Disclaimer, warning, and note: I do not own Inuyasha, and you ought to have seen through episode 153 to be reading this. This oneshot is a gift!fic for Reiku Toukijin.
The void of his blank and scraped-clean mind flickered and shuddered in spasms. Quick-flash images of things, people, creatures, events, that he thought looked familiar yet never remembered seeing before… shot by quickly.
Kohaku twitched and shifted off of his back, turning with a whimpered moan to his side. Bothersome knots and pinching peppered his entire back, leaving him as restless as his dreams left him unnerved, as they had been for a long series of nights.
Visions of stinking human corpses dressed in the style of the strange black garb he wondered why he possessed, a giant spider youkai's now-limbless body encircled within, his blood-rusted scythe and chain in his clammy hands; his own vision was taint-tinted red, feathery and garbled whispers flittering commands to him like crickets. The ground seemed to tremble and shake - he stumbled forward in jerky movements, his limbs feeling stiff as if someone else controlled his muscles, then stopped, his feet in a stable stance.
The girl in the strange black garb, the garb like his own… Kill her, Kohaku, crept the whispery commands. He could almost hear a smile dripping with decadence within the voice.
Then, his scythe had already pierced her back, and she had turned to look at him, a painful look in her eyes as her voice shriveled within her throat and died as she tried to speak.
He hadn't even registered his weapon leaving his grasp. One second his hand was on the wrapped handle, and the next-
"Kohaku… why?" Her entire body seemed to shake.
And that was when his entire dream, if it was a dream at all, always corroded, in the very same place, at the very same time. Bits and pieces seemed to be patched together in a random and mismatched fashion. After it corroded, it never played out in the same sequence. Sometimes scenes were replayed, and sometimes everything swayed, the air heavy with the stink of sweat and dead bodies, an acrid mist of blood-scent tickling his nostrils if he tried to inhale.
But, whenever their bodies slumped together in an almost cowardly embrace, the arrows always struck her in the back, and they would both hit the stomp-hardened ground with a sick thud, their fingers fiercely gripping each other's clothing.
A word was always on the tip of his tongue, dancing upon his taste buds and knocking against the back of his young teeth, trying to escape and bellow out, but as soon as he would open his mouth, the wind would come along and steal it away before his voice would start working.
Only sometimes did he remember who that girl was. Just for mere moments, a familiar title of honorifics almost embodying her, right before his eyes, he could place a name to the forlorn and troubled face that had long been carved, etched, into his memory, one of the few things that never left what he still had for memory.
The entire scene went tipside, and Kohaku fell down into the sky, rumble-tumbling and screaming as his legs went kicking, the girl still flattened upon the ground by wayside and tricky gravity and her own lack of energy and strength, her lonesome arm reaching out for him as she attempted to sit up despite the projectiles jutting out of her back, her muscles screaming as she felt half-dead already.
Kohaku twitched again and shifted onto his other side, aches popping up and sprouting , the flesh of his back feeling warm and almost saturated with pricklings and pinchings. A spark, a jolt stabbed into his upper shoulder blade.
Kagura, mostly asleep mere feet from him, restlessly opened her eyes and grumblingly searched out what had disturbed her from succumbing to her weariness of the last few days. Her gaze landed upon the shadow-enveloped human boy who lay upon the floor, writhing upon his threadbare sleeping mat. She narrowed her eyes, her gaze heated as she quietly huffed her displeasure at having now been fully awakened and unable to drift back into the realm of her dreams.
Everything shifted around him, even as he continued to fall aimlessly, forever disorienting him.
Strange fluctuations of energy pulsed through the air, a muted heartbeat almost. Kohaku hit the sloped roof of a building and slid off the edge, roughly landing upon the ground out front with no trace of grace. Sitting up and ignoring the aches and pains that tore at every muscle in his body as they all screamed and pulsed, he saw Kagewaki in the doorway of the slid open shouji. The young noble, his eyes almost twinkling, went down on one knee and scrutinized the mess of a boy before him.
Feeling the man's icy gaze upon him, Kohaku tensed up, then squeezed his eyes shut as visual reminders of what he'd done, even if he didn't really remember them, came floating back and hammering upon the inside of his skull. His head throbbed, and he chewed his lip.
The voice that came forward was familiar, soothing, and overflowing with a gloomy calm. Every word spoken picked and ate away at Kohaku's reserve, peeling it away by layers. "I can take all those memories away, Kohaku… for a price."
And as soon as he had curled into a kneeling position before the young noble and lowered his head and torso to the ground, his arms outstretched and his fingers itching and trembling at the words of the man's promise, Kohaku's nose was in the dirt, and his lips moved of their own accord.
"Please. Take them away. Anything, so I won't have to live with the memory of what I've done."
Kohaku didn't know how any of his words were audible, he spoke so softly and with a jittery voice, but after much trepidation, he felt a hand upon the back of his head, another under his chin, and his head being tilted up.
Kagewaki's eyes, the color of dried blood, seeped into his own, and the words that followed… sounded in a resounding wave of warped echoes.
While Kohaku didn't have his memories anymore, he knew he'd asked for them to be taken away, horrible as they were. He'd had these dreams for countless nights, always passing them off as his memories trying to return. Over time they became more clear, and more details came back, but when he awoke, he remembered nothing. When he dreamt of these terrors, he knew that Kagewaki was actually Naraku, but at the time it must have happened, Kagewaki must have been the name he'd gone by. It was all Kohaku could deduce.
A chill ran over Kohaku's lowered form upon the ground, his feet going numb. "Please, I can't live knowing what I've done."
Only during the last few dreams had he lately heard the tall man whisper bemusedly, "You didn't live. You died, and I brought you back," adding in his own lines to the script Kohaku had now memorized.
Kagura shifted her position so she could see the sleep-troubled boy better. He kept making infinitesimal, high-pitched whimpers that she could barely detect, and it was distracting. Moving closer, she saw his shut eyelids fluttering, a sign he was dreaming.
Kohaku's face was in full view, his cheek pressed against the mat.
Without much thought to the notion, Kagura pictured what sort of scared stare he might have were his eyes open. The image of him lying there on his side, partially curled up from pain and fright, one arm outstretched far past his head with its fist clenched while the other lay strangely calmly upon the section of the mat just in front of his belly- the weary wind sorceress shook her head of the commiserating thoughts that had managed to seep in past her defenses and berated herself.
Kohaku's shoulder shuddered with a nervous twitch, and then he arched his back as if he had just been stabbed, a grimace on his face with parted lips and grey, glistening teeth showing. A small whine escaped his throat.
She quirked her brow, unsure of whether or not her fellow puppet deserved any of her concern, then decided to watch a bit longer. He often had restless sleep, as she had noticed, but tonight seemed different. Then again, he had, after all, slipped from her giant feather earlier that day, and after she had caught him before he had fully plummeted to the ground, the things he had said, and his further actions, made it seem like he had done so on purpose.
What could he possibly want to kill himself for? Naraku took his memories away, Kagura told herself in reassurance. He's not mistreated or abused by any of us. He's used, perhaps, but not mistreated.
The building vanished along with the Promise Maker, and instead he was in a forested area overgrown with webby branches reaching down toward the ground.
Glancing around, Kohaku froze in place. The daytime lighting everywhere shrank, his surroundings becoming enshrouded, all things tinted indigo except for several figures spotlighted in lightly filtered reds.
Scene by scene, Kohaku watched motionlessly as he saw himself take his scythe to a familiar young female in one scene, the sounds of thunder booming as his weapon slashed open her arm, loosing minor blood spillage, and then after they faded, there appeared an inu hanyou with silvery white hair and dog ears dressed all in red who scrambled to pull that familiar girl who wore garb like his own from atop an almost zombie-like form of himself, just as she was crying out, tears in her eyes, and attempting to jam her sword into him.
He wrung his hands as he watched, unable to look away.
The scene shifted to one with himself standing over the sweet, talkative little girl whom he had to guard once, his scythe again raised to strike. The disturbing images - no, memories - quickly shifted into accelerated dusk with a few feeble last flickers before he was plunged entirely into darkness.
From nowhere came two speeding arrows, jamming themselves into Kohaku's lower ribcage from the backside. He screamed, his eyes watering. The ground beneath his feet shook in ripples before completely falling apart, and once again he tumbled downward, his chest heaving as he allowed what he'd seen affect him, overcome with grief and remorse, his limbs flailing.
When he landed this time, he was back at the castle where he and Kanna had been stationed to watch over the baby that Naraku had planted in place of the hime's real newborn. He was outside, and flaming bird youkai were coming in droves to burn all the buildings. Everyone was running every-which-where to escape the blood-hungry predators gliding overhead in massive cloud-like swarms.
Glancing around with a terror that grew ever increasingly, Kohaku saw a group of humans waving him on to protect a huddle of women servants and the hime with the newborn child.
"You fight like one well beyond your years, Kohaku." … "How and where did you learn to slay youkai like that?" … "I have heard stories of the Taijiya, a familial group of exterminators who specialize in youkai." … "You remind me of the taijiya, the way you fight." … "Thank you for leading us to safety, Kohaku!" - their words, their smiles, their praises - Kohaku shivered in place. He felt flushed; the air was fiery and dry with the surrounding conflagrations that quickly consumed building upon building, and he began to perspire from the heat as well as from his own apprehension, his throat going dry and papery.
A rush of dread fell over him, and he turned at the shouts of scrambling castle attendants seeking sanctuary from the bird youkai attacks and the burning buildings. Behind him, he saw a huddle of women, the same women he was asked to protect, the same ones he'd led out to safety before.
With a swish of movement beyond his own control, Kohaku found himself sliding into a readying stance, those garbled commands whispering to him even as his mind screamed for him not to listen, even if it meant death or, even worse, recovery of those memories.
As he played out the events of what had only too recently happened, his eyes began to tear up at the thought of what he knew he would do next, his scythe circling well above his head from where his upheld fist swung it carefully in a build of momentum. The roar of the flames and the shouts and protests could not drown out the voice that had once again invaded his inner thoughts.
His throat tightened, and his eyes scrunched up, watery and puffed up with the barest traces of itchiness. All too soon, each female human had slumped to the ground, covered in her own blood as it leaked out from whichever vital spot his scythe had quickly sliced through, barely any outcries among them, just fearful quibbling amongst the still living ones, until all were slain.
Blood splattered on his face and clothes and limbs.
"Kohaku!" At the call of his name, in a voice he barely recognized, Kohaku turned, scythe ready in hand, to see the girl whose face he couldn't erase from his memory. She trembled, then attempted to speak in a scratchy and torn up voice… "You did it again."
Yes, again, he told himself. Those dreams, those nightmares… had been real. Each image, each horrifying visual of bodies and blood and his would-be victims, came flashing back to him in heavily shadowed replay depictions, and a harsh wind came through the blazingly sweltering area, cooling the air and making everything disintegrate into a plum colored wasteland devoid of beings, bodies, and buildings.
Kohaku dropped his scythe and ran toward the slowly fading girl, but she had vanished, except for her face, by the time he became close enough to touch her. The expression her disembodied face bore, matching his, was one of internal torture. Then, the wind swept even that away, leaving nothing but himself, his clothes flapping back and forth, the only sounds the crackling of the fires that were now only mirages that had all but dissipated.
That word of honorifics broke through, and he called out, "Aneue!" But all he could hear in return was the playfulness of the breezes that blew dust and ashes and debris and shrapnel every which way, almost singing to him in a lullaby, trying to tell him things in a language he didn't understand.
Kohaku's form tensed up again, and he moaned in a pitifully agonizing manner as he rolled onto his stomach, mumbling barely understandable fragments about excruciating pain in his back muscles.
But what caught Kagura's attention was not his sleep-talk complaints but the appearance of several translucent and wispy arrows sticking out of his back in several different spots, torn straight through. Though they appeared as nothing more than illusions, they couldn't be. The place where each arrow shaft met with his clothing was punctured straight through, no doubt several inches deep.
Kagura sucked a gasp deep into her lungs as she examined the length of the three shafts, one between his shoulder blades to the left of his spine and one puncturing each side of his lower ribcage, the feathers adorning the notched ends frazzled, and the ends where the shafts met with cloth and flesh soaked in blood that only now just started to flow. She could smell his blood now as the shafts and his clothing slowly became saturated with its moisture. Kohaku was now gasping and writhing, pounding one of his fists upon a part of the floor beyond the covering of his sleeping mat, whimpering and grimacing.
"No, I don't want to remember, make them go away!"
Kagura's eyes widened. Does the brat actually know what he did to the other taijiya? She had not yet been created back when Naraku had first revived the young taijiya's dead body with a Shikon shard in his back and recruited him as a mindless lackey, but she was not a foolish idiot.
A shoomping sound came from nowhere, and another arrow, from straight above, came shooting down and landed in the very center of his back, startling the very feathers from Kagura's hair binding and making the young boy squeal and recoil as it punctured his flesh. She sat back, her jaw open slightly, then blinked in the dim light to see it sticking out at the exact same angle as the other three arrows. Its feathers shimmered, while the other arrows' were dark and dull.
She glanced around the room with intense paranoia, then once again heard the auditory signal that another such arrow was headed straight for him. Swallowing the bile that had come up into her throat, Kagura squeezed her eyes shut and hummed to herself, her hand quickly searching for her fan and clasping it tightly in reassurance. She heard the signals and impacts of several more projectiles before she finally dared to glance upon Kohaku's squirming and screaming body again.
Something about the inexplicability of the arrows themselves and their origin compiled with the sight of no less than ten arrows jutting out of the young boy's back like feathered spikes made her chest constrict.
Kagura inched closer to his body until she was right next to the now crying boy. The air was now full with the heady and sticky scent of his coagulating blood, making her gag, strangely. Letting loose her grip upon her fan, setting it down by her left thigh, the wind sorceress leaned forward to examine the odd appearance of the arrow shafts themselves, even going so far as to wave her hand back and forth through one close to her, her hand passing right through the translucent, feather-tipped shaft of wood as if it were nothing more than mist or youki.
"Kagura, please, take them out of my back? They hurt, so much."
The boy's shaky voice caught her off-guard, and she shifted her gaze quickly to see that his face was turned toward her and that he was now wide awake and staring at her intensely, his eyes pleading and his voice breathy and in gasps, curling and twisting.
"My hand went right through them," she told him arrogantly, confused. Does he even know what they are? she asked herself. Then, she questioned why she even cared - this was just Kohaku, a little dead human brat who could only live and breathe with the help of a shard and who could slaughter youkai and humans alike on command in a mindless fashion; who cared what was happening to him? The worst he ever has to suffer from Naraku is the emotional torture of being given his memories back-
She froze in realization and understanding.
"Just, please rip out the arrows," Kohaku requested again, craning his neck to glance as best he could upon the many projectiles embedded in his flesh before setting his eyes back upon hers.
After much contemplation and more watching of Kohaku's painful writhing, Kagura dropped her haughtiness and allowed herself to commiserate with him. One hand reached out for the almost illusory shaft of the arrow within closest reach, closing around it a couple inches above the puncture entrance.
This time the shaft felt solid, and she grasped it firmly before pulling upward, wincing as the pain stricken boy flinched and whimpered with shut eyes, his entire body trembling. After much resistance, the arrow came out, a bit of blood sputtering out as the tip finally tore free.
The arrow then disintegrated in her hands, leaving no trace. Kagura was slightly shocked, then shook it off. She went for the remainder of the arrows one by one. Each arrow disappeared much as the first one did after being parted with his body. Kagura felt a flush of warm air waft in from the nighttime summer heat through the nearby window and began to perspire and felt the need to form a cool breeze in counter, but ignored it and continued her altruistic task.
Once the last arrow had disintegrated within her hands, she glanced upon the boy's prone form and saw that the blood was drying up and almost disappearing. Though the puncture wounds in his flesh were still visible through the torn holes in his clothing, they were slowly closing up, as if Kohaku secretly had the self-healing powers of a youkai. He gasped and squeezed his eyes shut one last time before pulling both of his hands to his chest and pushing himself painfully from the floor, his frame quivering from weakness and tire.
Kagura sat back upon her haunches in amazement at his perseverance despite the massive waves of physical pain he must have been feeling, intrigued that he would attempt to move after having been so direly wounded in such an inexplicable manner. She still could not figure out how arrows of questionable tangibility had shot downward at him through a solid ceiling.
Holding himself up at an angle gradually until he could sit up properly, Kohaku opened his eyes and let the tiniest of grateful smiles bleed over his earlier grimace, his supporting arm shaking from physical instability. He tried to speak, but all words attempted were extinguished before they could be vocalized. In a flash of exhaustion, he fell forward, Kagura almost clumsily catching him beneath the arms, his cheek landing against her kimono clad shoulder as she grasped him in an embrace.
He whispered something so soft she barely heard him. "Thank you, aneue." His voice was broken and breathy.
Not sure how to react, Kagura simply froze in place for a moment with her mouth forming an O and the whites of her blood blister eyes completely showing, contemplating the meaning of his words but never letting go; a long time ago she might have pushed him away in a fit of disgust, but at a time like this, she somehow didn't feel as unnerved as she had thought she might have felt.
After a while of just sitting there, the two of them in such close contact, she allowed one of her hands to begin rubbing along the puncture wounds that marred his back. They had closed up, leaving small indentures in the skin.
He'll probably have permanent scars, Kagura mused to herself, not sure why she cared enough to contemplate the situation, but not caring that she actually cared in the first place.
Kohaku's arms went around Kagura, his hands meeting together in a clasp just above her waist. The two lone figures sighed, both feeling exhausted. Kagura inhaled deeply and closed her eyes, then brought a hand up to the juncture of his shoulder and his neck and lightly squeezed the flesh in a comforting gesture. The boy sighed again and muttered more gibberish, and she felt inexplicably content.