Title – Of the Soul
Chapter Four – The New Moon
Night approached languidly. The sun had only begun to fall behind the horizon, tinting the sky with pastel hues of orange and violet. Inuyasha's mood worsened with the steady decline of day.
He didn't want to be there. His only reason for staying was to protect Kagome in case Sesshomaru decided to kill her. Yes, his brother looked human, but that didn't mean that he was stripped of his demon powers. No, his brother didn't have bright eyes, claws or demon markings, but he was still a demon. Inuyasha could smell the pure blood. It had to be a trick.
His eyes narrowed at Rin, who was picking flowers along the path and alternately giving them out to Kagome and Sesshomaru. In Sesshomaru's case, after he declined the gift she would tuck it into his golden sash. The ring of flowers around his brother's waist undignified him so greatly that Inuyasha often had to snort to keep himself from laughing. Finally, he turned his attention elsewhere.
Kagome laughed along with Rin, who was chattering on about chasing butterflies and her like for "those yellow, happy flowers that smell real good." Inuyasha tilted his head back and withheld a groan. His triangular ears flattened against his head to filter out the child's annoying giggles.
Apparently, she gained some sort of pleasure from following her lord's instructions. So after a very uninformative mouthful of what had happened to him, Rin had been commanded to silence on that subject and had said no more about it.
A few minutes passed where Inuyasha had turned his head away and completely tuned out the three people in front of him so that he could lose himself in a world of aggravated thoughts that pushed away the image of Sesshomaru in a flowery sash entirely. However, his senses were still keen enough to know that Rin was now walking alongside her master – was he her master? Or her protector? – and that Kagome had slowed down to walk next to him.
His ears twitched. His bright eyes shifted to the corners of their sockets for a glance at his annoyer.
"What?" he growled.
"You've been so quiet. You haven't even complained about having them along since I invited them," she said. "What's wrong?"
Her concern only grated on his temper and made him grind his fangs, which were already starting to recede. He clenched his hand into a fist, a slight point from each fingernail digging into his skin to reassure him that he had not yet lost his claws. Inuyasha let the hand go lax.
"What's wrong?" he repeated harshly. "Oh, nothing... except for the fact that you invited my brother–" he thrust his hand out in Sesshomaru's direction, his voice growing increasingly heated, "– who has tried to kill me every time he's seen me to come with us!"
"Well you're obviously stronger then he is right now. Have a heart!"
Inuyasha was seething. She had forgotten what night it was. In a few minutes he would be no stronger than his supposedly human brother...
"And it's obviously a trap!" he shouted, raising his voice so that Sesshomaru could hear him. "Why else would that bastard come?"
"Stop cursing in front of Rin!"
"Yeah right! I bet Sesshomaru's trained her to be some innocent-looking killer and they're gonna try to kill us in our sleep. Well I ain't goin' to sleep with you around, ugly, so you can spare yourself the trouble and leave now!"
Inuyasha glared pointedly at Sesshomaru's back, but his half brother didn't even falter in stride.
"Hey, you egotistical jerk, did you hear me? I said to get the hell out of here!"
Rin clutched her flowers tightly as she stared, wide-eyed. She squeaked at the end of his outburst and ran into Sesshomaru's leg, dropping her flowers so that she could cling to the lower limb. Her shoulders shook lightly and Inuyasha heard the distinct sound of breath sporadically catching in the throat that only came from crying.
Sesshomaru stopped walking. Inuyasha's ears flattened guiltily. Kagome stamped her foot in rage.
"Inuyasha!" she screeched. Nearby, an alarmed couple of birds took flight from their perch. "How could you be so horrible? How would you like it if you didn't have a soul and we left you to fend for yourself?"
He snorted. "Ha! Remember when that decrepit old witch stole your soul Kagome? You were just an empty body. And here he is, claiming that his soul's been taken, yet he's still moving. Explain that to me, Kagome."
"Uh..." she faltered and closed her mouth. She opened her mouth as an answer came, but she stopped before she even began.
Kagome turned to Sesshomaru for answers. His head was turned to look over his shoulder, watching without emotion, without any sort of curiosity or care toward the situation.
"Inuyasha," she said with a tone of sincerity as she turned to face him again. "He has no soul. His eyes are empty."
"Keh! In case you never noticed, he always looks like that."
"But this is different. Before they were cold, but... but now there is nothing in them," she explained desperately, except she didn't know how to articulate what she wanted to say.
As Kagome floundered for words, Inuyasha's attention was drawn to the setting sun. The transition from sunset to night was almost complete.
"I don't know how I know, I just do," she said honestly, confidently. "We have to help him get his soul back."
"I don't have to help that –"
"Why do you believe that I need your aid?" Sesshomaru interrupted flatly. "I did not ask for it, nor will you receive any charity or mercy for it."
Kagome whirled around to face the demon-turned-human. "It's called 'kindness'. As in, we're helping you out of the goodness of our hearts," she informed him. Then, in a brighter tone, said, "Besides, there's something good about you since you saved Rin's life. Twice."
Then Inuyasha felt his chest tighten. His heart stopped for a beat. In the next beat, his hair was a mass of black that rubbed against his ears – ears that were on the sides of his skull and not on top of his head.
He looked at his hands for confirmation. In place of his claws were brittle, useless human fingernails.
Miroku prayed a final prayer at the last freshly covered grave. He ended his prayer with, "May your soul safely depart into the afterlife," but as he said it, he knew it was not possible.
Their souls had been stolen by the unagi. The little knowledge he possessed of the winged eel demons came from myths. While each myth agreed that the unagi have the ability to steal souls, they do not know what happens to it. One story would say that the soul melds with the weak soul of the unagi and remains fused forever, even in the afterlife. Another story would say that the soul makes the unagi stronger and, in death, are lost forever and cannot be reincarnated.
Very few people had ever studied the unagi, so the information available on them was sparse. Despite their wings, they preferred to burrow intricate catacombs in mountains or underground. They were said to fight amongst themselves – and the loser became everyone's meal. They reproduced quickly and in large quantity to balance the rapid death rate.
Most unagi did not live long enough to acquire a soul strong enough to steal the souls of humans. It was rare to find one that was capable of stealing a demon soul, especially the soul of one as powerful as Sesshomaru.
And that was where Miroku's knowledge ended.
From that knowledge he was able to determine that these unagi did not behave as they should. They flew in daylight, they ate the human villagers instead of themselves, and they were powerful enough to separate their souls from their bodies.
Miroku didn't understand. They were supposed to be cannibalistic and reluctant, malcontented group members, not ravenous pack hunters.
"Please, Miroku, I want to see if anyone escaped to the next village. I know we didn't bury everyone in the village. I know some of them escaped," said Zanson, the villager they had saved from the eel demon yesterday.
On his shoulder was a walking stick that he had tied a cloth to. The cloth was full of trinkets and whatever food he had been able to find in the ravaged village.
"We cannot go with you until our companions return. Besides, it's night and I doubt that these woods are safe right now," he reasoned.
"But I must warn the other village of the demons!" Zanson argued desperately.
"Stay here and set out in the morning, my friend. As a favor to me," said Miroku.
"Miroku," Shippo whispered, "I don't wanna sleep here tonight. What if those things come back?"
"Nonsense. There is nothing left here for them. They have no reason to come back."
Shippo relaxed, but his eyes still shifted around nervously as he went with Zanson to find a suitable spot to sleep.
A breeze blew through the village, chilling Miroku's skin. Only then, with no chatter or duty to occupy his mind, did he notice how quiet it had become. He stood still, listening for the normal night sounds, but all he heard was something that wasn't really heard – an ominous silence.
He looked skyward and expected to see a sliver of the moon. After a few seconds of searching, he realized that it was the night of the new moon. Not only that, but it was the night that Inuyasha was stripped of his demon powers.
He prayed for Inuyasha's safety. He also prayed for Shippou, Zanson and his own safety.
The breeze became stronger, cooler. Sound returned to the evening, but it was not the usual nightly noise. It was a rustling of leaves on the treetops and the occasional twig snapping from a branch. It was like a giant hand was moving over the trees.
Miroku scanned the shadows. His eyes saw movement when there was none. He listened to determine if the noise was getting louder, closer, but soon he wasn't sure if the sound was real or imagined.
He exhaled and resumed listening. The eerie silence had returned.
A shift in the wind pattern drew his attention back to the cloudless sky. He sprung back reflexively when he saw a dark mass overheard. A moment later the heavy body was smashing into a pile of wood and straw that had been a hut that someone had cooked in, slept in and lived in yesterday.
It didn't move. Its green eyes were open and staring, but they looked dead. Miroku straightened in alarm.
"Unagi!" he shouted. "Shippo, Zanson!"
Miroku circled with his staff held outward, prepared for an attack.
There was a choked scream from inside one of the few remaining huts. Miroku turned and sprinted in the direction the cry had come from as Shippo came darting out, chased by a blue fog in the shape of an eel demon.
Strategies and repercussions sped through his mind in nanoseconds. If he used his Wind Tunnel, Shippo would be caught in it as well. He couldn't physically defeat a soul. If it stole Shippo's soul and then he destroyed the unagi's body, would their souls be lost forever?
Shippo leapt into Miroku's outstretched arm. His other arm was holding his staff horizontal in front of them. He fell to his knees as the unagi's soul slammed into the encompassing barrier he had hastily produced. The barrier wavered as the soul rammed into it a second time. Miroku dropped Shippo in order to hold his staff with both hands.
"Miroku, use your Wind Tunnel," said Shippo, involuntarily trembling after his frightful chase.
"I can't. I need both hands to hold the staff and keep up the barrier. I'd never be able to drop the barrier and take off my rosary before it stole our souls."
Shippo cringed and went rigid.
"What?! But you can't keep this up forever!"
Author's Note – Many apologies for such a long delay. For a long time I just didn't have any inspiration to write anything. Then when I did feel like writing, I was too busy with school to do so. So now that summer vacation is finally here, I finally sat down and finished this chapter. The next one will be out much sooner – and will hopefully be longer. Also, I have a picture of Kaitoukon for you guys, as a special treat: deviantart:com/view/7883224/ (replace the colon with a period)
Thank You's – To my wonderful reviewers. I love you all, especially if you've stuck with me this long!
Breshcandra – It's finally here.
NickNova – Toukijin having a scabbard in my story... was a complete brainfart. But, for argument sake, if it doesn't have a scabbard, why is it not ripping his pants to shreds? Also, you are right about the soul. However, there is an explanation for what has happened to him, which I will get to later in the story.
goldenmoonlight13 – I've been wanting to draw a picture of Rin in Sesshoumaru's pelt! I'll be sure to get to both of your requests... eventually... but if I choose to do them with traditional media, it may be a while before I find a scanner.
sesshomaru's fluff is mine – Thank you, thank you. And I'll do my very best.
CrazyGirl3 – I know this wasn't a "soon" update, but it's finally here. Hope it was worth this ridiculously long wait!
MarsAdept – About Reversed... that's gone on hiatus until I have more spare time. Right now, I can only concentrate on one story – and it's gonna be this one. Sorry to disappoint everyone who liked Reversed, but one day I will get back to it.
K-Chan's Beta Reader Notes -
K-chan: Because some of these words are a little confusing, I'll add a key at the end of each chapter now, mm'kay?
Unagi - a winged eel demon (direct translation means "eel")
I drew a picture of one, and it kind of looks like Kikyo's soul- stealers...That must be revised.