Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha
Thanks to Barb for her powerful skills of observation. LOL
Six Months Earlier…
It was a beautiful late spring day. One of the last before the press of summer heat would descend on them. Late blooming cherry blossom swayed in the breeze, breaking free and blanketing the earth. The sunlight danced across a nearby pond, glittering liquid gold that lured the spotted carp to the surface.
It was perfectly tranquil, and utterly deceiving.
Kagome stared at the bodies that littered the ground before her, dotted with pink petals. They had tracked Naraku's scent to this massacre, the deep trenches in the ground and scattered rubbish marking this as another resting place for his disappearing castle. Once again they were too late. Naraku had moved on, leaving behind more tragedy in his wake.
Wordlessly, Kagome and Sango moved to dig graves while Miroku blessed the dead that waited silently to be buried. Inuyasha traced the perimeter, lifting his face to the wind, grumbling discontentedly under his breath. He moved further and further away, venturing into the forest while ignoring the others. They paid him no mind as they went about their self-appointed, all too familiar tasks.
After a few hours Inuyasha emerged from the forest, a frustrated frown on his boyish face. Kagome straightened from covering a grave, her hands resting on her aching lower back. A refreshing breeze swept though the field, teasing her hair in a light caress. Inuyasha paused, captured at the sight of the young lady who was more woman than girl. Kagome caught sight of him, and a soft beckoning smile lifted her lips, a spot of purity amid so much travesty.
"Were you able to pick up his scent?"
Kagome's soft voice wove its way through the air, luring him towards her. No matter how angry he was, the sight and the sound of her always made him feel better. Reassured.
"No, it's a dead end."
Kagome frowned, and turned towards the east, lifting her face to the breeze. She balled her fists, rolling her knuckles over the tight muscles of her lower back. Inuyasha watched her small hands, struck with the urge to knock them away and rub her back for her.
"Well then, I guess we should head back."
Inuyasha was so distracted by the curve of her back that he almost didn't hear the words.
"What? Hell, no! We need to look around for his trail."
Kagome turned back towards Inuyasha, her frown deepening. He swallowed hard, but he didn't back down.
"But you said it was a dead end," Kagome commented reasonably.
"So? There's got to be a clue around here somewhere. He couldn't have vanished into thin air."
Miroku rested his weight on his hoe, wiping the perspiration from his brow.
"Not true, Inuyasha. I can recall a number of times that Naraku has done just that."
Inuyasha whipped around, his sharp fangs clearly visible beneath the curl of his upper lip.
"Who asked you, Monk?"
Miroku sighed heavily, catching sight of Sango shaking her head from the corner of his eye. She was a firm believer in never involving herself in an argument between Inuyasha and Kagome. She had told him on several occasions that he would be better off keeping his mouth shut, but he never remembered her advice until after the fact.
"Inuyasha." Kagome's sharp voice drew Inuyasha's attention from the monk, and back to her.
"I have to get back to the well. You know that I have an important test."
"Well, it's just gonna hafta wait." Inuyasha folded his hands in his sleeves, and stuck his nose in the air, confident that his word was law.
"Inuyasha, you promised. Are you going to break your promise to me?"
Kagome hurt tone caused his ears to droop slightly, and he knew that he was loosing the battle. He preferred that she yelled at him rather than use that soft wounded voice with him.
Kagome crossed the rest of the distance to him, reaching up to lightly scratch him behind the ear. Unable to resist, he cocked his head to the side, leaning into her caress.
"Besides you know it would be better if we were in my time in three days."
Inuyasha's ears drooped even further. How could he have forgotten about the new moon? Although Kagome's time was still unfamiliar to him, it was much safer to be human there than it was in his era.
"Taking orders from a human female, brother? How pathetic."
The whole crew whirled around to face Sessomaru who stood at the edge of the clearing, his aristocratic face completely void of feeling, only his voice relaying his disgust for his hanyou brother.
Inuyasha felt the familiar fury rise up inside of him at the sight of his arrogant brother. Sessomaru had snuck up on him from downwind to purposely embarrass him in front of his pack, he was sure of it.
"Shut up, Sessomaru. It's none of your business."
"You are always in the company of these humans. It's an embarrassment."
Inuyasha scoffed a coughing sound in the back of his throat.
"You should talk. Where's that little girl that's always following you around?"
For a split second, Kagome thought she saw of flash of something unrecognizable in Sessomaru's cold eyes, but it quickly melted away.
"She is nothing more than a possession. A pet if you will, but your behavior is deplorable. No matter how tainted your blood, you are still the son of the Great Lord of the Western Lands, not some human's leashed dog."
Inuyasha's white hair flared out behind him as his hackles rose at his brother's disrespectful sneer.
"What the hell do you care, Sessomaru?"
"Quite right. This Sessomaru does not care if you bow to a worthless human peasant."
Inuyasha gripped the hilt of his sword, his knuckles blanching white. Sessomaru raised one silver brow in mocking, but otherwise remained motionless.
"Don't talk about Kagome that way. She's not a peasant."
"No matter their breeding all humans are peasants when in the presence of the great Sessomaru."
"I don't care what you think about me, but watch your fucking mouth when you talk about Kagome."
Inuyasha took a threatening step forward, but Kagome caught his arm. She was unwilling to see him in another fight with his brother. One of these days, Sessomaru just might not walk away, and she wasn't sure that Inuyasha would survive.
"Careful brother or she'll end up killing you like your whore of a mother killed our father."
Inuyasha's flushed face washed pale at Sessomaru's cold words. Kagome's soft brown eyes widened in shock and she quickly darted a look at Inuyasha. Sango and Miroku wisely kept to their own counsel as they watched the events unfold.
Inuyasha began to sputter, and Kagome could see the fury that was boiling up inside of him.
"My mother was not a whore, and she didn't kill father!"
Inuyasha unsheathed the Tessaiga, seeking its calming effect on his blood. He could not believe that Sessomaru would twist the past so terribly, but he couldn't discount the core of truth in his words.
Before Inuyasha could respond, Sessomaru turned his back on his half-breed brother, and floated away on a cloud.
Inuyasha quivered with unsuppressed rage as a hateful growl reverberated in his chest. Distantly he was aware of Kagome's small hand on his arm, stroking him softly while she whispered nonsense in his ear. Slowly his blood cooled from a boil to a simmer, and he was able to concentrate on what she was saying.
"It's okay Inuyasha. Don't let his words upset you. They are only that, words. Of course they aren't true."
Inuyasha yanked his arm away from her touch, his ears laid flat along his skull.
"Whatever. Get your shit together and let's go," he snapped as he stalked away.
He stopped at the head of the path that led home, waiting impatiently for everyone else to catch up. They gathered their supplies, said the last few prayers to the dead, and hurried after their demon companion who remained silent for the entire trip home.
As they exited the clearing there was a small disruption in the air behind them, a ripple, and then nothing.
"What do you suppose that funny little girl meant by 'her time'?"
Kagura leisurely waved her fan, cooling the mild heat of the dying spring day.
Beside her the hooded figure of a baboon gazed intently into the mirror that Kanna held. When Naraku didn't respond, Kagura rolled her ruby red eyes, and chanced a glance at Kohaku who stood against the wall, as far away from the group as possible.
After decades of silence, Naraku finally lifted his head, a glint of determination in his eyes.
"Kohaku follow after them. Find out about this well they mentioned."
Without a word Kohaku left the room, not even the echo of his footsteps to follow him. Kagura suppressed a shiver as she stared into the darkness that he had disappeared into. The boy gave her the willies. There was something just not right about him
"Kagura." She snapped around to face her master, suppressing an even bigger shudder as she looked into the soulless face of his mask. The boy may be weird, but Naraku was far scarier. She hated him with ever fiber of her being.
"You're with me."
His voice was emotionless, but Kagura couldn't help but to think that he was laughing at her deep inside. He knew that she hated him and, given the chance, she would betray him in a heartbeat.
She followed behind him silently as he exited the cave they were presently hiding in. As they breached the surface she gracefully extended her feather, waiting graciously as Naraku climbed on with her.
"Where north?" She hated the games Naraku played. How she wished she could take her fans and shove them down his throat.
He turned towards her as though he could hear her thoughts, his lips curling up in a lazy smile.
"Just go north until I tell you differently."
Kagura shrugged, trying to ignore the sensation of her skin trying to crawl away from her bones. Her feather drifted up into the air currents, speeding them north under the guidance of the full moon.
They flew inland until they came to Chuzenji Lake. Kagura eyed the Buddhist temple as they passed, silently wondering why Naraku dared to come so close to sacred ground.
Naraku directed them across the lake to Kegan Falls. After a moment of hesitation Kagura flew them through the sheet of water to a hidden cave that ran deep into the mountain. She landed her feather on the slippery steps, her red eyes drilling holes of hate in Naraku's back as she shook out her sodden kimono.
Without looking back to see if she followed, Naraku made his way down the steps and into the dark heart of the mountain. Even with her demon sight, Kagura could barely make out his outline, making her wonder how he found his way.
After what seemed to be a lifetime of walking they came to a chamber that smelled like dragon's breath. Kagura's ruby eyes reflected the orange glow of lava that was pooled in the center surrounded by a ring of the bluest water she had ever seen. As the intense heat hit her like a blast, she was certain that they had found the doorway to hell.
She watched as Naraku entered the room with his usual unafraid saunter, but she opted to stay by the door. Although she was curious about why they were there, she wasn't stupid either.
She jumped a mile high when she heard the slither of reptilian scales behind her. She darted a frightened look behind her, but she saw nothing but suffocating blackness. In the darkness a rumbling sigh echoed and rancid breath brushed over her cheek. Her already pale face blanched white as she backed into the room not daring to turn her back to the door until she was far enough inside. She hurried behind Naraku, knowing full well that if something did attack her he would do nothing to protect her. Her only hope was that nothing would dare attack her while she stood near him.
They made their way to the darkest corner of the room, and Kagura was surprised to see an old woman hunched over, her dark robes obscuring whatever she was looking at on the ground.
"Witch. I have come for answers."
Kagura rolled her eyes. She was amazed that no one had ever taken offense to Naraku's arrogant tone, but then again she had never met anyone more powerful than him either.
"I know the answers that you seek."
The old woman's voice sounded like five hundred year old parchment that flaked apart at the slightest rustle. By the end of her sentence her voice dropped away to nothing, and Kagura had to strain her elfin ears to hear her.
"Then tell me," Naraku demanded.
"First." The old woman held out her frail hand that was nothing more than bone draped with age-spotted skin.
Naraku reached into his baboon fur, pulling out a chunk of gray rock. To Kagura it didn't look like anything special, but the woman began to purr with pleasure when she saw it.
"Ahh, a star from the sky! Yes, this will do nicely for my collection," she chortled with glee.
Kagura raised a finely curved brow, and glanced at Naraku. She had never seen him give payment for any service for as long as she had served him. This old woman must be powerful indeed if she could coerce the cruelest demon to walk Japan into semi-good behavior. She turned back to the old witch, studying her with an attentive eye.
"Now tell me."
"Yes, yes. Let us see."
The old woman brushed back her robes, revealing a bowl that sparkled in the orange glow of the lava like the stars shine in the night sky. Kagura narrowed her eyes, peering closer, gasping when she realized that the bowl was in fact the biggest diamond she had ever seen. How it could have possibly been hollowed out to make a bowl she had no idea.
The witch slipped by them to make her way slowly to the sapphire water that surrounded the molten lava. She carefully ladled some water into the bowl, muttering in a singsong voice before making her way across a narrow earthen bridge. In the center of the room, suspended above the lava was a dais of obsidian.
Beads of sweat began to roll down Kagura's temples as she watched. Even with her demon physique she could never withstand the heat that the old woman had just immersed herself into. The lava flared beneath her, spitting globs of fire at the intruder. Molten heated air seeped towards the woman, brushing uselessly against the fire immune witch.
From a stand in the middle of the dais the witch removed a carved diamond staff that was at least ten feet long. Kagura had to curl her hands into fists to fight the urge to run up and snatch the priceless artifacts from the old woman.
As she watched the old woman dipped the tip of the staff into the boiling lava, pulling it from the pool unharmed. Carefully the witch moved back to her bowl, watching as a small glob of lava dripped off the rod with excruciating slowness.
The witch peered intently into the bowl, her voice rising into an ancient chant that Kagura didn't understand. After long, sweat filled minutes the old woman finally turned to them, her withered appearance commanding complete and total attention.
"The girl in question is not from this time. She is a traveler, an interloper. She freely journeys between the past and the future, meddling where she should not."
Naraku let out a low growl, bidding Kagura to take a cautious step away from him.
"That little harlot has been interfering in my plans since day one. If it wasn't for her I would have succeeded in collecting all of the shards by now."
Naraku turned away from the witch to pace the room. His baboon robes swished around his legs like an angry hiss of a cat. Kagura watched him silently, taking pleasure in his upset. Suddenly he stopped, whirling towards the hag.
"Is there no way to stop her? To prevent her from ever coming? You are the witch of time, it is said that you hold the keys to the doors. Can you not send me back to the beginning so I can kill her with my bare hands?"
Naraku's hands curled into fists before him, and Kagura could practically see blood dripping from them.
"No, no. Time is parallel. If there is a full moon in this time, then there is a full in the time that I can send you. I cannot send you back before the girl journeyed here. At most I could send you back two weeks before today. Or I should say, today in her time."
"Do it!" Naraku commanded.
"Very well, but I will need something. Something from her time."
"That can be arranged."
Naraku turned away from the witch, his empty eyes connecting with Kagura's. Her stomach sank into her bladder as the realization that she was going to have to do something heinous yet again in the name of her master. She straightened, meeting his gaze with pride, determined to never let him see the fear that festered in her heart.