Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha
A/N: Deliberately episode 153 centric. See disclaimer.
When Kagura came and snatched him away from his sister, he was both angered and relieved, if it were possible to feel two such contradictory emotions simultaneously. Anger at himself and being torn away, and yet relief because she was gone from his sight. He was feeling more -oh, he was- but those were the two at the forefront of his mind amidst all the confusion and confliction and the overwhelming dread that had started to curdle his blood.
She steered the feather heavenward, and the wind running its fingers through his hair was peeling away the wrath he'd felt with such soothing ferocity -if such a thing were possible- that he was suddenly reminded of his mother. His heart was pounding in his chest, and deep in his gut he felt violently sick. The clenching inside him was immobilising, and he could barely breathe. Gripping a feeble section of feather, he shut his eyes and willed away the images that would not stop coming.
Blood and gore.
The blade of his kusarigama glinting in the little remaining late evening light, even as the entire curve of sharp metal was rusted over in blood.
The constant clink and rattle of a chain as a kusarigama silhouette sailed through the air, connecting with victim after victim, both suspecting and ones who had been unaware, slicing through giving, fragile flesh.
All of these visions set against a sky dark with rust and flames.
All of them he tried to will away, even though he knew, stubbornly, that he couldn't possibly be strong enough to stop them. They'd been coming in a quickflicker barrage ever since she spoke. It was like a floodgate opening. They struck like arrows.
He'd done it again, she'd said.
At first he'd only taken her word for it. He had no memories. His master had bleached him of them, in exchange for servitude. But then, something in his vision -that face, ever familiar, was rippling like an image upon a disturbed pond- had struck him. He broke. Shatttered, like a mirror. That was when the chill set in. Like a viper striking.
He'd fought off a spell of dizziness - it was as if the ground beneath his feet were tilting- only to succumb to tiny pinpricks of pain behind his eyes. He'd clutched his face in horror, weak in the knees.
Who was he? Who was she?
And then the answers had slowly come to him with each image that ached to be familiar to him, as if thousands of tiny arrows were launched at him, evoking unending, frightful, painful enlightenment with every sharp penetration of memory, filling in all the cracks that had raked and carved into him with increasing clarity.
He hadn't wanted to kill those castle attendants, or the princess's maids. Or the princess. He hadn't.
But nonetheless, wearing blood like war paint and allowing his heart to be manipulated and consumed by the whispers and croonings in his head, he had ripped open their torsos and laid them open to the bone, tears leaking from his hardened eyes whenever his façade cracked. He'd have done anything to keep his memories erased. To forget the unspeakable evil he'd committed.
Everything came back as if it had never been missing.
He'd nearly collapsed before her, falling onto one knee. At that point a series of images had flashed by, silent as the void.
The two of them as children.
Her laughing as a miniature version of the large youkai presently at her side pounced at him and licked his cheek.
Him handing her a bustling bouquet of lilies.
Her chiding him as he injured himself practicing with the kusarigama.
Him wincing at the cut splitting open his palm.
Her tending to his wound, lips moving with soundless words, her face stained dark with worry, before she smoothed the hair out of his eyes and kissed his temple.
Him slaughtering their father and the fellow taijiya, before aiming right between her shoulder blades.
Her tortuously slowly turning around to stare at him in shock, the tip of his kusarigama lodged deep in her back, soundlessly gasping his name.
And then, his own voice -soft yet scathing and scratched half to death- had broken the silence in his head: 'Aneue, what have I done?'
And then, just like the wind, Kagura had swept him away, gliding through the turbulence in the sky and far away from Aneue, soon to be nothing but an indistinguishable speck behind them.
He'd dishonored his family. He'd dishonored his sister. He'd tarnished the family occupation. He deserved to die.
He remembered why he had chosen to serve his master. He hadn't. He'd only asked to forget his past. Because he was alive, and they were all dead, and even all the arrows in his back hadn't been enough to make his fragile little body give up its struggle to survive. All his comrades had been buried, including his sister; he remembered lying awake in a delirium, eyes unable to focus on anything, and hearing voices that spoke of graves by the garden wall.
Later on, as he had struggled against the blood loss and fever, he had managed to prop himself up, weakly, upon his elbows, and survey his surroundings. A bleak but fancy, windowless room off in some secluded wing of the Lord's castle; he never would have known of his seclusion had the Lord and his master not told him.
The man kept him alive for a long time, refusing to let him die. Refusing to let him sacrifice himself for dishonoring his village. It was almost sadistic, in a way, this cruelty he displayed in his kindness. Being alive and haunted by the blood on his hands was torture. When he had finally given up on ever finding release from this torment, he had groveled before the Lord, begging that, since death would not be granted, if there were something else he could be given to make life bearable.
The Lord his master had only made a ghost of a smile at the request and knelt before him, cupping his chin with an examining look upon his face, then said he could take his painful memories away. Forever.
There was no forever, though. It had all been a lie.
Kohaku had hated him for that, and as Kagura put more distance between them and his sister, wind whistling through his ears and tousling the bangs of his hair, Kohaku let a numbness come over him. He was crying again, and he didn't want to feel anything.
The princess he had killed that night, cowering, had seen him falter and asked who controlled his heart. It had been like ice in his veins for a moment then.
Naraku had not only held control of his heart, but also of his limbs. At times, it often felt like Naraku had been inside him, vibrating with breath and drowning his consciousness all but to oblivion. Filling him with a seething determination to kill, and making certain that Kohaku did.
Kohaku turned away from his sister's distant figure to look at Kagura from the back. Her heart wasn't in her body, but kept far away where Naraku could fill it with pain if she disobeyed. He knew that much. He wondered if she ever felt jealous of him, for having his own heart, even though it didn't give him freedom.
One thing he did know was, he envied her lack of conscience.
There was only one thing left to do.
Kohaku rose steadily, careful to keep his balance in the harsh winds around them, and with his sister in mind and tears in his eyes, edged himself off the feather and went tumbling down toward the ground and his death.
The feeling of the air caressing his skin as he fell was almost of a cleansing sort.
He should have died that day. He was long overdue, with many more massacres racked up this time.
He could barely hear Kagura's insult over the wind. A moment later he felt himself connect harshly with the sturdy middle of the feather off of which he had just jumped.
Resigned, Kohaku stayed on the feather, ignoring the yelling she was directing toward him, uncertain what to think of her actions. Did she have a conscience after all, or had she simply been following implicit orders like the puppets they were?
All he knew was that neither of them were free.