The New Quest
Seconds later, the pink light of the spiritual energy engulfing the miko's arrow split the skies. The two attacks intercepted one another, twisted into each other, wrapped around each other like the best of friends. Whizzing through the air, the diamond spears that shot out of Tetsusaiga suddenly absorbed the spiritual energy. All of the diamonds glowed pink, glowed hot, and struck.
With a bellow, a cry, a shriek borne from the bowels of hell, the entity that was Naraku unleashed the sound that deafened the hanyou that brought him to his knees. Incredibly, Naraku remained standing.
InuYasha clung to Tetsusaiga's hilt as every nerve in his skull threatened to explode. Higurashi Kagome darted to his side, knelt down to assess his injuries. He strained to tell her that they weren't anywhere she could see or fix.
"Are you hurt? Did he hit you?" she asked, her voice airy, breathless.
He glared at her obvious concern and struggled to get to his feet again. "Keh! Get the hell away before---"
InuYasha didn't have time or strength enough to do anything but push Kagome aside. She stumbled back, landing on her rear and skidding across the ground. "InuYasha!" she protested. Her eyes widened in shock as she screamed, "Watch out!"
He didn't have time to turn to see why she was yelling. Naraku's vines impaled him with a sickening gurgly-slurp resonance. The pain---intense, hot---reverberated through his body in waves, and he cried out. 'Bastard's gonna try to absorb me!' InuYasha thought as he tightened his grip on Tetsusaiga and slammed it point down in the ground to anchor himself against being dragged closer. He grunted in pain as the vines tugged at him.
"Worthless half-breed!" Sesshoumaru taunted as he cracked his knuckles. "Stand back."
"Fuck you!" InuYasha gasped. He was unable to do anything more than snarl at his half-sibling for the deliberate slight. He shook his head stubbornly, trying to force away the vertigo that remained wrapped around his brain as his stomach felt as if it were being ripped in half. Naraku wrenched him again. InuYasha couldn't contain the scream that tore from his lips.
Sesshoumaru severed the vine with a quick stroke of his poison claws, and InuYasha grunted as his body fell to the ground. A flicker of emotion crossed Sesshoumaru's normally stoic countenance. It was gone before InuYasha could discern it. Sticking the tip of Tenseiga into the ground, Sesshoumaru reached down, took hold of the severed vine, and yanked. InuYasha's agonized scream rivaled Naraku's earlier version.
Sesshoumaru tossed the vine to the side and retrieved his sword before turning back, squaring his shoulders as he gazed at what was left of Naraku. Burbling and trying to laugh with a maniacal grin, Naraku's face---the only part of him that looked even remotely human---surveyed the destruction he'd left behind.
With a gasp, Kagome jerked awake, blinking into the darkness. Shippou, the kitsune child that always shared her sleeping bag, rolled over, muttering, "Mmm . . . pocky!" as he drifted back to sleep. Kagome sighed. Thanks to that dream, she'd be awake the rest of the night.
She sat up and glanced around then looked up at the treetop canopy for good measure. 'Weird,' she thought with a frown. 'Where's InuYasha?' Carefully she scooted out of the sleeping bag and stretched before wandering toward the stream.
'It's been three days since we defeated Naraku. When we get back to the village, we'll figure out how to get rid of the Shikon no Tama.' She sank down by the water and rinsed her face. 'What then? What'll I do? Do I just go back home and forget about everything here? And everyone?'
She wrapped her arms around her legs, resting her chin on her raised knees. 'Sango's like a sister to me. What'll I do if I can't talk to her every day? Miroku's like a brother---a really flirty brother . . .' She made a face, remembering how many times Miroku had taken advantage of any given situation to stroke her butt. 'Maybe not a brother. More like a dirty old man---just not old . . . Shippou's like my own son, really. I can't remember not having him around. He always makes me smile, no matter how sad or angry I am.' She sighed. 'And then there's InuYasha . . .'
She stared at the moonlight reflecting off the surface of the stream. Slivers of silver dancing in the night, gently playing tag on the water's cresting ripples. 'What about InuYasha?'
In the end, InuYasha had been too weak from the hole in his stomach to go after Naraku. Sesshoumaru had been too busy fending off the vines that just kept coming. Kagome had been shocked to see the inu-youkai stand in defense of his 'worthless half-breed' brother. Miroku had been struggling against the kazaana. It had been torn during the battle. He could barely keep the prayer beads on his hand to seal the wind tunnel. Sango had to hold the rosary in place.
Kikyou walked out of the forest into the clearing. She was proud, purposeful in her movements. She strode up to Naraku and closed her eyes, engulfing herself and him in her miko's aura. "Kikyou!" InuYasha screamed. "No!" He tried to stumble forward, shaking off Kagome's hands as she tried to hold him back.
Sesshoumaru caught him and carelessly shoved him aside. "Be not a fool, InuYasha! Do you truly wish to die this day?"
"Kagome!" Miroku called out, face contorted in a grimace of pain. "Kikyou alone doesn't have enough power to purify him! You must help her!"
"Right!" Nocking back an arrow, Kagome carefully took aim. 'Hit him in the spider mark . . . Purify him forever,' she chanted to herself as she stretched the bowstring. 'Purify him so he can't hurt anyone ever again!' She let go. The arrow whizzed through the air, whistling softly as it skimmed across the ground, shrouded in her pink aura. Kagome held her breath, watching, waiting, hoping, praying . . .
Five of Naraku's runners shot out to impale Kikyou. InuYasha screamed and struggled to his feet again. He lurched forward. Sesshoumaru knocked him back again. "You must learn to---stay---down!"
Kikyou's aura grew brighter. With the last of her spiritual powers, she wrapped Naraku up in her light. Kagome's arrow struck exactly where she'd aimed, and Naraku's body exploded in a million sparkles of light. The cut-off pieces of vine withered, disintegrated into blackest dust and blew away. Kikyou fell to the ground.
InuYasha screamed her name again and managed to stumble over to her.
'She's dying again,' Kagome thought as she turned away. As sad as it was to see Kikyou suffering once more, she couldn't deny that the majority of her pain stemmed from the tender way InuYasha lifted Kikyou's shoulders, settled her head in his lap.
She didn't need to be told when Kikyou finally died. Instantly Kagome felt something slam into her. It didn't hurt but she staggered. The impact alone was enough to drive her to her knees. 'It's the rest of my soul,' she thought vaguely. 'That means Kikyou . . .'
"Kagome!" Dazed, Kagome looked up into the faces of her friends---Sango, Miroku, and Shippou---who had been hiding in the forest with Jaken and Sesshoumaru's human girl, Rin. "Are you all right?" Shippou asked, his large emerald eyes wide with concern.
"Fine," she assured them. "I'm fine." Her voice was too calm, too steady. She smiled at her friends. Her gaze roved over the wrecked landscape but stopped as she noticed something she had missed before. In all the fighting and her concern for InuYasha, she hadn't noticed that Sesshoumaru must have taken a hit from one of Naraku's tendrils. The youkai lord was as stoic and impassive as ever, but blood dripped from his arm. Kagome willed herself to stand despite the odd weakness that had settled over her, and she stumbled forward despite her friends' protests that she should sit a little longer.
"Sesshoumaru? You're bleeding," she said as she approached the youkai. "Let me help you."
He slowly pinned her with his amber gaze. She thought she saw a hint of respect in his stare. "Your medicines will not benefit me, Miko. This Sesshoumaru will be healed within the hour."
At her skeptical expression, Sesshoumaru flipped his arm up to move his sleeve. The gash on his arm was deep. She looked closer. The edges were beginning to pull together, to meld itself together. Then she noticed something else that she hadn't before. On the ground where his blood had dripped was a black sludge. She watched as another scarlet droplet fell from his fingertip. The blood hissed like water in a red-hot pan, steaming, sizzling . . .
"He's a poison youkai, Kagome," InuYasha pointed out. She gasped softly. She hadn't realized he had moved to her side. "Why do you think it took so fucking long to heal after he stuck his hand through me? His blood is like acid. You can't help him."
"Save your concern for the pathetic ones who need it, Miko," Sesshoumaru remarked before he turned and walked away. "Come!" he called as he neared the forest. Rin and Jaken ran out of the woods to join the youkai.
"Let me see your injuries," she said, turning back to InuYasha. He was pale, and he looked exhausted.
When he intercepted her concerned look, however, he snorted. "Keh. I'm fine."
She shook her head. "Sure you are. Humor me and let me look."
"Wait till we find a place to camp." He started away but suddenly stopped and glanced over his shoulder at her, his gaze bright; golden light, a curious appraisal in the depths of his stare. "You coming or not? We ain't got all day."
Only then did Kagome smile. She hurried forward to walk beside him.
Kagome blinked as the memory faded away. Lost in the shadows by the gurgling stream, she sighed softly and waited for morning to come. 'Over two years,' she thought with a wan smile. 'It's taken over two years to come this far, and now that it's almost over . . . I wish I didn't have to think about this. I should be in my time, with my family and my friends at my school . . . but I want to be here with my friends who are like family—and with InuYasha . . .'
". . . Must find it, InuYasha-sama! If it fell into the wrong hands, who knows how they would use it against you?"
The voices were coming closer. InuYasha and Myouga, the flea youkai were approaching. 'What are they talking about?' She reached up, unconsciously wrapping her hand around the nearly complete Shikon no Tama that hung from a chain around her neck. They were supposed to meet with Kouga in the morning. The leader of the wolf youkai had agreed to hand over the last two shards that would complete the jewel.
"You were meant to have it! You must find it!"
"If I was meant to have it, why can't you just tell me where the hell it is?" InuYasha's voice had moved upward. Kagome's gaze rose to the treetops. She didn't see him.
Myouga sighed. "It's been taken, that's why! Someone stole it, and you've got to find it or the consequences could be dire!"
"Quit your damn whining," InuYasha scoffed. "It can't make that big a difference. It's just a fucking---"
"Oh! Such a disrespectful son! Your mother and father---"
"Are dead. Long dead. What does it matter if I find it or not? It won't change a fucking thing now, will it?"
Kagome flinched at the open bitterness, the seething anger in InuYasha's tone. She knew it was a sore spot with him. He never liked to talk about his father or his mother. She sighed.
"It might! It might change everything, if you knew!"
"You're giving me a headache, Myouga. Go away."
"InuYasha-sama . . ."
InuYasha sighed. He didn't do that often, and Kagome frowned. InuYasha had said before that she had more curiosity than was good for her and that someday it would come back to haunt her. Still she wondered what would make him sigh. "Fine, I'll look for it after we get rid of the Shikon no Tama."
"That's just it, my lord! You mustn't destroy the jewel---not yet; not until after you've completed your task! "
"Enough, Myouga! Damn!"
Kagome shook her head, visioning InuYasha squashing the flea between his fingers in an effort to shut him up. "InuYasha?" she called softly.
The distinct rustle of leaves, and suddenly InuYasha dropped to the ground beside her. She could see the glimmer in his eyes as he stared at her, his brows furrowing together. "What are you doing out here?"
"I couldn't sleep. I had that dream again."
He sank back, crossing his legs and folding his hands together under the generous sleeves of the fire rat haori. "Keh. A dream can't hurt you."
She didn't respond to that. "How are your wounds?" she asked, knowing what his answer would be but wanting to change the subject.
"What wounds?" he scoffed with an arrogant toss of his head.
"Don't 'duh' me, wench."
"Don't 'wench' me, dog-boy."
"Ungh!" He struggled to push himself off the ground as the effects of the word of subjugation wore off. He pinned her with a glower and growled. "Damn it, Kagome!"
"What were you and Myouga talking about?" she asked calmly.
InuYasha turned his face away and stubbornly closed his eyes. "Nothing."
She tried again. "What is this 'thing' you're going to look for?"
"Dunno what you're talking about."
"I heard you, InuYasha. Myouga said you have to find 'it' because 'it' has been stolen, and 'it' is supposed to be yours. So what is 'it'?"
InuYasha didn't answer right away. Kagome frowned as she let her chin fall to her knees again. 'Stubborn hanyou! InuYasha no baka! Why doesn't he ever want to tell me anything? Why do I always have to drag stuff out of him?'
"Myouga said it's something that I should have gotten a long time ago. That's all." He stared at her for a few moments then shook his head slowly. He pulled off his haori and slung it over her shoulders. "Baka. The nights are getting colder, and you ain't got enough sense to keep warm."
She rolled her eyes but pulled the haori closer around herself. "I wasn't cold," she argued.
"Keh! Pathetic girl."
"What's really bothering you?" she asked quietly. She knew him, understood him. The look he shot her confirmed her suspicions. There really was something else on his mind, and for that reason, she let his deliberate taunts go without taking them to heart.
"It's too easy."
His already dark glower deepened. "Kouga. He's had those shards way too long. He's not just going to hand them over. He wants something in exchange."
InuYasha snorted and narrowed his eyes as though he thought that she was deliberately being dense. "What do you think?"
Her eyebrows rose, proclaiming her innocence. "I don't know. Why else would I have asked you?"
He raked his claws on the ground as though trying to ease some of his frustration. "Just promise me you'll stay behind me, okay?"
"Okay," she agreed reluctantly. "I still don't understand what you're saying."
"You, baka! He'll try to exchange the shards for you."
"Wha---?" She cut herself off as gales of laughter spilled out of her. The longer she laughed, the more irritated InuYasha became, and the more irritated he became, the harder Kagome laughed.
"I'm serious!" he growled.
She waved his words away with a flutter of her wrist as she dropped her forehead to her knees and tried to control her laughter. It didn't work. "I'm s-sorry!" she stammered between rounds of giggling.
She finally wound down, wiping the laughter-induced tears off her cheeks with the back of her hand. "I'm not going anywhere with Kouga," she remarked as she leaned forward to rub InuYasha's ear. He jerked his head back out of her grasp.
"Knock that off!"
She let her hand fall away but still grinned mischievously. "So when are we leaving to find this thing of yours?"
"We?" he echoed, shifting his gaze to the side, avoiding her eyes.
"Yes, we. I'm coming with you."
InuYasha stared off into the distance without seeing a thing. He blinked a couple of times then sighed and finally met her gaze. "I'm going alone."
"You can't go alone. We're friends, remember? I want to help you. I'm going."
"No, you're not. You're going back to your time where you'll be safe while I go alone."
He shook his head slowly. "Kagome, this is something I have to do by myself." He hopped up and reached down for Kagome's hand. "Come on. Let's go back to the camp."
She allowed him to pull her to her feet and followed him down the narrow path. Something about this new mission was bothering him. She could feel his reticence as though it was a physical thing. She returned his haori as she sank down by the fire. He quickly put it on before leaping into a tree. He stared at her a long time. She could feel his probing eyes, like he was trying to read her mind.
Neither spoke as the sun slowly rose and a new day began.
Kongousouha: Diamond Spear Blast.
Diamond, spear, and blast (destroy): Tetsusaiga's technique.
Kazaana: Wind Tunnel (Miroku's 'weapon')
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Chronicles): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.