Under the Skin
Blanket disclaimer: Anything you recognize, except for my OCs and the plot, I don't own. I do this for fun and absolutely no profit.
Musashi, Early 1497
The last remnants of winter were fading from the land already, the last tears of the Snow Princess lightly dusting the ground as the earth slowly moved into the change of seasons. Dead brush partially concealed the clearing from the untended shrine in the distance. The ancient Goshinboku spread its branches to the sky in silent supplication, alive even in its death-like sleep. Creeping vines curled around the base of the ancient tree, winding around the deathly-still figure of a boy pinned to the wood.
Like the tree, the silver-haired boy was alive and, paradoxically, dead at the same time. A geas had bound him in that state, doomed to remain a prisoner outside of life and death for all eternity.
Amber eyes narrowed in undisguised disgust and anger at the imprisoned boy. Then, they snapped away, fixed on the withered form of a human woman – a kuro miko with a scarred right eye. She had the faint scent of youkai lingering on her, but it was of no difference to him. He had hired her for her talents, not for the low-classed creatures she bartered with.
"This Sesshoumaru is not enamored of delays, ningen," he hissed dangerously, a sneer curling his lips. No, he had waited far too long to get the inheritance he was entitled to and, now that only a geas and that half-breed brat stood in his way, he would be cursed before he waited any longer.
The kuro miko snorted and slowly approached the base of the tree. "These things take time, my lord, and I am not as young as I used to be," she ground out, using a thicker vine to lift herself up. "Kikyou was powerful – if naïve – and I do not expect her to have made this easy to break."
Sesshoumaru ignored her; youkai of his station did not have to listen to the ignorant babblings of foolish human wretches.
"Stupid girl never should have fallen in love with a hanyou," the kuro miko muttered, intently examining the trapped boy and the arrow pinning him to the tree. "All it brought her was death."
The taiyoukai shot a piercing glare at the old woman. "Need this Sesshoumaru remind you that you are not being paid to talk?"
"You are impatient," the kuro miko said plainly, raising her eyes. "One would almost think my lord is still a child by his tone."
This time he did not conceal his snarl as his eyes flashed with rage. "You forget your place!"
However, she paid him no mind and tentatively reached for the arrow. Pink energy arced along the wooden shaft, crackling angrily at the intruding hand. The kuro miko closed her eyes and frowned, feeling out the energies of the curse. Finally, she drew her hand away and slowly lowered herself from the tree. "I cannot free him from this geas, my lord."
"Explain." It was an order, laced with an undercurrent of growing fury.
She gestured to the boy and absently said, "By Kikyou's hand he was bound, thus by Kikyou's hand he must be unbound."
Silence weighed heavily in the air between demon and human.
"It matters not," the kuro miko sighed, letting her arm fall. "Kikyou is dead. The geas will stand for all time."
That would not do. Sesshoumaru scowled, "Where is her body?"
At that, she laughed. "What would you have me do? I have not the power to raise the dead! Even if I would have such power, it matters not. Fifty years have passed, my lord, more than enough time for a soul to have moved on. You would do better to wait and let her spirit find its way back here."
"And when might this Sesshoumaru expect that to happen?" he bit out, none too pleased.
The kuro miko shook her head. "That, no mortal being can know. It may be centuries before the soul of Kikyou is drawn back to this land."
"Centuries," the taiyoukai repeated blankly. His left eye twitched as his youki boiled beneath his skin. Out of respect for his father, he had waited a century before deciding to pursue Tessaiga. Near to a full century had passed since he had started his search and he was starting to get annoyed. He wanted that sword. Not in centuries, now.
"If that is all, my lord, I would like my payment," the kuro miko announced.
Sesshoumaru forced his ire back for a moment and snarled, "That will not be all, ningen. Your services are still required."
"I hardly think you understand, youkai," she countered, her own aura spiking dangerously as she spat the last word. "There is nothing more I can do for you."
The youki whirled into a frenzy, burning for blood, and he was all too glad to waken the poison in his veins. This impudent human deserved to die. Disrespect would not be tolerated. "You will do as this Sesshoumaru commands or you will die," he growled with bared teeth, slowly raising his left hand. The glowing sickly green poison swirled around his hand dangerously.
"I will do no such thing, you spoiled brat!" the kuro miko shouted. "Come to your senses and accept that you are powerless in matters beyond this world!"
She is still useful, he reminded himself and charged forward. His right hand easily clamped around her throat, keeping her from moving but not choking – not yet, anyway. Human flesh was so easily damaged. "I beg to differ," he hissed, raising his left hand.
The kuro miko radiated anger, touched with the tang of fear. Her eyes locked onto his, blazing with defiance. "You foolish boy," she whispered. "As impatient as a child..."
Her aura flared brilliantly as lancing pain shot through his leg. The taiyoukai glanced down and internally swore. A hebi shikigami coiled around his lower leg, its fangs sunk deep into his thigh. With his free hand, he tore the serpent away and dissolved it with his poison, only to howl in anger when a second shikigami sunk its fangs into his shoulder. He was forced to drop the kuro miko to reach it, but it made no difference now: he was going to kill her for this.
"Old as you are, lord youkai, in manner you are still a child," she continued, narrowing her eyes at him as another shikigami struck. "A brat such as you sees naught beyond their own desires and whims."
Sesshoumaru growled at her, his eyes bleeding red. "How dare you!" he roared, the urge to see her body torn to shreds beneath the paws of his true form rising strongly. He violently ripped the hebi shikigami from his shoulder, crushing it in an instant. He fully intended to do the same to the damn human.
The kuro miko shook her head slowly and raised her hands. The energy that gathered there was tainted with darkness, but its very nature was still anathema to his kind. "You are no better than a child, youkai," she hissed, letting her energy pool even further. "No better than a filthy ningen child!"
With that, she shoved the burning energy right into his face.
Roaring in pain as he was violently thrown back, the taiyoukai was slammed into a tree and slid to the ground less than gracefully. His vision was now a curtain of blood, but his healing abilities were quick and would fix that soon enough. Instinctively, he leapt to his feet and focused on finding the human with his intact senses.
The next blast was more powerful, flinging him a good distance out of the clearing and set his senses reeling. Disoriented, he struggled to gain his bearings and wiped his rapidly healing eyes of his blood with a sleeve. "Kuso," Sesshoumaru ground out through his bared teeth. Holy energy, even tainted, hurt like all hell when wielded by someone who actually had the talent for it. Of course, it would take more than that to kill a youkai of his station – a hell of a lot more. The worst this human filth could do was smack him around a little and scratch his skin.
He waited, listening carefully for the approach of the kuro miko. His vision was still blurry, but it was getting better every second. A twig snapped and he launched himself at the sound, claws reaching for his target. Hot blood washed over his fingers as he impaled his right hand into her shoulder and then the burning energy slammed into his right side. With a yelp, he withdrew his hand from the wound and leapt back.
"Heh, youkai..." the kuro miko smiled grimly, pressing her hand over the gaping wound. "You're persistent."
"Silence, subeta," Sesshoumaru snarled, dropping low to the ground. He wanted to transform and litter her blood all over Musashi, but it seemed much too impersonal a way to kill this bitch.
"Your brother was persistent, too, you know," she said, eyes deadly cold. "Ironic, isn't it, that you, his elder, are to share a similar fate."
That tore it. The taiyoukai howled in pure rage, his eyes a violent bloody red, and launched at the kuro miko, intent on her utter obliteration. It seemed she had been expecting this and pushed almost every ounce of energy she had against him. Dimly, he became aware that the energy was pushing into the unhealed wounds caused by the shikigami before he was tossed back like a rag doll for the third time. There was a sickening crack as his head connected with something hard and he dropped into darkness.
Slowly, the kuro miko staggered out of the trees, and made her way to the old dry well. A streak of fresh youkai blood ran down the inside. Of all the good luck: the bastard landed in the Bone Eater's Well!
"Zamaamiyagare!" she said coldly and spat on the ground. Then, she turned away and frowned. "...Bastard didn't even pay me."
Tokyo, Early 1997
It was a normal day in the Higurashi household. Souta was trying to coax Buyo out of his closet with one of the plastic jewel charms from the gift shop. Jii-chan was attempting to lecture Kagome on one of the many shrine legends while she did her homework. And Mama – as she affectionately preferred to be called – was cleaning up the dishes from dinner.
Yes, life was astoundingly normal for this little shrine family.
Unfortunately, 'normal' decided to fly out the proverbial window at this point in time and drop something entirely unexpected into the laps of the Higurashi family.
A loud boom, followed shortly by brilliant light, came from the direction of the well house. The entire household stopped. Mama put down the plate she was washing, looked to Jii-chan, and then looked to her daughter.
"Kagome, go get the baseball bat and a flashlight from Souta's room," she said, finally. Her daughter nodded and obediently went to retrieve said objects.
"I'll bet its vandals!" Jii-chan cried, looking devastated. "The Bone Eater's Well has been here for over five hundred years! What if it was damaged?"
Mama rolled her eyes and sighed. "Jii-chan, why don't you go call the police for me? I'm sure whoever it was didn't stay after that, but I still should have a look around."
"What if it was the youkai?" the old man protested. "You're not going out there without the proper wards, young lady!"
She shot him a stern look. "Jii-chan... the light didn't come from the shrine of Inuyasha. I think we would know if he got loose. Mou... Can you imagine a youkai from the Sengoku Jidai running around in Tokyo? Poor thing would probably die of shock!"
"POOR THING!" he shouted, aghast. "Youkai are not 'poor things'!"
Kagome fortunately returned at this point and Mama gratefully accepted the baseball bat and the flashlight. She quickly checked the batteries and gave her daughter a look that firmly said to hold down the fort until she returned. With bat and flashlight at ready, Mama went into the living room and fearlessly opened the shoji door.
Jii-chan wailed something about 'evil, human-devouring youkai' and 'sharp, pointy teeth' from inside before the diligent Kagome shut the shoji door again.
Mama silently blessed her daughter and continued on to the well house. A light dusting of snow covered the ground – late for this time of year – but, as she trained the flashlight over the powdery snow, she could find no evidence than anyone had passed here at all. Raising the flashlight to the well house itself, she could plainly see that the doors were still intact and closed.
She paused at the doors, raising the bat and taking a deep breath.
"Well, are you going in or not?" Jii-chan asked from beside her. Kagome and Souta stood behind him, both wearing curious expressions.
"KYAHHHHHHHH!" Mama shrieked, practically leaping in surprise. "What are you doing out here!"
"I wanted to see the youkai!" Souta replied, not realizing that it had been a rhetorical question aimed at the whole group.
Mama's eye twitched involuntarily. "Then go to the Goshinboku and visit Inuyasha's shrine."
"Mou... But he doesn't do anything, Mama!" the little boy complained.
"Da-hah! That's right!" Jii-chan proclaimed with pride. "He was bound by the most powerful of seals and our ancestors have maintained them since that time, so that his evil may never scourge the land again!"
Kagome rolled her eyes.
Mama sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose in an attempt to ward off the rapidly forming headache her family was giving her. Kami-sama, she loved them, but there were times that she wanted to strangle them all! "BACK TO THE HOUSE! ALL OF YOU!" she cried, using the dreaded technique taught to her by the women of the Tendo Dojo.
Seeing the Aura of Doom shooting up around their mother, Kagome and Souta wisely fled back to the safety of the house. Jii-chan, naturally, was completely oblivious and had to be dragged along by the two children.
Once again, Mama turned to the doors of the well house and carefully slid them open. She raised the flashlight and slowly swept it over the room. Pieces of the well's wooden cover were scattered all over the ground. It was as though something had burst from inside the well – which, of course, was impossible.
A soft, dog-like whine came from inside the well.
Startled, Mama hurried down the stairs and pointed the flashlight down into the well. "Oh, kami-sama!" she gasped, seeing the form curled on the bottom. "Stay right there! I'm going to get a ladder!"
Sesshoumaru lay absolutely still in the darkness of the dry well. His entire body was in burning pain from the tainted purification energy and most of his senses were significantly dampened. It wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't gotten into those wounds from the shikigami, but that seemed to have been the damn kuro miko's idea from the start. He seethed internally, unable to even snarl without pain. The bitch must have known that it was harder for him to fight purification attacks if they got under his skin. As soon as his youki fought off this energy, he was going to track her down and rip her to pieces... slowly.
His senses may have been all out of sorts from the energy, but he was quite certain that he heard a scream and some muted voices. He hoped it was some villagers stumbling across the kuro miko's body. She had been bleeding badly from the hole he put through her shoulder and humans were far too weak to survive those types of injuries for very long. There was more shouting and a flare of youki just on the edge of his senses. Nothing to worry about as long as they didn't look in the well, he reasoned.
And that was when the burning pain decided to get worse.
Sesshoumaru couldn't stop the soft whine that escaped his throat as the pain lanced through his body. Kuso! What the hell was going on? It shouldn't be getting worse! Clamping his eyes shut and clenching his teeth, he tried to focus on gathering his youki. He was a taiyoukai, damn it, and he would not be cowed by the tainted energy of some insolent, puny human bitch!
Dimly, he was able to make out the sound of movement above him, followed by the thud of something landing nearby. He whimpered as another lance of pain shot through his body, sending stars shooting across his eyelids.
"Are you all right?" a voice – female, he noted absently – asked from somewhere close by.
"...Hurts," he growled, in too much pain to say anything else.
"Hold on, we're going to get you out of here," the woman's voice said soothingly. Icy fingertips touched his skin. "Can you tell me your name?"
"...esshou..." he slurred. It was getting difficult to think straight.
"It's going to be OK," the woman said.
What a weird word, he thought before finally passing out.
AN: The Sesshoumaru plushie compelled me to write this, which started out as a weird plotbunny about youki and then got transformed by the plushie into something completely different. Sesshie is a bad-ass, but he strikes me as such a brat sometimes. Yeah, there is a reference to Ranma 1/2 in there somewhere. More of a nod, actually. Inuyasha will show up in the next chapter or two. Sorry if Sesshoumaru seems a little out of character, but the black miko does basically insult him when he's already angry and then – to add insult to injury – compares him to his half-brother, which as we all know is a big no-no with both Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru.
Words I used that you probably don't know and I use because I feel they don't really translate into English well but more accurately fit the feeling of the scene:
Hebi – snake, serpent
Subeta – (expletive) "bitch"
Zamaamiyagare! – Very rude way of saying "You got what you deserved!" More akin to "You got what you effing deserved!"
Mou – sound used to express disappointment or something to that effect. No real translation.