daniel's disclaimer: Yeah, Rumiko Takahashi owns all these cats, not me.
Sorry about the long wait between updates. I'll try to be more timely for chapter five. Also, see if you can spot where I took a two-week road trip, and then finished the chapter.
(I'm also moving the review responses up here; scroll down to the little gray line if you don't want to read 'em).
Sashlea—I'll try to be less repetitive in the next few chapters. It's something that's bothering me, too.
The land of Never—A little disturbing? How on earth could you think that? --
Black Scarab—As of Chapter 4, Inu-Yasha is... well, find out for yourself. Hold off on calling anybody the bad guy yet, though.
Writing Soul—Double thanks for reviewing! And, Sesshoumaru might show up. No promises either way.
(That's it. ::sighs mournfully::)
He stood, looking down. He felt numb, a little, and slightly guilty, or apprehensive, like he should be feeling an emotion he wasn't feeling. But all he felt, personally, was numb, and a little tired. He was tired of struggling, of fighting so hard just to keep up with everyone else. He was tired of always being alert, because there was always the possibility that if he slipped up, even once, someone would kill him. That was the way his life was.
So he came here, and rested heavily against the rail, feeling tired inside. But his eyes darted, hungrily taking in everything they could.
It was so bright.
That was the only way he could describe it. The light seemed to flow in rivers, streams of bright yellow motes along the streets spread out below him, glinting slightly against the waters in the bay. It was a breathtaking display of human might, standing here and leaning heavily against the rail and looking out on the shining city of Tokyo through this broad glass window.
Breaking into Tokyo Tower like this was a little dangerous, but it was worth it to be able to look across the city like this all alone on a cloudy night.
"Why are you here, demon?"
His head snapped up, a moment of apprehension and startled awareness instantly filling his senses. The one that had spoken was a woman, dressed in combat fatigues. She had an incongrous naganata hefted across her shoulder, and she was flanked by two others, a man and another woman. Those two had strong spirit power, for humans. They were armed only with prayer beads.
All this in the blink of an eye.
"Keh." He said quietly. He turned back to lean on the railing, his ears flicking to face them underneathe his hat, his long white hair flowing loosely down his back. "Breaking and entering is a concern for the police, not demon exterminators."
She snorted. "You speak so cleverly, monster, but we will not show you mercy."
The man spoke up. "Your aura is thick with murder. You have killed numerous times."
He cocked his head oddly, glancing back at the speaker. "Are you addressing me, or your leader?" He pushed off the railing, his sneakers making quiet skuffing sounds as he shifted to face them. His dark denim jeans and leather belt and red shirt with the single sanskrit character "ohm" did not match the thin Spanish sword he slid out of the simple cane he carried at his side.
The lead woman scowled. "You are a demon, and deserve extermination."
He grunted. "If you attack, I will defend myself with mortal force." He threw the scabbard of the cane sword aside, and held the blade up, wrist down and knuckles up in the 'second' position, directed at the leader's face.
She held the naganata in front of her. "Your flimsy European weapon is no match for my Japanese polearm!"
"Keh." He spat. "Your arrogance is no match for my confidence."
"Die!" She shouted, running forward. The two that came with her ran at angles, intent on surrounding him and purifying away his life with their magic.
He lunged forward, stabbing her in the right shoulder at the top of the lung in the opening she made by lifting her polearm above her to cut him in half. The range of a specialized European thrusting weapon was unmatched among swords, and often underestimated among the Japanese.
She gasped, and he wrenched the blade free, stepping his left foot around her wounded side, punching her wounded shoulder and sweeping her foot out from under her, turning to face behind him as the man approached, hoping to seal him while he was distracted. He lunged again, faking towards the man's face and with lightning speed changing approach to stab him in the stomach. He came in close, punching the man in the face and shoving him off the sword with an awkward kick above the wound.
He turned to face the last woman, the body of their leader lying between them. The leader gasped, forcing herself to stand.
The priestess readied an enchantment, the mystic paper in her hand glowing with spiritual energy.
He scowled. She was a good ten meters away, with a wounded comrade in between. He reached underneath his shirt, and drew a knife from the second belt across his ribs.
He threw it, and the priestess gargled when it buried in her throat. She desperately tore it free, falling on her side as her life-blood gushed out between her fingers.
"B-bastard." The leader wheezed, standing up. Blood ran down her chin. Her lung was slowly filling with blood.
"You won't escape. The rest of our clan will hunt you mercilessly." The man behind him gasped, struggling onto his knees, blood pouring from his broken chin and, more ominously, from the stab wound he plugged hopelessly with a finger.
Their foe grunted. "I have yet to demonstrate any evil magic. All I've done is kill you."
"And you will not be forgiven for that." The woman said, holding her polearm in her left hand, trembling. "You will not be forgiven killing us."
"And you will not be forgiven for your killing intent." He respond, whirling to run the stomach-wounded man through the throat as he readied one last magic.
He gargled and fell, dying quickly.
Quietly the white-haired demon walked towards the last woman, his sneakers scuffing slightly on the carpet. He paused. "Hypocrite." He sneered, finally, his face angry. He lunged forward, dashing her blade out of the way with his own sword, and smashed a punch into her chest wound.
He retrieved his sheathe, and whipped the blood from the blade.
"You are a righteous monster. We will exterminate you." She gasped from where she lay on the ground.
"Inu-Yasha." He said quietly.
"Eh?" She responded, surprised and angry.
"The name of the man you have tried to murder this night is Inu-Yasha." He expounded. He turned. "I don't care if you tell your family, but I will kill anyone who attacks me."
He walked towards the elevator, leaving her to die slowly, bleeding to death inside her ribcage.
He could hear her dialing a cell phone as he closed the door, and started walking down the staircase.
He wasn't tired anymore.
Inu-Yasha snapped tense, hand flashing to the swords at either hip as he alertly searched the area around him. He grunted, relaxing back against the cave mouth. He could see or hear no one, and his nose told him there was no one hiding nearby, either.
It had been a long time since he'd dreamed of when he'd murdered Sango's mother. It had been one of the worst decisions of his life, to give her his name. Her husband had hunted him relentlessly through Tokyo. Eventually it had come to a head and he'd massacred the man and practically the whole exterminator clan, but even then they became ghosts intent on haunting him for their murders.
It had been Miroku's idea to suck them into Never Never Land.
And not three days later the Kazaana had become lethally large.
Now, he walked on the blade of the sword and called it Head Ridge. Now, he rode the tiger and called it "The Rule."
He sighed, and picked up the cold bowl of stew, and ate mechanically. Ginta was a pretty good cook, but he was basically inventing everything as he went along, since he'd only been a vegetarian for the years he'd been here.
And there was only so much that could be done with rice, tofu, and coconuts. Especially since Kouga hated coconuts.
He glanced over at the sleeping child, curled up under a blanket. At least the kid was dry. The wool blanket he wore like a mantle was still damp, and his pants were chaffing. He'd taken off his belts to let them dry. At least his shirt was cotton, and would dry relatively quickly. Sometimes he hated the shortcuts he had to use to preserve his magical energy.
The dried blood on the child's forehead was beginning to flake. It could only maintain the spell for so long, and when it ended the child would wake up, confused, disoriented, and scared. Miroku had to be there when that happened, because Inu-Yasha scared kids.
He wished he knew where the hell Miroku was. It was going to be dark soon.
Miroku sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and the second joint of his forefinger. This was really too much.
"What's wrong, Miroku?" Kagome said, sitting down next to him. She didn't sound worried, exactly. More like apprehensive, he thought. Like she was more worried about what would happen to herself and her brothers if he died and left her all alone with Kouga.
He smiled winningly. "Oh, nothing. I'm afraid that all this noise doesn't agree with me, that's all."
They both winced as Shippo let out a particularly loud shriek from where Souta had organized a game of football. The exterminators' children had caught on quickly and instantly pronounced the game a keeper, much to their parents' dismay.
Miroku sighed again. He was worried about Inu-Yasha's reaction to all this, too.
Kagome smoothed the kimono that Sango had so kindly lent her so she didn't have to parade around in pajamas and sat back, looking at Miroku intensely.
"You're thinking about Inu-Yasha, aren't you?" Kagome said finally. "You always clench your forehead so tightly when you think about him that you're practically a uni-brow."
"Oh?" He said innocently.
"Yeah." She frowned. "What's up with Inu-Yasha, anyway? Everyone but you seems to hate him, and you obviously know all about him but don't say anything." She paused, eyes widening. "He's your gay lover, isn't he!?"
Miroku grunted, crinkling up as he caught himself. "What makes you say that?"
"Well," Kagome said, "You know all about him but act like you don't, and Kouga and Sango both hate his guts. They don't seem like the sort to accept 'alternative lifestyles,' so it's obvious they think that he's gay but don't know that you are his lover."
"That's very thoughtful, Kagome." Miroku praised. He paused. "However, since monks aren't supposed to have any sexual orientation at all, and Inu-Yasha has his own hang-ups, I have to point out that neither of us have lovers, gay or otherwise."
"Oh." Kagome said. "What kind of hang-ups?"
Miroku sighed. "That's not my business, let alone yours."
Kagome pouted. "You're avoiding the question."
"No," Miroku said, sighing as he stood up, "I'm being conscientious." He offered her a hand, which she pointedly ignored as she stood up too.
"Whatever." Kagome said. "Let's go see if the rest of the village is still laughing at Sango and Kouga."
Miroku sighed. "You have to admire Kouga's persistence."
Miroku stood, and the smile on his face froze. Sango was walking over, a grim expression on her face, Kohaku tagging along looking confused. The girl was radiating sakki, the killing aura.
"Monk," she said, "Kohaku tells me that you happened to mention something about demons while you were describing Never Never Land to him." She hefted Hiraikotsu menacingly. "I would like to hear you explain why you neglected to mention such a threat to us, the demon exterminators."
Miroku's pleasant smile collapsed, his features taking on a resigned expression. "It was not for you to know." He said simply.
"Not for us to know!? Not for us to know that there are monsters out there that could kill us in the night while we wait, unprepared!?" Sango shouted.
"You forget your place." Miroku said chillingly.
"My father died!" Sango raged. "He was killed by that bastard, that craven cur Inu-Yasha, and you speak of place!?"
The village quieted, the children stilling and the music stopping as everyone watched the truth unfold.
Miroku waited until Sango finished speaking, and then spoke. "I understand how you feel, Sango, but you must accept that—"
"How can you understand my heart!?" Sango yelled. "Every morning we demon slayers express surprise and delight at living through another night! Every day we live under the threat and veil of death! How can you know what goes on in our hearts!?"
Miroku looked down, his bangs shielding his eyes. Kagome frowned. His right hand was tightly clenched, a fist. She couldn't see his left hand.
"You know nothing, Sango. Please, calm down." Miroku whispered.
"No." Sango spat. She turned, and shouted. "Across Head Ridge lies a cohort of demons!" She waited for the exclamations to die down before continuing. "That is the secret Inu-Yasha hides! Every able-bodied warrior will march to the ridge, to exterminate those monsters!" She turned. "The young, the old, and those generally less skilled will hold down the fort!"
"Yes, leader." A voice rang out, and then the camp was a flurry of activity. Warriors gathered armor and weapons, ignoring Miroku's shouted protests that this was wrong, that they were making a mistake.
"Monk, we will no longer believe your lies." Sango said to him, and turned. "The children will be protected." She started to walk away, and paused. "But," she said, turning, "I don't think you can be trusted."
Miroku grunted, flipping his staff off the ground and up into his hands. "You will not defeat me in combat." He said simply.
"Miroku! Miroku!" Ginta shouted. "What the hell is going on!?"
"Get Kouga." Miroku commanded. "Tell him I need his help."
Ginta took one look at Sango and nodded, speeding off.
Sango grunted, and ran forward. "HAA!" She shouted, swinging Hiraikotsu around.
"Don't!" Kohaku shouted, alarmed.
"Kohaku! Get back!" Kagome screamed, running to pull him away.
The Hiraikotsu swung out on a horizontal plane; a simple, obvious stroke. Miroku could not hope to divert the path of such a massive weapon, however, so his only hope would be to dodge.
Kagome gasped as he stepped forward, grabbing the Hiraikotsu with his bare right hand. She noticed, for the first time it seemed, that the fingernails on his right hand were pitch black. Then there was a hideous crunching sound, and a network of cracks spread up through the bone as his fingers dug into the side, crushing the weapon with strength beyond mortal kin.
Sango's eyes widened. "That's a demonic hand."
Miroku nodded slightly. "Inu-Yasha cut my real one off, and this one was attached instead."
Then there was a hideous snap as the Hiraikotsu was fractured, splitting into three pieces from Miroku's crushing hold.
Sango jumped back, cursing. "If he cut your hand off, why do you protect him!?" She shouted.
Miroku laughed sharply. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Hey Miroku, what's up?" Kouga asked idly as he slammed to a landing between them. "Hey, what the hell happened to Hiraikotsu!?" He exclaimed.
"Never mind that!" Miroku shouted. "Take me back to the cave as fast as you can!"
"Wait!" Kagome shouted. "I'm going too!"
"Eh?" Kouga said.
"Not so fast!" Sango shouted, leaping forward with her sword drawn.
"Wups!" Kouga commented, leaping back. "You seem pretty angry, Sango."
"Don't worry about that, Kouga." Miroku ordered. "Just carry me back to the cave as quickly as you can."
"And me!" Kagome said.
"Ok." Kouga said, shrugging. He picked on up and threw each over a shoulder and jumped, clearing the barricade in a single bound, ignoring Sango's frustrated shout.
"Look after the other two while I'm gone, Kohaku!" Kagome shouted.
They ran, Kouga's legs swallowing the ground at an incredible pace. Miroku turned to glance at Kagome. "Why did you come along?"
Kagome grunted, flinching when Kouga leapt over a fallen tree. "You said that Inu-Yasha was the only one strong enough to take us home, and that's who you're going to, isn't it?"
Kouga grunted, nearly loosing his balance. "What's this about that mangy dog?"
Miroku sighed. "Kouga, you've only met him once, and that one time you picked a fight with him because Sango hates him. This doesn't concern you."
Kagome frowned. "I didn't know Kouga fought Inu-Yasha."
"Ha!" Kouga crowed, dodging a tree, "I had him right where I wanted him!"
"He sliced your right hamstring and walked off." Miroku blandly responded. "You had a limp for a month and a half, even with demonic healing. You're just lucky he didn't cripple you entirely."
"He's absolutely merciless, that's what." Kouga said darkly. "He even said he woulda killed me if he took me seriously, the arrogant bastard."
Kagome squeaked, mostly from Kouga landing with a thump in front of the cave. "And this is the guy that's gonna help me!?"
"Hello Inu-Yasha!" Miroku shouted.
Kagome looked up as Kouga bristled. There stood the Inu-Yasha that everyone talked about.
He was tall, not unusually so, but tall. He was wearing a pair of Nikes, scuffed and black with a grungy white logo. His pants were simple wool hakima, with odd straps below the knee and at the ankle. His entire upper buddy was wrapped in what looked like a wool blanket, brown with simple zigzagging gray and faded red stripes. And he looked... damp. Not wet, but damp.
His muted clothes clashed with his brilliant golden eyes, ridiculously long hair in some kind of mullet, and, of all things, dog-ears. Which, in retrospect, didn't really surprise Kagome too much, what with she'd seen and a name like "Inu-Yasha."
He's staring at me, Kagome realized, and the look on his face was the oddest she'd ever seen. He looked sour and resentful and sad, all at the same time.
And then he opened his mouth. "What the bloody hell is goin' on, Miroku?"
Miroku sighed. "Kouga kidnapped this girl and three boys. Sango found out about the demons. She took the warriors to fight them."
"Shit." Inu-Yasha responded succinctly. "Well, I brought a kid in." He turned, crouching in the entrance of the cave, and stood, a little girl in his arms. He faced Miroku.
Kouga cursed in surprise, and Kagome gasped. The simple character "Inu" had been written on her forehead in what looked like blood; Kouga could smell that not only was it blood, it was Inu-Yasha's blood mixed with the girl. Whatever the exact magic was, it was serious stuff.
Miroku grunted, carefully wiping the character off the girl's forehead. "By the water this time, eh?" He asked absently.
"Keh." Inu-Yasha responded sourly. Kagome gasped when she recognized that there were two sheathes poking out from under the blanket, a thin one on his right hip and a broader one on his left hip.
"What do you want, girl?" He demanded.
She frowned, slightly put off by his attitude. "Nothing." She spat at him.
Miroku turned to Kouga and dumped the girl in his surprised arms. "Take her back to the village. Tell Ginta and Hakkaku to sit tight." He paused, and looked Kouga right in the eye. "If Inu-Yasha gives you orders, obey them as you would my own, understand?"
"What?!" Kouga shouted.
"Do it!" Miroku shot back.
"...Fine." Kouga assented, turning and running back the way he came.
"...To slow down the exterminators following you, huh?" Inu-Yasha grunted.
"That too." Miroku admitted, chuckling.
"You sent Kouga out as a distraction?" Kagome accusingly asked.
Inu-Yasha snorted. "It's not like they'll kill the damn wolf, especially with a kid. Those demon exterminators, they like to think they're the good guys."
Kagome frowned. "Aren't they?"
"Not if you're a demon." Miroku responded easily.
"So." Inu-Yasha sighed, changing the subject. "It's all over."
Miroku sighed, too. "You know as well as I that it had to end, sooner or later. These last three years..."
Inu-Yasha grunted. "Keh."
Kagome frowned. "Umm... what's going on?"
Miroku smiled. "Long story. For some other time." But first he turned to Inu-Yasha. "Will you stop them?"
Inu-Yasha frowned, looking up at the sky. It was dark, and starless and moonless, but still it radiated some of its bizarre light. He really missed the moon.
"No." Inu-Yasha finally said. "I was wrong to try and stop them, anyway. If they want to fight and die, I have no choice but to let them massacre each other."
Kagome grunted. "One side is demons, the other is demon-exterminators. Other than that, why would they fight?"
Miroku sighed. "You pretty much explained it already. Demon-exterminators kill demons for killing and eating humans. And demons kill demon-exterminators for killling demons and making weapons of demon corpses."
"Each side not only kills the other," Inu-Yasha said, "but each side also defiles the other side's dead. They hold vendettas."
Kagome swallowed. "That's terrible. Eating people is bad..."
Inu-Yasha shrugged. "Demons suffer from a scurvy without at least a little human sustenance. Hunting is a necessity of life."
"And without weapons made from demon bones, humans could not hope to defeat a demon. But you're still defiling a corpse." Miroku responded tiredly, adding what sounded like an obvious point to the two.
Kagome shook her head. These two were simply reciting what they already knew... like they'd been through it a hundred times, and could never find anything else to say. "So you're just going to let them kill each other!?"
Inu-Yasha grunted. "The outcome of this battle is obvious. But, how to respond? We must fight, and not draw attention to ourselves."
"What are you talking about?" Kagome asked, confused.
The two ignored her.
"You want to fight him somewhere else." Miroku said incredulously. "The only thing that keeps him from killing you is the fear of dying himself, and you want to take that leverage away."
"I have no choice." Inu-Yasha spat, and then suddenly he laughed, harsh and bitter.
"And you will help me, girl." He said, spinning to face Kagome.
"I will?" She said, totally lost.
"Yeah." Inu-Yasha said. "You're going to help me finally kill Naraku."
"Who?" Kagome asked.
I'm so petty. There are so many cliffhangers in that last exchange that I fear I might have fallen off one or two myself. Anyway, I'll try to explain everything that's going on within the next few chapters. I do get asked "what's going on!?" and I just want to reassure everyone that any loose ends at this point will be addressed. It's only a matter of time.
I really can't stress that enough; don't worry, things don't have to make sense right away. That's part of the suspense. Don't worry, things will make sense in the end. All the pieces will come together and the story will make sense.
That's about it.