Hey all. Sorry about the long wait. This chapter took some work and my own work and life got in the way. Thank you as always for your feedback. Enjoy.
(-) "Sesshoumaru" – 'The Path to Destiny' (-)
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Chapter 99 : The Fall
Back in the past…
Badly injured and bleeding heavily, Taro slipped around the chunks of rock that were collapsing around him, distancing himself from the epicentre of the mammoth blow and the freakish demoness he had thought to murder along with her son. Almost completely crushed, he had extricated the bone on his other hand to create a double of himself, leaving it to perish under the force of the Lady of the West's meteoric fist while he escaped from below it. The scale and sound of the destruction caused was so massive and deafening that it had served to conceal the signs of his escape from the demoness just as he had hoped. Slithering through the gaps created in the tearing earth he managed to eventually break free of the mass of ground that fell into the darkness beneath.
He slowly lifted himself up onto a ridge that overlooked the gaping wound that the land now bore. The green grass around him was immediately stained a dark red as he bled profusely. He was now only at about thirty-five percent of his combat ability. The realization seemed to bring out the true absurdity of the situation and what had just happened to him. One moment he was about to skewer the mate of the Lord of the West and be well on his way to exacting his revenge against him, and then the next moment he was fighting to stay alive from the damage of a singular fist!? How can one blow have so much raw and explosively destructive power? It was unnatural. It had to be! The gathering of Youki, the stream of power, the change in aura -these are all signs of an impending attack. But he had not sensed or seen a single one of those coming from the demoness before she launched her preposterously powerful attack. How was that possible? The answer to that was that it was not! It was simply not possible! There was something wrong with her! It just didn't make any sense otherwise!
With bloodshot eyes he watched the demoness frown in the distance as she seemed to realize that the chunk of meat and bone at the bottom of the crater was not really him. Dammit! This really put a damper on his plans for revenge. In his current state he would not even be able to fight off the soldiers if he slinked around the demoness to get to her son instead. Shit! How could things go so wrong!? He now saw some truth to the rumours about the strength of the Lady of the West, but that did not explain why she was not better known for it if this was the case. A blow like the one she had inflicted on him would even be enough to seriously damage a Lord. Yes, he was Tai-Youkai himself, but if he was being completely honest he was not on the same level as his late brother in terms of strength or power, even though his bone prison was stronger. But a blow that caused him sixty-five percent damage could, if he was to estimate, cause a Lord a good twenty percent damage! That was a lot! For a single blow that was a whole lot! Just what the hell kind of mate did the Lord of the West get himself! Where did her find a dog demon like her!?
Taro clenched his fists in anger and more blood dripped down over his knuckles before falling to the ground and adding to the volume of the pool of blood already there. "This isn't over! Not by a long shot!" He swore. She might have got the upper hand today, but there would be another day. "If I can't kill you, then I will have to go for your son the next time!" Taro sniggered with maniacal glee. Next time… the pup would be his first target!
Back in the present…
Arcadia stared intently at the surface of the stream that she had seen the shadow disappear under with a strange look on her face. She really did not know what to make of the shadow's reaction before it dived into the water. It was nothing like she expected. She had not been thinking of a reaction from her target, but what she got was certainly not one she was prepared for. When several moments of silence followed, disturbed only by the sound of the wind and the crackling of the fire she had caused down below, she decided it was time to get to the bottom of this mystery and clear any doubts about the identity of the shadow. Was it the Blood Beast or was it not!?
She allowed her body to topple over the cliff and fell through the air with the grace of a swallow, landing on one knee at the bottom. The wind generated from the force of her landing almost blew out the fire burning around her. Almost. The embers caught fire again and continued to burn away, lighting the dark woods in shades of yellow, orange and red. Along with the renewed vigour of the flames, the Youki she detected earlier and deemed to belong to something of great power, once again whisked itself up into the air and made its presence known in the atmosphere. She leisurely strode towards the edge of the bank and the body of water beyond without any hesitation. The demon was still in there.
Bubbles began erupting on the surface of the water and then stopped just as abruptly. A shadow began to rise towards the surface, growing larger as it climbed higher. It stopped just before breaking the surface however. Slowly two hands appeared out of the water and the fingers curved forwards as if to cup something… before mimicking a squeezing action.
"Those a pretty big boobs you have there. HEH!HEH!" Gargled words came out of the water.
For the second time in a short span of time, Arcadia was thrown for a loop. Aside from being shocked from the words she had just heard and the indignity she felt, she questioned the mentality of the demon she was dealing with. Her face tinged pink and she became angry with herself for having a reaction at all to such vile words from a demon!
The demon hands then disappeared back under the water before the surface broke once more revealing his full form. The demon stood on the water as the clouds stopped hiding the moon, giving her a good look at the enemy for the first time. Sharp blue eyes stared back at her with a hint of playfulness while his long golden hair stuck to him like a mane in its dampened state. His blue haori, also wet, was glued to his broad and well defined chest and shoulders. She realized immediately that he was tall and seemed to be very limber. So this was a demon that was capable of taking on a human form, she realized. She had heard of such demons, but had never seen one in person. How interesting!
He seemed very confident in himself, judging by the fact that he was more interested in ogling her rather than assessing the danger he was in. She would make the demon regret such behaviour.
"Leaving aside the cold greeting, who are you?" he asked her, flashing a fanged smile.
She promptly ignored his question. Pointing her sword at him, she indicated her intention to cut him down, which was more of a warning than any of the other demons had received so far. He seemed half disappointed and half curious as he seemed to understand what she was about to do. Yet, he dared to still remain in that unguarded state?!
Narrowing her eyes, Arcadia leapt towards the stream and brought down her sword on the supercilious fool. The demon followed her with his eyes but did not make a move until the very last moment, when he unsheathed a broad-sword to defend himself from her blade. The air coiled around them before the water underneath exploded and rose up into the air in a spiralling column with them at its centre.
The goddess was surprised by the physical strength of this demon. He used only one arm to defend against her and avoid being crushed or sliced apart. That had never happened before… The demon's eyebrow arched upwards while his smile widened.
Jurunetsu was enjoying this. He had no idea where this female came from or why she was attacking him, but this was the most fun he had had in a while. She was as mysterious as she was powerful. Most importantly she was very attractive and had great assets. His widening smile only stopped when he sensed a strange energy slowly reveal itself while the woman strained harder against him. This… this was not demonic energy! It couldn't be. But it was not human either. At least it did not seem to be. But then what the hell was she? As her aura had been concealed he had not thought much about it, but as she released more and more of her strength the strange energy was becoming evident through her blade as well as through her aura which was starting to reveal itself. His eyes darted all over her body trying to figure out what she was, sometimes getting distracted and lingering for too long on her womanly curves. His eyes flew back to her violet ones when the pressure of her blade against his momentarily ceased. Burning red and gold embers from the burning woods began to rain down around them before dying out when they touched the water from the stream at his feet. Her eyes began glowing, the violent darkening. Her aura unwrapped itself from around her… and as soon as Juru felt it in its complete form he had only one thought…
Though her blade never left his it felt like she had pulled it back and then slammed down with one that was a thousand times heavier. Granting he was in his element in the water, the liquid could not hold him up with his power. It began displacing around him, rising up as he was pushed down further and further. He realized the woman was smiling in what seemed like ecstasy. She arched her body back and then drove her weight down through the sword. Unable to withstand the unexpectedly immense force he torpedoed to the bottom while the water once again exploded outwards in a violent eruption before coming down as rain. He hit the ground hard enough to create a crater of mud. What the hell was with that strength, he wondered. Flabbergasted, he did not have time to think on that however as the woman followed him with her blade.
He leapt back and watched as her blade tore a hole through the bottom of the earth. Okay, she's crazy, he decided. He somersaulted backwards and onto dry land and put his sword up just in time to parry a horizontal slice from the woman. This impact was nothing like the first. He felt the power of her slice pass through his arm like a shockwave. Then came more strikes.
The swords of the demon and the goddess clashed again and again. Their masters moved with great agility and flexibility, twisting and turning and somersaulting over each other. The both of them realized that their swords were cancelling out each other's power. So the long blades of green grass, the thick trunked trees, and the creatures of the night were able to witness the battle in silence as they were not eradicated or sent running from the scene of the battle. It became a fight of skill and of strength. Juru had the skill to parry her attacks while she had the strength to push him and push him hard. The two fighters danced in the wind as their swords met each other in sparks of gold under the still night sky.
Arcadia was surprised again by this demon. He had such skill with the sword that it looked like he had trained with it for a very long time. She had thought that demons simply carried some sort of weapon not because they knew how to use it but to intimidate and make their killing easier. But this buffoon knew exactly how to use his blade as seen by how he was parrying her attacks without taking them on directly -in a manner to counteract her obvious superiority over him in terms of strength. She was learning a lot of new things after meeting this demon and it gave her the realization that she had to rethink many of her prior notions about demons and the true extent of their capabilities.
A particularly powerful sweep sent Juru flying back through the air, cracking a tree as he went straight through its trunk. He landed on his feet and deftly hopped back as the female appeared in the air right above him and swung her sword out as she turned a full circle. The air pressure from her sword drew a deep cut in the earth.
Juru slid backwards to a stop, never taking his eyes off his opponent who now hovered in the air.
"Who… what are you?!" he questioned loudly.
He was surprised when she responded. "You do not need to know," she declared. "All you need to know is that you will perish."
Juru could not help the smile of disbelief that formed on his face. "Yeah… that's not going to happen."
The woman raised an eyebrow. She seemed to be genuinely curious about how he thought he was going to prove her words wrong and his right.
"How about instead of fighting, you join me in bed tonight?" Juru asked with a devilish smile.
Arcadia's expression visibly darkened. He was still entertaining such thoughts? What went on in that mind of his?
Juru used her momentary distraction to throw his sword at her. She of course swat it away before it could hit her. But her vision was suddenly filled with yellow as the sneaky demon had speared himself toward her right after throwing his sword.
"I never hit women, but in this case… I'm sure you understand…" he said in a low voice as he appeared within her arm's length. Having climbed into the air to where she was, his fist pierced the air as it arced towards the rib cage on her left side. Juru smirked inwardly. He was better at hand to hand combat than swordplay anyway so why not go for what he was good at. Truth be told he was more comfortable using the immense strength he had inherited as a member of his clan of Sea Dragons rather than showy sword play, at least when it came to fighting a female. The exception was of course Sora. With Sora it would be suicide to take her on with strength.
As the Sea Dragon within him roared, his blood rushed through his arm and ignited the power he held. His fist made impact with a rather loud 'thwoon' sound and the wind streamed out and away from the point of the devastating impact. The punch was powerful enough to easily shatter the rock all the way though a small mountain.
Juru realized something was wrong however when the weight that his fist was pushing against did not go flying away like it was supposed to.
Jaw dropping, he raised his eyes to find his fist blocked by her left arm just above the crux of her elbow. The only thing he managed to move was her hair and her strange white cape like clothing as the wind pushed them back. Smoke rose into the air from the point of impact.
'Uh-Oh!' Juru gulped when he saw her amused expression. That expression then turned into thinly veiled anger. She seemed insulted by the fact that he dared to believe he could actually physically overpower her.
"Woah!" Juru gasped as her right hand, the one that was still holding the sword, flashed towards him, trying to slice him in half. He unclenched his fist and gripped her left arm at the point of impact and pulled himself upwards using her as a pivot. He flipped over her with his feet above him, narrowly missing the blade of her sword. Unfortunately, some of his hair was sliced clean through!
Juru's eyes widened to their fullest extent when he saw thick strands of his yellow hair float down towards the ground, disconnected from his scalp. His scream of horror died in his throat as his body continued flipping over to the woman's other side.
Arcadia was irritated by the fact that the demon dared to cling to her to make his escape. Well if he was flipping to the other side she would simply slice back in the same direction. He was mistaken if he thought he was going to escape. He would be cut in half before his feet even touched the ground!
As her eyes began to dart back towards her right side and her body braked and started twisting back in the same direction, she felt a chilling force blanket her. It was different than the Ki that was used to intimidate and instil fear into an opponent. This was the same force but with demonic energy. This was demonic killing intent. It was then that she realized that the demon had actually not directed any killing intent towards her until that point. A deep yellow glow filled the top of her peripheral vision. The presence of the demon she had been clashing with until that very moment suddenly changed. It was as if she was with someone, or something else, now. She thought she heard what sounded like a very low and gravelly snarl.
She realized that the demon had gone over to her other side much faster than she had anticipated. Realization of the fact turned to surprise when her right arm that was swinging back was forced to a dead stop. Turning her head, she saw the demon's right forearm blocking her own. The chill she felt from the demon's killing intent remained. She looked over her shoulder and found the demon's face right next to her own. His blue eyes had microscopic lines of red flowing out from his irises. His soft yellow hair had become denser and taken on a more spiked appearance as opposed to the wavy form from before. His face that was once clear of any marks slowly revealed identical blue designs on each cheek.
"THAT was a mistake!" he breathed in a dangerous voice.
Pain. It had been so long since she had felt it that she almost could not remember what it felt like. But she felt it now. Pain! The demon had slammed his fist upwards into the junction of her right elbow. She was forced to drop her sword as agony ripped through her arm when the bones at her elbow were pushed the wrong way. Gritting her teeth, she forced Ki into her arm to heal her joint almost immediately. But the demon was not done. She felt herself being dragged around as he swung her by her right arm and slammed her down into the ground hard enough to give the ground a scar that looked like her body imprint. She was pulled back into the air again by the same arm and thrown through the sky.
That was, unexpected, Arcadia thought. Even if barely, this demon was matching her strength. She was right. There were demons down here who were in another league compared to those who had found their way into the Kingdom of heaven. Killing the Demon Blood Beast was not going to be as easy as she had thought. Perhaps the stories were true. Perhaps the elders were right to fear its power.
Arcadia righted herself in the air and slid back across the earth before coming to a stop, holding her injured arm that was almost completely healed.
Juru, seeing her sword that had lodged itself into the ground, placed his hand on its hilt as if to pick it up. As expected it repelled him with a violent burst of the same type of energy the woman was emitting. Though not exactly the same, it was very similar to a Miko's purification power. He looked back at the demon who stared back at him somewhat calculatedly. Was she some type of enhanced human, Juru wondered at the back of his mind. Had the humans created some type of super Miko? Or could this be the work of that Bakarryuu character? Whatever she was and wherever she came from… she was very dangerous. And if there were more like her…
"Enlighten me, are there more like you?" Juru heard her ask, her tone serious.
The yellow haired demon smirked. "Funny, I was about to ask you the same thing."
Juru watched the woman narrow her eyes. She seemed angry that he did not answer her question.
"There are," she replied, surprising him again. "They are already here, scattered through the lands."
He was afraid of that. Shit.
"Your turn," she insisted.
Juru crossed him arms across his chest as he stared at the female intently. At this point it seemed that giving information was the only way to get information. Only thing was he did not know what she meant by others like him. She surely did not know who he was, so she was probably talking about his power.
"If you meant to ask if there are others who are as powerful as I… then yes." he informed. "There are many. Some stronger even." He did not fail to notice her eyes widen slightly when he alluded to the fact that there were demons stronger than him. Just what was it that she was after?
There were more demons that were as powerful as the one standing in front of her, she thought in disbelief. Actually, there were ones that were even more powerful than him? Arcadia had to rethink her tactics here. Forging ahead and picking fights was not going to work. If two or more demons like the yellow haired one came upon her at the same time, even she would be hard pressed to win in a fight. Perhaps this was why their King had had ordered them to only find the Beast and report back and forbid them from attacking it. Their wise King must have known that the demons they would face on the earthly plane would be a force to reckon with. How much more powerful then would the Beast be compared to the demon she just crossed blades with? And wait, it was very possible that the Beast too had a human form to disguise itself! This was getting more and more complicated. She had greatly underestimated their mission. This was not going to be as easy and as simple as she had thought.
"Why are you here?" she heard the demon ask. "What is it you are after?"
Arcadia settled her violet eyes on the demon. "Are you the Blood Beast?"
Juru wasn't sure he had heard that right. He blinked. "The what now?"
He was not it, Arcadia believed firmly. There was no way an idiot like this, who was more concerned with his hair than apparently anything else, could be the monster that had the power to tear down the heavens themselves.
"Never mind," Arcadia bit back rather tersely. "All you need know is that we are natural enemies and you would do well to stay out of our way."
Natural enemies? Juru looked at her sword again. Natural enemies, sounds about right. But it appeared that while she would have no qualms about killing him, she and the others like her were more likely after what she referred to as the 'Blood Beast' -whatever that was. Hmm… is it possible she was talking about… Bakarryuu?
"At least tell me what you are called?" Juru whined.
The female narrowed her eyes at him again. She seemed to have a habit of doing that when she got annoyed. Juru clenched his fists in preparation for another attack when she stretched out her arm in his direction. Her sword that was lying on the ground lifted itself into the air and shot back to her hand. Was she going to attack again?
He heaved an inward sigh when she sheathed the blade.
"I am called Arcadia, the hunter," she finally returned.
Juru smirked. "Am I'm Jurunetsu. You can call me Juru."
"You seem to think that we are on amicable terms," Arcadia pointed out, looking down her nose at him. "Let me be clear. You are a demon, nothing more than a monster. Monsters are meant to be destroyed. We do not associate ourselves with your kind."
Juru blinked at the venom in Arcadia's voice. And here he thought they were starting to get along.
Arcadia swivelled on the ball of her left foot and began walking away. She had to plan out a strategy on how to accomplish her mission. She also had to educate herself on how things worked in this plane. Things were not as simple as they seemed. She needed knowledge. Information was power in this case.
"Hey!" she heard the one who called himself Jurunetsu call out from behind her. Did he intend on finishing their fight? The fool should escape while she was still playing nice. Idiot.
"Let me give you a piece of advice," he offered, "since I'm nice like that."
Arcadia stopped and gave him a sceptical look over her shoulder, her blonde bangs falling across one eye.
"You'd better think twice before attacking strong demons," he warned. "Especially if you're heading in that direction. There's someone who lives that way that is nowhere near as nice as I am. If you pull the same stunt you pulled with me on him, you'd better be prepared to fight for your life."
Arcadia scoffed inwardly. These demons just happened to be a little more powerful than she predicted and they thought they were all that after experience a mere portion of her power. "You are mistaken if you think I fought you at my fullest ability. I have the power to incinerate any demon that dares to stand in my way."
Juru laughed dryly. "Here's some interesting bit of news for you. The demon that lives over there, he told me almost the exact same thing once. And if I had to choose one of you to fight, I wouldn't choose him!"
Arcadia raised an eyebrow. There was someone this demon considered more of a threat than her? Even after he had witnessed first-hand her power? No matter. What this fool considered a threat could not possibly be one to someone on her level. And with that, she resumed he trek in search of the Beast.
Juru watched her walk away with some trepidation. He had half a mind to follow her and see what she was up to. But the other half of him told him he needed to be very careful here. He still did not know what she was or how she had so much power, and how she exceeded a demon's strength. He had to tell his father about this. And about the thing she called a 'Blood Beast'. What the hell was a Blood Beast? Sighing he picked up his sword and sheathed it as he watched the strangely dressed woman slowly become a dot in the distance. She had no idea what she was getting into, he thought. Wherever she came from, she did not seem familiar with demons and what they were capable of. She only seemed to know of their dark side and viewed them with disgust. They were simply enemies for her to destroy. She certainly was powerful and seemed to possess power that could negate demonic energy. Her confidence stemmed from her power and from her ruthlessness. But what would happen if she came across a demon who was capable of being even more ruthless than her? She was going to have an eye opening experience of what demons were really capable of it she kept heading in that direction…
…if she kept heading towards the West.
Back in the past…
"If I can't kill you, then I will have to go for your son the next time!"
Those words were but a mere whisper in the wind, born of hatred and an insatiable thirst for revenge. It was a declaration wrought with the knowledge that the Prince's mother could not be bested by ordinary means in a direct confrontation. It was meant to be a vow of vengeance and a promise of pain… something that would be a secret until the time was at hand.
However, a mother's desire to protect her young was not something to underestimate…
Hidden even to the phantom visitors, under the cover of her hakama and just above her bosom in the middle of the Lady of the West's chest, the skin shivered before it bled a deep silver. No bigger than a gold coin, it took on the shape of a dog demon's head with opened fangs. The sound of a heartbeat accompanied the release of a strange field of energy that swept over her body. This happened twice more… followed by her canines growing sharper, and her claws extending. The gold in her iris became brighter as if it was powering up. While those were the visible physical changes, there were other changes that were not seen. Her sense of smell increased a thousand fold. A merciless and savage instinct overpowered her usual nature. She was tapping into the ferocity that was common only among male members of the dog demon clan; she was tapping into the power of her mate, accessible through the mating mark he had placed on her chest to solidify their union according to tradition. Her 'husband's' characteristics and power as an extremely powerful Tai-Youkai, though in a limited amount, flooded her and enhanced her abilities; of which the last was the sense of hearing…
Taro's words, which should have drifted away without anyone ever noticing, were picked up by the demoness' now more powerful ears. Fury raged through her entire being at the realization of his words.
Taro's eyes widened when the demoness who had been floating in the air above the massive hole in the earth simply vanished. He felt a strange sensation course through his body, as if warning him. He glanced down, eyes widening when he saw a slender right palm protruding through his chest -originating from behind him.
"You should have kept running," he heard the demoness whisper behind him, her voice like death itself; calm, cold, and without emotion.
The very next moment he was thrown into confusion as the world seemed to turn upside down. He saw the sky disappear, trees and grass appear somewhere they were not supposed to be, and finally he saw the demoness, her hand still piercing his chest from behind his body…
But wait, how could he see his own body…?
It was then that he realized his body was missing its head…!
He had been decapitated! His head had been ripped right off his shoulders so fast that he did not even register the pain.
Taro's bloodshot eyes widened when a bolt of yellow lightning slithered across the demoness' shoulder. Several more bolts slithered across her body. The sound of electricity sparking dangerously filled the air as it became super-heated, so much so that the grass underneath her feet began smoking.
The eyes of the Lady of the West drifted upwards and met his as his head continued to arc through the air.
The sound of thunder exploded! The yellow bolts of lightning utterly and completely obliterated his body, then weaved their way through the air and hit him dead on.
Kagome gasped as Taro's body blew up into thousands of small pieces of flesh and bone. There was barely any blood splatter as it had evaporated almost instantaneously from the heat produced by the yellow lightning. Sesshoumaru's mother's eyes were cold and steely as the pieces of flesh rained down in the field below and she looked over the small hill without a hint of emotion. It had been a merciless execution. Each of the visitors could not help but picture in their minds Sesshoumaru executing his enemies with the same detached look. The Lady of the West suddenly seemed like a very scary being, and very, very dangerous.
Like mother, like son! They made killing look so perfect and thorough!
The awe and fear they felt was soon pushed behind them when the visitors saw the Lady of the West stumble backwards and hold onto the trunk of a nearby tree to prevent herself from falling. Her breathing became noticeably haggard and her eyes were tearing up. Suddenly they were standing in front of the powerful Lady of the West just as she crumbled to her knees, unable to stay on her feet.
Kikyo's eyes narrowed as she studied the demoness with suspicion. Something was wrong here, obviously. Sesshoumaru's powerful mother was looking frail all of a sudden. Weak. The question was why. She doubted the demon named Taro had done anything to her before he perished as he seemed to not be even aware he was dying when he did. Judging from the look on the Lady's face, this was not something new? It seemed to be a condition of some sort. A recurring condition if she was to guess. This was not a disease or imperfection. Kikyo sensed there was something wrong with Sesshoumaru's mother on a fundamental level. Only she could not understand how something like that was possible. She was so immensely powerful after all…!
Kikyo gasped slightly when a thought struck her mind. She snapped her head in the direction little Sesshoumaru was in. Was it possible that this was the reason he was so weak? Whatever condition was affecting his mother- had he inherited it from her? That would make a lot of sense! If the condition was powerful enough to bring down his powerful mother to her knees, then in a pup like him it would almost make him as vulnerable as a human.
That begged the question… what exactly was wrong with Sesshoumaru's mother? Whatever it was, the only ones who seemed to know about it other than the Lady of the West herself was Sesshoumaru's father, and perhaps the Evil Trio. Everybody else seemed to be in the dark about this, including Sesshoumaru. Was her condition serious? Did her condition end up costing Sesshoumaru's mother her life in the future? She still had no idea after all if the demoness was still alive or not back in her time several centuries later.
After a short while, the Lady of the West slowly climbed back up to her feet and regained her composure. Making certain that there was not a shred of evidence of her little episode visible or detectable in any way, she returned to her son and her soldiers who were awaiting her with great worry. And as she embraced a less than pleased and pouting Sesshoumaru in her arms, she made a silent promise: she would have words with her dear mate regarding what just happened.
She had to find out if this Taro character was a single enemy or if he was a part of a group that sought their demise. After meeting up with the Lady of the South, they would head east to meet with Sesshoumaru's father. It was an unplanned but necessary diversion. She could not possibly rest easy knowing that their son was more so of a target now than before and for a specific cause.
The Tengu Forest, or more widely known as the 'Screaming Forest' for the shrieks of dying creatures of all manners that constantly echoed in the air above it, was a dark and mysterious forest that lay half way up the border of the Eastern and Northern Lands. Said to be the home of dangerous spirits and beings of unimaginable fright and strength, it was a region everyone avoided at all costs. None who were banished here, or ever had the misfortune of stumbling into it, ever returned alive. The sunlight never pierced this unholy place and its actual size was said to be immeasurable, many believing that the forest itself held a powerful magic that trapped foreigners and laid them to eternal rest, if they were not killed and consumed by one of its many terrifying inhabitants first.
Akuma, Lord of the East, stared out over the blackness of this forest as it spread out below the ledge he was standing on, with the Ice Mountains of the Northern lands rising up far on the other side. He had his arms folded within his sleeves as he contemplated the existence of such a blight upon the lands. All these centuries this place had been of no consequence to him but that had changed just recently. There was a rather large village consisting solely of monks and monks in training that lay close to the Screaming Forest on his side of the border. For some reason, the creatures that never left the forest had begun to come out and attack the village at random, killing and dragging off many of the monks. Now normally he would not be the least bit concerned with the affairs and deaths of humans, but unfortunately these monks seemed to be quite powerful -powerful enough to take on the demons who owned territory that they now sought to have in order to distance themselves from the Screaming Forest. Problem was that the demons were obviously not about to let that happen and sought to lead a small army to lay waste to these monks, even if their barriers and spiritual powers were the strongest they had seen. It was a good way to solve the problem, however, there was a catch. The demons of his land weren't the best when it came to cultivation and they relied heavily on the humans for that. It did not matter how powerful he was; it was hard to be ruler of a land if it had no economic growth. And if he allowed the monks to be slaughtered, the same monks that protected the other humans from the stray Youkai, it was more than likely that they would leave his lands, and more than likely head West. The rumours that the Lord of the West was kind to humans had spread far and wide, even reaching the inhabitants of these Eastern Lands. And that was something he simply could not allow!
The Lord of the West already had armies that were rising in strength and power; it would not be too long before they became as powerful as his own armies. He also had great economic growth, second only to the Southern Lands who made trade with the foreigners who would land on their plentiful shores when they sailed here from lands that lay on the other side of the ocean. He absolutely could not afford to let the humans move. His last option to diffuse this situation was to offer the monks a piece of his own land. Offering up a tiny bit of land like that was nothing to him, but the implications of it were what held him back. It would be said that he gave into the demands of a bunch of humans. The reasons or justifications for it would not matter. What the demons from his lands and even others would see was that he bowed down to them. Insufferable!
This was why he had begrudgingly asked for some advice from the Lord of the West, who was much better at negotiating with the humans than he was. The first thing they said to annoy him would have set him off and he would have killed all the monks himself. Dealing with those unbearable lesser beings required the kind of calm-headedness that the Lord of the West seemed to possess. The stalling tactics he had been employing would at most buy him only about another two years.
Akuma's eyes moved down towards the land on his side of the border. The Lord of the West was probably already in discussion with the monks on his behalf. So what if a few of them got killed by the creatures of the Screaming Forest anyway? There were so many humans popping up all over due to their uncontrollable breeding habits. A few dying here and there should not make much of a difference. And these monks were acting quite high and mighty as they believed their magical and spiritual powers were only getting stronger. He had even heard rumours that they were planning to challenge him directly. The fools! These idiots believed they were special, above the other humans, and meant for a greater purpose. They naturally looked upon all demons as evil. On that note, he wondered if the Lord of the West going to be alright? If something happened to him, will he be held responsible as he was the one who invited him here? No, that demon decided to accept his request all by himself.
Besides, regardless of how weak all who saw his actions and heard his thoughts deemed him to be, that bastard was incredibly powerful. A village of monks would not be able to take him down…
Several days later another demon stood at the very same spot that the Lord of the East had stood in. The Lady of the West frowned as she felt the eerie and sometimes calamitous energy signatures of whatever creatures that lived down in the Tengu Forest. She had heard about this place a few times in passing conversation, but she did not imagine it to be anything like this. The whole place seemed to have a dark and disheartening aura about it. It made sense that a place like this would cause the civil unrest that her mate had been requested to help resolve. Her gaze drifted down towards her son, who was standing next to her with his nose scrounged up in displeasure, and she could not help but smile.
They had just passed through the outskirts of the village of monks who had been kind enough to let them know that her mate would be waiting for them here, and Sesshoumaru had been scowling ever since. While it was certainly not the first time her son had come into contact with humans, he seemed to have a natural distrust of them. It was probably because the vast majority of them bowed to them in fake airs solely because they were afraid of them. Her son believed that a human, or demon, who acted 'fake' because they were afraid, could never be trusted. For someone so young, he seemed to have some strong views on the nature of the mind, be it demon or human.
Sesshoumaru was acting displeased as his father was going so far for the sake of some humans, which was the reason they were here now here as well, albeit due to different reasons, but she doubted he would be displaying such indifference if he had the ability to feel some of the energy signatures that were coming off of the forest below them. The magic of the forest hid the true nature of its inhabitants and their power from the outside world from all but those who had powerful discerning abilities in order to lure prey and food into its dark depths. It had to sustain itself after all. Sesshoumaru's weak constitution disallowed him to feel the malice rising up from within the forest.
Now, the Lady of the West wondered, where was her dear mate, who had a lot of explaining to do in regards to this Taro character?
Sesshoumaru stared at the edge of the cliff they were standing on with a vengeance. He was really annoyed at the fact that they had come here in search of his father. He and his father had still not had a conversation since that last time and he really was not looking forward to being put in a position where he would be forced to interact. Of course when his mother said this is where they were going he could not really disobey, and whining about it was beneath him. So he had come along in silence; the only way for him to show her that he did not like this trip one bit. It seemed mother had some idea of what might have happened between her husband and son and probably believed the two of them needed to sort it out between themselves, hence the reason for her silence on the subject.
And now here they were in the middle of nowhere, waiting for his father. A rather large stone in front of him caught his eye, and he had the urge to kick it off the stone ledge but held back as he did not want to do something so childish in front of his mother. 'Fluff!'! He was about to ask his mother when she thought father would arrive, but noticed a sudden change in her expression when he looked up at her.
"What is the matter, HaHa-ue?" he questioned somewhat hesitantly. It was the same expression on her face as the one she had before that demon had attacked them a few days ago. While he did not see that demon's fate, though his mother had more than likely killed it, he wondered if it had anything to do with it.
The Lady of the West did not respond to her son's query, turning instead to look back at the path down the cliff. There were several humans heading this way and soon they would appear at the bottom of the path. She recognized these energy signatures to be of the monks they had met earlier that day. Had something happened? Had they been attacked? Were they here looking for her mate?
The monks bowed to her as they made their way up to join them. From the corner of her eye she saw Sesshoumaru look away in distaste. She gently pinched the back of his neck, warning him silently to not be rude. The head monk was among the group of humans and he was essentially the village head. It would not help her husband's cause to disrespect this man.
"Is everything alright, head monk?" she asked as the group reached them at the top.
The head monk, who was a well-built human for someone in his fifties, smiled reassuringly.
"Quite so, my Lady," he replied with a formal bow that seemed strained. It was clear to her that these monks did not like bowing down to demons.
"We've received news that your husband has managed to convince Lord Akuma to spare us some land far enough away from the Tengu Forest," he continued. "As he is expected to meet with you here we wanted to come and confirm the news for ourselves."
"I see," the Lady of the West noted in a somewhat sceptical tone. It was hard for her to believe that the proud 'Red Rain' would so easily give in to the demands of the humans. Was her mate a miracle worker?
Sesshoumaru, bored of the small talk, turned around and walked away from the adults and towards one edge of the cliff. He stood there in silence, his eyes locked on to the snow-capped mountains far on the other side of the strange forest that spread forth beneath. What had that monk just called this place? Ah that's right… the 'Tengu Forest'. The name was a literal description of the place, he thought nonchalantly.
The Lady of the West, whilst conversing with the head monk, let her eyes stray to one of the monks on her right. Unlike the others, his eyes, partially hidden under his straw hat, were intently watching her son. Her motherly instincts began to be stir but she kept a clear head as she told herself that these were humans who were seeking their help, even if they had some ill-intent towards demons in general.
The particular monk seemed to have felt her eyes on him and quickly hid them under the rim of his hat.
While she could not read his eyes, she did see his larynx swell as he swallowed air and she smelt his sweat as his leaked out of his pores. She heard his pulse begin to race.
Oh, this human was up to something.
"My Lady?" the head monk called to get her attention. "You seem distracted?"
Sesshoumaru's mother's eyes slipped back towards the head monk and she replied, "It is nothing."
The head monk laughed lightly, "Actually, it's not nothing. You're on to something and you should trust your instincts."
The Lady of the West's slight smile disappeared.
Sesshoumaru turned around as he too heard these words, and above him, Kikyo and Inuyasha in the invisible state, narrowed their eyes.
The monks pointed their staffs at Sesshoumaru's mother and released a sharp burst of holy power.
"You would dare attack me?" the Lady of the West roared, enraged by the monks betrayal.
She ducked towards the left, swinging her fan forward to counteract the holy power. Immediately after she swung her fan she realized her mistake when the monk she had been suspicious of before darted towards her precious son.
Her eyes widened in horror when the monk blasted her weak child with a powerful wave of holy energy.
The pain was so intense that her son could not even scream out as he was brought down to one knee. His white hair flapped in the wind as his body reacted as though it had been electrocuted.
"Ah-Ah!" the head monk threw an ofuda at her as she tried to dash to her son's aide.
"You think that will be stop me!?" the Lady of the West screamed with venom, smashing into the energy projected from the piece of paper marred with black ink. "You lied about my mate wanting to meet us here! You meant to lure us here!"
The monk smiled as the holy energy stopped the Lady of the West. "Yes I do, and yes and I did" he said with a smirk. He watched with amusement as smoke wafted into the air as the holy power reacted adversely to the demon power in the Lady of the West. "What luck that you would present yourself to us on a silver platter."
Kagome and Sango found themselves covering their mouths in schock when the monk that had attacked Sesshoumaru earlier, speared the young demon's leg just above his bent knee. Blood gushed out Sesshoumaru's wound as holy energy began to eat through his weak demon power. These were the signs of a purification. This was also the first time they were seeing Sesshoumaru's mother display such emotion and react so strongly. Unlike her son's emotionlessness that would remain through anything in the future, she lost it when it came to her child. Rightly so!
Inuyasha recalled how in the future some monks had tried to purify the adult Sesshoumaru in their misguided attempts to save Rin from him. The confidence and the power Sesshoumaru showed then was completely absent in the pup here today.
The Lady of the West's aura exploded around her as she heard her son's whimpers for her help. Her features became animalistic and wild.
She pulled back a fist and slammed it into the holy energy that was trying to devour her in the form of a dark blue flame.
The monks had to plant their staffs into the earth to prevent themselves from being blown away by the wind pressure. One of them fell dead, but the holy energy did not dispel.
"Do not make light of us demon wench!" the head monk boomed, his demeanour very different from the one he had all this time. It was dark and menacing. "We are putting our lives on the line here for no simple reason!"
The Lady of the West realized that the monks were using their very souls to try and stop her. The holy power she was fighting against was connected to all the monks. Every time she attacked the holy power, damage was inflicted on one of the monks until he either passed out or was killed. By the winds! There were too many of them to keep going like this!
"I'm curious…" the head monk continued. "You would be much more powerful if you transformed right now…"
The Lady of the West ignored him and pounded against the holy power that had her trapped on all sides.
"…unless…" the head monk thought out loud, "You can't transform."
The head monk laughed out loud victoriously. He believed he had already won this fight. "It would seem there is plenty of truth to the rumours we managed to come across; the Lady of the West is ailing! You do not even possess the strength to turn into the true demon you are! HAHAHAHA!"
Kikyo felt her eyes become misty as she saw a mother struggle with everything she had to save her son. Her royal garbs were drenched in blood from the numerous cuts that had opened up. She had to be in terrible pain and yet she was mum, her focus only on her son. Kikyo felt the energy of Sesshoumaru's mother fluctuate randomly and unevenly. It was as if it was struggling to understand what to do or how to react. She had never felt this kind of discord in anyone's aura before. For some reason it reminded her slightly of Naraku. But why?
The monks were using some very powerful holy energy in combination, but the Lady of the West should still be able to overpower them. So why wasn't she able to?
The head monk noticed something strange as well -in the collision of powers between them and the demon, and he stared intently at the holy energy trying to purify her. It looked as though the holy energy would pierce her defences and yet some of it would pass right through her and come out untouched on the other side! That was not possible! And yet, sure enough, it happened again. What was the meaning of this!? Did it have something to do with her ailing condition? Even so, he doubted it could explain this phenomenon. This was starting to become scary. They needed to end this now.
Picking up his staff he headed over towards her demon spawn.
"Don't you dare go near him!" the Lady of the West roared again, her voice making the earth tremble with its unearthly vibrato.
"Silence, demon!" the head monk snapped. "If you thought our goal was you, then you would be wrong. We have long term plans for your spawn."
Sesshoumaru's mother stopped struggling briefly as she listened intently to the monk's words.
"You see what we want is for the demon's to go back to where they came from –the bowels of hell. They don't belong here! This is our place! We should not have to beg any demons to move to or go where we want on this earth. Towards that end, what we need is for the four Lords to end each other. We will hold your spawn hostage, sealing him for eternity, and force his father, your mate, to fight Akuma. And he will do it if he wants us to keep your son alive, even if it is in eternal damnation and eternal pain. Better a suffering son than a dead son, am I right? With our help, he will defeat Akuma and slaughter his entire bloodline. This will start a war for the land left with no ruler. It will be the end of the demons and finally, we will be the only survivors."
"You are insane," the Lady of the West said in a low voice. "Do you really think you can bend them all to your will like that?"
The head monk smirked, "I do!" With that he stabbed his spear through Sesshoumaru's stomach!
Again Sesshoumaru did not scream. He did not have the energy for it. All through this ordeal he heard every word and saw every action, but was powerless to do anything about it. Even though he was in this state, even though his dear mother was suffering before his very eyes, there was nothing he could do. He simply was not strong enough. He simply did not have the power.
Through the haze and the blinding pain, Sesshoumaru's eyes slowly began to see a vision of his father's powerful frame standing next to him with his arms crossed and with a solemn look on his face. His father simply stared at him and then his mother in complete silence. 'No. Father… what…? Why won't you help…?' Sesshoumaru realized he was only talking to figment of his imagination but he was desperate. What did his father's solemn look mean?
"Noooo!" Kagome whispered, tears streaming down her face, as the monks below used the opportunity where Sesshoumaru's mother was distracted by the sight of her son being speared through his middle to spear her as well in several places.
"Do not worry Demon," the head monk assured wickedly. "I told you we have no plans to kill him, yet."
The Lady of the West seemed to gather her wits about herself enough to only then realize that she had been impaled several times. The wooden staffs that were running through her began to rapidly weaken her.
The Lady of the West slowly turned her heads towards the heavens as reality began to set in. Kikyo felt hot tears run down her cheeks as she felt the demoness stare right at her. She should not be able to see her, and yet in that instant, she felt sure that Sesshoumaru's mother was looking right at her, before her eyes closed…
They both knew… she was dying…
Sesshoumaru's arms fell limp at his sides as he saw his mother's eyes shut slowly. 'Nooooo…..'
High above the clouds, in the Kingdom of the Gods, the crystal in the Omni Chamber began tolling in warning. If things proceeded as they were, it would mark the start of a prophecy that would spell doom for all. It would signal the beginning of the end!
As day began to end, and the horizons bled into the darkness of the night that was coming, Mother Nature stilled her breath. The sun hid behind dark clouds, unwilling to watch.
The head monk sneered. It was the end of the feared Lady of the Wes-!
The wind suddenly began to move again as it picked up speed very quickly, unnaturally. Curiosity getting the better of it, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.
The Lady of the West's eyes snapped open.
The monks shrunk back in surprise and in fear.
The holy power that was eating into the demoness rose up and fell into her like a mini tornado before it was dispersed. They immediately noticed that her eyes were not gold anymore. They had drained away and left something else… Her eyes, they were now the colour of-
None of them could finish their thought as her hand plunged through the holy power even as it ate through her skin. A second hand plunged through. She was-! She was breaking through the holy power!
The monks immediately began chanting, feeding more power into the holy energy.
The head monk stumbled back in fear.
His mouth began to hang open as the demoness began to widen the hole in the wall of holy power. The increase in holy power was not holding up against her power.
Paralyzed, Sesshoumaru found himself unable to even call out to his mother anymore as the holy energy had burned his throat. But he could still see and so he would watch her without blinking, no matter how much pain he was in, or how badly he wanted to just given into the sweet darkness that was calling for him.
The wall of holy power tore apart!
The demoness dashed forward with the spears still embedded within her. Nearly a dozen of the monks fell over dead, but the others continued chanting as she blazed across their vision.
With one smooth movement she pulled out the staff that was piercing her son in the stomach while at the same time grabbing the head monk by his face before smashing him back down into the ground. With the staff she held she pierced the monk's chest and then lifted him into the air. Still alive, and face contorted in pain, fear and shock, his body slid down the length of the staff. As he reached the demoness below, he saw her palm spear forward. His eyes bulged as he felt her palm go into his open mouth and down his throat. And then he felt the most intense pain he had ever felt in his entire life. It must have only lasted for a few moments, but each felt like an eternity.
Some of the monks that were watching were so strongly overcome by fear and the horror of what they saw that they became unable to chant, a few collapsing to their knees. They senses simply could not come to terms with the sight they had just seen… the sight of the demoness pulling out their head monk's spine through his mouth!
The monks left standing continued their chanting with vigour when they saw the demoness stagger.
With another powerful thrust that sent the sound of what sounded like thunder reverberating over the Screaming Forest, Kikyo watched Sesshoumaru's mother pierce the holy power that kept Sesshoumaru imprisoned and tear it apart.
Sesshoumaru weakly lifted his arms to feel his mother's embrace, but instead of familiar warmth, he felt her palm land on his chest and then he was pushed by his mother… pushed back and over the ledge… and into the Screaming Forest below.
The last words he heard her whisper, echoed in his mind, "Forgive me my son for not being strong enough to protect you. Never bow your head to anyone or live in fear. I love you! I believe in you… you will survive. You must!"
As he flew over the edge he saw a staff pierce his mother through her chest… and the last bit of light left her eyes. As he lost sight of her, he heard an explosion and saw a great light envelope the top of the cliff. The sky then darkened. The sun was gone. It had turned its back on all this. Only the full moon was left to bear witness to his mother's final moments.
The staff piercing his thigh still active with holy power, and with his throat still burned, he could not find the strength to call out to his mother till the very end.
He once again saw an image of his father appear. He was standing at the edge of the cliff and looking down at him as he continued to fall backwards. The Lord of the West still had that solemn look on his face.
Like the sound of the eruption of a volcano, his father's words came back to him; the words he had been trying so very hard not to remember…
~)~~ (Chapter 97 : Great Expectations)
"Sesshoumaru!" barked the Lord of the West. "You are free to believe what you will. But there is something you must understand!"
Sesshoumaru paused, his eyes still hidden behind his bangs.
"If you do not get over this weak side of yours, both mentally and physically, you will end up losing something very important one day, and then it will be too late for regrets," his father informed. "You will have only yourself to blame!"
'It's my fault!'
'It's my fault!'
These words echoed through every being of Sesshoumaru's body and mind. He should have listened to his father. If he had become stronger, more powerful like was expected of him, then he might have been able to do something. At least he would not have become a handicap to his mother. At least… she would not have had to die to protect him…
It was his fault… It was his fault…
And now… his mother was gone. She had paid the price for his weakness.
Why did he not have it!? Why? Why? Why?!
Covered in blood, the demon child fell into the abyss of darkness. His once bright and warm golden eyes dimmed and became lifeless. The forest screamed in glee as it welcomed its new prey.
The last thing Sesshoumaru heard, as his eyes closed in acceptance of his inevitable demise, before the sound of rushing water underneath… was the voice of a woman. It was a voice he had never heard before.
High above in the sky, Kikyo reached out with her arms in a futile attempt to save the young demon child, screaming out his name like she had never called anyone's name before… in desperation, in pain, in fear.
The Magenta eyelids of the Prince of the West snapped open, and light began to flow back into dying golden eyes. But instead of a warm and carefree glow, these eyes were cold and emotionless, powerful enough to burn a hole through the sun. But it lasted only a moment. He fell into unconsciousness once again, and fell into the womb of the forest full of monsters.
On this day, a mother lost her life protecting her son.
On this day the West lost their Queen.
And on this day, a weak little Demon Prince fell into darkness, never to be seen again!