Author Note: So, I named Kagome's mother "Kikune" because I was watching an anime with a character named Kikune right as I wrote the chapter. I apologize if the mother has a name in the series that I have mistakenly overlooked. I don't think she does.
Chapter 5: The Aristocratic Assassin
Staring down into the depths of the well was getting him nowhere. With a huff, Inuyasha crossed his arms. He had a bad feeling about this. Some of the most important events of his life revolved around this rotten, damned well. His mother's disappearance, Kikyou's betrayal, and finally the strange new girl's arrival – all had occurred right around here. The forest carried many of his memories, and most of them weren't good, but he was still here and still hopeful as he carefully surveyed the bottom of the well. Her scent trailed off at its lowest part. Should he jump in?
Finally, a blue light lit up the dirt below and Kagome's nice, relaxing scent filled his nostrils. This time he really did leap in. Hoisting her out of the well, he started to yell the minute her feet touched the ground. "Where have you been?" he shouted.
Her reaction was completely unexpected. Flinging her arms around his torso, she hugged the daylights out of him, and immediately started to cry. The hanyou went into shock. Girl. Hugging. Me. In fact, he only came out of his proximity-induced trauma when she grabbed his face between her hands and sniveled, loudly. "It's true!" she exclaimed excitedly, "You have her nose."
"Crazy girl. What are you crying about?" he demanded. "You're the one who left."
"Inuyasha!" Looking him straight in the eye, she exclaimed abruptly, "How much do you remember about your mother?" It seemed too remarkable to be true, but the evidence was too great to ignore. Remembering her mother's tears, upon hearing Inuyasha's name for the first time in over twenty years, had made her want to help. Her mother never cried! This was only the third time in living memory that Kagome could recall it happening. And the first two times had been tears of relief. So technically, this was a first. The kind-hearted lady had marched silently all the way to the well, then moved to climb over the edge, before she finally broke down. How could she face her son, she asked, what if he thought he had been abandoned? Kagome had promised to speak with Inuyasha, and her grandfather had escorted a heartbroken mother back to the house.
Now all she had to do was explain it to Inuyasha. Simple. No problem.
"Um…" Talking to the girl was too difficult, he decided, since the subject kept changing. Maybe he could let her do the talking, while he focused on this uncomfortable premonition he had. Usually his gut feelings were important, and this one was growing stronger. "Not much really…"
"Because…" Kagome sniffed, unsure of how to begin. And unfortunately, when she got nervous, she tended to speak too much, too quickly. "You see… I went home and my mother said that she had gone back in time once too, and that she met a youkai and they got married and had a baby…"
By this time, Inuyasha had tuned her out entirely. A warning was screaming at him from the back of his mind. It felt like… concealed youki. "Get down!" he hissed, as he pushed her head lower and swiveled in place. "Can you sense it?"
"Sense what?" she inquired, slightly miffed to have her narrative disrupted.
"This incredible youki all around us! It's blanketing the entire forest!"
Kagome blinked at him in a stupor, finally recognizing the tingling feeling along her spine for what it was. Oops. Okay, so maybe the forest in the middle of the night surrounded by dangerous beasts was not an ideal location for storytelling. But she had promised her mother she would be right back! She cast a longing glance at the well.
"Hmph, some miko," resumed Inuyasha as he dragged her away by the arm. "Come on, we have to hurry back to the village."
Except it was too late. As they ran, the wind picked up and they felt the youki swelling around them, no longer concealed. It swirled into existence, almost suffocating in its presence, and from the treeline a vision in white stepped forth. Kagome recognized the feudal lord that she had seen earlier that evening.
Apparently the hanyou recognized him too. He faltered and took a step backward, stumbling into the miko's form. "Teme! Sesshoumaru!" he growled as ferociously as he could.
"Oh," the man in white intoned, his voice dark and cold. "How nice that you remember the face of your older brother."
Brother?she thought. I don't remember Mom saying anything about another brother… Viewing both men, youkai and hanyou, she realized they really did look a lot alike, at least from what she could see in the dim, pre-dawn light. She moved forward to ask a question of her own, and right about then the whole night turned sour.
"Hn. Is that a human female?" the stranger continued even more icily. "Fitting that the shame of our family would associate with such a worthless creature."
This guy seems very hostile, Kagome thought for the hundredth time. He definitely takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level. It increased her burning desire to help Inuyasha win this fight. This battle was the most difficult one she had seen him face so far. They were both very tired, having missed a night of sleep, and this Sesshoumaru guy was extremely fast. Plus, Inuyasha seemed especially affected by his enemy. Barbs that normally should have rolled off stung deep in this case. It seemed like he really cared about what his half-brother thought. Which didn't make much sense to Kagome, considering how disfunctional their relationship was.
Sesshoumaru had told them repeatedly how much he despised humans and hanyou, and she struggled to remember an English line from one of the Shakespearean plays they had been forced to read in school. How did it go? Methinks the lady dost protest too much. Of course, Sesshoumaru wasn't a lady, and she couldn't quite figure out how to fit it into the conversation, but it would have been a great insult if she had had the time to work on it. At least she had gotten in one good comment though! After pointing out that Sesshoumaru would lose face if his little brother could do something that he could not, she had watched the man's reaction and his face had been priceless. He had glared at her – yep, that's right, insignificant little human girl had managed to annoy him. And then he had stood aside to see for himself what Inuyasha was capable of.
Finished trouncing the little green nasty thing, Kagome pulled herself up and focused on the fight once more. The whole experience was quickly becoming surreal. She was in the past, in another world, watching two non-human super-beings fight, while standing on a HUGE pile of skulls, and to top it all off she was deliriously tired! The pile of bones was disturbing enough. Her mother had said that the Inu no Taisho was kind, but the skulls in his stomach didn't hold with that statement. Come to think of it, the size of the skeleton was astounding too. Hadn't her mother mentioned mating with this guy? Gross. She tacked this on to her list of things never to discuss with Mother.
A red blur shot across the room, only to run full tilt into a white wall. When the dust cleared, Kagome shivered at what she saw. Inuyasha's brother had stopped his opponent cold using only one hand; he hadn't even swayed when Inuyasha hit him. In the subsequent silence, she wondered what they were thinking. Sure, Inuyasha wasn't as fast or as strong as this guy, but… he was… Dammit, she wanted him to win!
She didn't have to wonder long – Sesshoumaru growled and moved in for the kill, slamming Inuyasha backward in to the heap of skulls with a crunch. Her eyes widened in horror. This was it! He was going to kill Inuyasha! Time seemed to slow down, and she saw the man hesitate as if waging an internal battle, wiggling his fingers in contemplation. Terror did not allow her to analyze the pause though; all she knew was that she had to help her friend. With a shriek she pushed herself forward and heard the ominous sliding sound of metal against metal.
This time, the fight really did grind to a halt. Both brothers watched, stupefied, while she stared at the incriminating evidence in her hand in complete surprise. I'm innocent! I didn't do it! she thought frantically. Common sense told her that neither youkai nor hanyou would be happy to know that the magical, mystical sword of their father had been pulled out of the enchanted stone by… a human. That just wasn't how things were supposed to go. She wasn't King Arthur, she wasn't supposed to be here, and she didn't want the blasted thing. "Ah," she tittered nervously, "It… slipped?"
A gust of wind hit her face and then white silk blocked her vision of the rest of the gravesite. Kagome cautiously peered upward and wished that she had not. She had never been this close to someone so intimidating. "You," he snarled, "Who are you?"
"Sesshoumaru!" the hanyou squeaked from behind them, "Leave her alone, she's got nothing to do with it!" His voice seemed positively panicked and when Kagome heard that, she panicked too. Inuyasha was not the type to come unglued, so she realized she was in serious trouble.
"D-don't come any closer," she warned him, waving the sword in his face. It was supposed to be magical right? "I'll swing this thing at you!"
Ignoring her baseless threat since she obviously didn't know how to handle the sword, much less transform it, Sesshoumaru replied to his brother. "Neither you or I could pull out the Tessaiga," he reasoned, "Yet she easily got past the barrier. How can this be ignored?"
"I don't know how it happened either but she's just a regular girl, nothing special," blustered Inuyasha, becoming more and more distraught. "Kagome! Give him the sword!"
"No way," she argued. The words were directed to Inuyasha, yet meant for his brother. "He couldn't pull it out, that means it isn't his." She glared at the man in white, daring him to contradict her logic.
Unfortunately, the hanyou had ways of distracting her at the most inopportune times. "Don't be stupid!" he growled from across the room, "Stop interfering!"
"Hn." The taiyoukai decided to regain control of the conversation. However amusing it might be to watch his half-brother verbally spar with a human in a snit, now was really not the time. First of all, it was unacceptable that a human could touch or control the sword of his father. For such insult to his family, she would have to die. But he also had to consider the fact that Inuyasha was unable to release the sword. What did that mean? Father did not want either of them to have it? This option was unthinkable. No, the Inu no Taisho had left him the riddle and thus the directions to find the sword. Tessaiga belonged to him. Next, his little brother held the key to answering the riddle, so perhaps Father had intended they work together to obtain the blade, a distasteful but distinctly possible option. In other words, Tessaiga belonged to him, if and only if met his Father's conditions; he must be willing to speak to his half-brother again and admit he was part of the family. This much, he could reason through and comprehend, even if he did not accept it.
But the human girl? Where did she fit in? He knew the riddle, his brother held the answer to it, and neither one of them could have the treasure unless they had a human girl too? Sesshoumaru growled at where this reasoning was taking him. He was not, and would never be, like his father! Er… except in the good ways! Just not the bad human-loving, mortal-mating sort of way! He began counting ways she could die – poison, mutilation by whip…
As the girl began to fume at Inuyasha's knuckle-headed comments, her scent spiked in anger, washing out the nervousness and fear she had been coated with earlier. "Nani?" she complained, her high-pitched tone piercing his ears, and her eyes sparkling with ire toward his half-brother. And the truth finally dawned on him.
She smelled familiar. Very familiar. Too familiar. It had been over a hundred years since he last laid eyes his Father's despicable second wife, but when he stopped to think about it, this girl looked rather similar. Was she a descendant then? The hated woman had disappeared after the battle with Ryuukotsuei; had she somehow lived through the clash of two titans and fled like a coward, to bear other nasty, human children later in her life? It would explain why the sword responded to this girl. Tessaiga had been used to protect her bloodline before, and the living blade could not distinguish between individuals, unless there was a drastic shift in the blood. So, this girl was the great-great-grandaughter, or some such relation, to his step-mother. Now she would die for certain.
But first, she would suffer the same degree of disgrace and humiliation that he had suffered from the presence of her ancestor. Golden eyes narrowed, he interrupted the brewing dispute between his half-brother and the girl. "A sword that can destroy a hundred youkai in one swing must go to someone worthy of its power. This alone implies that it is mine. This Sesshoumaru cannot touch such an esteemed blade alone, nevertheless…"
Stepping forward, he crowded the girl against the pedestal that once held the Tessaiga. She gasped lightly and quivered under his intense gaze, as he grazed her hand with sharp claws. "…I will take it."
Kagome shook her head and gripped the sword more tightly. There was no chance he was getting this! Conceit did not justify a person doing whatever he wanted. Inuyasha was a nice guy, and she refused to believe that nice guys finished last. She slammed the tip of the blade into his cheek (or tried to anyway), and watched the kekkai flare to life as he stopped the attack with one finger. Before she could breathe, he was behind her, pinning her forearms to her torso with one arm. His other hand, the one that had touched her before, now dug into the skin on the back of her hand, and she shrieked as she felt the skin break.
Her miko powers finally kicked into gear at her pain, and the pair was swathed in pink light. She had never been so glad to lose control. Good to know that even though she couldn't command her aura, it still defended her from harm. But when the dust cleared and the glow faded, she remained trapped. Despite all hopes to the contrary, the taiyoukai had not turned to dust, and judging by his heavy growl, he was extremely mad. She tried to activate her powers again, but they receded further and further from her grasp as the youki around them also disappeared. How does he do that? she wondered. It seemed that without an opposing spiritual force to confront her own powers were of no use.
"Perhaps I did not make myself clear, miko," he continued venomously, "I will not hold the Tessaiga alone; you shall carry it for me."
As they lifted off the ground, Inuyasha desperately tried to stop their ascent, but once again he moved a fraction of a second slower than his sibling. Kagome struggled against her captor until his grip became painfully tight, practically strangling her into submission. Then, she attempted to drop the sword, since that was what he really wanted out of the whole situation, and discovered with despair that she could no longer wiggle her fingers with his fist wrapped around hers. Physically outmatched, and unable to use her miko powers, she was helpless.
I remember trapping both of Souta's hands once in one of mine, so that I could tickle him. She frowned. I hope I didn't hurt him as much as this is hurting me. Above, the portal to the gravesite was closing, and she squirmed to see whether the hanyou and the flea were going to make it out. Sure enough, they were gliding along on one of the undead birds, shouting something unintelligible. And she noted with amusement that the green youkai was hanging on for dear life to the end of his master's fluffy white boa, both of his eyes screwed shut.
Passing the barrier between the two worlds, Sesshoumaru accelerated while Inuyasha dropped to the ground, no longer able to fly after his brother, and soon he was lost to sight. Cold air punished her face and whipped around her legs, which were exposed to the wind by her short skirt. And to think, only yesterday her dark blue knit top with the cross pattern around the collar and matching light blue skirt had been one of her favorite outfits. Next time she was about to be kidnapped by a demon who traveled through the upper reaches of the atmosphere at mach-speed, she would remember to bring sweats.
Hmm. What now? she pondered. Maybe if I distract him, he'll let go enough that I can breathe. Just one deep breath, that's all I need. Her friends at school were always reading trashy romance novels in which the heroine was abducted by a studly guy, and realized while pressed against his chest that she could not resist his charm. Well, she was here to report that this was nothing like that. Having your lungs squeezed to death by anyone, handsome or not, was highly unpleasant.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked him, feeling this was a simple enough question to start with. No hard feelings, just friendly curiosity.
"Silence human," came his less than satisfactory reply.
This is going to be a long trip, she moaned silently. And I told Mom I'd be right back!
She awakened with a start as she crashed into a hard-wood floor some time later. After a while, from the lack of oxygen, extreme exhaustion, and the lack of other productive possibilities, she had fallen asleep. It had been rather like snoozing while hang gliding – not a fun experience.
Rolling over she viewed the room she had quite literally landed in and saw that it was just as cold and bare as its owner. It looked somewhat like a dojo, with a rack of weapons along the wall, and a sprawling picture of a giant white dog along the shoji screens across the way. In the middle of the wall, two empty sword holders held a place of honor amongst the other arms.
Only a few seconds passed between her rude awakening and the growls she heard from her captor. "Hey!" she protested. "What's the big idea, dropping me like that?"
"This Sesshoumaru did not wish to touch your human flesh for any longer than necessary," he replied without hesitation. "Stand up."
"Why you…" she bristled and rose to her feet unsteadily, clutching the rusty old sword to her chest. Because her brain was still taking a siesta, she feared she would spout ill-mannered statements, so she clamped her mouth shut. It was to no avail though, once she heard the youkai's next infuriating comment.
He slowly paced around her form, as though stalking a rabbit. "Oh? Does it bother you to know there is dirty blood flowing in your body? Having dealt with your kind for quite some time, I can state with confidence that humans are naught but traitors, liars, and cowards, alongside the occasional self-interested warrior."
"Ooooh!" squealed the miko in anger, "Who are you trying to convince? You keep saying these things, but no matter how many times you insult me, I won't think badly of myself, only you."
Such defiance was intriguing but not intelligent. The girl was treading on thin ice. "Put the sword," Sesshoumaru demanded frigidly as he turned her to face the empty sword stand, "There on the wall."
"No!" she shouted now, even more obstinate than before. "Over my dead body." Which naturally was a very stupid comment to direct toward a dangerous demon who had a bone to pick against humans. Realizing her mistake immediately, she whirled and poked the sword at him, but he merely knocked it aside once more.
"As you wish," he replied darkly. A spray of noxious smelling green gas swept over her, just like the attacks he had launched against Inuyasha in the gravesite. It stung at first, but the sword quickly began to pulse, and her body felt warm and protected. Coated in dark green goop, she couldn't breathe through the thick substance weighing down her limbs. As her legs collapsed beneath her in shock, she realized that she had actually brushed with death. It was official this time. The man had been trying to kill her.
Striped hands peeled away some of the muck encasing her figure and she was free to move again. Staring down at her in absolute amazement was a startled taiyoukai. Wait a minute! He had tried to kill her, but the sword had saved her life, meaning that the Inu no Taisho had seen fit to protect her. The sword was made from one of his fangs after all, and so it was probably imbued with his will. The stupid youkai would have to listen to her now, if he had even a modicum of respect for his Father's wishes! Excellent leverage, Kagome decided and sat up, the trauma wearing off now that she had had a moment to think. "Hey!" shouted Kagome. Although she was still trying to be polite in her speech, she objected to this sort of treatment. "You were honestly trying to kill me, weren't you?"
Sesshoumaru stepped back, aghast. An insignificant human girl had survived his Dokkasou. He had tried to melt her and then retrieve the Tessaiga… but here she was, propping herself up by the blade with a pile of goo on her forehead, acting as lively as the day she was born. Face set in stone as Kagome loudly explained her theory, he realized he would have to do something more drastic to reduce her spirits. Worst of all, he agreed with her conclusion. If the sword had safeguarded her life, then he was bound to do so as well. It was appalling.
Myouga bounced uselessly on his keeper's shoulder, trying to cheer the hanyou up, but his words fell on deaf ears. "I failed her," Inuyasha groaned again, "The one person who never betrayed or hated me, and I killed her." He was sitting on the edge of the well, near where he had first met the young miko. Kagome had been so kind and selfless. Annoying at times, yes, but it was his fault she had died. Sesshoumaru would never have run into her if she hadn't been around a worthless hanyou. If he had only prevented her from entering the portal, or from associating with him in the first place.
"I'll avenge her of course," he told his retainer with half-hearted resolve. "But I don't suppose I'll win."
"Yes, and you will take back your inheritance!" insisted Myouga.
"Keh! Keep goin' on about unimportant things, and I'll squash you again."
With the flea suitably subdued, he returned to his thoughts. His idea was not complicated, but it required a great deal of resolve, so he had to go over it many times. So far, the plan was to track his brother's scent to the castle, break through the barrier, and crush his foe once and for all. Truly, Sesshoumaru had gone too far this time! But first, he would attempt to journey down the well and find Kagome's family. This part also involved a great deal of introspection, as he had no idea what he would say to them to break the news. Didn't Kagome say that in her time there were no youkai? What will they think of me? Perhaps he would be lucky, and the well would refuse to work for him.
Finally, recognizing that he was no closer to a solution than he had been several hours ago, he shook his head and stood on the side of the well. "Ready, Myouga?" he asked his tiny companion.
"It's not … dangerous there, you say?" The hanyou rolled his eyes in disgust. "Ah, yes then I'm ready."
The smell of ancient magic assaulted his nose as he fell through the dark air in the well, and blue light swirled around him as he reached the bottom. And Myouga dropped the rest of the way to the ground, alone.