A/N: If I wasn't so tired I'd be cackling in the background as you read this chapter. Bonus points if you guess why :D
Beta: Fawn_Eyed_Girl. Also, thanks for NeutronStarChild for helping as well!
The Fae Tree and Forest Spirit got nominated for the Feudal Connection 2020 4th Quarterly Inuyasha Fandom Awards for Best Romance and Best Character Portrayal (Kagome) respectively.
Thank you so much, guys! It means a lot to know that what I'm writing is to your liking! Your support for me and my stories is literally what keeps me going.
If you want to vote for either of my stories - now is the time, the voting session is open until Nov 12th 2020.
When they ran out of the forest, Kagome sighed in relief at seeing neither fire nor smoke rising from the village. There was no apparent damage to the area, but she knew something was wrong, because there were no people in the fields or around the homes. There was no noise indicating work or play, no children chasing dogs, and no women airing beddings.
At this eerie silence and apparent lack of life in the village where she had been living for so long, Kagome's grip on Inuyasha's shoulders tightened.
"You two stay out of whatever shit the bastard is planning to do," the forest spirit reminded Shippou and her. "Just make sure the humans are safe. Make sure the old bat is not injured."
"Sure," Shippou nodded. "Unless that green youkai is in the area. That one I defeated last time. If he's back for some more real fire I will fry his ugly face." He preened at the memory of his past victory.
"Fine, you can wipe the floor with the stinking kappa, but only after you make sure the wench is safe," Inuyasha grumbled.
"Hey! I won't go off to seek trouble like a wayward chicken!" Kagome whispered in outrage, not willing to scream as they passed the silent houses.
"Most of them are inside," the hanyou informed, as if to answer her not-asked question. "No smell of blood... or acid. Scared shitless, though."
Kagome sighed in relief. At least it looked like Inuyasha's elder brother hadn't been entertaining himself by torturing defenceless people. Her relief was short-lived, because as soon as Inuyasha entered the village square at the foot of the shrine hill, her heart skipped a beat.
Lord Sesshomaru stood there, as imposing and scary as he had been all these months ago when he had tried to pry the Tessaiga from her grip. A gentle breeze picked the ends of his long hair, swaying it in a deceivingly beautiful way. This youkai was handsome like Inuyasha, yes, but he lacked the warmth, the compassion, the kindness that his younger brother carried within his heart. Next to him stood the tiny green fellow with a staff that had two heads on top of it. He had been busy insulting what appeared to be an unconscious Lady Kaede and the headman Kuma, who was kneeling beside her a mere few paces away from the two youkai. There were a handful more people huddled in a corner like a frightened herd that was too afraid to flee, not wanting to draw the predator's attention to them. Kagome noticed a bow next to her mother and an arrow snapped in two lying at Sesshomaru's feet—a clear sign that her aged mother had been trying to defend the village. And Kagome hadn't been there to keep her safe, to help her.
"Mom..." she choked out as she slid off of Inuyasha's back as soon as the hanyou stood on the ground. The firm grip of Inuyasha's hand on her wrist kept her from rushing towards her mother.
"I can hear her heartbeat, she's fine," he assured her before she could try to free herself. "You don't go anywhere near that asshole."
"We will get to her as soon as we can." Shippou patted Kagome's cheek from where he sat on her shoulder. He glared at the kappa, but tried not to make eye contact with the white-haired youkai looming over him.
"Okay," Kagome nodded. The villagers noticed their arrival and started to whisper; Kagome couldn't hear their words, but she noticed relief in their tone.
She thought to the last time the brothers had fought and cast a glance to Sesshomaru's left arm—the one Inuyasha had cut off. Now the daiyoukai had a new arm, but it was most certainly not a regrown limb. It was a blue dragon claw, with scales and huge talons.
"Sesshomaru!" Inuyasha barked. "What are you doing here, you dumb fuck?"
"How dare you...!" gasped the kappa in outrage. Kagome thought he looked like he was going to faint from the amount of insult he had taken for the not-impressed daiyoukai.
"Little brother. This lord sees your vocabulary is as foul as your tainted stench." Finally, the daiyoukai stopped staring idly into the distance and turned to face Inuyasha. A few villagers gasped at the reveal of the forest spirit being kin to this scary being.
"Are these dumb humans supposed to be your hostages? Since when do you trouble yourself with this kind of shit?" Inuyasha ignored the insult.
"They are not a concern of this one. They are not forbidden to leave," the youkai lord said, his face passive and the tone of his voice bored. "This one wished to see you and had no desire to seek you in your little forest. Summoning you to his presence was more fitting. Now you can relinquish the mighty Tessaiga to the one who will be able to do right by the blade."
After that yell from Inuyasha, the two brothers leaped at each other, as if no one else was around. Inuyasha pulled out his sword and let the blade transform, so he could block his brother's attack. The blade clanged when it was struck.
Kagome watched the fight, biting her bottom lip and clenching her fists every time Inuyasha dodged or parried the brutal blows of his brother's new arm. Slowly, step by step, zig-zagging across the village square, Inuyasha led his attacking brother away from the humans. Some of the gathering fled and Kagome didn't fault them; watching the two silver-haired men fighting was scary. She herself ran to where the headman and her mother were. She also noticed Totosai on his flying cow landing nearby and helping her frightened friends slide off of the steed's back.
She quickly checked on her mother to make sure she was merely unconscious, her breathing and heartbeat steady. She put her in a more comfortable position when she heard more than just growling and the sound of Sesshomaru hitting the Tessaiga. She looked over her shoulder; it looked like the forest spirit was mixing in some attacks of his own in his defensive maneuvers.
"You lack finesse," Sesshomaru hissed at his little brother
"You lack a dick!" Inuyasha shot back.
"Foul beast," the older brother seethed. But his comment was drowned out by the outraged shriek from his servant, who was promptly ignored by both inu youkai, who continued to dance around each other, exchanging strikes and slashes, dodging and charging at each other. Inuyasha growled and grumbled curses while his brother moved silently, effortlessly avoiding all his attacks.
"At this rate he will break the sword in his hand," Totosai said as he approached Kagome, looking deep in thought as he watched the fight.
"Master Totosai, can't we do anything to help?" she asked.
"You are a miko, so you can pray, I guess. The boy has to learn and he doesn't look the type to learn by listening to lectures. Besides, if he's anything like his father, he won't listen."
"The weakling is nothing like this one's noble father," Sesshomaru said. The fighters were now glaring at each other after jumping away in opposite directions. Inuyasha stood in a crouch, his sword raised in front of him, while Sesshomaru stood tall and prideful as he glared down his nose at his brother. While the hanyou panted slightly and scowled, his older brother looked as calm as always.
"Weakling? It's not me who's missing an arm!" Inuyasha barked, changing his stance just in time to deflect a strike of the dragon claw. He staggered back, causing Kagome to gasp and cover her mouth with a hand. She could feel Shippou gripping her shoulder tighter, his tail trembling in anxiety. The fox didn't even glare towards the kappa cheering his lord for a good strike. The poor villagers had to be terrified by now, seeing the forest spirit for the first time in the existence of the village struggling against a youkai, his own brother at that.
"Totosai," Sesshomaru said and looked towards where the smith was standing, ignoring his opponent adjusting his footing. "You shall make this Sesshomaru a sword worthy of his power. Or you will reforge the mighty Tessaiga when this one releases it from its misery of serving in hand of such an inferior being."
"Hm." The youkai smith narrowed his big round eyes at the tall daiyoukai. "But the Tessaiga is Inuyasha's heirloom. And he is still alive. I will not ignore the Inu no Taisho's orders."
"Then this one shall slay the runt." The cold golden eyes turned to where Inuyasha was scowling at him. The dragon claw lifted, ready to strike, when the hanyou charged at him.
If the battle before had been violent, now it was brutal. Sesshomaru didn't give Inuyasha any openings or reprieve, pressing at him, his claw hitting the blade of Tessaiga over and over. He threw Inuyasha crashing through a shed wall, the hanyou leaping out of the hole before the dust settled, fierce and determined. The handful of villagers still around screamed at the sight of Inuyasha being knocked against a different building, sliding down a more sturdy construction and shaking his head in a daze. Inuyasha rolled away just in time to avoid a kick that snapped the pillar in two, causing the whole building to lean heavily to the side, the wood moaning and breaking as it sagged without its support.
Kagome touched her mother's shoulder, then looked to headman Kuma, who was watching the fight with wide eyes and pale face.
"Headman," she said softly. "Can you and the others take my mother to safety?" the young healer asked. She bit the inside of her cheek when the man looked at her. "I can't promise your safety here. I'm not sure what's going to happen."
"Will the forest spirit win?" the man asked in a whisper.
"He will." Kagome stood and turned to look at her hanyou fighting a much stronger opponent. She could hear rustling behind her when the headman beckoned a few of the other villagers to carry her mother away. Totosai glanced at her when she stood beside him.
"Don't disturb his focus," the sword smith warnerd before she could call out to her intended. Kagome clenched her fists, she wanted to do something—anything—to help Inuyasha, but she was useless. She couldn't fight, she couldn't use her reiki to aid him; all she could do was tend to his wounds that now dampened his red robe in many spots. None of them were lethal so far, but from the look on Sesshomaru's face, Kagome knew that he was bent on really hurting Inuyasha , killing him, even.
She couldn't understand why Inuyasha's brother was so vicious, so evil. They came from the same father; they were siblings. Where did this hostility come from? Was Sesshomaru that upset that his father had given the Tessaiga to Inuyasha? Was he even aware that the sword was his seal? Was he not given a sword of his own? And he was strong, much stronger than any other youkai she'd ever seen, so why did he want Tessaiga so much? He could easily win battles with his own strength.
As she watched, Inuyasha finally managed to do more than just defend himself. When Sesshomaru engaged his dragon arm with Tessaiga, the hanyou suddenly let go of Tessaiga's hilt with his left hand and used it to punch his brother square in the face. Her heart leapt at that sight, but it squeezed painfully in new fright when Sesshomaru, instead of jumping back, slashed his right hand, claws outstretched, at Inuyasha's face.
"Inuyasha!" she called, taking a step towards the forest spirit. He staggered back, wiping at his face with his sleeve, smearing across his cheeks and forehead his own blood and what looked like Sesshomaru's poison. The daiyoukai watched him stoically as he tried to clean his eyes. Inuyasha shook his head, disoriented, Tessaiga's tip lowering as he tried to blink away the pain and whatever effect the poison had on him. He tried to wipe at his face again, growling in annoyance and pain.
That was when Sesshomaru moved forward, readying his hand to strike again, this time aiming for Inuyasha's midsection. His claws shone with eerie green light.
"No!" She was vaguely aware that this scream belonged to her, that it was her voice, but it didn't sound right. She couldn't hear anything beside this one cry and the rushing of her blood. She couldn't look away from the white, deadly figure towering over her forest spirit, her beloved friend. He was going to kill him, he was going to pierce his heart and kill him without any hesitation or remorse.
She outstretched her hand, as if by some miracle she could pull Inuyasha away from that approaching hand, these sharp claws that had already tasted his blood. She cried out again, her voice full of desperation. If she could save him, if she could stand in front of him to shield him from these claws... She couldn't imagine living without her forest spirit, she couldn't bear to look at his own kin doing this to him, but she couldn't look away. If only she was a real miko, she'd be able to save him, to shield him, to make it all better somehow. If only her reiki wasn't so pitiful, she could actually save Inuyasha for a change, not watch him suffer, unable to properly defend himself as he desperately tried to get his sight back.
Sesshomaru's hand was mere centimeters away from Inuyasha's chest, the hanyou trying to put up a defense despite clearly not being able to see his brother. That was when a wall of glimmering, translucent pink light stopped his claws' approach, hard and unbreakable, solid like a stone wall. It was not wider than two meters and curved protectively around the hanyou, reaching way over his head.
Kagome felt the flood of power, surging from somewhere inside her, rushing down her arm and towards the palm of her hand, where it glowed, before it solidified a dozen meters away, crystalizing into a barrier that protected her hanyou. She grunted when she felt the impact of Sesshomaru's hand hitting the barrier, as if he'd hit her in the ribs.
But the pain felt like it was coming from far away, just as the sounds and other sensations were. She was vaguely aware of the gasps from behind her, the outraged shrieks of the kappa, Shippou hurriedly jumping from her shoulder to Totosai, who stepped away from reiki swirling with her and spilling from her hand. She couldn't focus on anything else but the man crouching low behind the barrier, wiping at his face with his left wrist. The energy that sustained the barrier, came in pulsing waves, unfolding from somewhere deep within her, like a flower bud opening in the sunlight.
Her head spun and she couldn't believe what was happening. She'd made a barrier; she'd protected Inuyasha. Sesshomaru, the strongest youkai she knew, couldn't pierce her barrier; his attack was stopped before it could kill her forest spirit. She—the weak, unlucky miko—she actually did something to save someone. Where was this reiki coming from, she didn't know, nor did she care. It helped her to save Inuyasha. Elation and joy filled her heart; it was warm, just like the energy that surged through her body and played with the ends of her hair.
Sesshomaru looked down at his charred fingers, then turned to glare at her. He stepped away from the barrier and for a split second his eyes flashed red, his youki rising to heal his injury. As new skin covered his hand, Kagome took a shaky breath.
The reiki ebbed away as suddenly as it had come; in three pulsing waves, it rushed through her and disappeared. First, the glow around her hand dissipated, then the half-circle barrier collapsed. The warmth ceased and Kagome felt a tremor of cold and exhaustion rip through her entire body. Her hand fell limply to her side and she stumbled, trying to keep herself upright despite the world spinning around her. Her breath was shallow and her muscles trembled with sudden, unexplained fatigue. With a soft cry, Kagome collapsed to her knees, resting her hands on the ground to support herself.
"Miko." She heard Sesshomaru's cold voice and when she looked up, she saw the daiyoukai approach her at an unhurried pace. "Your interruption was your last mistake."
Kagome tried to stand, to move away; she'd promised Inuyasha she was going to stay out of trouble. But her legs refused to carry her, to support her weight. She shook her head when she saw darkness creeping from the peripheral of her vision.
Suddenly, she felt a tiny hot hand grab onto hers and a head of orange hair came into her sight.
"You leave Kagome alone, you big bully!" Shippou screamed at the daiyoukai, who stopped and lifted his hand, the tip of a claw glowing eerie green.
"Know your place, kitsune," he commanded and flickered his wrist. A whip of green light unfurled from his finger and struck Shippou, who collided with Kagome's leg and cried out in pain. Reflexively, she wrapped her hands and bent herself around him to shield him from any possible future attacks.
"Are you hurt?" she whispered, her voice frail and trembling.
"Don't worry, Kagome," the boy said. "I'll not let him hurt you."
"Pathetic, all of you," Sesshomaru commented. Kagome managed to lift his head and glare at him, his form a bit hazy because of tears filling her eyes.
"You're the pathetic one!" she argued. "You had no reason to come here and attack us! Tessaiga isn't yours and your brother is a way better person than you!"
"Silence, human." The inu youkai lifted his hand again. "This one has heard enough from you."
His claws started to glow again and Kagome gulped, knowing what was going to happen now. This whip of youki was going to hit her and she had no energy left to even attempt to jump out of its way. All she could do was to wrap her arms tighter around the struggling body of the boy and pray he came out of this unharmed.
Was she going to die here? At least she'd bought Inuyasha time, hopefully enough for his sight to return. There was a bitter taste in her mouth when she thought that even with that little victory over herself, with that suddenly strong barrier, she was still just a weak person who was now going to die by the hand of her fiancee's brother. She thought about Inuyasha and how happy they could have been, if not for Sesshomaru coming here to turn their fate to misery. 'And just when I was finally feeling that I belonged,' she thought regretfully. 'I'm sorry, Inuyasha, I'm sorry I couldn't…'
She opened her eyes when she heard the sound of feet running and stopping right in front of her. She saw the familiar red of Inuyasha's hakama obscuring the view of Sesshomaru's form. The hanyou staggered a little before he stood solidly in front of her and Shippou. She was about to call out to him, when he yelled.
"I can smell it!" Kagome heard surprise, determination and anger in his voice as he lifted Tessaiga above his head and brought it in front of himself, slashing through empty air.
Light that erupted from the blade and tore the ground, blinded her. She heard Sesshomaru's grunt of surprise and pain, almost drowned out by the frightened yells of the villagers. Then the light faded, revealing deep gashes carved across the village square. Sesshomaru was nowhere in sight; the part of the hill behind the spot where he'd been standing was a wreckage of rock and broken wood from some buildings.
"Master!" Myouga cheered from somewhere to the side. Totosai stood nearby , so the flea was probably hidden in his clothing. The smith watched Inuyasha sheathe his sword and turn to face Kagome, ignoring the collapsing cloud of dust around them and the villagers.
Kagome smiled up at her hanyou: his eyes were still bloodshot and lacked their glimmer; his body was wounded, but she knew that he was going to be fine in time. He was victorious and her tired mind couldn't focus on anything more than the simple fact that somehow they all were still alive.
"I'm... so glad..."
The last thing she saw before the darkness claimed her was Inuyasha's face.