This is for the summer challenge contest on the Inuyashafanfic LJ community. Word count, 1236.


The miasma, stifling in any weather, seems to have mutated in the heat, become an animal, closing over her nostrils, slipping down her throat to gag her, so Kagura has to get away. She isn't capable of reason anymore, or logical self-preservation, she feels only a panic, like the razor spurs used in cockfights, driving her to fight or flight, and possibly both at once.

Naraku takes the feathers out of her hair, but lets her keep her fan. There is a sheen of perspiration on him, but it looks ethereal, as if it were made of light, and not normal sticky sweat. He says nothing, but crooks his finger slightly, and she feels something in her chest, the closest description would be a tickle, but that would be understating it; this feeling sends shudders through her, makes her feel as if her ribs are not her own.

Just a warning, of course.

So, her feathers stolen, and by extension her wings, she runs, heels kicking up against the back of her skirts, which offer little give. She strips layers as she runs, not caring anymore about modesty, her only goal to relieve some of the itch and torment of her dusty silks.

Out of the miasma, she has stripped to her loincloth, which sticks to her, sweat gathering underneath her breasts and running, articles of clothing billowing out in both hands, her fan gripped in her mouth like an assassin's knife. Her hair is coming out of its pinning, falling about her in thin, wet locks that look heavier than they are.

The land is burning. No, it is in embers.

She remembers spring. When the world shifted from things coming down to things coming up. She remembers thinking that the seasons were like a saw, push and pull to wear down the world. Spring was a pretty thing, dew hanging onto new life, sparkling with a harmless sun. But this, to her, is not pretty. It's far beyond that—it's beautiful.

She dumps her clothes on the ground unceremoniously, and even the soft thud they make when they land seems muted. She holds her fan out in ready fingers, blocking out a mountain, the sun, a patch of sky, as if it were easier to devour the land in pieces.

This is her first time seeing the world smolder. She has felt it many times before, brushing against the feathery wilting weeds, long and sinuous and blind. But she never imagined this light that is tangible, pressing down on the world hard enough to crush it; she thinks she hears the brittle things cracking under its weight.

She drops in amongst the dead things like one of them, looking like a broken reed that flowered too late in the season. Things poke her and stick to her, the surviving insects crawl upon her, one big brown spider goes right across her face, but she lays there as if there is a bear watching her, ready to devour her if she stirs.

.

Naraku sees the waves, through his slitted windows. He rode on waves of heat and pain once, he burned to a husk like the land. If he has burned, and he has fallen, perhaps now he is in winter, forever out of sync with the natural world.

He wonders what is wrong with Kagura. It doesn't occur to him that maybe, in her own way, she came out right despite his efforts, in his mind, he created her with an intent, and she does not reflect it. In truth, he had desired a mate, someone to rule by his side, help him forget about Kikyou, and maybe, just maybe, understand him. Perhaps taking the phrase 'other half' too literally, he'd made her like himself, only female. Wanting someone worthy of him, he chose to give her an autonomous will. At the time, it made sense--a mate cannot be someone completely controlled by you, that's a concubine, or a kept whore.

But she is more than a detachment, and less than an equal. Her hatred is his, and both are aimed at his heart. She is air, the kind that needs to move, the wind that sweeps away stagnation like himself; his miasma chokes her, for all they should be alike.

And she walks into the blaze that he fears. Ready to burn and fall, while he hibernates under layers of frost.

His reasons for creating her, in the end, were selfish, he knows that. Little different from any other parent or god, he sought to make a living thing in his own image, to improve on his flaws, be better than him, yet know its place and worship him.

He is still selfish. In one hand, he holds her feathers, in the other, her heart. He is tempted to destroy her, for her impudence and supposed imperfection. And he is tempted to watch her fly, the way a child watches a kite, sailing above the waves of heat, free as he wants to be.

.

Kagura fills her eyes with sky and sun, entranced by this new world, oppressive yet freeing. She dances, dripping, dizzy, going round and round with flourishes of fan, which is almost a part of her. The wind is thick and lazy, when spurred by her, it responds like a prodded donkey, a quick hobble to escape her, only to still again. Sweat lies viscous on her skin, making her feel that she is swimming—no, drowning—in a sea of hot air.

Naraku finds her, and she snaps out of her rapture with a jolt. The trees are silhouetted against the light, casting long shadows, but his silhouette watches her from glowing embers, his shadows crawling up mountains, extending farther than she has flown.

She doesn't cover herself. After one's heart has been seen in cold light, there is nothing left to be modest about. She looks less like a reflection of him now than she does like one of his many shadows, so much frailer and weaker.

He runs his hands over her, not lustful, or even threatening, but boldly possessive, like a musician with their beloved instrument. She feels his fingers acutely, except when he brushes the spider mark, there she is completely numb, a part of her flesh that isn't really hers, that she has no connection to. His hands are very cold, she thinks, though perhaps it is just that she is hot.

He doesn't, after all, kill her or free her. He takes her back and watches her choke, sitting next to Kohaku, whose dry dead eyes stare blindly above his mask, panting in shallow breaths.

The blaze of day recedes into the dark part of her eyes, now so deep only she can see it. She watches Naraku, promising to herself that she will be as the field, lying passive under oppression, but not defeated. She promises herself she will be as the sun, leaving bare embers to burn low until the conditions are right, and she can emerge, a brilliant flame.

She knows, above all else, that she is the wind, he gave her a heart, but not mercy. If she cannot push him down, she will fan the flames his way, and bring summer at last to his flesh.

His is a heart forever in winter, and that is his weakness.