Note: The title, mitai, or （見たい） is one of those Japanese words that could replace an English phrase. It means wanting to see, or I want to see it, or let me see, or anything like that. I don't normally throw Japanese words around for the sake of them being Japanese, this was an exception, I liked the concise directness of it.
Additional note: Onee-sama is basically big sister, I kept Kaede calling Kikyou this, because it's a part of the flavor of the story for me. The meaning of Onigumo's name is important, oni is a devil-like demon, gumo is spider. As it happens, Kaede is maple leaf, and Kikyou is Chinese bellflower, or balloonflower, but I'm just showing off now, as that's not really relevant. A mononoke is a vengeful spirit, or a different type of demon, Mistress Centipede as opposed to, say, Kouga, a youkai.
Disclaimer: I do own Inuyasha. My name is Rumiko Takahashi, and I speak with a harsh American accent. If you sue me, I will be pleading insanity on these grounds. Come now, my fics are not the writings of a sane person.
Warnings: Gore, language, dark themes. Virtually nothing that wasn't in canon, and that has nudity, and still makes TV-14. So I consider this PG-13, but it might be a dark, heavy PG-13. Come on, AVP was PG-13, and gore-wise, this has nothing on that.
Kaede slipped through the tall grass, out of her sister's long shadow, wide-eyed and wary as any wild animal. There was a presence in the forest, something that bound Kikyou's brow in worried furrows. She followed a light foot trail to a hollow place, a wet, dark cave far away from the world she knew. She hesitated a moment at the threshold, a bird called, long and forlorn, and a far more frightening noise came from inside.
She padded cautiously into the cave, eyes straining against the darkness. "Who's there?" someone asked, it was a man's voice, once silky and persuasive, now hoarse with pain.
Kaede's breath quickened, and she flattened herself against the wall, unsure what she was afraid of, if it was a demon, surely she'd be dead already.
"I can hear you gawking," the man said, "if you've come to kill me, get it over with, I'm in no state to put up a fight."
Kaede spotted embers lying on the ground, she crept over to them and blew carefully.
The stranger squinted at her through the flame with his one good eye. "Fancy that, a little girl. Be careful with that fire now, or you'll end up like me." He laughed humorlessly, and choked.
Kaede was somewhat shocked by the stranger's condition, as well as his nonchalant attitude. Even in the best of situations she was known to stare, though she had learned to do it surreptitiously, as it often made people uncomfortable to be viewed with such scrutiny. Now, however, she was dissecting with her eyes, memorizing every detail. She had decided he was dangerous, and dangerous things were the ones you watched the most.
"What are you looking at, brat?" the invalid asked, beginning to wonder if the girl might be mute, or touched in the head.
"You," she said tonelessly.
"I hope I'm keeping you entertained," he sneered.
"How did you get like this?" she asked, not disgusted or alarmed, or even showing the morbid fascination Onigumo would have felt as a lad, but simply curious, as she might ask "Why is the sky blue?"
"You really want to know?"
"I always want to know."
"Well I don't feel like telling you," he said with satisfaction. If he could do nothing else, he would at least torment this brat in his last days as best he could.
"Is it because you were doing something bad?" Kaede pressed.
"Of course I was doing something bad. But that's not why. I just don't like you." He grinned, enjoying the fleeting expression of hurt on her face, followed by the slight hardening of her features. He knew she was slightly less innocent than a moment before, and this pleased him.
"Don't tell me, then," she said, staring into him as if she could strip past bandages and thought, and lay his memory bare. She watched him calmly until Kikyou entered, tense as her drawn bowstring.
"Kaede-chan, it's just you," Kikyou said in relief. "I saw the fire— Why are you here, anyway?"
Kaede stood and brushed herself off, meeting her sister's gaze. "I wanted to see."
"I'm going to have to change his bandages now, Kaede-chan. You run along, it's no sight for a child's eyes."
"But Onee-sama, I should learn. I will have to wrap bandages too, someday."
Kikyou considered. Having to face the world so soon, she felt protective of Kaede, wanting her to have the life she couldn't. That Kaede would not want to live in blissful innocence was incomprehensible to her. But the child was right. Better she learn now.
Kaede watched in rapt fascination as the burns were laid bare, dressed, and wrapped in clean cloth. It seemed to her that no one had ever been as naked as this strange man. She didn't even know his name. So she asked.
"Onigumo," the man answered.
Kaede made a face. "That's no name, you made that up."
"Name or not, it's what others chose to call me. I did not make it up."
Kikyou turned the burned man gently, and tended to his back. Even burned, there was a clearly visible mark there.
"Oni...Gumo," Kaede said slowly.
"Little girl," Onigumo said. "Kikyou's baby sister, Kaede-chan." He smiled in a less than pleasant way, and Kikyou, who had taken the utmost of care with his wounds, for Kaede's education, suddenly became rougher with him. Onigumo did not miss the message, though it only encouraged him.
Kaede saw many things that long summer, the last summer of her carefree childhood. She saw animals in their secret places in the forest, and mononoke that did not see her. She saw beasts and heroes in the vastness of stars, skies of every color, secret meetings by the river, between her sister and a boy with long pale hair that seemed to faintly reflect whatever colors were around him. She saw the neighbor beat his wife, two horses mating, and a small pink jewel that seemed to shine from within.
She saw the villain Onigumo, his proud flesh, his hopeless smile, she saw how to make a poultice, and how to wrap burns.
Noticing that the fire put him on edge, she left it out, and learned to see in the dark.
Kikyou asked a favor of her sister. "I don't trust that man. I can't just let him die, it is his karma to suffer for his sins, but I don't want to turn my back on him. Can you watch him for me, when I can't be around?"
"Yes, Onee-sama. I promise I'll watch him."
So, with the final flare of summer spending itself in glory, she left the light she belonged in, and sat in the rough little cave, watching, while Kikyou had secret trysts with her paramour.
Her disgust for the bitter invalid grew, as did a sort of involuntary awe. He was filled with hate, it poisoned him and everything around him, and he was petty, which justified her disgust, but at the same time, he had a sort of untouchable power, not caring terribly that he was immobilized, and his life was pain, and even that would be gone soon.
He fixated on Kikyou, something that Kaede was quick to pick up on. Seeing the way he had looked at her sister made her seethe with a hatred rivaling his own. Only hers was pure, and his was tainted beyond all repair.
Yet she reveled in this new feeling, and he reveled in giving it to her. He fantasized often about her. And he told her his desires.
"Your sister, she ain't so much," Onigumo said smugly in the dark.
"Better than any woman you could ever have, even if you weren't burned," Kaede said with passion.
"She's not strong, like me, though," Onigumo said knowingly. "True strength comes from hatred. I'll live forever, because they'll never be a shortage of things to hate, and one's just as good as the next. Kikyou, on the other hand, her days are already numbered. Do you see that distant look in her eyes, sometimes?"
Kaede nodded, nearly imperceptibly, Onigumo more heard the change in her breath than he saw the nod.
"It's love, Kaede-chan." Kaede despised the way he said her name, she was sure he was mocking her, but she listened anyway, because she really had noticed something different about her sister lately. No one else did, but no one else really took the time to look.
"Love takes you to the other world," Onigumo continued. "It can take you so high and so far, but it won't ever take you back. Kikyou has given herself to love, you understand?"
"He's not the dangerous one, you are," Kaede asserted.
"Oh, but Kaede-chan, I would save her. I would give her a hatred so strong she would live forever like me. She isn't like the other girls, you know. Them, I would fuck, and break their tender little necks, or really do a number on them, and watch them from afar, as they committed suicide. But she's too good to die like that. I could take her again and again, and never tire of her, that arrogance, that hateful beauty."
"Is that really all that's keeping you alive?" Kaede asked scornfully.
"Well, there's the pleasure of your company as well. Kikyou trusting her second most precious possession with me."
"The Shikon no Tama is always first. She doesn't chose it, she is bound to it. In the end, it is the jewel she must protect, not you."
"You. You want the jewel," Kaede said, understanding at last.
Onigumo chuckled, coughing up the smallest amount of blood from his raw throat. "I can see it, reflecting in those pretty little eyes. You've looked upon it. You know its power."
"I've seen many things," Kaede said, her gaze unwavering. "But the jewel isn't for us. Certainly not for you."
"Because I'm evil? And you're good. Don't be absurd, even if such distinctions could be drawn, the jewel takes no sides. It is as neutral as any stone, to be hurled at anyone, by anyone with the power to wield it. And you, little girl, are the way into Kikyou's heart, are you not? If she were to find you, dead, ravaged, defiled, she would become careless. She would only slip for a moment, but it would be her last. There are hordes of demons calling her name. I hear them, just at night at first, then more and more, now all the time. They clamor for her blood, Kaede-chan. And they will spill yours to get it."
"They won't catch me ever. I'd see them first. I always see them before they see me."
Onigumo broke off their staring contest, gazing idly at the domed roof of the cave. "Yes, and some good it does you, if you still go into dark caves and have a nice long chat with them. Bravo, Kaede-chan."
Kaede would not be intimidated. But she slept uneasily from that moment until after Kikyou's death.
Summer was falling, crashing down in the first few leaves, but still high and giddy. And Kikyou was happier than Kaede had ever seen her. She danced about, singing silly little songs, and smiled for no apparent reason. Kaede felt vaguely jilted, all her years loyally by her sister's side had failed to make her happy, and now this stranger had her walking on air? But she was happy for her, nonetheless, and sometimes dared to hope that this meant better days were ahead, that her family might grow, and Kikyou's happiness would spread to all of them.
One dark cave became the shadow on her life. Onigumo's rantings became crueler and less coherent. Sometimes he would tell her things he'd actually done, that was the worst.
Yet she'd promised to watch him, so she could not look away.
One day, she was sitting outside her home, holding very still, so as not to disturb the mice she was watching. They scampered happily, glancing up from time to time for hawks. Kikyou came to her, and they scattered. But Kaede didn't mind, Kikyou had the vibrant smile of a happy secret, and a mischievous look in her eye that told her she wanted an accomplice.
Wordlessly, Kikyou took out the Shikon no Tama, and showed it to her. Kaede touched it, carefully; even in the daylight it sparkled wondrously. Onigumo's words cast doubt in her mind, but she pushed them aside. "What is it for, Onee-sama?"
"It's going to make everyone very happy, you'll see," Kikyou said confidently. "I just need to meet someone, and we're going to use it." She paused. "Do you think you can watch old Onigumo? He wants the jewel, you know, and even though he can't move, I just have a terrible feeling about him in all this. The jewel will be gone after this, so, just one last time, for me?"
"Of course, Onee-sama. I trust your premonitions."
Kikyou hesitated, as if shaking off her worry. "If anything happens, don't try to fight, you hear me, Kaede-chan? I know you, you'll see whatever it is before it sees you, so just run and tell me, okay? I'll be on the meadow on the far side of the village."
"Inuyasha had better make my Onee-sama a happy woman," Kaede said, grinning.
"When did you—oh, you little spying brat! That's not for kids to see! We were..." Kikyou blushed, "kissing, a lot."
Kikyou clapped a hand to her forehead. "On with you, girl. And no peeking on our wedding night, or you'll go blind!"
Kaede skipped off, stopping first to get a roll of bandages, in case Onigumo needed them.
When she was nearly to the cave, she saw something, or someone, and stopped dead in her tracks. The open field didn't offer much cover, but the grass was tall, and she was short. She crouched down, straining her eyes against the sun's glare.
It was a young man, with long silvery hair, and wearing a great deal of red. Kaede smiled in relief, and went over to him, waving her arms to get his attention. "Hey, Inuyasha!" she called. "You went to the wrong field, Onee-sama's that-a-way!" she said, pointing.
Inuyasha turned to look at her, slowly, as if he was enormous, and it took him a long time to move in any direction. "Silly me," he said, "I hope I have a better sense of direction on our honeymoon." Kaede was filled with a sudden dislike for this man, there was just something disrespectful about him.
Then she saw his eyes. They were red. She could have sworn Inuyasha did not have red eyes.
"What are you staring at, child?" he said nastily, advancing on her.
There was something so familiar about him, his intonations, his mannerisms. It felt like her nightmares had been liberated from the dream world, where they couldn't really hurt her, and were really happening. Run, she told herself. But his legs were long, and hers were short. She would lose. So she stared at him frozen, in the way that rabbits are apt to.
"Always staring at me," he hissed, "even in the dark, you little freak. You wanted to see who I really am? I'll show you." He raised a hand, with the index and middle fingers held rigid, his pointed nails looking dangerous. He moved faster than Kaede could think, and all she could remember afterwards was screaming. Her hands rushed instinctively to the source of the pain, clawing him out of her, hot blood poured down her face, even spilling into her mouth, she spat it out, but the bitter taste remained.
He licked the blood off his fingers with satisfaction. "Now for the other one, Kaede-chan."
"O-Onigumo!" she said, her voice wheezy from terror and pain. It seemed the moment she said his name, he was no longer able to keep Inuyasha's shape, and bulged with forms monstrous and inhuman.
He narrowed his eyes at her, and took a step back. "I don't have time for this. If they see each other, it's too late. But I'll be back, Kaede-chan." He ran off in the direction she had pointed.
Kaede clutched her right eye, gasping, making a low, keening sound she hadn't used since she was a baby. Hands shaking badly, she reached for the bandages, starting to retch in horror. She wrapped the wound, the way Kikyou had showed her. She started to run towards Kikyou, but her knees had gone weak, and she fell sometimes. She had to stop once to vomit, and a few other times because she was about to pass out, but she pressed on, terrified for her sister.
Kikyou had been smiling so sweetly that morning, assured of a life of bliss. She kept remembering that, and it gave her strength. Even though nightmares were real, now.
When she found Kikyou, she knew it was the end of their world. Her once omnipotent guardian was staggering badly, leaving an alarming trail of blood. She reached for her bandages, but Kikyou stayed her hand. "It's too late for me, Kaede-chan. Help me get my revenge." Kaede nodded, past crying, past feeling, just forcing her trembling cold body to keep up.
Kikyou saw her mutilated eye. "For that alone, I would kill him," she growled. "I'm so sorry I dragged you into this, I'm so sorry..."
Kaede forgave her, and let her sister lean on her. "It's going to be hard on you, Kaede-chan," Kikyou said, as if she was under a great weight. "I never wanted you to be alone, so young. You'll have to be so strong. And you'll always be alone. The moment you let someone in, you won't be able to protect yourself, or anyone else. It's such a cruel burden, my Kaede-chan," Kikyou said, crying now, gripping her bow so hard the tendons could be seen through her skin, and leaning on Kaede with all her weight.
"I'll kill him," Kikyou snarled, "I'll kill him, I'll kill him," saying it again and again until it became a meaningless mantra, a spell to keep them moving forward.
When she laid eyes on Inuyasha, jewel in hand, running amok through the village, she summoned the last of her strength, and stood on her own. He was smiling cruelly, enjoying the helplessness of the villagers. She was a fool to think he'd ever give his demon power up. She was a fool in so many ways, she saw that now, but she didn't see that she was still a fool, as she loosed the arrow. Though she knew that she was weak; she had not shot to kill, after all. For some inexplicable reason, when she looked into his amber eyes, she felt that he could not have done these things. Foolish to the end, she thought, falling to her knees, the sound of concerned villagers a meaningless din in her ears, telling Kaede what to do with the jewel with her words, and what to do with her heart with her eyes. Don't be a fool, Kaede-chan. Don't fall in love. Be wise, be strong, live for me, Kaede-chan.
Kaede saw every word.