The Lake of the Evil Water God
The kid led them to a deserted area just outside the village before dropping his reed mat. He was scruffy looking, but that was hardly unusual for a boy who'd been outside all day. What was unusual was the bag of goods he dragged out of the bushes and dumped at their feet. Beaded jewelry, coins, fancy looking dishes, and bolts of fine silk spilled out on the ground.
"Here," the boy said. "Take your pick."
"Take our pick?" Inuyasha asked. "What for?"
"I'm hiring you," the boy informed him. "You can take however much of this stuff that you want. In return, I want all of you to slay the water god."
"Why do you want the water god dead?" Sango asked.
The kid rolled his eyes. "He's asking for child sacrifices! Why shouldn't I want him dead?" He shoved past them and started marching in the direction of the lake. "Come on, I'll show you where they deliver the sacrifices to."
During the short conversation, Miroku had gathered up all the spilled items with a remarkable efficiency. "This isn't the first time you've done something like this, is it?" Inuyasha asked.
"I am always paid for my services," Miroku responded blandly.
That wasn't quite what Inuyasha had meant, but he decided it would be better to let the matter go.
"So, who are your parents? And do they know what you're up to?" Kagome asked as they followed him.
"That doesn't matter," the kid said. "You should be focusing on your mission. The sacrifice will be collected in a boat and rowed out to the shrine in the middle of the lake. We should follow, and when the water god rises up to take him, then you will strike."
"You're the headman's son, aren't you?" Sango asked, and the kid froze. She nodded. "I thought so. That other child being sacrificed is a stand in for you. That explains why the headman was so eager to get him on his way."
The kid looked down, his fists clenched. "You're right. I'm Taromaru, the headman's heir. Six months ago we started having terrible floods, and our god told us that the only way to alleviate them was to sacrifice the eldest child of the chosen families. Every month a white arrow lands on the house of the chosen family, and they send their eldest child to the water god to be sacrificed. My father always said the sacrifice was necessary for the sake of the village, but then the arrow landed on our house and he told me to hide. He's sending one of my friends in my place, and I can't just let him do that!"
So the headman was trying to save his son after all, but only after he'd convinced people to allow five other children to die, and now he was trying to have a sixth child killed in his son's place.
Still a horrible person.
"Don't worry," Sango said. "We'll save your friend. But first, I need a minute to change into my armor."
She walked back to the privacy of a small wooded area with large bushes for extra coverage, but Inuyasha noticed Miroku's gaze tracking her as she went. Inuyasha punched the monk's shoulder. "Don't watch, pervert!"
"That is an unfair accusation," Miroku said while rubbing his shoulder. "I am not a pervert. I simply appreciate the beauty of women."
"Without their permission," Inuyasha said.
"Not always," Miroku replied with a grin.
"Are you sure you're a monk?" Kagome asked, looking mildly scandalized by his words.
"Quite sure," Miroku said.
Sango returned, changed into her slayer uniform. "If you're all ready we should go," Taromaru said. He started off toward the dock, but Inuyasha grabbed the back of his shirt and dragged him back.
"Hold on a minute," he said. "Who said you were coming?"
"Of course I'm coming!" the kid snapped, glaring up at him. "It's my friend we're going to rescue!"
"No," Inuyasha said flatly. "You'll just get in the way, kid. We'll have our hands full enough as it is just protecting your friend. We don't need to worry about protecting you as well."
"He's right," Kagome said before Taromaru could argue. "You've hired us to save your friend, now please trust us to get the job done."
Taromaru looked down in defeat. "Fine. But you'd better save him!"
By this time darkness was falling, so they used its cover to sneak down to the docks. It looked as though whatever boat was used to take the child out to the shrine in the middle of the lake had come and gone, and the villagers had retreated back to their village. Luckily, they found a boat still tied to the dock that was just large enough to fit them.
As they sailed, Inuyasha thought about what Kagome had said to Taromaru. Trust us to get the job done, she says. I wonder if we can.
It was true that they had faced down threats together before, but those had been more or less simple fights. This was a rescue mission, and it was incredibly different. This situation, more than any of the others, would require them to trust each other and to work successfully as a team. Inuyasha wasn't sure they could pull it off, but the alternative was unthinkable.
After what felt like an agonizingly long time, they arrived at the shrine. Sailing across the lake probably hadn't really taken all that long, but it had been long enough for things to go from sunset to full dark. As they approached the shrine's dock, they saw two guards standing in front of the shrine's large front gate. The guards were more or less humanoid in shape, but they had distinctly fish like heads, and from what Inuyasha could smell, a fish like scent too.
Kagome leapt out of the boat and knocked the guards out before they could raise an alarm. She turned to the others as they followed up behind her. "So, what's the plan?" she asked.
"It's hard to form a detailed one without knowing the layout of the shrine," Miroku said quietly. "But I think sneaking in would be best. We should keep the element of surprise as long as we can."
Inuyasha eyed the gate wondering where inside the shrine the kid was. Hopefully they weren't already too late.
"Okay then, this is the plan," Kagome said. "We sneak in and find the kid; in finding him, we'll probably also find this water god. Sango, you fly him out of here on Kirara so he'll be safe, and the three of us will take down the water god. Once you've dropped the kid off somewhere safe, come back and see if we need help."
It was the best plan they could come up with on short notice, and they didn't really have time to sit around and think up more plans if they wanted to save the kid. The front gate proved to be locked. Kagome probably could have just destroyed the gate, but rather than do so and give away the fact that they were there, she carried Inuyasha and Shippo over the wall while Sango and Miroku flew over on Kirara.
There were other guards present within the shrine grounds, but none of them seemed to be paying particular attention to the gate, and so they were able to sneak past them. They really aren't good guards if they aren't noticing all of us.
When they made it to the shrine itself, Kagome's ears pricked forward. "No more time for sneaking!" she called over her shoulder as she took off into the shrine. Inuyasha didn't know what she had heard, but it must have been bad.
Luckily the building itself wasn't very large, so they didn't have far to follow her. Kagome burst through two sliding paper doors into what was probably the main room of the shrine. There were two guards in the room, but Kagome had knocked them out of commission upon her entrance. More alarming was the sight of the water god, a tall figure with abnormally pale skin, pointed ears, and wide, lidless eyes. One arm was stretched out to an impossible length, as though it was made of rubber instead of flesh and bone, and from the end of it the child they'd been sent to rescue dangled in the air.
Kagome drew Tetsusaiga without hesitation. "How dare you intrude on this sacred ground," the water god said, but Kagome didn't bother wasting words on him. She lunged with the Tetsusaiga, but he pulled out a golden trident from nowhere it seemed and blocked her attack. With terrifying ease, he shoved Kagome back, and the Tetsusaiga shrank down from its transformed state to its less impressive, smaller state.
That is not good, Inuyasha thought.
"No one can hope to defeat the Trident of Amakoi, especially not a half demon like you," he said. "You shall die for trespassing on my grounds."
He raised the trident and then sharply rapped it on the ground. Power spilled out of it in waves, different from any other kind of power that Inuyasha had before sensed. It felt almost electric, and totally unstoppable. Following close behind was a wall of water, and Inuyasha only had time to take one deep breath before it hit them, submerging them under the water.
Inuyasha had never felt so completely helpless before as he did in those moments when the water tossed him about like he was nothing, spinning him around until he wasn't sure which way led to the surface. He completely lost track of the others, except for Shippo, who he could feel clinging to the back of his shirt with a desperate strength. His staff was torn from his hand, but he had no time to mourn its loss. At the moment he was more concerned with how he'd get to the surface, because he needed to breathe.
The waters stopped tossing him about, but he still didn't know which direction was up, and the burning of his lungs warned him that time was running out. Suddenly, Inuyasha recalled an important trick he'd learned in his first year of middle school, when it had been time for his PE class to have swimming lessons. His teacher had said that if for any reason they got confused while they were underwater and didn't know which way was up, they should go limp. Their body would naturally start to float to the surface, and then they would know what direction to swim in.
Hoping his old PE teacher was correct, Inuyasha went limp. His body did start to drift, so Inuyasha swam hard in that direction. Seconds later, Inuyasha's head burst through the surface of the water, and he gulped down air noisily. He could hear Shippo coughing behind him. "Are you alright Shippo?" Inuyasha asked.
"I'm okay," Shippo said, still clinging to Inuyasha's shoulders.
Glancing around, Inuyasha took stock of their situation. Somehow the water had swept them completely out of the shrine and back into the lake itself. Inuyasha had a feeling that the method involved had been less actually sweeping them over the walls and off the small island and more magical teleportation, but he didn't care to think about that too closely at the moment.
He spotted Miroku off a little ways to his right, and for a second he thought Miroku was swimming toward an outcropping of rock. Then he realized that Miroku wasn't swimming at all, but being towed flat on his back by two strange looking fish like creatures.
I guess they're friendly if they're helping Miroku.
Hoping he was correct, Inuyasha started swimming toward the rocky outcropping himself. The fish creatures got Miroku on the rock and swam back to Inuyasha before he quite made it. They were the weirdest looking fish Inuyasha had ever seen. They were mostly red, and they had bright red human lips instead of a regular, lipless fish mouth. Their eyes were wide and held an intelligence he'd never seen in any animal. They also had something on their heads that looked rather like dark hair, but fish weren't supposed to grow hair, so it could potentially be the weirdest fins he'd ever seen. The color of their scales also shifted from red to blue just below their heads, almost giving one the feeling that they were wearing kimonos, and their trailing white fins only helped that impression.
"Um, hi?" Inuyasha said while treading water.
"Greetings," said one of the fish that probably weren't actually fish in a distinctly female voice. "Do you need help getting to the rocks?"
Deciding they could probably get him there faster than he could by swimming on his own, Inuyasha agreed. They slipped under his arms, and Inuyasha was careful not to hold on to them too tightly for fear of accidentally hurting them. As he'd predicted, they did tow him and Shippo to the rocks quicker than he could have managed on his own.
Shippo bounded off of Inuyasha's shoulders while he was pulling himself up on the rocks and dashed over to Miroku to check on him. "He's waking up!" Shippo called out, and Inuyasha could see Miroku stirring.
His violet eyes flickered open, and he pushed himself up into a sitting position. "Where are we?" he asked.
"Outside the shrine," Inuyasha said. He gestured to the two fish ladies. "They saved you from drowning."
Miroku's gaze flickered over to them. "You have my deepest thanks," he said.
"You are welcome," they replied in tandem.
If Miroku was surprised at them speaking, he didn't show it. Instead he glanced around, and then looked alarmed as he realized something. "My staff! I must have lost it in the water."
"Mine too," Inuyasha said. He hated that; his staff had been a gift from Sensei.
"We will retrieve your weapons," the fish ladies said and they slipped back under the water.
"So, where do you think the others are?" Shippo asked.
"Good question," Miroku said. "At the very least, I think we can assume they're not in the lake itself somewhere, or I'd imagine that these two would have saved them as well as us."
"Are they still in the shrine somewhere you think?" Inuyasha asked, glancing back at the island.
"It is certainly a possibility," Miroku said.
It was a possibility that worried Inuyasha. The water god's weapon was unlike anything he'd ever faced before, and as much as he didn't like to admit it, he was pretty well convinced that it was more powerful than the Tetsusaiga.
The fish ladies resurfaced with Miroku's and Inuyasha's staves in their mouths. Gratefully, they accepted their weapons from them.
"I must ask," Miroku said, "why exactly are you helping us? You appear to be servants of the water god."
"We are," one of them answered. "But we water sprites serve the true water god. Not long ago, Daija was like us, but through trickery he managed to imprison the true water god."
Daija must be the name of the fake, Inuyasha thought.
Tears filled the water sprites' eyes. "It is terrible, what he demands of the people. The true water god would stop him, if freed."
"Where is the true water god imprisoned?" Miroku asked.
"If you follow the rocks to that outcropping, you will find the water god locked away," they said, gesturing to their right. Looking in that direction, Inuyasha saw the outcropping they meant. It wasn't terribly far away, but the rocks weren't consistently formed into an easy pathway. There would be some jumping involved if they went there, and a decent chance of slipping back into the water.
"Inuyasha, I think we should free the true water god," Miroku said.
"But what about the others?" Inuyasha asked. "Shouldn't we worry more about helping them?"
"This will help them," Miroku said. "Didn't you sense the power of that trident? It is a true god's weapon, and neither of us will stand a chance against it. Freeing the true water god might be the only way of stopping Daija."
His logic made sense, but Inuyasha still didn't like the thought of turning away from the others when they might be in a life or death situation. "Fine," he finally snapped, logic winning out against instinct. "But we'd better make this fast."
When she'd seen the water coming Sango had followed her first instinct and lunged for the boy. More than any of the others, he was the one that would need the most help to survive the coming flood, and when the water hit them she managed to catch hold of him. It seemed that Kagome had had a similar line of thought, as she also grabbed ahold of him as the waters hit.
Sango expected to be tossed about like a leaf, but to her surprise after the initial sensation of being submerged, all feeling of the water went away, leaving her feeling as though she floated in nothingness. Opening her eyes, Sango found that she, Kagome, and the boy were surrounded by a cushioning blue light that protected them from the water.
Then it hit her. The water god wanted to kill the boy, so of course he wouldn't allow him to be washed away by the flood. Since she and Kagome had grabbed hold of him, his protection had extended to them. Tightening her grip on the boy with one hand, Sango used the other to get her hiraikotsu ready for throwing. Given the lack of success that Kagome had had in attacking with her sword, Sango doubted her weapon would do much against him either. However, she was counting on the idea that the water god wouldn't be expecting an immediate attack when the water vanished, and it might catch him off guard enough to allow them to at least get some distance between them.
The water drained away and Sango shoved the boy into Kagome's arms shouting, "Go!" as she let her weapon fly. Kagome took off without arguing. As Sango had hoped, the water god hadn't expected the attack, and fell back with a startled hiss. As soon as the weapon returned to her hand, Sango turned and ran after Kagome.
She didn't have time to worry about what may have happened to the others in the water. Whether or not they were okay was completely out of her hands right now. The only one she had a chance of protecting at the moment was the boy.
That would be easier if Kirara was here!
She didn't hear footsteps pursuing them, so Sango hazarded a look back. The water god was indeed in pursuit, but his appearance had changed, so that now instead of legs he had the tail of a snake, and he was gaining on them quickly.
As he made it within striking range of Sango, she suddenly found her arms filled with the boy as Kagome dashed past her to block the trident with her sword. Sango assumed the blow would probably reverse the transformation of the Tetsusaiga again, but she didn't pause long enough to look. She kept running for the main gate, hoping that Kirara would come here to pick the boy up. Besides, where else was there for her to go on this small island?
Guards that they hadn't knocked out on their way into the shrine rushed together to block her path to the gate, unintentionally making themselves perfect targets for her hiraikotsu. Throwing her weapon while running and carrying a boy wasn't easy, but there was a reason Sango was considered one of the best slayers in her village.
The guards collapsed, and as soon as Sango caught the hiraikotsu, Kagome's arm went around her waist and she jumped, carrying Sango and the boy straight over the front gate.
"We're out of room to run," Kagome said as they landed at the beginning of the dock.
"Then we've got no other choice," Sango said letting go of the boy and turning to face the gate. "Stay behind us, kid."
She really didn't want to die like this, but as the gates burst outward, Sango couldn't see how they were going to survive.
Inuyasha was relieved that he managed not to fall into the lake on the trip over to the rocky outcrop where the real water god was imprisoned. He was only slightly annoyed that Miroku didn't fall in either. "So, where is the water god imprisoned?" he wondered out loud when they made it over.
"Hard to say," Miroku said. "It doesn't look like is much of anywhere to imprison a person on this island."
"Does this really qualify as an island?" Shippo asked. "I mean, it's really, really tiny."
"Guys, focus!" Inuyasha snapped. "The longer we take here, the more danger Kagome, Sango, and the kid are in!"
"Hello?" called a woman's voice. "Is someone there?"
Wait, a woman's voice?
"Ah, so it is not a water god, but a water goddess," Miroku said.
"Why do you sound so pleased about that?" Shippo asked.
"Would you just remove the seal and let me out of here?" the water goddess demanded.
Following the sound of her voice, they found a rock with a seal pasted to it. "Here we go," Miroku said, and pulled the seal off. There was a bright flash of light, and when the light faded they could see a small hole in the rock that hadn't been there before.
Leaning forward, they all peered into the hole and saw the water goddess. She was a beautiful woman, with pale skin, long, lustrous dark hair, and dark eyes. She was also about six inches tall.
"You are beautiful," Miroku said. "I've never done it with someone so tiny, but I'd certainly be willing to try."
Inuyasha's jaw dropped. "You did not just proposition a six inch tall goddess for sex. What is wrong with you?"
"Hey," the goddess snapped before Miroku could attempt to defend himself. "We don't have time for this! Get me to my shrine so I may take down that pretender."
Not willing to trust Miroku with her, Inuyasha held out his hand for her to climb into. Then he realized they had another problem. "Wait, how are we supposed to get back to the shrine, exactly?"
"That's a good question," Miroku said. "I have no idea."
The goddess sent them looks of disgust. "You came to rescue me without having a plan for getting off of this rock?"
"I can help!" Shippo said.
He hopped off of Inuyasha's shoulder and with a puff of smoke, transformed into the pink, balloon like creature he'd been the first time Inuyasha had seen him. "I can fly you over there like this!"
"Are you sure you can carry us?" Inuyasha asked doubtfully.
"I think so," Shippo said. "I couldn't do it for long, but I should be able to get you to the shrine at least."
Scrambling up on top of Shippo when he was basically a balloon while holding the water goddess in one hand and his staff in the other was difficult, but with Miroku's help, Inuyasha managed.
"Right," Miroku said while he and Inuyasha crowded together for balance on top of Shippo's overly rounded body. "Let's go to the rescue!"
This has to be the stupidest looking rescue ever.
As he slithered towards them through the now broken gates, the water god hissed, "Now you shall die."
"Sorry," Kagome said, her hand resting on her hilt. "We don't feel like getting killed today, especially not by a pathetic worm like you."
He laughed. "And what do you think you can do to stop me? So long as I wield the Trident of Amakoi, your weapon is useless."
As he held the trident up high for a new attack, Kirara flew in from behind him. Her jaws closing around the staff of the trident, she tore the weapon from his hand and flew up high into the air out of his reach.
"No!" the water god cried. His whole form shifted then, turning into a gigantic white snake, much larger than he had been previously. He lunged upwards, suddenly able to reach Kirara due to his increase in size, and his jaws snapped closed around her middle.
"Kirara!" Sango screamed as the snake demon dove nose first into the lake, dragging Kirara and the trident under water.
Kagome jumped into the water after them, and Sango could only stand helplessly on the dock, praying that as a half demon Kagome could hold her breath long enough to reach them and offer some kind of assistance.
Suddenly the boy grabbed one of her hands. "Something else is coming!" he said.
Hating to look away from the water for even a second, Sango forced herself to look up. What she saw was so startling, it was almost enough to make her forget about Kirara's plight. Floating toward the docks on what appeared to be a gigantic pink bubble with eyes, were Miroku and Inuyasha, who had had to squeeze close together to fit on the thing.
"What on earth?" she wondered out loud.
As soon as the bubble made it over the dock, there was a pop and a puff of smoke as the bubble transformed into Shippo. Miroku and Inuyasha tumbled to the ground.
"Ouch! Shippo, you little brat, couldn't you have let us down easier!" Inuyasha snapped at him.
"Sorry," Shippo said from where he lay on the dock. "I could barely make it here."
"Sango, we found the real water goddess," Miroku said, standing up and pretending that nothing undignified had just happened to him.
"Where is she?" Sango asked.
"Here," Inuyasha said, holding up his free hand. For the first time, Sango noticed the tiny woman cradled carefully in his hand.
"Where are the others?" Miroku asked.
Sango's fear returned full force. "That snake dragged Kirara under the water, and Kagome went after them!"
"What?" Inuyasha asked. "Then what are we supposed to do?"
"Perhaps I could be of assistance," the goddess said. "Put me down, near the edge of the dock, please."
Inuyasha did as she said, and the goddess removed one of her earrings. Holding it over the lake, she said, "I command the waters to part." She dropped the earring in the water, and for one awful second nothing happened. Then the waters pulled away from the dock, revealing the scene below.
On the lake bed, the snake demon still held Kirara in its mouth, and she still held the trident in hers. It had wrapped its tail around Kagome, trapping her. But now Sango could help. Taking careful aim, Sango threw her hiraikotsu, severing the end of the snake demon's tail, but because she was aiming downward, her hiraikotsu became stuck in the mud. The demon screamed with pain, its jaws loosening just enough for Kirara to wiggle out of its mouth. But instead of flying up to the dock, Kirara toppled over and shrank down to her smaller size. Her injuries from the bite and being held underwater for so long must have been too much for her.
Kagome freed herself from the now limp end of the demon's tail and dashed over to Kirara. Scooping up the cat and the trident, she jumped up to the dock. The snake demon surged up after her, but Miroku placed himself in front of the others, saying, "I don't think so!"
He held up his uncovered right hand, causing the wind tunnel to open up. The snake was dragged into his hand and was no more.
Sango rushed over to Kagome and took Kirara from her. "Oh, no, Kirara," Sango said, her chest clenching in pain as she held the limp form of her friend.
"I think his bite poisoned her," Kagome said.
No, no! I can't lose you too!
"Young lady," spoke the goddess. "If you will return my trident to me, I can heal your cat friend."
Kagome started. "Who are you?"
"That's the true water goddess," Inuyasha supplied, cradling Shippo in one of his arms. "The snake demon imprisoned her and set himself up as her replacement."
Kagome held the trident out for her, and the water goddess looked just a bit ridiculous taking hold of the bottom of the trident when she was so undersized. But as her hand landed on the trident, a glow surrounded her and she surged upward until she stood at a normal height.
"Thank you," the goddess said before turning to Sango. She held the trident out towards them, and it began to glow. Kirara glowed in response to the trident, and after a moment both lights faded. "There," the goddess said. "Your friend should be fine now."
Sango hardly dared to hope, but then Kirara's red eyes flickered open. "Mew."
"Thank goodness," Sango breathed.
Inuyasha was happy for Sango that Kirara had been healed. She'd already lost a lot recently, she didn't need another loss so soon.
He shifted his hold on the sleeping Shippo to be just a bit more comfortable, and then noticed the boy standing uncertainly just outside their little group.
"Come on, kid," Inuyasha said. "It's time to get you back home."
His expression brightened, and everyone made their way to their boat, which had by some miracle stayed tied to the dock where they had left it.
"One moment," the goddess said as they climbed into it. "I believe the slayer needs something else restored to her."
She gestured once more with her trident, and suddenly Sango's hiraikotsu was floating on the surface of the lake. Sango fished it out of the water and turned to the goddess. "Thank you, for everything."
The goddess nodded regally. She seemed much more like a goddess now that she was no longer six inches tall. "It is the least I can do for you and your friends in thanks for freeing me. If ever you need my assistance, do not hesitate to ask."
As they sailed back to the shore, Inuyasha sank down in the boat, allowing the weariness of the late night and aftermath of the adrenaline rush wash over him. He could hardly believe they'd managed to do it. They had saved the kid, overthrown the snake demon, and restored the proper water goddess to her rightful place.
I guess we aren't such a bad team after all.
AN: So, this is the end of Switched, but not the end of my project. You may or may not recall from the author's note I put on the first chapter that I'm going to be posting each season of Inuyasha as it's own story. The first chapter of the sequel, Changed, should be posted later today.