shakily rose to rest gently on Sesshomaru's chest. He pushed lightly and leaned back, awkwardly because of the tentacle impaling through his stomach. Inuyasha flickered over his master's face and down to his master's abdomen. Sesshomaru followed his gaze. There was a small gash marring the pale skin, right above his belly button. The Youkai's dying attack had not been enough to run them both through; Inuyasha's body had slowed the momentum down. Sesshomaru was confused when sorrow and regret came over Inuyasha's face. He gurgled out a cough, exiting blood from his mouth, as he touched the gash with his fingertips.
"I…failed," he whispered, so very low and weak. "I'm sorry."
Inuyasha's golden orbs, already dimming, met Sesshomaru's unabashedly. Sesshomaru opened his mouth to speak, to question what he meant, but the eyes rolled back and the body crumbled.
Sesshomaru caught his younger brother right as he heard Rin scramble up the rocks, despite Jakken's protests. She screamed, seeing it in time when Sesshomaru angrily sank his poison claws into the tentacle and forced it out of Inuyasha's body. Blood gushed, filling out over his hand which tried to quell it, soaking his front and hiding away the inconsequential injury on his own stomach.
Sesshomaru momentarily clutched the hanyou, half-mindedly finding it odd that he was so surprised. Finding it odd that an Inuyasha-like curse tickled the tip of his tongue as Inuyasha's warm blood flowed out to join the Water Youkai's in the bubbling foam. Sesshomaru's breathing grew ragged and his shoulders rose up a small degree in his growing displeasure.
Yes. There surely had been a failure.
But as Sesshomaru barked out orders at Rin and Jakken, in the back of his thoughts, he wasn't certain by whom.
He would never see her again.
He didn't know when this thought first developed. He fought against it with the stubborn determination that was a key factor to his personality. But days, weeks, months—years?—of uncensored, unstopped, uncaring lessons prompted the niggling doubt to manifest and grow into saddened certainty. Soon, it was like hope had never existed in his life. As memories of her face and her voice and her touch dimmed because of the pain and exhaustion, all he could think was: he wanted to see her, so very badly, but it would never happen again. Her face became his old masters'. Her voice morphed into the howls of commands and threats. Her touch…slithered disgustingly into what had built up the wall. With that wall came reality. He would never see her again.
Because he had been forced to forget her.
"No," he whimpered. This wasn't right. This wasn't him. He was the fighter, the survivor.
And he had fought. He had fought for so long. He just couldn't remember…when he had stopped. It wasn't just a blur. It was nonexistent. Behind the wall.
He was so disgusted with himself. This wasn't right. This wasn't him! He was not weak. He was not a coward. But to those thoughts, he could only come up with one answer: he had had to protect himself…
So he could see her again.
"No…damn it…no more…" He fought again—because he was awake, because he tapped into the strength of himself again, because he wanted to see her in reality and not in the dirtied haze of his mind. Hands were there, as they always were. Pushing him down, holding him down, touching his face, and eliciting pain in his stomach. As always—pain. They would strike him soon. The hands always caused pain. He would not plead to them, though the words were a lump in his throat. He would demand, he would fight, he would…
"Inuyasha, cease struggling. You will only harm yourself more."
Much like a sudden memory, although no memory came, the baritone voice froze him still. Once his body slowed, a sickly heat swelled up and over the top of him, strangely making him shiver. His throat was dry. His muscles were weak. His torso ached with tight pain. And his eyelids were caked and gooey when he tried to open them.
A shadow, highlighted with orange caused by the fire, looked down on him. His body was confused—hot and desperate to leave the side of the flames, but shaky and yearning for its warmth. The shadow took back its hands and leaned forward, allowing the firelight to illuminate the features. His initial reaction was to tense—because it was a teacher, it was a punisher, it was a person with a whip and lies on its tongue, it was a master…it was…
"Sesshomaru…" the name came so easily to him. Uninhibited. Like he'd known it forever.
Which he had, he realized slowly.
He repeated it, tossing his head from side to side, finding that he needed the movement because his body was so confused and discontent. "Sesshomaru…Sesshomaru…I…where…"
"Be silent. You are ill with fever."
The deep voice washed over him and settled the frayed leavings of his mind. The shadow was a master. His master. But also something more…he just couldn't…place it…
"Who are you?" he whimpered. "Who…I can't…remember…want to…"
He could hear water dripping. The cool roughness of soaked fabric was so sudden to his face that he jerked, twisting his head to see where it had come from. This person was not so shadowed. She was closer to the fire's light. The human girl. The mistress. He knew her name too and was filled with wonder about her—he knew that he did not know her name for long…she was an enigma and he wasn't sure why…
"Inuyasha, be careful," she said, voice tight with worry. "You'll reopen your wounds."
Inuyasha's hand traveled to his stomach and he hissed with pain. Wounds. Stomach. Wounds…stomach! FAILED! He twisted back to look at Sesshomaru but the initial rekindle of recognition was leaving him and this wasn't just Sesshomaru, he berated himself, but Lord Sesshomaru…the master he'd failed…
"I'm sorry," he said huskily. Lord Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed and trepidation filled him. He should be punished—but the statement didn't fill him with fearful certainty as it used to. Strangely, instead, he disquietly felt…a nip of anger. A desire to fight against punishment. And then, because of this, he was not just trapped between the heat and ice of his fever, but also between what felt like two very different people within him. One demanded that he struggle to free himself; the other demanded to submit as he was taught. He was so confused. He was so cold—no hot—no--!
A hand touched his shoulder and Inuyasha immediately held his breath, discovering that he had been close to hyperventilating. He opened his eyes to peer up at Lord Sesshomaru's face again. Doing so, he unexpectedly felt anchored. Secure. As though that clawed hand, which should fill him with fear over its danger, was the only thing keeping him from falling apart. Air raggedly left him in a sigh. Either way, hot or cold, he had failed this person. "I'm…sorry…"
"Why?" the Daiyoukai said simply.
Inuyasha's chest constricted. Not with pain. It was sweeter, like it was gratitude for the simple question or a yearning to have him understand that he hadn't wanted to fail. Far from it. "Failed to protect…" he said weakly, "Too…slow…"
Lord Sesshomaru actually cocked his head a very small fraction to the side and the odd, gentle movement made Inuyasha's chest constrict tighter with that sweet pressure. "I am not your responsibility to protect."
Upon hearing that, the fog in Inuyasha's mind momentarily vanished and knowledge came that could hold no doubt: that wasn't the customary reply. He should have expected an admonishment for his weakness or stupidity, an insult to his inability to protect and use the sword properly, a slur against—wounds=blood=heritage—his heritage, something against what his blood was. But instead…just a statement…
It was so simple, beautiful even in its simplicity that Inuyasha felt the urge to cry. "Oh," was all he could manage. He relaxed when Rin stroked his forehead again with the washcloth. He moved his eyes lazily between these two people and told himself to breathe. Everything's alright. They were both safe. And in the depth of who he really was, Inuyasha almost wanted to laugh—that was not his customary reply either; to be so relieved about this group's wellbeing.
"Inuyasha," Rin caught his temporarily lucid attention, "you've been having a lot of nightmares. Are you…are you okay now?"
She was an enigma. And he was…jealous of her… For what? But no matter, he did simply just like her. Inuyasha smiled to ease her fears, "I'm sorry to trouble you. I'm…fine…"
Rin's tense shoulders slumped, relaxed. "Oh. Good. And Inuyasha's not troublesome. Thank you for killing the Youkai."
Inuyasha weakly stilled her hand with his own. "You are…okay?"
She smiled brightly. "Yes. Thanks to Inuyasha and Lord Sesshomaru."
"Good." He allowed her to continue her ministrations of washing the heat away. Inuyasha felt awkward in his weakness and fatigue, especially with his master on the other side of him, but nothing could be done about it so he forced himself to remain calm. Jealously even, he refused to end the serenity of the moment.
"Ne, Inuyasha?" Rin seemed hesitant and then continued. "Um…I have nightmares sometimes too. And…Lady Kaede…always asks what they are about and it makes me feel better to tell her. It might make you feel better too..."
Lady Kaede…He knew that name too, from a long time ago. He squinted his eyes, tension starting to reline his face. Nightmares…
"I want to see her again." The words exited his mouth beyond his control.
Rin was just as surprised as himself. "Who?" she whispered, childish wonderment widening her eyes.
Sweet. It made his chest hurt and he liked it. Except…when the answer left his mouth, the sweetness became bitter. The words came from a secret place and squeezed him and threatened to tear his heart asunder.
The dry sob humiliated him and Inuyasha covered his eyes with the back of his hand. He wanted to see her again.
Rin bit her lip and looked up at Sesshomaru. He was as impassive as ever, except his notice was firmly rooted on the wounded hanyou. His eyes flickered once to hers, sending a silent message, and then he turned away to rest against the tree. Rin nodded, despite knowing he did not see, and proceeded to lie down next to Inuyasha. With a bravery that made her feel older and wiser, Rin firmly grasped Inuyasha's hand and removed it from his face. He looked at her, astonished to see her on the ground. And his expression called out for comfort in its confusion and heartbreak. She squeezed his fingers and smiled.
"Do you like songs, Inuyasha? I know one about cherry blossoms. Would you like to hear it?"
Hesitantly, Inuyasha nodded.
She looked to the stars and soon he mimicked her actions. As he drowned in the blue and black and white dots, Rin's little girl voice cooed out the happy song. But the normally jumpy tune was meant to be used as comfort so she slowed the notes down and dragged it out in a lilting fashion, wrapping around Inuyasha's ears comfortably. Tendrils of fatigue tugged at him as the stanzas progressed and his cheek dropped to rest against her still damp hair. When she didn't complain, he remained in that position, eyes closing.
"How happy, spring has come over the Sumida,
Rowing up, rowing down in the warm sunbeams,
Drops from the boatmen's oars look like cherry blooms,
How can I describe for you the view o'er the streams?
"Lo, see the cherry trees that stand in the morning mist,
I hear them speak to me in a tender tone,
In the eve I love to see the waving willows,
They stretch their hands to me strolling alone.
"Oh, see the hazy moon rising o'er the banks,
Rows of cherry trees standing o'er the stream,
How I love the cherry blossoms in the moonlight!
How can I describe for you the night like in a dream?"
I will see you again, he told himself, and that was his last thought for many hours.
After Rin's impromptu lullaby, Inuyasha slept easily for the rest of the night and a large portion of the next day. He did not demand anything, as most patients did, in the few times he was coherent or even feverishly dazed and awake. He didn't whimper for water or blankets or food. Nothing at all. There were inexplicable moments when he would gasp into the waking world, eyes wide and unblinking. There was no warning for it and Sesshomaru found it interesting when the only thing Inuyasha did at that time was check to see if Rin, Jakken, and himself were still there. Once Inuyasha did, he easily succumbed back to slumber, never uttering a word.
Sesshomaru found himself continuously watching the hanyou's sleeping antics as the hours passed. He could tell when his younger brother was in the deepest portion of sleep but surprisingly, even then, the pointed ears on his head would notice any noises made. While Rin and Jakken slept, Sesshomaru even experimented with this phenomenon. Soft, commonplace sounds, like rustled fabric or disturbed water—in the bowl they carried for Rin's benefit—caused the ears to immediately perk up and swivel to the sound's origin. Larger sounds, that sounded like an intruder—a broken twig, a scuffle in the rocks—caused an obviously more focused reaction. The ears would stand straight and Inuyasha would even cease breathing; sometimes the brows furrowed and although he did not awaken, Sesshomaru could detect that the hanyou had risen from the depths of unconsciousness to analyze his surroundings with at least some portion of his thinking mind. When no other noise occurred, Inuyasha would visibly relax.
It was interesting. But secretly, Sesshomaru also found it admirable. So even a half-breed's senses could be well-trained. Certainly no human mother could teach an Inu-Youkai pup those fundamentals and besides, Inuyasha's mother had not lived long enough to see the end of his childhood. Doubtful that there were any other willing teachers either—Sesshomaru himself had done no such thing to aid the half-breed whelp--thus it was logical to conclude that Inuyasha had taught himself. A commendable feat, he would have to inaudibly give the hanyou that. Even with a grievous hole in his abdomen and a simmering fever, Inuyasha's senses were alert.
It seems, he thought slowly for it was uncharacteristic and uncomfortable, I may have continued to underestimate you, Inuyasha. With surviving to Youkai adolescence, with handling Tetsusaiga, with completing the jewel, with defeating Naraku, with remaining faithful at the side of an old well for nearly three years. There had been several things he had "underestimated" Inuyasha with. And time and again, the stubborn boy had strived continuously, if not sometimes foolishly, to overcome the expectations of others.
Hanyous tend to be hard to get rid of. Nothing truer could have been said—about Inuyasha at the least.
Ghostly warning tickled the rim of his subconscious. But loud voices got in the way; they were slippery and so full of deceit. They tried to keep him from waking up.
You should obey if you want to live. All this pain will go away if you simply submit. It is so simple. Let go. Hide yourself. Kill who you are if need be. You will be safer then. Happier…if you simply choose not to fight anymore. Obey orders. Submit. Let go. And maybe you'll be able to escape from here!
Wicked laughter. Pain-inducing hands.
Warning. Wake up, he told himself. Danger was coming.
Don't listen. You're out now. You don't need to hide anymore. You can find her.
No. That isn't you. You never submit. Even when you hid, you never gave them all of yourself. Don't do it now. Wake up! You can't let them hurt!
WAKE UP! Before they're taken too!
His lungs' breath shot out of him and sent him skyrocketing into a sitting position. Doing so was not a smart idea for the healing hole in his stomach ripped afresh with pain. He yelled and held his torso up with shaking arms, uncurling his abs with aching effort. "Shit, damn it to hell, bloody great--!" Inuyasha coughed and scooted himself back so that he could rest against the trunk behind him. It was difficult work; his vision was clouded with nauseating pain long after he stopped moving. Moans, more of self-debasement than agony, raggedly left his throat.
"I see you have also become reacquainted with that foul language you prefer."
Inuyasha opened one eye. Sesshomaru sat not far from him, cross-legged, and stoically amused. Out of torture-induced habit, an apology arose in his larynx. But the vestiges of his nightmare, wicked laughter echoing and all, stopped it. And admittedly, the missing piece of his stomach was not affecting his mood very kindly. Frustrated, a glare came over his features easily, settling in the mold of his face like it had always belonged. Sesshomaru only blinked; but Inuyasha was keen enough to notice a slight muscular shift in his expression which indicated a metamorphosis into a look of approval.
Obey. Submit—the voice boomed in the background—this is your master. You must please him or you will be punished. This only raised his aggravation and he was filled with a sudden desire to shout at someone, preferably the cool-faced person in front of him. This desire came into him and molded into his personality like it had always belonged. Yet it came at a price. The fever was broken but the rift within him was not. A battle raged between "Submit" and "Fight" and all it did was make him want to shout all the more. But there was no time!
"Inuyasha? Are you feeling better?" Rin asked, still startled by his quick awakening. Jakken also stared at him with those amphibian eyes. They didn't realize…they didn't—
"NO!" Inuyasha snarled, viciously loud. He pulled Tetsusaiga free. Rin and Jakken flinched, paling. Sesshomaru went tense.
He wasn't looking at them. He stared off into the distance. "No! I won't let you! Stay back! Stay away from them!" Inuyasha struggled to his feet and awkwardly swung Tetsusaiga in a straight arc in front of him. To untrained eyes, it looked as though he was challenging Sesshomaru but the Daiyoukai knew he was not the enemy. It was something unseen and undetectable over his shoulder.
Awareness struck him.
Or perhaps, Inuyasha had somehow detected it before him. The sounds of an intruder: running feet that broke sticks and disturbed the rocks. Coming at them at demonic speed.
Sesshomaru turned his head right as the wind whistled. But he could see nothing except the broad, reflective surface of Tetsusaiga's fang. Ping. Ping. Ping. The objects fell to the ground where Sesshomaru could inspect them—small arrows. Darts. Tools for capture. Aiming for him. And Inuyasha had deflected them!
The hanyou panted heavily, covered in sweat. The speedy arrival had cost him. The bandages around his torso grew pink. "No…you can't. I won't let you!"
At the sound of a laugh, Sesshomaru surged to his feet. "Jakken," he said calmly. "Take Rin and hide her. If you fail to protect her, know I will have to kill you."
The toad babbled incoherently before nodding his head. "Ye-yes! Come girl! Quickly," he lowered his voice to a hiss as he tugged Rin's sleeve. "Behind the rocks." Rin objected for a split-second, sending one last look at the brothers. She followed.
Sesshomaru unsheathed Bakusaiga and took one step forward, at an angle so that it would place him directly in front of Inuyasha. It was instinct. To obviously protect his own prey—no one but him would take the hanyou's life. "Show yourself," he said with ice.
Inuyasha stiffened when the laugh sounded again. The source was right in front of them but judging by the creaking branches, they were slowly being surrounded. The enemy was seemingly every species: scent of feline Youkai, the scent of snake, the scent of boar demon, and the like. But the source of the laugh…that was human. Inuyasha's growl grew but so did, to Sesshomaru's disquieting notice, the scent of fear. Out from the shadows of the tree came out…
Sesshomaru tightened his fingers around Bakusaiga's hilt. He'd killed this man. There had been no mistaking it. But wait…
The scent was indeed similar. Similar…like through family ties. The orator-look-alike did not wear the billowing outfit of many colors. He was dressed in warrior garb, with metal plates on his chest, arms, and thighs. He held a whip with burly, callused knuckles. But the most distinguishing feature, which cinched in Sesshomaru's mind that this was not the orator but indeed the orator's brother, was the harsher planes of his jaw. The mouth was composed of angles, now twisting up into a cruel grin. Lustful eyes landed on Inuyasha and stayed there. The smell of fear intensified.
"Little disobedient hanyou," the punisher said leisurely, as though the words tasted delicious to him. "I have finally found you."
Inuyasha tried to hide it but his elder brother could very well feel his flinch. Sesshomaru held out his free arm, shielding Inuyasha from view with the billowing fabric of his suikan. "Leave. Or you shall die."
"Hn. How rude. Even after murdering my twin in cold blood, you do not even apologize." The punisher lifted his chin. "My brother's stage-hands told me about you: the fearsome Daiyoukai leader of the Western Inu Clan. I see they were correct. The resemblance is quite fetching between you and my pet."
The Daiyoukai's eyes flashed red, once. "He is no pet."
The punisher's eyes still bore down on Inuyasha, even when hidden. "I understand. Did you not want to pay for the little hanyou? Is that why you killed my brother…so that you may steal him? What was it about him that made you do that? Tell me. What is he to you now? My brother always liked to describe these living trinkets as possibility."
Eyes narrowing, Sesshomaru lifted Bakusaiga as his answer.
He swung. The air whooshed. It was not the punisher who fell.
The feline Youkai split apart, blood spilling out from the new opening in her body. She died without a sound within the distance between Sesshomaru and the gleefully smug punisher. She'd jumped right out of the trees, becoming the possibility the punisher had wanted: a shield.
Inuyasha saw the essence of her die in those slit pupils. He had known her. She'd used to be a fighter. He ground his teeth and straightened, ignoring the pain in his stomach. She had been a fighter! "Damn you…"
"Oh," the punisher chuckled. "I see you have returned to yourself. Does your new 'master' not punish you enough? I can't say I mind it. I'll enjoy re-teaching you once I take you back."
Obey. Submit. Let go. And the pain won't come. "No…" If he submitted, he wouldn't be the only one. He couldn't fathom Lord Sesshomaru ever being taken, he was too dangerously strong, but Jakken…and Rin…He couldn't let that happen! "No! Stay back! Or I'll slice you in two with my Tetsusaiga!"
Inuyasha stepped out past Sesshomaru's arm. It was his left. Left arm. The notion distracted him for a moment. But the punisher quickly ended the small reverie.
"Oh ho! You certainly have become your old self again. I must say, little hanyou, you always were my favorite. You lasted longer than any of the pets before. I had to come up with new tactics in order to break you, especially when that pesky sword of yours got in the way. It was so much fun. I was sad when my brother took you away for the auction. So very sad. But now I've found you. And you will come back, little hanyou," the punisher lost his smile. His tone grew dark and oppressive. "You will return to your original master."
Nausea snaked up Inuyasha's esophagus. He willed his feet to remain planted. "No," he said with difficulty. Lord Sesshomaru stood next to him, anchored. Secure. Inuyasha firmly shook his head, bearing his fangs. "I will not."
"Very good, little hanyou. In truth, I don't mind teaching you again. It'll be fun. Say…" the punisher lifted a hand. "Why don't we start the lesson now?"
The demons of the trees attacked.
Their eyes were dead but their stamina and their breadth of combative skill was not. The boar Youkai, the snake Youkai, a bat, a kitsune man, and on and on they came. The pawns didn't hiss or yell or produce any sort of battle cry. They struck with precision. Sesshomaru parried and jabbed, managing to kill a few quite easily. And Inuyasha, memory returning to his body, blocked their attacks and used Tetsusaiga as it was meant to be used…and had been…long ago…He was able to deny the weakness caused by the hole in his middle. He fought and fought against the seemingly endless horde of pawns erupting from the trunks and branches. Some of their faces he knew and try he did to only incapacitate them then kill. Where they had been taught, he and they were not allowed to socialize but still Inuyasha knew their faces and he recognized what connected him to them. They all had been stolen. They all had been tortured. They had been forced to become what was against their will—a mindless being contrary to their spirits which yearned for freedom.
Inuyasha came face to face with an imp of the mountain. Empty silver irises, so large they nearly encompassed the entirety of his eyes, connected with Inuyasha's amber orbs; they pushed against each other. Fang versus claw. Inuyasha was lost in the gaze of emotional death. He wanted to shout at the imp to fight. But something stopped him. He didn't know if it was because he thought it futile or if it was caused by shame…because only a few days earlier, he had been the same.
Hiding himself disgusted and humiliated Inuyasha like any form of surrender. Yet in his defense, it had not been a complete surrender. He'd been waiting. He chose to shield what was left of his heart so that it would be safe. Safe while he waited for the opportunity to escape…escape back to her. He was ashamed. He was guilty of doing the cowardly thing, Inuyasha judged. No more. He threw the imp back. No—
"Lord Sesshomaru! Inuyasha!" Rin's scream. Inuyasha spun. The pawns had found Rin and Jakken. Sesshomaru already ran for them, striking down anyone in his way. He had to help. He picked up his foot to run…
A leather noose snapped at his flesh and wound around his neck too quickly for him to stop. Tetsusaiga slipped from him as Inuyasha gripped at the whip choking him. Suffocating body heat came up behind him and the punisher spoke languidly into his ear. "Now, now, little disobedient hanyou. No more. It's time to stop playing around."
The wall burst open…
And a vacuum of darkness started to swallow his mind.
The slaves quickly died. Gravity took hold of the dismembered arms and legs; Sesshomaru disregarded the bodies to instead favor his companions. "Are you injured?" he said coolly.
Rin swallowed and shook her head. Jakken hopped up and down. "We are alive and well thanks to your bravery and skill, my lord!" The toad was ignored.
"Where's Inuyasha!" Rin shakily shouted.
A cracking whip. A thump. The three turned. Sesshomaru's chest constricted from the beginnings of a growl.
The punisher replied to his anger with another smile. He rested his chin on Inuyasha's shoulder; one hand held the handle of the whip. He pulled the handle back in warning when Sesshomaru moved his sword. The gurgle from Inuyasha's lips effectively stopped the Daiyoukai. "Cease your rudeness, my lord. I have only come here to take back what is rightfully mine. You've killed so many of my pets already. I'm all for fairness. I'll forgive you…simply let the little hanyou come with me."
"I will not bargain with the likes of you."
The punisher lifted a brow. "Really? Then why all the troublesome bloodshed? Ah no matter, it is all very well. I'll be taking back my little pet now."
Sesshomaru stepped over the rocks and planted himself in front of the man. He was becoming quite an annoyance. "Release him. I should not repeat myself: he is no…pet."
"Then what is he to you? You really have me curious. You kill my brother for this hanyou. You kill my other pets for him. Is he not just a slave to you?"
Sesshomaru moved his gaze to Inuyasha. His breathing was labored and thin. But what disconcerted the Inu-Youkai most was the degradation of the hanyou pup's eyes. The very amber seemed to be dimming…draining away under a partition Sesshomaru would never be pleased with! Inuyasha's shoulders were slumping, his face was going slack, and the fingers clutching at the whip began to weaken. The Inuyasha he knew, the stubborn half-breed, the irritating younger brother, the destroyer of Naraku, the wielder of Tetsusaiga kin to his own Tenseiga, seemed to be disappearing right before his very eyes. Becoming again the obedient half-man who didn't even know his name. Pathetic. Weak. Unacceptable!
The punisher spoke, forehead wrinkled with dark humor. "OH! He is something more isn't he? I never thought that Youkai royalty would do such a thing. But…the little hanyou is rather pleasing to look at…isn't he?" His free hand slithered out and stroked around Inuyasha's chin. A sharp intake of breath made Inuyasha's chest spasm. Like a fire being distinguished, the intake of air doused his eyes, swirling the gold into nothingness.
Rage broke out of Sesshomaru at the sight.
His voice boomed.
"Never, Inuyasha! You will never allow it!" He lifted Bakusaiga and pointed the tip at the punisher, whose face had drained of all color. But Sesshomaru's words were not for him. "You are never to be broken! You wish to prove your worth then do so now. For if you don't, I will gladly rid this earth of your pathetic hide. Prove you are worthy of father's blood! I command you!"
Echoing strong, though he had quieted. Sesshomaru ignored the stares and kept Bakusaiga in the air. Inuyasha's expression had not changed.
But those odd puppy ears were tall.
When nothing occurred, the punisher started to bubble out a wicked chortle. "My, my, my, what an impressive speech. But you see, it was all for naught. This little hanyou is mine—" The man went cross-eyed when Inuyasha's hand lifted before his face. They hovered, the points of the fingers glinting. Then swiftly, the claws raked. Four pink lines etched down the punisher's face…and then exploded with blood.
He howled. And Inuyasha was released as he pawed at his face. Face still impassive, Inuyasha spun, kneed the punisher in the gut, and then struck him on the back of the head when the man doubled over. He was unconscious before ever hitting the earth.
Inuyasha looked down, transfixed. Hesitantly, trembling fingers unwrapped the leather choker from his neck. He dropped the whip onto the man's body. He took in two deep breaths…and met Sesshomaru's gaze.
Although shadowed with fatigue, Sesshomaru was dully impressed at the sight Inuyasha exuded. Like a conqueror. A warrior. But he would never say this impression out loud. After all, it was Inuyasha's own fault that he had been caught in the predicament in the first place. Simply…pathetic.
These were the thoughts of his mind, the end of the matter. Nonetheless, Inuyasha recognized again the subtle expression of approval when he picked up Tetsusaiga and quipped:
"Don't bloody tell me what to do, Sesshomaru. I ain't yours to boss around."
Inuyasha lightly touched his aching temples. He barely acknowledged Sesshomaru when he stepped over to him. Rin and Jakken were scraping over the rocks, looking over the dead and unconscious bodies with shock. Bakusaiga was put away.
"Do you remember?" the Daiyoukai droned.
"Yes…" Inuyasha winced and dug the heel of his hand into his temple. "N-no…I'm not…"
When his knees buckled, Sesshomaru acted swiftly. He gripped the back of Inuyasha's neck with firm fingers, cradling the slope of his head and keeping him upright. Inuyasha found his footing and did not fight against the hold. Instead, he whooshed out a sigh and closed his eyes, relaxing into it. Sesshomaru was surprised by the reaction—by both of them. It had been instinct. For the hanyou was a pup, half Inu-Youkai, but still a pup all the same and the hold was a means of comfort and stability. That he had done it without thinking was one thing—that Inuyasha had recognized it for what it was…Sesshomaru tossed the matter aside. It was unimportant. It would simply be troublesome if Inuyasha passed out again.
"You remember what happened to you…"
Inuyasha softly grunted, eyes still closed. "It had been a trap. And…no matter how many I killed they just kept coming. Humans too. I was…taken." Inuyasha growled and continued to rub his temple.
"How long has it been…I can't remember…"
Sesshomaru removed his hand but Inuyasha kept standing; the hanyou made no comment about it.
"I do not know the answer."Inuyasha looked up at him and Sesshomaru was secretly struck by the planes of his face. The recognition of puphood was instantly gone and who stood before him was a grown man—a man who had been through much but had survived. By his own effort.
Tired eyes hardened into the stubborn look Sesshomaru knew so well. "Let me get one thing straight with you, Sesshomaru," Inuyasha whispered and softly, so very softly, there was a hint of pleading in his expression. A pleading to understand. "I never allowed it."
If it was a lie, or a half-truth, Sesshomaru could not detect it. And he decided against arguing about…whatever the hanyou meant. He just gave a curt nod. Nearly painful-looking relief crumpled Inuyasha's face. He slowly sheathed Tetsusaiga and was transfixed by the unconscious punisher, who was just a man, at his feet.
Everything was taken care of without a word. Called by a strong whistle, Ah-Un arrived and landed in their wake. Rin hugged Inuyasha while Sesshomaru dragged the punisher deep into the woods. He killed the man himself. It was not an act of kindness. He didn't do it for Inuyasha out of some acknowledgement that he could never kill a human or that he was too fatigued and pained to accomplish the destruction of his own punisher. He didn't do it to save Inuyasha from any more difficulty or heartache.
The man had just been an annoyance. He shouldn't be allowed to continue in his trade.
When Sesshomaru returned, Inuyasha was helping Rin onto the two-headed dragon's back. Sesshomaru noticed his lingering gaze on the dead and wounded slaves around them. Without a word, Sesshomaru went to their side, took out Tenseiga, and waved it over the space. Inuyasha said nothing. He got on Ah-Un and watched as the body parts glowed and started to move towards each other; at the sight of still chests suddenly rising. They flew off before Inuyasha saw any of them wake up. He would never know what the slaves did when they awoke to freedom and new life. Perhaps it was for the better, he thought wearily. It was their own decision to make.
Inuyasha idly stroked the scales of one of the dragon head's neck. Rin and Jakken sat behind him. Ah or Un, he didn't know which, made a small growl-like purr. Spurred on by the bittersweet ache in his chest, Inuyasha rested against the broad neck. And he was so very glad when the dragon did not protest. He imagined briefly that the scales were soft neko fur. He would see them all again, he promised himself.
Sesshomaru rose next to them on a giant cloud beneath his feet. Once Inuyasha saw him, he unquestionably relaxed into a soft sleep, unafraid that he would fall.
Voices, unimportant to her, welcomed her home. People, unimportant to her, bowed graciously at her arrival. She cared not when the villagers whispered pityingly about her when she walked by. She deepened her fingers into the red fabric hugged against her chest. The fire-rat fur was rough and inviting against the soft underneath of her chin. She had found it ripped and bloodied in an abandoned campsite. There had been garbage of past-eaten food and the charred remains of fire holes. And strangely, a forgotten link of chains around the base of a tree.
"Inuyasha," Kagome whispered. Where are you? She had lost track of how long it had been. The days of searching, the nights of fitful sleeping had coagulated together into a blur for her. There had been no sure sign of his presence except the discovered suikan. That was all.
It had been so long. Tears couldn't even come to her eyes anymore. Shippo, Miroku, and Sango had helped in her search. But soon the children called Miroku and Sango back. And although Shippo searched with her still, seated behind her on Kirara in the draining hours of travel, Kagome knew the same doubts the monk and taijiya had were plaguing the boy. The dried blood on the red fur caused the doubts.
But Kagome couldn't believe it—would not, she had shouted at them all, nearly hysterical. They were connected, even with 500 years separating them when the well was sealed they had been connected. If he was…she refused to say the word—she would have known. Kagome ignored the foolishness of her certainty, she would just know if it happened and that was that. She would still search for her missing hanyou, her beloved husband, until the 21st Century even returned to her. She would find him.
Kagome rubbed the suikan along her cheek, imagining the caress of his hand whenever they were alone. She would find him.
"Kagome…" Shippo's voice opened her eyes. But she did not answer him. The kit sorrowfully bit the inside of his cheek. "I'm going to let everyone know we're back."
Kagome's only answer was the affectionate tweaking she did to the black string lining the suikan sleeves. Shippo sighed and walked away, towards Kaede's hut and the home Miroku and Sango had made for themselves. I'm sorry, Shippo, Kagome called unvoiced to his disappearing back. I just can't give up.
The villagers' gasps did not alert her. Kagome was trained well—she could feel the unmistakable youki. Sesshomaru had returned with Rin; Kaede had told her in the short time she had spent here about the Daiyoukai's planned trip. Sighing, Kagome turned to see Sesshomaru land in the dusty lane. She would never ask him for his help. He would never give it.
"Hello," she said with a strength she did not feel. Lord Sesshomaru was unreadable as ever. He did not reply. The sound of Au-Un's shuffling feet alerted him to the arrival and he cocked his head over to watch the dragon land. Kagome didn't know why but seeing the dark-brown form in the sky made her heart accelerate. Her hands unknowingly clenched around Inuyasha's coat.
When the animal did land, if it had been regular fabric, she would have ripped it in two.
He lifted his head from behind the dragon's twin necks.
He saw her, his face framed by crudely cut short hair. He scrambled off the dragon's back and nearly stumbled to the ground. The voice she heard whispering her name could only be her dreaming…
The voice gained strength. He awkwardly limped towards her, one hand fitted over the bandages around his torso. The other desperately reaching out towards her.
Not a dream!
The suikan fell unnoticed to the ground. She ran but did not get far. Their bodies met and the arms she'd missed clung tightly around her. He clutched her to himself as hard as he could without hurting her. Uncaring about the watching eyes, Inuyasha picked her up and forced her to have to wrap her legs around him, hands tangled in his hair. "Kagome," he repeated again and again, voice cracking in the juncture of her neck and shoulder. "Kagome, Kagome, Kagome…!"
She freed her mouth from his shoulder and sobs tore out. "Inuyasha!" You're alive, you're alive, her heart screamed, I knew it all along! "Inuyasha!"
The villagers spoke in awe, some commenting on the wild display. The harsh look of the Daiyoukai silenced them, however, and sent them scurrying away.
Inuyasha nuzzled the side of Kagome's face, not getting enough from saying her name. She's real, he told himself over and over as well, she's real and I won't ever let go. A resurrected Naraku couldn't even do it! He gasped and panted; the replacement for the tears he could not shed in this place. She kissed his neck and made his throat hurt, the lump tightening. She started to babble and he dug his fingers into her hair, overwhelmed by the real sound of her voice.
"I found you. Oh, Inuyasha. You're here! Wh-where have you been? I looked everywhere! Oh, Inuyasha, Inuyasha, I never stopped. I never stopped looking. I knew you were alive. I knew it!" She kissed his cheek, planting her lips hard. "Don't ever do that again! I'll s-s-i-t you until your head explodes if y-you…leave a-ag-gain…"
She melted into tears.
"Kagome," he rubbed his cheek against hers, wiping the tears away. "My wife. My mate."
The rest of Inuyasha's companions sprinted to their proximity. The taijiya held a wide-eyed young boy, a neko Youkai on her shoulder, and two twin girls were panting harshly from being dragged by the monk. The kitsune held the old priestess's hand and his eyes widened. "Inuyasha!"
They all called out his name. But Inuyasha could not pay them any mind, and neither did Kagome. They were together as husband and wife, as the mated pair of lovers, and the embarrassment of public affection could not plague them at this time. It had been too long. Too much uncertainty and yearning. Too many nightmares. The watchers understood this and did not try to interrupt again.
"His hair is short," the kit whispered. "He looks so thin."
"Where could he have been?" Sango said, patting the back of her son.
Miroku unleashed his daughters' hands and stepped forward. "Lord Sesshomaru…were you the one to find him?"
Jakken rolled his eyes. Rin, next to her lord, waved at the little children, who called out her name happily. Meanwhile, Sesshomaru eyed the monk and then slid his attention back to Inuyasha. "I will not explain."
"But—" the complaint ended at the demon's expression. Unyielding.
"When he can…he will tell you what happened." They were stunned at his words. But were also stunned because of the way it was said. It was impassive, it was not halting, but there was something about it—like the ice it was meant to be normally supplied with was not cool enough. Miroku slowly nodded his assent. There could be no arguing.
Inuyasha didn't release Kagome but the initial desperation had finally eased. He let her feet touch the ground again and was pleased by her small sound of protest. He turned Kagome's face up and caressed the skin gently; causing her lip to quiver and a sudden nuzzle into the palm. I finally see you again. You're so beautiful. He expressed himself by touching his forehead to hers, stroking his nose against the tip of her own. He'd never truly forgotten, he realized. Her memories had been kept safe and untainted in the walled-in chasms of his heart. Untouched and undamaged by the torture and mind games. He still felt shame that he had done it, breaking his personality and hiding away.
But as she bravely kissed him, in front of witnesses, Inuyasha understood that the breaking would heal. She would do it, could do it, because that was her talent with him. The rifts in the pieces of himself would come together again through her love.
He kissed her himself and then slowly pulled away. He should remember though. She would heal him but the pieces wouldn't have ever been arranged back together for her if it hadn't been for another person. She questioned him silently when he turned his head to his brother.
It all felt like a dream. A strange and oddly pleasant one. Cease your acting. Do you not recognize me for who I am, Inuyasha? Tell me your name, hanyou. You will not address me as master. It is unbecoming from the likes of you. Remember my name on your own. You will sleep…Will you argue with me? You are weak from hunger. It will not do. Eat it all, hanyou, until you are satisfied. It is not mine to take…
You've done well.
It is time you know your name. It is not the name I give you as your master. It is the name father bequeathed you when you were born. Yes, yes it is. Why? I am not your responsibility to protect.
He is no pet!
Never, Inuyasha! You will never allow it. You are never to be broken!
You wish to prove your worth then do so now.
Prove you are worthy of father's blood!
Do you remember?
We are here, Inuyasha. Your chosen mate has been searching long for you.
"Sesshomaru…" his elder brother met his gaze and held it for a timeless moment of silence. The shame and anger he should have felt for shortly considering this Daiyoukai as his master was overwhelmed instead with a surreal kind of…gratitude. By the last person he would have expected, he had not been treated as a slave. Instead he had been treated as he was—a spirit who yearned for freedom. "I…"
"It is time to depart, Jakken."
"Ah, yes, yes of course, Lord Sesshomaru."
Sesshomaru broke away to look down at Rin. The little girl smiled, though sadness tinged it. "Goodbye, my lord. Thank you for the trip. Thank you for…for everything. Will I see you again soon?"
He only nodded.
Ah-Un flew off at his command. Jakken hobbled behind him. Inuyasha watched as Sesshomaru made to simply walk away. Like nothing had happened.
Something prompted him to quickly shift and loudly say, "Wait! Sesshomaru, I—"
"Inuyasha." Sesshomaru stopped but did not turn back.
It came out as a whisper, again not quite as cool as it should have been.
"Our fight continues."
Sesshomaru walked away upon everyone's watching.
Kagome caressed in question the slight smirk on Inuyasha's face. "Inuyasha…?" Her husband shook his head, giving her hand a small squeeze.
"Let's go home."
He softly fitted his lips upon hers once more, ignoring Miroku's snicker.
Author's Note: Any well-read Inuyasha fan-fiction reader knows that there are certain themes which are repeatedly used on this site: someone is turned into a child by a witch, someone goes blind, someone becomes attracted to someone they shouldn't, some race (either human or Youkai) are enslaved, the crew is thrown into high school, etc. I've done the whole AU high school fiction but I always played with the idea of doing one of the other overly used fiction ideas. You've just read what happens. I was going over some old fictions in my FAVORITES, admittedly some of them being those tired themes, and I was inspired to try my hand. But I didn't want it to be TYPICAL. If anything, I wanted it to stretch my capabilites as a writer. Keeping the brothers in character. Subtle hints to a changing personality. Etcetera. I leave it to you to decide if I achieved my goal.
There's some things I wanted to explain about this fiction. It was just an experiment and I hope no one was insulted by it in any way. You are purposefully not supposed to know how long Inuyasha has been gone or to what exactly happened to him. I gave hints, surely, to some terrible things. But personally, I was uncomfortable with what I did to Inuyasha--he's the tough fighter! I respect his character! I really don't think the boy could ever be broken which is why he didn't act all "obedient" for long and had such a tormenting rift within him, since acting obedient is surely against his personality. Also, whether my hints to Inuyasha's "torture" was him being raped or not, that is up to your discretion as the reader. I didn't like the idea of what would have to be done to "break" such a strong spirit so I wrote it very, very vaguely. If you want my take on it, I would rather believe that being raped didn't happen.
He would "never allow it".
If Inuyasha's transformation back to his old self was confusing, it really is supposed to be. I was playing with the idea of being a living contradiction, as only people can. Inuyasha protected himself in order to survive but if anything terrible occurred, he was still "alert" enough to fight back. By hiding, he fought. Or something like that. LOL.
Finally, as for Sesshomaru's parting words, I wanted to explain it better since I made it too vague. Inuyasha smirked because of two possibilties. You can make the choice. A) The irony of fighting when Sesshomaru had the perfect opportunity to kill him or take advantage of him. And B) because of all the events that transpired between them, not only in this fiction but in the manga as well, their "fight" has altered into something that doesn't require swords and claws. They no longer "fight" physically, but fight to understand each other and mature their relationships into that of real brothers.
I was going more for B.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it.
Until next time.