Oni-mo-naku (Even a demon cries) by roku kyu
Disclaimer 1: The characters from Inuyasha are the creations and property of Rumiko Takahashi and related enterprises. I do not make any profit from this fanfiction.
Disclaimer 2: The world of the Western dog clans with its politics and social hierarchies centered in the High Stone is the creation of the wonderfully complex imagination of Becky Tailweaver, as laid out in her epic fanfiction novel, "The White Dog." Also belonging to Becky are her original characters of Lord Seibunishi, Lady Ayako, Lady Yukishima, and all others created in "The White Dog." The setting of this story in the High Stone and the original characters from "The White Dog" are used here with the express permission of Becky Tailweaver, and may not be used elsewhere without her permission.
This story is "alternate TWD universe" and an unofficial sequel to "Dandelion," my brief one-shot which Becky was kind enough to adopt into the "TWD" saga. The official TWD sequel to "Dandelion" is Becky Tailweaver's "Fall of a Prince," also posted on this site. Confused yet? I apologize, and also offer more explanations in the ending author notes.
Musical selection: "Starlight," by Jim Brickman, from his CD, "The Gift"; vocals by Kenny Loggins; Windham Hill Records, 1997.
Chapter 1. Starlight
In western Japan, in a prefecture north of Kyoto, there is a legend called Oni-mo-naku: "Even a demon cries." This legend says that if a demon were to hear a cradle song sung by a human mother, his heart will become tender, and he will no longer cause destruction.
But the legend fails to tell what becomes of the demon.
The last red ray of the sun slipped over the rim of the Western lands, leaving only a faint golden glow that retreated before the encroaching twilight. The huge natural edifice known as the High Stone cast its long shadow across its flanking eastern plain, stretching more than halfway to the wild, untamed forest to the north.
A gentle slope on the edge of the forest reflected the light of the dying day, the soft glow illuming a figure seated in the long grass. The figure sat very still and erect, unmoving but for strands of silver-white hair lifted by the quickening breeze. Eyes of brilliant gold gazed impassively into the fading light, giving the impression of a mind lost deep in thought, caught in a meditative state between wakefulness and sleep.
"Inuyasha." His lips barely moved, yet the quiet word resonated with command.
He was answered by a furtive rustle in the long grass. The rustle approached him, then stopped, as if reluctant to come nearer.
"Do not make me call you a second time." The threat beneath the calm, silken tones was unmistakable.
The rustle started and stopped once more. Behind the seated figure, a pair of rounded white puppy ears popped up above the grass, swiveling in every direction as if to track its quarry. The ears disappeared again as the stalker made his stealthy advance, unaware that his presence was betrayed by a red-clad rump parting the green strands.
Suddenly the rustle increased in intensity, and the stalker came leaping out of the concealing foliage, fangs bared and claws extended as he sailed towards his prey.
A long arm shot out and caught the airborne attacker by the back of his silk kimono jacket, holding him dangling helplessly a meter above the ground before bringing him around to face the cool, golden eyes.
"You might do well to restrain your cry of triumph until you actually have your prey between your claws. A slumbering water buffalo would be half a league out of your reach by now."
Inuyasha wriggled joyfully at the rebuke, twisting happily in his brother's clawed grip. His short, fluffy mop of hair blew about in the stiffening breeze as he made mock-threatening growls and swiped his claws at the empty air between himself and his elder brother.
The arm brought him closer to face the impassive gaze that had reduced many a bold young demon to abject terror. Inuyasha, however, merely flattened his ears and wiggled so excitedly that he nearly broke his brother's grip. His mouth opened, and an eager pink tongue made its appearance…
"Do not imagine for a moment that I will permit you to lick me!" The sharp rebuke halted Inuyasha at once, and the puppy ears drooped sadly sideways.
Sesshoumaru sighed. "Oh, very well. Ten minutes more, and not one moment longer." His tone sharpened. "But do not leave my sight, Inuyasha. The bottom-feeding dwellers of the forest grow active at nightfall, and they lack sufficient intellect to distinguish the future daimyo of the Western Lands from their evening repast."
The claws relaxed, and Inuyasha fell to the ground, bouncing once and rolling before regaining his feet and running happily through the tall grass. He appeared to heed his brother's words, however, straying no more than ten meters from Sesshoumaru's side.
Sesshoumaru surveyed the land around him, scenting the nocturnal stirrings in the nearby forest and scanning the sky for aerial hunters. He sent pulses of his demon ki into the surrounding area, conveying a message understandable to even the most primitive and mindless of the predatory demons.
My land--my prey. Encroach, and you will die.
Satisfied that he had set up a protective barrier against most types of demon predators, Sesshoumaru let himself relax, imperceptibly releasing some of the tension in his erect bearing. He turned to watch Inuyasha stalk the fireflies who blinked above the whispering fronds. The tiny half-youkai would leap at them and miss, only occasionally capturing a dull black beetle in a tiny clawed hand, then shaking it off in disgust as he turned to hunt the fascinating phosphorescent green variety.
The young demon lord lifted his eyes to the skies once again, noting the appearance of the first evening star. Here it was then: the feeling he had been waiting for. The unfamiliar feeling of contentment...and peace.
He savored it, half-closing his eyes and tasting it in the air; this feeling that only descended on him when he was in his half-brother's presence. This was the reason he accepted the responsibility for Inuyasha on random nights and days; these moments when the attendant annoyances of looking after an active toddler faded away, and soft tranquillity stole into his cold and wounded heart.
Inuyasha reappeared suddenly out of the grass and crawled into Sesshoumaru's lap, wearied by the exuberance of the day. He leaned nonchalantly against the rich silk kimono as if he were entitled to use a demon lord as a resting place.
"Upstart brat," murmured Sesshoumaru, but Inuyasha heard only the rumble of affectionate amusement and lolled against the silver-threaded silk, clutching occasionally at the fireflies that danced lazily out of his reach.
Finally he yawned a pink, tiny-fanged yawn, signaling the end of his evening sport. Sesshoumaru rose gracefully to his feet, holding Inuyasha against his chest as he walked toward the looming precipice that was their home. He shifted the child to his right shoulder as he straightened his posture, stalking with impressive dignity past the half-hidden guards of the High Stone. But Inuyasha half-opened his eyes to look back over his brother's shoulder and sleepily swipe a claw in challenge at the armored demons, making them exchange smiles as the Great Lord's sons passed by.
There were many smiles exchanged behind their backs as the odd procession of dignified demon lord and baby han-youkai stalked through the vaulted halls of the High Stone. Sesshoumaru was surprised by his lack of resentment toward the amusement that followed him; perhaps his inner senses recognized that there was no mockery meant in their warm smiles.
Nevertheless, he drew an imperceptible breath of relief as he reached his quarters in the lower halls, nodding at the guards before closing his chamber door. He gently placed the dozing child on his bed, then moved quietly around the bath and bedchamber, preparing himself for sleep. It was an early night for him, but previous experience babysitting Inuyasha had taught him that the child was an early riser, insistent on all adults around him engaging in active play at the first light of dawn.
Sesshoumaru shed his silver-threaded garments in his bathchamber and paused before the deep pool of steaming water, before shaking his head and continuing with only the furo bath with basin and bathing stool. He would wait until morning for the full bath, taking Inuyasha in with him. The water in the soaking pool would be cold by then, but it would be a good lesson for the pup that demons did not need the human comforts of hot water.
He fastened his white silk yukata and returned to the bedroom, lifting the dozing child and changing him into a similar sleep kimono. A sudden impulse made him lift Inuyasha from the bed and walk over to the window. He cradled his brother in his arms, looking up at the stars and savoring the peace once more. Sesshoumaru lowered his face to the soft white fluff on his brother's head, feeling the gossamer strands tickle his nose.
"Tanpopo-chan," he whispered. "Little dandelion…" then turned and lay down on the bed, curling his tail around his brother's tiny form.
High above Sesshoumaru's quarters, in a richly appointed suite of chambers far from the center of the High Stone, a low-ranking servant demon carefully swept up the shining threads of the shredded tapestry that lay scattered about the reception room. She kept her eyes cast down, trying to appear dull and stupid so that the Lady would not turn her vicious temper on herself. If she hurried, she might finish her task and make a quick exit before the Lady even noted her presence.
Suddenly she felt a chill presence in the room, as if one of the seven hells had just exhaled an icy breath. It was too late; all she could hope for was to grovel low enough that she could escape with only minor injuries.
"Girl." The voice was smooth as silk and cold as death, and the demon servant quaked despite her best efforts. "You have been clumsy in damaging my favorite tapestry. Its value was…incalculable."
The girl threw herself on the ground, prostrating herself in a deep bow as tears of terror escaped her. She suppressed her protests of innocence, not being fool enough to point out that it was the Lady herself who had shredded the tapestry in a fit of rage. No, the vicious maiming of her predecessors in the Lady's service had taught her the value of silence.
She remained crouched and trembling, trying to keep herself from whimpering aloud. She heard the whisper of silk as the Lady moved closer, then felt pressure on her neck as a silken slipper was placed on the back of her head. The pressure increased…then subsided, and the silk robes whispered away again.
"You may rise."
The servant girl rose shakily to her feet, keeping her eyes fixed on the ground.
"Look at me."
The girl slowly raised her eyes, forcing down the bile in her throat.
Not that Lady Yukishima was a creature vile in appearance. She was very old, it was true, but her beauty still shone with a terrible light, a beauty marred only by the stripes on her face and arms and by the pale yellow coldness of her pitiless eyes. She enhanced her beauty with the careful application of paints and powders, and the girl found herself reluctantly fascinated by the crimson fullness of the Lady's painted lips.
She looked as if she had been drinking blood.
"What do you see?"
The girl jumped, fighting to keep from crying out in despair. Did Lady Yukishima have the gift of reading minds? If so, she would be dead before she hit the floor. But if not…
The girl swallowed and licked her dry lips. "You are very beautiful, my Lady," she whispered.
Lady Yukishima stood in place, drawing out the silence until the girl thought that she would succumb to the tension, and begin screaming and weeping for mercy. But just as she drew in a trembling breath, Yukishima spoke again.
"You are pleasing in your choice of words, girl--and in your understanding of the importance of silence. Perhaps I shall be merciful and forgive you for your clumsiness. However…"
The girl held still.
"Mercy can be a difficult thing to remember, when I am faced each day with the absence of my tapestry. I will need you to remind me of my better nature, girl. Perhaps the opportunity will arise one day for you to repay the debt, so that I may forget this incident ever happened."
"I…I have no money nor belongings of value, My Lady."
Yukishima approached and lifted the girl's chin with one poison-clawed hand, drawing her lips back over her teeth. "I do not speak of such mundane matters as material recompense. Someday, my girl, you will do me a favor--a favor small in execution but large in discretion. On that day, I shall forgive your debt. Do we understand one another?"
"Yes, My Lady! Thank you, My Lady!"
Yukishima waved her hand dismissively. "You may leave now."
The girl dropped into a deep and humble bow, then rose and fled the room.
Yukishima stood in her inner chamber, slowly dipping a fine horsehair brush into a pot of red ink. She placed the brush against a sheet of blank white rice paper and drew the first sweeping lines of the kanji.
Sesshoumaru. Destroying Force. The Killing Blade.
I should have named him "Lapdog," Yukishima thought bitterly, thrusting the brush back into the inkpot.
Sesshoumaru was turning into Seibunishi's creature, a tame demon so abjectly grateful for any scraps of attention his father chose to toss in his direction that he had lowered himself to the position of nursemaid to his father's bastard heir.
The brush came up out of the inkpot and slapped against the paper in harsh, swift strokes.
Hanyou. Half-youkai. Half-human, half-demon.
Ironic that it took only half of a demon to destroy her carefully constructed plans. But Seibunishi was a crafty foe, and she had made a grave error in underestimating him. His designation of his second son as heir had been a move that had decimated her centuries-long plan to seize power through Sesshoumaru.
Red ink spattered as the brush swirled wildly.
Seibunishi. Bastard lord of the Western Lands. Unwilling mate for a single night. Weak-minded lover of humans, in more ways than one.
Yukishima slammed the brush back into the inkpot, heedless of the drops of red ink now staining her ebony table. She turned and strode around her bedchamber, fighting the impulse to shred and tear every last tapestry, futon, and kimono that rose before her rage-reddened sight. She snarled in frustration, even her beloved calligraphy failing to calm her fury.
A faint glimmer far up in the corner of her vaulted ceiling caught her eye. It was a single thread of a spider's web, catching the light of her oil lamps. The spider moved carefully, patiently weaving in its secretive corner. How many times had the house-servants swept away the web, believing the spider to be vanquished, only to have the persistent arachnid appear from her hiding place and begin weaving again? Yukishima narrowed her eyes at the creature. It no doubt would outlive her own foolish ambitions.
Yukishima turned back towards her writing desk, her mind strangely focused. She carefully lifted the brush once again.
Spider, she wrote. Patience. Perseverance.
She thought about her earlier encounter with the servant girl. Obviously, she had been preparing the girl for some use in her future plans...so why was she on the verge of giving up on her goal?
Her mind drifted back to Seibunishi. Did he really have the wits to use his sons to circumvent her plans--or did he have a different motivation in bringing Sesshoumaru to heel? She had so often derided his weakness for the softer emotions, the humane principles, but had she in her own mind discounted this part of his personality?
The brush swirled again.
Humane. Human. Ningen.
It was true. Seibunishi was what she despised most: a humane demon. A human demon. A hanyou in spirit if not in body.
He believed in the power of the heart.
That was why he wanted Sesshoumaru: not for any clever plan, but for the completion of his happy little family. Seibunishi was all heart--and the heart was the most vulnerable part of any demon's body.
The brush hissed savagely against the rice paper vellum, red ink trailing every stroke like blood. The characters leapt off the paper, connected together in one indisputable pattern.
The Killing Blade.
Pointing at Seibunishi.
Striking through the Hanyou.
Yukishima replaced the brush in its holder and gently blew out the light.
Glossary of Japanese Terms:
Nii-san: Elder brother
Ki: life force, or life energy
Tanpopo-chan: Little Dandelion
Author's Note: (1-7-05) Thank you for reading this first chapter of a multi-chapter story based in Becky Tailweaver's "White Dog" universe.
First of all, I must reiterate that I have used Becky's setting and characters only with her permission. Becky's permission is required for ANY use of her original ideas, so please don't take the existence of this fic as an invitation to plunder her storylines. :P
The next part is a little more difficult to understand. I had written "Dandelion" back in 2002 (once again, with Becky's permission), and Becky was kind enough to adopt it into her "The White Dog" canon. I had some ideas for a sequel to Dandelion--and so did Becky. As it turned out, we diverged a bit, which is a good thing because now there are two stories instead of one.
But THIS IS IMPORTANT: Becky's version, "The Fall of a Prince" is the OFFICIAL version and the OFFICIAL member of the TWD universe.
This story, Oni-Mo-Naku, is kind of an "alternate universe" to the "White Dog" canon, a fanfic of a fanfic, if you will. Becky (who, if you can't tell, I think of as a terrific and kind person, as well as a generous author) went ahead and encouraged me to write this story, and permitted me to use her characters. I think of Oni-mo-naku as a little branch off the TWD river. The TWD river consists of The White Dog of course, followed by its prequel, "Birth of a Son." "Dandelion" is right at the fork in the TWD river, the main branch being "Fall of a Prince," which will then flow into "Death of a King."
The side branch off the "Dandelion" fork is Oni-mo-naku, which will have too many inconsistencies with Becky's vision to qualify as a TWD member--but I hope it will be a fun read, anyway.
Thank you for trying to sort through these convoluted explanations. I also owe many thanks to all of you who reviewed "Dandelion" but to whom I was unable to reply because it was a one-shot. I hope you all realize how grateful I am for your encouragement, and how much your thoughtfulness has made my day!
One more important acknowledgment! I obtained the idea for the title of this story and also a brief recitation of the legend from a CD of Taiko Drums by a group called Waidaiko Matsuriza. ("Japanese Drums" by Waidaiko Matsuriza, 2002 ARC Music Productions).