Tragedy (Part Two)
"Close your eyes." —Sango
It was curious, finding Kaede's hut empty when at the very least one person was occupying it as of late, but Sango did not think much of it. After propping Hiraikotsu against one of the inner walls, she stepped back outside to find that Hiei had disappeared already. She had anticipated it, however, and was not at all worried. She did not believe he would go far. Not yet, anyway.
Once outside, she stretched her arms above her head in an attempt to relieve the tension in her body. While some of it did indeed fade, it did nothing to lessen the scowl on her face. Although she had started out in good spirit, traveling with Hiei that day had proved to be no picnic.
Deciding to seek the others out, Sango did not have to think long as to which way to search. The faint sound of an explosion was enough for her to know where to find at least one of her friends. It was not too far outside the village by the sound of it and by the time Sango heard another small blast, she was already at the source. She was not at all surprised at whom she saw, but what she saw was a puzzling matter in its own right.
"Yusuke, what did that poor tree ever do to you?"
The tree about a dozen yards away from him had obviously been the target of his attack, the strange burst of energy he shot out of his hand. Thick pieces of bark littered the grass around the monstrous tree where they had been blasted away. Had he wanted to, Sango knew he could have disintegrated the whole thing, but he seemed happy to knock away bits and pieces of it, making his own odd markings into the trunk and knocking away the outer layer so that the tender insides could be seen. A bored Yusuke was not well-advised, she noted.
"I have you know that tree killed my granddaddy," he told her. He was trying hard to be serious, but she heard the underlying traces of humor in his voice. "Hey tree, say hello to my little friend."
She hid her laugh with a fake cough as she stepped up beside him. He sent her a glance, but she kept a straight face until he finally turned his attention back to his butchered tree. Bracing himself with his left hand, he lifted his fisted right one as he prepared for the attack. Unlike her other companions, it was hard for her to see the blast like they so easily could, but she was always able to feel it when he was powering up. She felt it now and saw the end result; he must have fired multiple shots since pieces showered the ground for a few consecutive seconds, dropping from various points on the trunk. Kurama would not approve.
Sango folded her arms under her chest. "Impressive."
He let out a disapproving grunt. "If you think that's impressive, you obviously haven't been payin' much attention."
"Restraint," she told him, "can show a great deal of strength."
Yusuke gave a careless shrug and moved on instead of replying. Gazing at the tree trunk, he tilted his head to the side just a tad, and then slightly more so that his whole upper body moved with him.
With his eyes squinted, he told her, "Ya know, when you look at it like this, it kinda looks like a sword-wielding cat trying to stab a unicorn."
Sango sighed silently and followed his gaze toward the tree he had damaged. He would do anything to avoid a serious discussion.
"Yusuke, that's absolutely ridic—" She abruptly stopped, however, when she inclined her head at the same angle he had. It actually did look like what he described. "Huh. Fancy that." She motioned to the side. "What about those wavy lines over there?"
"Water. Or hot lava. Haven't decided yet," he responded immediately, as though it were something he had pondered tediously over for years and not just discovered the likeness. She would not have been surprised if he had stroked his chin pensively with a thoughtful "hmm", although he did not.
"Lava," she said with a firm nod. "Definitely lava."
He flashed her a smile that she barely had time to notice before he turned away. It hadn't been his usual cocky one, but something… softer. Appreciation. Approval. Both were present, as well as an element she could not describe. It had been too quick.
He raised the one hand near eye level yet again, cocked his index finger, and sent another small blast at the tree. After the last of the debris fell, in complete unison, they both tilted their head to the side. Another marking had appeared just above the cat's back.
"I think you just gave it wings," Sango said. She gave his arm a nudge. "That's hardly kind to the unicorn. Not only is it getting attacked by the kitten, but now it's the only one sinking into lava as well."
She could tell he was smirking by the way the corner of his lips turned upward. "Can't have that, now can we?"
"Might as well go down in flames together," Sango murmured to herself. Yet as he raised his pointed finger, she stopped him with a light touch to his wrist.
"May I?" she inquired.
The perplexity disappeared off his face when he caught on. "Tch. If you think you can."
She smiled. "It can't be too hard if you do it. Close your eyes," she said. When he looked skeptical, she added, "Trust me."
He didn't make it easy for her. Yusuke screwed his eye shut and left his arms limp at his side. She took hold of his right arm only to find it loose, dead weight in her hands. It took her a few jerks and one or two light slaps to keep him from bending his elbow. Still, her job was not over. His hand was completely limp; she was forced to manually turn it to the side and curl the bottom three fingers in, leaving his index finger pointed straight at the target. Even though she knew he couldn't see—unless he was cheating, which was highly possible—Sango scowled up at him, which caused her to spot his smirk.
She sighed, frustrated. "Must you be difficult? …Don't answer that."
"Just tell me when to fire," he told her. He wasn't even trying to stifle the laughter in his voice.
Sango wrapped both of her hands around his wrist and took aim. When she was satisfied with the angle and position, she gave him the word. The hair on her arms bristled as she felt the power build up beneath her fingertips. She knew the moment he let go if only because of the shiver it chased through her and she instantly let her hands fall away.
Yusuke, eyes open since he fired the shot, let out a bark of laughter completely at her expense.
"Your aim sucks! A blind five-year-old could have shot better!" He gestured with his hand emphatically to the right of the tree. "You were way off."
Sango felt her cheeks burn. "It's not like I've ever fired a weapon like that before!" she said defensively, not just a little bit flustered.
She, as a demon slayer, had honed her skills with a great variety of weapons, but never one quite like the "spirit gun" Yusuke held. Nevertheless, growing up she had learned to master each new weapon one at a time. This would be no different. She refused to rest until she hit the target.
Insisting on trying again, she grabbed onto his arm before he could even agree—not that her request had been in the form of a question to begin with. He was slightly more cooperative this time around, already putting his hand into the right position. All Sango needed to do was take aim, which she took her time doing as Yusuke taunted her. Suddenly, Sango appreciated the fact that the rest of her weapons did not come attached to a loudmouth.
She just about settled on a position, but something about the angle bothered her. She tugged his arm closer to her, causing Yusuke to lurch to the side and toward her. Sango felt much better setting up the placement with his arm in front of her, at her center.
"Ow! In case you didn't notice, I don't exactly bend that way," he protested, although he did not try to yank his arm away. "I'm not your personal my-size G.I. Joe action figure."
"I don't know what an 'action figure' is, but if it's something like a doll, I realize. They tend to talk less," she spoke dryly.
"Tch. You should see my time."
She paused, then dropped her hands away from him. "I'm afraid that's not possible," she said as she took a step back. Avoiding eye contact, she simply told him, "Fire."
Yusuke hesitated, but a moment later the blast left his finger and struck the wood. Sango smiled. Success.
"Nice shot," he said.
She thought it best not to tell him she had been aiming for the unicorn-like marking and not the part of the tree it did hit. With some training, Sango knew she would be able to master this skill just like any other.
Yusuke continued with a smirk. "Though I don't think the cat 'preciates the bullet hole you put through its head."
Sango tilted her head to the side and saw that he was right. There was a small circular marking in the crudely made forehead of the cat. She would not have called it what he had, however. It held a closer resemblance to….
"It looks more like a third eye to me," she said.
Sango turned just in time to see Yusuke's grin melt away. He scooped up the jacket at his feet and put it back on without looking at her. The friendly, carefree mood that surrounded them vanished. Play time was over.
As he fussed roughly with his collar, Yusuke said, "You found 'im, didn't you? Judging from that dazzling smile of yours when you showed up."
The sarcasm was thick. In truth, she had forgotten about her sour mood from earlier. It had faded rather quickly after she had encountered the brown-eyed boy. Yusuke had been perceptive lately, too perceptive, at noticing her foul temperaments after her run-ins with Hiei.
Thinking about it now brought an inkling of the annoyance back. However, for once, it was not the fire demon that had been the source of her agitation, but rather the continuous barrage of demon attackers that had come since morning. It persisted consistently all throughout the day. It was too much to be coincidental. There was a reason, she just did not know it. Which meant she did not like it, either.
"Actually, it wasn't—" she began, but Yusuke was quick to interrupt.
"Save the excuses. If he pisses you off that much, you shouldn't keep doin' this to yourself."
Her fingernails bit into the soft flesh of her palm, keeping tight control over her emotions. She didn't need to have this conversation now and she certainly didn't need the criticism. Especially from him.
"And what do you know of it?" Sango asked.
"I'd know somethin' if you told me anything for once!"
She could feel herself become distant; her voice, detached. "You wouldn't understand."
"And he would." The tightness in his voice was audible.
Having no answer that would satisfy him, Sango took a step forward, planning on getting away from him and the conversation. Yusuke grabbed her by her upper arm and yanked her back.
"Stop walking away. You always walk away."
Her hair struck her face as she whipped around. With a fierce glare, she met his eyes.
One word. She was not even sure what she meant by it. Don't what? Don't touch her? Don't make her angry? Don't tell her the truth she was trying her best to avoid?
Her voice sounded so harsh. He dropped her arm swiftly, angrily. They locked eyes, but not for long. His eyes were hard, his gaze too forceful, and Sango found herself breaking contact first.
She turned her back to him. This was not a road she wanted to go down. Sango did not want to be angry with him. She wasn't sure she really was in the first place. A bit of displacement gone wrong seemed a better answer. Regardless, a change in subject was needed.
"Where's Kirara?" she asked without facing him.
She could feel the weight of his gaze between her shoulder blades and could have sworn it caused a physical ache, but she knew it was not true. He knew just what she was doing but considering he answered, he was willing to play along. For now.
"Last I saw her was this morning. Her and the kid went off."
She started to look back but stopped herself. "And the others?"
"About that, you missed a hell of a lot going after Hiei. They've—"
A scream interrupted them, coming from the nearby village. For the first time, Sango was glad to hear a distressed call.
Her hand started for the sword at her side. "Hold that thought."
It did not take long to reach the village, especially while in a dead sprint, but the conflict was already well on its way if the empty houses and the fleeing villagers were any indication. Sango heard some of the men muttering such things as "they came out of nowhere!" and "how can they move so fast!" as they escaped, but the slayer hardly paid them any mind. It was the same type of remarks she always heard. It was not until later that she realized she should have been paying closer attention.
She stopped her running when she had reached the center of the village, her sword at the ready and Yusuke at her back. It was broad daylight and yet their surroundings were eerily quiet. Sango gripped her weapon tighter, her eyes scanning the area cautiously. There was not another soul or demon in sight—until with incredible speed, someone or thing appeared in front of her.
Sango reacted. Her sword moved before her eyes could even see what it was she was attacking. The clang of metal rang loudly as her blade met another's. It was not until after she heard the sound that she saw it was Hiei she was locked swords with.
Relenting, she moved her weapon away. He only did the same after she made the first move. And while Sango prepared herself for his taunt, it never came. His eyes were sharp and serious as they met hers.
"Stay off the ground," he snapped, less of a warning and more of a demand.
It was all Sango managed to get out before she was abruptly seized by the wrist. Too swiftly, she lost the feel of solid ground beneath her feet and her stomach lurched as she was carried through the air, her surroundings a blur to her eyes that could not fully comprehend the speed at which she was going. And just as suddenly, Sango was dropped onto a hard surface, and not nicely, either. Her breath escaped her in a gasp as the front of her body slammed into a sloped surface. She grasped clumsily onto something to keep herself from rolling off it—a roof, she recognized.
Once the dizziness left her, she sprang to her feet, seeking Hiei out with her eyes. He was on the roof next to her, a smug expression on his face. She narrowed her eyes at him.
"You did that on purpose," she accused darkly, referring to the way in which he unceremoniously dropped her.
"He may be an annoying little ruffian, but he did have a reason," came another voice. Sango spun around to see Miroku on a neighboring rooftop, too. The monk gestured to where Sango had been standing only moments ago. "They're hiding in the ground."
She did not need to ask who "they" were. There were two well-sized holes in the ground where she and Yusuke had been standing (Yusuke must have jumped at the same time Hiei had grabbed her since he was safely resting on another of the villagers' homes a decent distance away), likely one exit and the other an entrance back into the dirt. So it had attacked her, but Hiei spirited her away just in time to avoid it. Although the thing was nowhere in sight now, she held no delusions that it had departed.
"How many?" she asked, scanning the surroundings with caution.
It was Hiei that answered. "Enough."
Which meant they did not know the exact count, but there were enough of them to be a nuisance. Sango held her sword at the ready once more. Luckily, she had kept a firm hold on it even when Hiei had seized her.
She did it not a moment too soon. Within an instant, the demons had started their assault, multiple going after all four of them. Sango sliced through the first one as it sailed overhead—body parts that resembled wings more than arms aiding the creature in its flight—but she had to roll to dodge the next two, nearly falling off the roof in the process. They just skimmed over her side before falling right over the other side of the roof, burrowing into the ground once more. Sango had no moment of relief, however, for two others came at her from different sides. One she managed to knock away with her arm and it collapsed onto the home beside her, while her blade skimmed through the other's right wing. It shrieked and dove for the ground.
The one she had knocked down got up with a shudder of its wings that looked more scale-like than feathery. It stood on its furry hind legs and drew slowly closer, hissing at her and revealing a forked tongue and quite a formidable number of fangs in the process. She lunged at it and quickly swiped the odd looking creature in half, but failed to notice one of its companions too late. Sango managed to whack it away, but not before the edge of one of its wings brushed against her upper arm. Her skin tore like paper and blood gushed down her sword arm profusely, causing the hilt of her sword to become slick. She cursed her luck and chided herself for not being careful, but it was the least of her problems.
The roof suddenly shook violently beneath her feet.
"Sango!" she heard the yell. Yusuke's yell.
She did not waste time trying to figure out what happened; she merely ran to the edge and hurled herself onto the next house as she heard the explosion behind her. No use; this one was shaking, too. Barely having time to find her balance, Sango ran across the second rooftop and propelled herself into the air, but the next one was just a bit too far. Only the top half of her made it, her waist and feet dangling off the side.
As she attempted to crawl up the side, a hand gently encircled her wrist, the one that was not covered in blood. She glanced up to see Miroku smiling down at her. He gave a tug that helped her to her feet.
She murmured her thanks as she glanced back to see the damage Yusuke had done with a misguided blast of his spirit gun. Three of the villagers' houses had been decimated. Yusuke himself appeared drained—they might have just been small blasts, just little burst of energy while he was goofing around before, but they had taken their toll—though even with the distance she noticed the stricken look on his face. He had nearly destroyed her accidentally.
No time to worry about that now; it could be dealt with later. Sango switched her sword to her uninjured side, her right hand too slippery to hold it any longer. But in that second it took her to change hands, she failed to notice the danger behind her. Miroku did not.
The monk had pulled her into his body and spun around before Sango could even perceive the threat. She felt his heart beat wildly against her cheek as well as the way he tensed when the attack met its mark. She stiffened along with him.
Although his hold was strong, she was stronger as she put her hands against his chest and pushed herself away from him, but he kept his arms wrapped around her. When she tentatively put a hand around him and touched his back, she felt the liquid that immediately covered her hand. Her eyes widened. Blood.
Her hands were firm but gentle as she pushed against his chest, getting him to release her from his hold. Sango got to her feet, plunging her sword into the heart of a creature attacking her from behind without even batting an eye, before turning back to Miroku and hastily helping him up.
"Why did you do that?" she asked, her voice trembling from anger and other emotions.
He gave her a warm smile that just as soon as it appeared turned into a grimace.
"Why do you still need to ask?"
One of the creatures landing right between them interrupted any reply Sango might have given. Miroku banged the creature on the head with his staff, disorienting it as Sango hacked its wing and part of one leg clean off. More still came, but together as a team Sango and Miroku did well to keep the demons at bay. They stood back to back for the majority of the time, protecting the other from the creatures that came from behind.
Sango fell down to one knee and ducked under as a creature came sailing toward her, spinning around on her knees and slashing at it before it could get away. Her sword met Miroku's staff after completely its arc, the monk having gone after the same demon. Sparks flew as the two weapons met and he stumbled back a few steps to the very edge of the roof before he found his balance.
"You don't know your own strength," he told her teasingly as he flashed a quick grin.
It didn't last.
A demon sprang from behind the monk and buried its fangs into Miroku's ankle. It jerked his leg back and his foot slipped off the side, meeting nothing but air. His eyes were wide as he tottered on the edge, the demon weighing his one leg down.
"Miroku!" she cried as she started to her feet, but one of the demons pounced upon her, biting deep into her shoulder. She fell to the rooftop once more and could only watch as Miroku stumbled back and dropped from her sight. She heard the thud as he hit the ground.
Violently beating away the one on her back, she started for the edge at a run, fully intending to jump off and to the ground below to aid Miroku, but the demon behind her knocked her down. Her body slammed ungracefully onto the house much harder than when Hiei had let her go, her chin hitting the top hard enough that it stung.
Sango killed the thing within minutes, but demon after demon came. She dodged onto a different housetop to keep one from harming her further, and then onto another. She fought back against them harshly, viciously. There seemed to be no end to their onslaught.
When she killed her last one, she remained poised on top of the home for a whole minute, waiting cautiously to see if any of the demons decided to show themselves. Her breathing was labored and she felt woozy from all the blood she had lost. There were multiple wounds all over her body ranging from scraps to a few that might need a few stitches. Nothing life threatening.
When none more appeared, she sheathed her sword and dropped down from the house instantly. She staggered as her feet found the ground once more, dropping to one knee against her will. With gritted teeth, she forced herself to stand.
Yusuke and Hiei were fine, she had just seen them. What she was worried about was Miroku. She had not seen him since he had taken the fall off the roof.
She rushed forward as fast as she could manage, which happened to be a brisk walk. Two houses down, one over. That had been where he fell, where she had last seen him.
When Sango was about to make the last turn, however, she found Yusuke blocking her path. She tried to move past him, but he stopped her too quickly with a hand to her arm. His grip was tight. Too tight. It hurt her, but she hardly noticed. All her attention was for the grave look on his face.
Sango felt all the blood drain from her face. Her throat felt dry.
"Let me through."
Again, he stopped her. "I don't think you want to—"
She jerked her arm away from him and took a step forward, trying to get him to back down. He did not.
"Let me through!" she demanded.
Her sword was back in her hand in an instance. With no thought to the consequences, she pointed it right at Yusuke, the tip of the blade at his throat. He still did not budge. There was such rage in her, such fire, that it felt wrong to stare into his eyes and see such compassion there. Such a dismal look.
She wanted that look gone. Wanted to slap it right off his face. She wanted no pity. What sadness could he possible have even if… even if Miroku was…. What did he care? He knew nothing of the monk. Nothing.
The voice did not come from either of the two. It came from behind Sango but she did not turn to see the fire demon there. For the first time, she did not even care.
"Let her go," the fire apparition ordered.
Yusuke's gaze slid past her, his eyes hardened as they locked with Hiei, the softness he had shown her gone. Sango lowered the blade away from Yusuke's neck despite the way his hands clenched into fists at his side.
"Fine," Yusuke spat, his voice terse.
He stiffly moved aside. Sango rushed past him, her breath caught in her throat.
The sword slid from her hands and onto the ground below with a barely audible thud. Tremors ran through Sango, shaking her noticeably. She turned away from the sight that lay before her.
She couldn't stand to look at the monk.
Or, at least, what was left of him.
She took two gradual steps backward. Was she moving? She could barely feel it, could barely feel anything. Everything felt numb. She turned her back on the gruesome scene that bore no resemblance to a person she once knew. A friend. But no longer.
A hand lightly fell on her shoulder, but it felt heavy all the same.
It was Yusuke that spoke. She shook off the friendly grip. Her face was empty; her mind, blank. She could not bring herself to look at either of the others.
She held up a hand to him. Every move felt stiff and unnatural. Her fingers slowly curled inward toward her palm until it was almost a fist. She said only one word.
And then she was walking away. But the slow steps quickly turned into a fast pace, and the fast pace turned into a jog. Within moments she was in a full-out sprint toward the surrounding forest, no regard for the weapons or people she left behind.
AN: Miroku's dead, Kurama and Kuwabara's souls are lost, Inuyasha and Kagome are stuck with Youko (and who knows what that fox is up to) while Kagome has made some sort of pact with the fox… I think things are going well so far, don't you? :-D
I'm not really satisfied with how the second scene here turned out, but I've put off this chapter for months because I just couldn't write it the way I wanted, so I guess I just need to post it as is, or I'll probably never post it at all. Much love to all those who reviewed last chapter!
Edit: Oh! Also! I'm thinking of putting a teaser up of the next chapter in my forum before it's posted, so that way even when you're waiting for me to finish the chapter completely, I'll put the first scene up or a piece of a scene up or whatnot. I'm trying to decide if it's a good idea or not. If I do, I'll put a note in my profile page.