Title– It's Not Over Yet
Author's Note– While writing Of the Soul, I found myself bothered by several other ideas. This just happens to be one that could be put into a one-shot. And, so no one gets confused, this begins a little while after the defeat and death of Naraku, then jumps ahead one hundred years into the Feudal Era future…
One Century Ago…
There were just too many.
It was one demon after another, sometimes three at a time, sometimes a merger of several demons into one gargantuan beast. This attack was planned, Kagome realized dreadfully, because not even the power of the Shikon no Tama would have brought so many demons all at once.
Her quiver was rapidly running out of arrows, her thumb and forefinger were raw from pulling the bowstring, and her arms were tired from holding up the bow. Then there was the soreness in her feet from running and hurdling bodies to avoid back-attacks, in which she had still managed to sustain scrapes and bruises, and lead them away from the village. How dare they attack the village! Kaede's hut was like a second home to her.
"Shippou!" she cried in mortified surprise.
An ugly bear-like demon lumbered after him, bellowing a hideous, guttural sound. Its red eyes glowed brightly as the sunlight began to fall behind the mountains. Kagome took in its slobbering jaws and vicious canines in the single second it took her snatch in arrow, pull it back and let it fly. The demon fell before its clawed paw could swipe at the little fox. Kagome ducked through two demons simultaneously lunging at her from opposite directions, letting them barrel into one another skull first. Shippou leapt onto her waist and dug his tiny claws into her skirt, making himself as small as possible.
"Shippou, what are you doing here?" Kagome practically screamed.
God, she couldn't protect him in this. She could barely protect herself. All new panic set in as fresh adrenaline pumped through her, numbing her exhaustion. Kagome fled for the trees as she reached into her quiver, pulling out her last three arrows. She set an arrow between each finger, turned and released them all together, bringing down three demons that were getting dangerously close. That was the last of her defense.
"Where's Inuyasha?" she demanded shakily.
She ran as fast as she could and a little faster yet knowing that death was not an option for her. Not with the sacred jewel in her body, resting within her own soul. So she ran, not only for her life, but for Shippou's and possibly even the world's, too.
"With the villagers trying to get demons from the outside before they get to you," was the nervous but speedy reply.
Kagome stumbled over a small rock jutting out from the ground, but her haste to get away held firm, along with her balance. She knew there were too many demons if not even Inuyasha and the village could hold them all back. Her body ached so badly that she felt like giving up, but she couldn't do that. This era depended on her to protect the jewel, which meant that her future depended on her protecting the jewel.
The tree in front of her exploded as a wide-open mouth, lined with rows of deadly black teeth, came racing at her. Kagome couldn't duck, couldn't jump over it… One arm curled around Shippou protectively as she cringed away, holding out her other arm as if it alone could protect her.
"Ahh," he muttered, rubbing the back of his head guiltily.
They were lost. Which wasn't entirely his fault, but he had forgotten exactly where the tree was. It had been a long time since he had gone looking for it, what with a family and all. Still, he felt bad for not remembering. If felt like he was forgetting them. He never wanted to forget them, but after a hundred years, even the most prominent of memories weren't so prominent anymore.
"Daaah-deeeee! My feet hurt. Carry me?"
Usually a boundless bundle of perkiness, with a little pinch of his mother's domineering attitude, his daughter shuffled her feet along tiredly. Twin white tails, usually fluffy, upright and wagging incessantly, dragged through the dirt. He took pity on her when he saw her large ears drooping. After all, they had been wandering around for so long because he had a horrible sense of direction.
"Aren't you a little big for that, Ayako?" he asked even as he bent down and opened his arms to her.
Her green eyes lit up happily and she leapt into his arms. Her untamed ivory hair bothered the underside of his chin, but he only smiled. When he stood up again, he found her black-striped tails once again wagging furiously.
"Tell me the story," said Ayako, her tiny claws clinging to his shirt.
"Which story?" he asked coyly, knowing exactly which story she wanted to hear.
"You've heard it a dozen times. When we get home, its time you learned how to read it," he said, brushing a finger over her nose.
"Just tell me the story, daddy. Please?"
More like her mother every day, he swore.
Ayako looked up at him with her big olive eyes, her brown ears perked and her tails wagging. Catty, he decided was what she was. For all of her foxy traits, she acted more like a feline. Still, it was impossible to refuse something so cute when all that cute little demon wanted was a story.
"Well, the Shikon no Tama was finally back in Kagome's body after a year of piecing together –"
"No, the good part," said Ayako. "The part where the demon is flying at her!"
"Oh. That part."
One Century Ago…
The more desperately she wished for the demon to disappear, the more her arm began to tingle. Even with her eyes closed tightly, like if she couldn't see her death then it wouldn't happen, bright light erupted from her palm. It was followed by the very distinct whump! of a large mass crashing into the ground. When Kagome dared to open her eyes again for a peek, she found the gray, scaly hide disintegrating.
Two more bodies fell to the ground behind her and she held her arm out, prepared to do whatever she had just done again. She forgot how unnatural and completely inhuman it was to be able to do that; she disregarded reason entirely and ran only on survival instinct and adrenaline. Two decapitated heads, red eyes open, gushing blood, stopped at her feet. Kagome sprang back as if they would attack her.
"Kagome? You all right?" a coarse voice asked her, cracked and shaky with the violent adrenaline of battle, but still concerned.
She found Inuyasha perched in a nearby tree branch with Tetsusaiga in a white-knuckled grip. His silver hair was splattered with blotches of sanguine liquid. Somehow, Kagome found her strength returning at the feral sight.
"I don't have anymore arrows."
A full quiver of said weapon was tossed down to her. She caught it, but it was slick and almost fell out of her grip. When she looked at her hand, she found it coated with someone's – or something's – blood. She wiped it off on her skirt and hooked the new quiver over her back.
Just in time, it seemed, as another horde of demons trampled over trees with only one goal: to get the jewel out of Kagome's body. She had three arrows flying before Inuyasha had even leapt out of the tree. Three demons fell from the front line, dead. More demons rampaged over the fallen bodies without a thought or care to the fresh corpses. More limbs, heads and severed bodies joined the pile as Inuyasha slashed through them, but they were loosing ground.
He leapt back, swiping at the Wind Scar that only he could see, but still more demons pressed on. Kagome's arrows seemed useless against an army that seemed infinitesimal.
"Shippou. Shippou! You have to get out of here," Kagome stressed, leaping over a fall tree trunk.
"No!" he cried fiercely. "I won't leave you!" Her shirt felt wet against her stomach, and she knew that he was crying.
Panicked, afraid and fighting for her life, she didn't want to fight for his too. She didn't want him to get killed.
"You have to change into something that can fly and get out of here. I'll protect you," she said urgently. She waited only a moment for him to move before her patience was lost. "NOW!"
Shippou found himself pried off her shirt and thrown up into the air. He screamed louder, but Kagome had no intention of catching him. When a set of jaws spotted a new aerial dinner, they went after it. Shippou bonked! into a new shape, an odd little bird with a bushy tail, and flapped his wings as fast as he could. True to her word, Kagome released two arrows, each one piercing through their intended targets with deadly accuracy.
Inuyasha hopped down next to her, falling into stride beside her.
"There's too goddamn many!"
He turned abruptly and swung his sword, its power radiating out and slicing through the frontline. With the closest of the assault reduced to particle dust, he sprang back next to Kagome.
"I have an idea," she said. She was proud of herself for sounding so confident and in control because all she really wanted to do was go home and curl up in her bed. Or next to Inuyasha. But she quickly forgot her softer, weaker sentiments and held to her strength.
"Well do something! Anything!"
Good,she thought. Though she was certain that if he knew what she was planning, he wouldn't go along with it. Which is why secrecy was important.
"We're here," he announced.
Ayako started squirming in his arms so he put her down, a relief to his tired arms. While awe seemed to radiate from his daughter and her gaping mouth at what was in front of the tree, he felt something far from awe. He felt pain. A pain deep in his heart, twisting and tugging until he couldn't breathe.
"The story's real!" his daughter exclaimed with wonder.
He nodded. "It's a legend. And that's them. Kagome and Inuyasha."
"Wow," Ayako murmured.
She stepped closer to the two figures, made out of what appeared to be a shining, pink glass. It sparkled with faint traces of purple and white with the sun hitting them at different angles through the treetops. There was an obvious, very tangible barrier floating around them. It shimmered and moved like liquid air, and it made the statuesque figures within it look shadowed.
"The power of the jewel," he struggled to get the words at as his throat constricted. He forced himself to speak. "They live in a void. Nothing exists."
His voice broke off. He couldn't talk about it. They were alive in there. He felt as if they knew he was out there, ashamed that he had lived while they sacrificed themselves to prevent the rest of the world from ever touching the Shikon no Tama again.
"Technically," he forced out. "As long as the jewel exists, they exist. But this is how they exist," he gestured to the glass-like figures of a girl and a half-blooded dog demon, frozen forever in the last positions they had been in.
"They're statues," Ayako pointed out. He didn't think that her young mind was going to be able to make sense of it.
"They're bodies are statues, but they're souls live in the void. Uh, no death, but kind of not alive either. Definitely not any time. Not to them, anyway. When someone touches the barrier, the jewel reacts violently at their command and kills them."
Ayako jumped back immediately, despite being a good distance away already. It was so hard to talk about death, not because he was talking about it with his daughter, no. She had heard mentions of it before, but it didn't seem right to talk about death in this place. They essentially stood in a demon graveyard.
"Don't worry, the barrier gives off a warning. The closer you get, the more compressed the air gets. It gets hot, too."
Either his daughter wasn't able to comprehend it, or she just ignored it. She was staring at something, more focused than she had been before. She pointed to Kagome's pink statue, at the small sphere in her cupped hands, just in front of a hole in her chest.
"Is that the jewel?" Ayako asked excitedly.
"Yes," he grunted.
He despised that jewel, loathed it. That jewel had cost many – human and demon alike – their lives, had been the source of endless suffering and was the cause of great loss in his life too. He hated the sacred jewel.
One Century Ago…
"I can turn myself into a demon, I guess," said Kagome.
It was important that she give him a false idea that she knew Inuyasha would never agree to. That way, in the end, he would know that what she was going to do was the only thing that would really save them…
He faced her sharply, staring at her incredulously with wide eyes wild from the bloody fight.
"Okay, anything but that!" he growled.
Again, he whirled around with his sword, a sharp wave of dangerous power cleaving necks and torsos. Blood shot up like a geyser erupting in the night. Some of it shot out so far that it spattered onto her back. Trees were falling in a steady line in front of her and she had an arrow pulled back and at the ready in an instant, waiting for a glimpse of the monstrosity. She found its glowing eyes in the darkness and released the taut string, sending the arrow right between those ugly red eyes.
"Inuyasha, hold them off," Kagome called, dashing over more fallen trees and stumbling without any strong light to see where she was going. She pressed on determinedly.
"And what're you gonna do, huh?"
The danger was making him cranky and getting him upset, but she ignored the underlying insult. He made it sound as if he didn't think she could do anything to save him, though he probably didn't really mean it that way. That didn't make it hurt any less, though.
It served to steel her resolve.
"Just keep them away from me. And don't come near me!" she hollered with such seriousness and command that even Inuyasha would have to obey.
Kagome came to a stop in front of a thick trunk and threw herself onto her knees, breathing heavily and only now realizing how utterly exhausted she was from all of her running. Knowing she was protected by Inuyasha allowed her weariness to return, making her want to lie down and rest for a bit. But her nerves had her shaking and jumpy, half-expecting something to dart out of the darkness and come after her. She couldn't rest now. She had to end this.
It wasn't a wish. It was a strong desire, one that the jewel responded to. Kagome delved deep for strength through her exhaustion, desperately calling to the Shikon no Tama. The pink ball flew out of her chest, very close to wear her heart was, and left a dark gaping hole oozing blood. She gasped, her hands moving up to cover the wound, but realized that she felt no paralyzing pain. The jewel floated down into her waiting hands, sparkling without light.
It wasn't a wish. It was a command, a plea, and a desire all blending together, asking the jewel to protect itself from evil. She would help it, to save everyone within the Feudal Era and, in essence, the past to her future. The sacred jewel became a blinding white that forced Kagome to close her eyes.
"Inuyasha, no! Don't!"
He wouldn't listen.
He barreled right into the luminescent bubble that the jewel had created. With Tetsusaiga in his hand and his other arm outstretched for her, Kagome watched in horror as white light engulfed his body, then twinkled out just as quickly. It left a pink, shimmering statue of Inuyasha, frozen reaching out for her. An instant later that same white light had engulfed her, encasing her horrified expression in the same sparkling element that the sacred jewel was made out of.
The first demon body to encounter the deadly void was the soul of the demon imprisoned in the Shikon no Tama long ago, when Midoriko first pulled it out of her body. It let out a blood-curdling shriek that burbled within the blackness, then ended sharply. The next to encounter Death were the demons so adamant on obtaining the jewel for themselves, who ran headfirst into the barrier and burned in an inferno of pristine light with anguished cries and horrible wails. Their skin, organs and bones all turned to invisible dust.
The jewel glowed brightly until every last demon, bent on using it for their own selfish gain, tried to enter the void… and perished. Then it returned to normal, sparkling and pink in the hands of a pure-hearted soul.
"How do you know so much about the jewel and the bubble-thingy? And Inuyasha and Kagome?" his daughter asked curiously.
"Books. Lots of studying with my old friend Miroku, a few old scrolls from Sango... Inuyasha had an older brother who even helped us figure it out," he sighed.
He didn't know if Sesshoumaru was still alive. He didn't even know if he considered Sesshoumaru a friend, despite having finally accepted his half-demon brother as an ally before the fight with Naraku. Even after he offered some of his knowledge to help them understand what had happened to his half-demon brother. It was just hard to forget his first impression of Sesshoumaru as a cold-hearted murderer.
"I wanna go home," Ayako whined, tugging on his hand.
He smiled weakly at his daughter and patted her head. She didn't understand that she was looking at a very important piece of history. And it wasn't like Kagome and Inuyasha were her friends. Ayako was bored and had no reason to want to stay.
"Go ahead. I'll be home a little later."
"But… I don't know the way home," she argued, though she looked quite eager to be given the chance to do something on her own.
"Use your nose," he shrugged.
"We've been all over the place!"
"It's good practice," he said, shooing her off.
He sat down at the perimeter of the warning shield, just barely feeling the radiating heat prickling at his skin. The way the statues were, with Kagome set in a state of shocked panic, wanting to get up but unable to abandon her duty… and Inuyasha's desperate reach to stop her from throwing her life away for the jewel. All of it was frozen in glass – and frozen within his memory. He knew they were alive. And that brought on a great deal of guilty heartache.
A breeze blew his bangs out of his eyes. He was only mildly surprised to see that the gust had brought along with it a figure robed in a red and white kimono. He figured it must have been some sort of honor paid to Inuyasha that the kimono was now red with white trimming and designs.
"Hi, Sesshoumaru," he greeted, though somewhat tentatively. He still wore that same, emotionless visage that expressed nothing to the world.
"You don't come here often."
Quick to respond, he noticed. Time did indeed change people.
"And you do?" he shot back, good-humored.
"Yes," Sesshoumaru replied evenly.
That surprised him. He was even more surprised when Sesshoumaru continued speaking.
"Someone must protect this forest, Shippou. One fox demon, one hellfire cat, and one village who have all moved on with their lives… are not equipped to protect this place."
"No one comes in here," Shippou said defensively.
"That you know of."
His tail puffed angrily, but it quickly flattened into its usual, shaggy state. How could he be mad at Sesshoumaru when he had dedicated part of his life to protecting Inuyasha and Kagome and the Shikon no Tama? He really was a good guy, if one forgot all of the killing and threats to murder Inuyasha so long ago.
"I've noticed that Inuyasha has no sense of luck in forests. This is the same forest where he was pinned to a tree with that priestess' arrow. And now here he is again, a statue with her reincarnation."
"When did you start talking so much? And so… uh, openly?" Shippou inquired, amused and still hesitantly polite.
A pair of golden eyes stared at him, long-suffering and pained. Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes.
"Rin," he answered simply.
"Didn't she marry Kohaku?"
Shippou nodded and swallowed, relieved that he had not just earned himself a painful death. Much to his surprise, Sesshoumaru joined him on the ground in front of the monument of living statues and laid back on the grass. Empathy, one of Kagome's old traits, hit him then. Sesshoumaru must have been so lonely. After finally warming up to family and friendship and love, he had none of it. Having no idea how to comfort him, Shippou changed the subject to something possibly more uplifting.
"I think they're alive in there," he said.
Shippou rotated his head to look at Sesshoumaru, arms behind his head, reclined yet somehow still aloof and regal.
"Is there a way to get them out?"
Sesshoumaru was a long time in answering, but said finally, "Possibly."
It was the first real hope he had had in a long time. It warmed his heart and melted away the guilt and the horrid memories. Shippou stood and put a smile on his face.
"Come stay at the village for a little while. I'm sure Kirara would like to see you. Everyone else is…" he stopped. He didn't want to say it.
"Gone," Sesshoumaru supplied.
"Yeah," he sighed sadly. "And I want to get them out. They've been in there so long, but the jewel…"
Sesshoumaru rose and seemed to float onto his feet. He offered the tiniest of smiles before his face slipped back into its mask of reticence.
"I'm… trying to find a way."
Shippou smiled gratefully and walked with him back to the village. It was an awkward trek, but companionable.
Author's Note– Apologies for dragging the ending out so long. I want to continue this, but for now it will be left as a one-shotter until Of the Soul is complete and I get a few other ideas out of my head. Needless to say, it could take a while. I also plan on having a site up soon, where I will have lots of Inuyasha-related pictures from my fics that I've been drawing. There will be many from this story, and I welcome fanart from anyone whose read this! My e-mail address is email@example.com if you would like to send in some.