THE KILLERS AND THE KILLED

An Inu-Yasha Short Story

AUTHOR'S RAMBLINGS: After reading some of the reviews for Kill or Be Killed, and surfing the 'net for Inufics, and listening to "Evening Falls" by Enya, the idea for this story started to germinate. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to write it.

While this is an ongoing fic, it hopefully won't be as long as "Evangelion Evolution" is getting (8 chapters and the main character isn't even in an Eva yet). I feel like taking a bit of a vacation from Tokyo-3 for awhile, so it's down the Bone-Eater's Well to the Sengoku Jidai.

AUTHOR'S WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: Disclaimer first: I don't own Inu-Yasha or any of the characters therein. Period. Wish I did, though, because I wouldn't be worrying about my job.

Warning second: this fic isn't going to have too much in the way of humor. It's going to be violent, at times gruesome, and at times waffy. You have been warned.

BECAUSE EVERY HERO HAS A THEME SONG DEPARTMENT: This is Aino-kaachan's idea, so I hope she doesn't mind if I borrow it. If you want the appropriate "theme" music for this chapter, there's nothing better than "The Bridge at Khazad Dum" from Lord of the Rings or "VMI Will Be Heard From Today" from Gods and Generals.

CHAPTER ONE: SHADOWS ON THE SUN

In the land of the Rising Sun

Shadows are falling again

The die is cast, the future and past

Coming to her at last.

–Hammerfall, "The Champion"

The summer heat was growing intolerable to Kagome Higurashi. Even standing up to her knees in the cold waters of the stream near Kaede's village, she felt as if her hair was permanently plastered to the back of her neck. Her clothes felt sticky against her skin, and she had to actually fight down an urge to simply strip them off and dive naked into the stream. She smiled to herself and looked up, spotting the flash of red among the trees. Yes, Inuyasha was undoubtedly watching her, and she wasn't ready to go skinny-dipping under the hanyou's gaze. Not yet, anyway, if ever.

She heard a jingle of metal on metal. And there's another reason, she thought ruefully as Miroku came into sight. For the hundredth time in the last week, Kagome wondered how the houshi could stand walking around in dark robes on a day that was reaching well into the higher temperatures on the heat scale, with eighty percent humidity. She bowed to him as he came closer. "Konnichi wa, Miroku-sama."

"Konnichi wa, Kagome-sama." He returned the bow, though he was staring beyond her, and not quite at her. He seemed somewhat distracted, though not distracted enough to glance at her legs. "Where is Sango?"

"Bathing in the hot springs." Oh ho, Kagome thought, that's what he's up to.

"In the middle of a hot day like this?"

"She said her back was hurting her." Kagome remembered the star-shaped, ugly scar in the middle of Sango's back, and knew it tended to be painful when they had been on the road for some time–which they had–or when the weather was about to change.

"I see."

"You'd better not," Kagome warned him. "She wanted me to tell you specifically that she fully intends to hurt you, badly, if you attempt to sneak a peek. So don't even think about it."

Reflexively, Miroku stroked his cheek, which had been struck so many times by Sango that Kagome was sure her fingerprints were permanently etched there. He looked up beyond the trees. "Kagome-sama...do you feel...uneasy?"

Kagome dipped her hands in the water. "Not really. Just hot."

"Um. Arigato, Sango–er, Kagome-sama," Miroku hastily corrected. He then walked over towards the forest, leaving Kagome to grin at his back. Boy, does he have it bad..

Miroku, however, was not thinking so much about Sango. Since he had woken up, he had felt that something was wrong, dreadfully so. It was nothing more than a feeling, but it was enough to bother him. That Kagome didn't feel it cheered him only a little: her powers were still developing. Or perhaps it was just the weather, though rain did not normally depress him, and be welcome to break the heat. He looked back to Kagome, who was bent over, washing her face. It had been a little over a week since she had been forced to kill a ronin who had nearly killed her, an event that had deeply bothered her. As it should, Miroku mused to himself. Kagome was not a warrior by choice, and from what he understood of her time, the sort of casual violence that marked his own time was absent.

A swish from above broke into his thoughts. "Oi, bouzo," Inuyasha called out as he alighted next to Miroku. "What's so interesting over there?"

Miroku realized that he was getting a rather nice view of Kagome's buttocks from this angle, though nothing was showing under the skirt–yet, though if she bent over any futher, that would be open to conjecture. He shook those thoughts off as he saw Inuyasha was still waiting for an answer, and was getting progressively annoyed. "Gomen nasai, Inuyasha. I was...distracted."

"I noticed."

Miroku detected more than a little jealousy in the hanyou's rough voice, and decided he had better change the subject. It was what he wanted to discuss with Inuyasha in the first place. "Have you felt strange today? Like something is wrong, but you do not know what?"

"No. Well, maybe a little," he sheepishly amended.

"I think we should stay close to the village today."

Inuyasha shrugged. It was too damn hot to be moving around much today anyway. "Fine with me." Miroku nodded, did something a little strange–comradely touched Inuyasha's shoulder in passing–then walked towards the shade of the Goshinboku.

Inuyasha jumped back up into the tree to take up his customary position on the branch, and tried to relax, pulling off the upper half of his kimono and letting the sun warm his bare chest. After about five minutes of pretending he was relaxing, he opened one eye to look at Miroku. The monk was sitting with his legs crossed, fingers steepled in meditation. Dammit, Inuyasha sighed inwardly. He would have to say something. Now I can't even try to sleep.

His ears involuntarily twitched, and he looked up at the sky instantly. There was something on the wind. He sniffed and scowled as the wind shifted, but then he heard it again. It was very faint, perhaps below the range of human hearing, but Inuyasha felt with a sinking stomach that he had heard this sound before, many times. He sprang up, effortlessly keeping his balance, then leapt upward to reach the highest branches of the tree. He caught it in his clawed hands and swung upwards to crouch on it. One glance at the sky told him all he needed to. "Shit."

Kagome was wondering perhaps if she should just jump in the water with her clothes on, when she caught movement out of the corner of one eye. She stood up straight and saw a young girl, one of the village maidens, running at full speed towards the stream. Kagome then spotted Inuyasha leaping down from the tree, yelling at Miroku as he ran towards Kagome. Despite the heat, she felt an icy ball of dread materialize inside her. Something was very wrong.

Miroku was instantly on his feet, tucking up his robes as he ran. "What is it? What did you see?"

Inuyasha slowed just enough. "Naraku's insects. A whole swarm of them, coming this way."

"Inuyasha!" He followed Kagome's outstretched arm to where the girl was. She had stumbled and fallen, so Inuyasha got a running start and covered the distance between them in a single leap. Even as he landed, he smelled the blood.

The girl was young, just barely in her teens, and Inuyasha remembered her as being one of the women who tended to follow Miroku around like puppies in the village. The shaft of an arrow protruded from one shoulder, and he felt a twinge of sympathetic pain in his chest, where Kikyo's arrow had hit him. The girl was trying to get to her feet, gritting her teeth. Inuyasha helped her up. "Who shot you?" he asked without preface.

The girl caught her breath. "Ronin," she puffed. "Ronin...in the woods...south..."

Inuyasha got her arm around his shoulder and leapt back to the stream. "Kagome, take her and make sure she gets back to the village."

"What is it?" she asked.

"She says she saw ronin in the woods."

"How many?" Miroku asked the girl.

"Dozens. Maybe a hundred," the villager answered.

"Are they coming this way?"

"Hai, houshi-sama."

"It's no coincidence," Miroku said. "Not with Naraku's insects." Even he and Kagome could hear the distant buzzing now. "I'll get Sango. You stay with Kagome, Inuyasha."

"No," Kagome corrected. "Both of you go. If there's ronin in those woods, you might need some help, Miroku." Seeing both men hesitate, she snapped, "I'm not totally defenseless, you know! Get moving!"

The hanyou nodded, shrugging his firerat cloak back into place. "Go as fast as you can," he warned. "I can smell them now." Then he and Miroku were gone, into the woods.

Sango lay back in the pool, letting the warm water unknot the tension in her back. The scar had stopped aching, which was good; it was pain she had gotten used to over the past few months since her village had been destroyed. That particular pain never went away. She wondered if it ever would. Getting revenge on Naraku might ease it, but would even the death of their nemesis be enough? And then what? Sango asked herself. What would happen then? She shook her head, berating herself for thinking too far ahead. First they had to kill Naraku, which was going to be an epic task in itself.

Kilala was curled up, standing guard over the pile of Sango's clothes and her hiraikotsu. Suddenly she uncurled and perked up, sniffing at the air. "What is it, Kilala?" Sango asked. A koban says it's the monk.

That assumption was voided a moment later when an arrow sang out of the woods to snap against a rock two inches from Sango's ear. Instinctively, Sango dived under the water, which probably saved her life as two more flew past where she had been. Kilala hissed and quadrupled in size to the size and likeness of a sabretooth tiger, her paws exploding into flame. She stood protectively near her mistress as Sango came up for air. The arrows had stopped for a moment, but now another brace of them flew, at Kilala this time. She knocked one out of the air with a paw and dodged the other. Sango frantically grabbed for her kimono with one hand and her hiraikotsu with the other, when a new threat appeared to her left.

There were three of them, all dressed in mismatched armor and dirty kimonos and hakamas. Their swords were in excellent condition, however, and they were out. Kilala snarled and turned in their direction, but the archers were now firing at her, and the youkai cat had to keep dodging away from Sango.

The ronin's eyes were wide at Sango's nudity, but their swords did not waver. "Surrender," one of them ordered her.

"Never," Sango replied. She had seen what happened to village women when ronin passed through. Some men retained their honor; most did not, and she was not samurai, therefore fair game. The ronin said nothing in reply to her defiance, but instead advanced.

Sango was not content to wait. She flung her kimono at the nearest swordsman, who instinctively brought up his hands. Quickly, she moved forward in a crouch and scythed a leg through his, dropping him unceremoniously on his face. Another ronin raised his sword to strike, but Sango rose to her feet and kicked him in the face, sending teeth and blood flying. This left the third, but a blur of yellow fur and flame whipped past her face, knocking the screaming ronin to the ground. Sango sensed movement behind her and spun around, idly wondering what happened to the archers. She guessed a second later.

There had been more ronin behind her, men who had flanked the hot springs to cut off her escape. The three that had attacked her had been the hounds, driving her to the hunters. But now the hunters became the hunted: Inuyasha and Miroku had arrived, hitting the ronin from behind.

As she hastily scooped up her kimono, she saw the flash of Tetsusaiga as Inuyasha knocked one ronin down with a flip of the blade, then dived between two more. Blood flew as blade and claws slashed through flesh. Miroku was more than holding his own share, Sango noticed. He cracked the golden ring of his staff into one man's nose, pivoted slightly on one foot, and smashed another aside with a sweep of his weapon.

"Miroku!" Sango shouted, seeing a third ronin charging Miroku. She dropped her clothes and scooped up her hiraikotsu, flinging it at the swordsman. The sound of broken bones resounded over the sounds of battle as the boomerang dropped the ronin in his tracks.

The remaining ronin broke and fled, Kilala finishing off the two that had initially attacked Sango. "Sango!" Miroku exclaimed as he ran to her side. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she puffed out, quickly covering herself with the kimono. Battle or not, Miroku could not help but notice. He did turn around as she hastily pulled on her clothes. Her exterminator catsuit was back at the village. "What's going on?"

"Naraku," Miroku said. "His insects are above us. These ronin must be his."

"They're human," Inuyasha stated, inspecting one of the bodies. "Kagura's not animating them."

"Mercenaries work for anyone," Sango replied. There were a lot of out of work samurai these days.

"They're regrouping." Miroku spotted more men moving in the woods.

Sango leapt onto the back of Kilala, offering a hand up to the monk. "We split up," he said to Inuyasha. "Kilala can move faster with two."

"Meet you back at the village," Inuyasha nodded, and disappeared into the forest. Kilala scampered into the air as a few arrows fell harmlessly behind.