Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or Mermaid Saga.
Summary: All Rin wanted was to become immortal so she could be with Sesshomaru. All Yuta and Mana want is to lose their immortality. The legendary Mermaid's Lake could hold the answer to all their problems...
To Those Unfamiliar With Mermaid Saga:
All you need to know is:
1) Yuta and Mana live in the modern day era. Thus, this fic starts out in the present day.
2) Yuta and Mana have eaten mermaid's flesh and become immortal.
Immortality. It is the primary difference between demons and humans. Humans are born—they grow old—and they die. But I have lived decades upon decades and yet not grown old. And I will not die unless I allow myself to make some egregious error of strength or will.
Immortality. I have always taken it for granted. The waning lives of humans have never concerned me…
The village of Ukai was an isolated, cramped place partly hidden behind the mountains and small enough for you to know everything about your neighbors (and for them to know everything about you.) So it was with great surprise that the village's oldest resident noticed a pair of outsiders entering Ukai that day. One was a tall, sturdy looking young man wearing a large pack on his back and by his side walked a strikingly beautiful teenage girl whose wide, roaming eyes gave her a sort of clueless innocence. Judging by the modernity of their clothes, the villager guessed that they had come from the city.
"Hey, strangers," he sized them up warily. "What brings you to Ukai? We don't get tourists 'round these parts." The pair's arrival completely baffled him. And how odd, he thought, that the young man should be traveling alone with a girl who appeared to be only 15 or so.
"Excuse me," the young man approached him with purpose. "Maybe you can help us. We're looking for Lake Ningyo. We heard it's supposed to be in this area."
"Lake Ningyo?" the old villager repeated suspiciously. "Now why would you be wanting to go up there?"
Dodging the question, the young man look at him impatiently. "Look, do you know where it is or not, old man?"
"Well, all right, sonny. I know your business is none of mine. I'm just worried is all." He lowered his voice warily. "Nobody ever visits Lake Ningyo. They say that place is cursed and none who go there ever return."
The girl, who hadn't seemed to be paying any attention until this moment, turned a worried face to the man beside her. He brushed her wrist reassuringly. "We're not concerned with superstitions."
"Fine, then." The old villager grumbled and pointed toward the mountains. "Somewhere in the valley, that's where you'll find Lake Ningyo."
"Are you sure?" the young man pressed.
Scoffing, the old villager spat. "Hell no! Do I look foolish enough to venture out there to you?"
"All right. Thanks, mister. C'mon, Mana." He tugged the girl's sleeve, and the two of them set off, heading in the direction of the mountains.
The old villager shook his head as he watched them go, convinced that he'd never see them again. "Crazy tourists."
"Yuta, slow down! You're going too fast!" Mana struggled to keep up with him as he ran through the forest, picking his way precariously since there was no manmade trail. She gave up and leaned against a tree trunk, trying hard to catch her breath.
With a sigh, Yuta turned and jogged back to her. "You're such a slowpoke."
"Am—" Mana paused to gasp for air, "—Not!" She stuck her tongue out at him.
"C'mon, crybaby." Handing his pack over to Mana, Yuta hefted her up onto his back and started off again.
Mana smiled, pleased that she didn't have to run anymore. "What's the big hurry, anyway?" she asked, absentmindedly playing with his hair.
"Stop that." Yuta raised his eyes to her, annoyed, as he dodged rocks and trees deftly. "Don't you understand? This could finally be it. Lake Ningyo is rumored to be home to mermaids. If we could find them, maybe they could lift this curse off us."
Mana whacked him lightly on the head. "I know that, stupid," she sighed, ducking as a tree branch soared past her. "But I still don't see why you have to run. It's getting late. And this lake will still be there in the morning—if it even exists."
"Oh, it exists all right."
With a dismissive snort Mana went back to lazily twirling her fingers through Yuta's hair. "How can you be so sure? That old geezer didn't sound like he knew anything."
Yuta licked his lips, readjusted Mana on his back, and picked up his pace. "I have a feeling."
Suddenly I am pulled out of my mindless stupor by the sound of my stomach growling pitifully. The window is grey, clouded over with dust, and the world seems black. Judging by the dimness of the room, it is dinnertime. Once again, I must weigh my options. Do I get up and go outside and get something to eat, or do I lie here motionlessly and continue to stare at the ceiling?
I consider staying put—getting up is such a nuisance and, after all, I do have a nice streak going—but it has been three days since I last bothered to eat and now my hunger wins out. Drearily, I stumble about the clutter that comprises my wretched, empty home and, finding the door, go outside.
The cool air feels foreign on my sheltered face. As always, I pointedly avert my eyes as I pass her garden—what remains of it at least—but nonetheless the all too familiar twinge in my heart returns. Sighing, I tread the well-worn path down to the lake.
'What an utterly tedious life I lead,' I think to myself as my claws dart expertly through the lake's murky waters and skewer the first unfortunate fish that happens to fall into my grasp. I bring the catch to my lips and tear into the slimy little beast ferociously, licking its entrails off my fingers with careless disregard, manners being of no use to me anymore. I swallow the last bit of flesh, and a grimace comes to my face. How monotonously unsatisfying these scrawny fish have become after centuries of consumption.
Wiping my mouth with disgust, I turn to head back home and resume my stationary position lying amongst the squalor, my stomach still painfully empty. In the distance a twig snaps, and my ears perk up. 'Hmm,' I wonder. Perhaps there is some tastier prey handily nearby. Relying on my keen nose, I close my eyes and inhale deeply, expecting to catch the scent of a rabbit or a fox (or some other such small creature hardly worth the trouble), but am stopped short by a far more interesting discovery.
'So,' my eyes flash dangerously in the darkness, 'A pair of humans has come to visit.' I flex my claws, relishing the almost-forgotten sensation of my knuckles cracking, and lick my lips as a vicious little smirk comes to my face. 'And here I thought I had another boring evening ahead of me.'
As soon as it happened, Yuta regretted stepping on the twig, which broke in half with a loud CRACK! Not because he was aware of any impending danger, but because the noise woke up Mana, who had fallen asleep on his back.
"Yutaaa," she said sleepily, rubbing her eyes. It was fully dark now and the sky was wrapped in dense, black clouds. She must have been asleep for hours. "You're still at it? Can't we rest—" She paused to yawn. "—For a little bit?"
'Oh great, she's up,' Yuta thought to himself, but all he said was, "Uh-uh, we've got to keep moving."
Mana let out an exasperated sigh. "But we've been traveling all night," she whined. "And it looks like it's gonna rain. Shouldn't we be looking for a place to sleep? I hate to break this to you, but your back isn't exactly the most comfortable thing in the world."
"And you aren't exactly the most comfortable thing to have on it. So unless you want to walk yourself, quit complaining. This is the best lead we've had on mermaids in years. I'm not stopping till we find this place. I don't care if it takes ten more hours or ten more days."
Suddenly, Yuta cleared the last trees of the forest and entered an expansive glade. At its center, the moon's wobbly image reflected mournfully in a great, black lake.
Mana slapped Yuta gently on the shoulder. "How about ten more seconds?"
Yuta shook his head in disbelief. "This can't be it. That was too easy."
"Are you kidding me?" Mana said, slipping off his back. "It's a lake, right where the old dude said it would be."
Yuta squinted his eyes skeptically. "Yeah, but that doesn't mean it's Lake Ningyo. We'll have to make sure." He stalked off to the lake's edge, the water lapping steadily near his feet, and Mana ran after him.
Thunder rumbled menacingly in the distance. Mana shook Yuta's shoulder pleadingly. "Can't we wait till morning? It's creepy out here. It's so dark I can hardly see you."
"Feh, you're just scared because of what that old yokel said at the village." Yuta ignored her and focused on the job he had to do. He pulled out his knife and held his other arm above the water. Furrowing his brow in determination, he sliced into his hand with the blade. As he made the wound he flinched slightly; even though it would heal within seconds, it still hurt. He watched silently as his blood spilled out of the cut and fell freely into the lake.
"But what if this place is cursed?" Mana reasoned. "It wouldn't be the strangest thing we've seen." She peered warily into the darkness, trying to shake the paranoid feeling that they were being watched.
'Huh. Amazing how close I can stand to these foolish humans without them noticing me. But then, of course, their eyesight is rather weak in the dark.
'Whatever are they doing up here by the lake, anyway? Fear has always kept the humans away. They could be lost travelers, perhaps? No, they must be here for a reason. The male seemed to have some purpose cutting himself like that.'
I sniff the air silently, hoping the delectable scent of human blood will quell my stomach while I wait and decide how to best take advantage of this fortunate situation. 'Strange…" I wonder. ' Something about the scent of his blood is oddly familiar…'
For a few frustrating moments, I puzzle over this enigma. Where could I have possibly smelled this blood before? Perhaps my prolonged hunger has befuddled my senses. This man is still young by human standards and it has been many, many years since I had any contact with mortals.
'Hm.' My attention shifts to the fidgeting girl now. 'She's young, also. Good. Maybe they'll put up a fight. Or perhaps, better yet—a chase? It's been so long since I had a decent meal—real prey. Not since before she…
'No matter. I can't let such a rare opportunity go to waste. Who knows if it will ever happen again? I better enjoy this while I can. Yes. May as well have a little fun with them first…'
Yuta stood silently, staring intently into the water's depths, searching for any sign of movement. If mermaids lived in the lake, they should have picked up on his blood and come to find their prey by now. Still, he wasn't going to give up until he was completely sure. He remained there unmoving, vigilant for several minutes while the wind howled and Mana teetered about on her legs.
Finally, he turned to her, disappointed, and put a hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry, Mana," he said lowly. "This place isn't cursed."
Mana looked at him nervously. "How do you know?"
Sighing, he gestured to the undisturbed water. "Because this isn't Lake Ningyo. Couldn't be. There's no sign of mermaids at all." He sheathed his blade and turned back to the forest. "C'mon. We'll have to keep searching—"
"Looking for Lake Ningyo, are you?" a strange, strong voice called out. Mana jerked and grabbed onto Yuta's arm as they watched a tall, shadowy outline appear in the darkness. They'd heard no sign of the figure's approach. Could he have been lurking there watching them?
"Well," the stranger continued eerily, "You're at the right place."
'Stay calm,' Yuta thought. 'Don't let yourself sound threatened.' He steadied his voice and yelled into the darkness, "Who are you!"
"Me?" the strange voice feigned innocence. "Why, I'm just a hermit." There was a glint of teeth in the darkness, as though the figure was smiling. He stepped closer and in the moonlight Yuta and Mana faintly made out the face of what appeared to be a man.
But something about his demeanor didn't feel right. Mana noticed Yuta move his hand cautiously toward the blade by his hip. She clutched his arm tighter and called out to the figure tentatively, "What do you want?"
"Heh… What I want…" His voice was so deep, so cold, but for some reason his smile grew wider. His features began contorting wildly, elongating into a monstrous snout. His teeth stretched longer and sharper until his mouth was filled with a set of deadly looking fangs. An inhuman snarl escaped the creature's twisted jaws as Yuta and Mana stared at him in horror.
He could hear their quickened heartbeats as they watched his transformation, could smell the adrenaline coursing through their veins. After what had felt like an eternity alone wallowing in futility, he finally felt his old self starting to return. He couldn't contain himself any longer. No sense in waiting to transform completely…
As his eyes started glowing fiercely red, he cracked the knuckles in his claws. "What I want… is your flesh!"
"Run!" Yuta shouted, shoving Mana out of the way as the figure lunged to attack. Mana fell to her knees, disoriented, the pack falling off her back. She looked up in time to see Yuta grab his knife and swing it at the terrifying creature. Easily, the figure sidestepped the dagger and reached his arm out as swift and straight as an arrow toward Yuta.
Yuta ducked the blow and turned his head to Mana, angry that she hadn't gotten herself out of harm's way. "Run, stupi—!"
Mana gasped as the monster's claws tore into Yuta's neck with a sickening thwack. A shower of red littered the floor violently as a horrible gurgling sound wrenched itself from Yuta's throat. Then, just as quickly as it had happened, Yuta's eyes rolled up into his head and he crumpled to the ground like a rag doll, a thick green poison emanating from his wound.
"NO!" Mana screamed, scrambling on all fours to his side.
Momentarily the figure stared in disbelief as the foolish girl neglected her chance to run away, but she'd hardly reached the body before he darted out a graceful, powerful hand and yanked her up savagely by the throat. Her legs thrashed about in fury and pain, and several delightfully breathless gasping noises escaped from her choked throat. Slowly the figure tightened his grip, savoring every delicious moment.
The other one had gone down too quickly. He would take his time with this girl. Finally, he had somebody to witness the brute strength, the sheer ruthlessness that he'd let slip away from him for so long. All the anger, all the pain that had stored up inside of him for centuries he would take out on this girl. He peered into her face, eager to behold the fear in her eyes, but with consternation found that she wasn't looking at him at all. Instead, all her attention was focused on the ground where her fallen friend lay.
She tried to call out Yuta's name but only managed a few mangled, choking sounds, her eyes straining, desperately trying to make out his wound in the darkness. The monster had lashed into his throat so hard. She had to see if his neck had been completely severed.
The ferocious figure frowned, outraged, and tightened his grip, finding no solace in the amusing little squeal the action rendered. The obscenity of it all! The vulgarity—the indecency! Here he was, trying to enjoy his first real victims in decades, and this little bitch had the gall not to pay him any mind! The foolish girl hardly seemed to care for her own predicament at all; the only life that mattered to her was that of the foolhardy worm lying dead by the lake.
The figure looked into her face furiously, trying to figure this girl out, and saw something that greatly disturbed him. Here her face was tarnished and twisted with anguish and suffering. And yet, despite that, for the first time the figure noticed the underlying splendor of her soft features and the determination in her eyes—how nobly they gleamed—and with a jolt recognized in her someone whom he had not seen in centuries. 'Dammit…' He could feel himself faltering. For some reason that annoying twinge in his heart had returned.
"You're just a pathetic, worthless human girl," he growled through clenched jaws. "You're not worth my time."
Suddenly Mana felt the grip on her neck loosening and she fell into the mud of the lake's shore. Gasping for air, she brought herself to her feet slowly, legs wobbling, and glared up at the figure suspiciously. Why had this monster decided to let her go?
The figure watched her struggle with disdain, his glowing red eyes fading to white, his gruesome features shrinking until they didn't appear monstrous at all.
"Now be a good little mouse and scamper off," he sneered coldly. "Your friend is already dead."
Mana stood staring at the creature before her in shock, mouth slightly agape, hair tousled, knees smeared with mud. Her throat burned achingly where he had gripped her. She could feel her heart racing wildly and her chest pounding for breath. The world was spinning; she swallowed back the vomit rising in her gut. Yuta was dead—maybe for good—and the evil monster responsible had made the mistake of not finishing her off with him.
"You fucking DICK!" she shouted and slapped him as hard as she could across the face. Then she stormed off to Yuta's body while the figure stayed rooted in place, briefly immobilized by the all-consuming absurdity of what had just occurred.
Mana gasped slightly at the pool of deep red blood that had seeped from Yuta's mangled throat. Desperately she clutched his lifeless form in her arms, heedless of the blood staining her clothes, and examined his wound closely. She ran her fingers tenderly along the ugly gash. A good chunk of flesh had been ripped out, surely, but a wave of relief swept over Mana as she felt firm skin at the back of his neck. Yuta hadn't been fully beheaded. He would be all right.
Mana glowered at the towering figure, daring him to lay another finger on them. "He's not dead!" she cried out hysterically. "Not for long! And when he comes back, him and me are gonna kick your sorry ass!"
The figure simply stared perplexedly at this appallingly rude, defiant little creature at his feet. Any normal human girl would have run screaming for her life by now. Instead, this oddball woman actually had the nerve not only to stand her ground but also to threaten him. And on top of everything else, she was spouting off some crazed nonsense about the corpse coming back to life!
"Are you a fool, wench?" he snarled, his voice growing harsher with every word. "Are you too young and stupid to understand how death works? Or perhaps you're so blindsided by grief that you hold onto some pathetically desperate hope that if you wish it hard enough he'll wake up?"
Mana gritted her teeth and tried to ignore his ranting, focusing with all her might on Yuta's wound, searching for any miniscule sign that it would start to heal. She knew Yuta would come back—he had to—but every time he died, a tiny part of her feared that somehow, without warning, he would be gone forever and she would be left all alone in the world.
"He was your lover, wasn't he?" the figure went on, spitting out his words like venom. "Yes, I'll bet he was. I see it now. You have the unmistakable mark of devotion in your eyes." He let out a short, derogatory laugh and sneered. "I did you a favor. It's best you learn this lesson now while you're young and naïve: Humans die. They always die, sooner or later, and there's nothing you can do to stop it."
"Shut up!" Mana screamed, tears wrenching themselves from her eyes. "He's coming back! He's coming back!" She buried her shaking face next to Yuta's still one, trying to calm down. Then she felt it—something on Yuta's neck. Straining her eyes to see, she let out a relieved cry, and then yelled triumphantly to the figure, pointing excitedly to Yuta's wound. "See! I told you! He's starting to heal already!"
'What the hell is this…' the figure thought. He gazed at the dead man more closely and jarringly realized that the wound he'd inflicted to the man's neck was gradually fading away as though it had never existed!
The sight sent a jolt through the figure's body. Long-discarded memories tried angrily to resurface to the forefront of his mind. He'd witnessed a phenomenon like this once before, a long time ago… Shoving himself right into the corpse's motionless face, he scrutinized every feature with a frenzied, meticulous eye.
Mana jerked back, unnerved to have the monster—looking obsessively intense—in such close proximity again. She watched, shocked and confused, as the figure came to a startling conclusion.
"I know this man…" he whispered incredulously. The hair was much different—and the clothes were odd, indeed—but there was no doubt about it. It could only be…
The name escaped the figure's lips with no small amount of dissatisfaction: "Yuta…"
Mana looked up at him, stunned. "What… How do you know his name?"
But the figure made no answer. He only stared at Yuta's bloodied face grimly, fighting some private battle within himself. Then, without warning, abruptly he snatched Yuta's body from Mana's arms.
"Hey! Hey!" she shouted, tearing at his grasp furiously. "What do you think you're doing, you bastard!"
The figure replied in a calm, innocuous voice, much different from the one he'd used before. "Come with me."
The fire had gone from his demeanor. Suddenly, this monstrous creature that had attacked them so brutally seemed tired… slightly apologetic, even. Mana didn't sense any immediate danger from him anymore. Should she trust him…? Surely if he still wanted to hurt Yuta, he wouldn't be holding him now so carefully.
Droplets of water finally began to fall from the sky. The clouds were dense and full. It would rain hard. Before the night was over, the blood from their skirmish would be washed away.
Mana's head felt like a mess. She and Yuta'd been traveling all day and night before they found this spooky lake; then, this mysterious figure attacked them, and now, somehow he knew Yuta's name and seemed to want to make peace. There were too many questions. Mana closed her eyes, savoring the small comfort of the cooling drizzle falling across her forehead.
"You can stay out here in the rain all night if you wish," the figure remarked gruffly. "I don't care." He turned and started walking away.
"Wait," Mana cried, opening her eyes. "Where are you taking him?"
The figure paused, and spoke quietly. "Home." Then he headed toward a beaten track that led up a hill.
'Home…' Mana wondered, retrieving the pack that she had dropped earlier. 'What kind of place does a creature like this live in?'
Then, as though in a daze, she followed the figure up the long, winding pathway in the dark, the sound of the rain beating relentlessly on Mermaid's Lake behind her.
Author's Note: Thank you for reading. I have most of the story written already so I hope to post updates in a timely fashion. This chapter was Mermaid Saga heavy, but the more Inuyasha-centered part is coming up. Feedback is much appreciated; would be happy to know there are other Mermaid Saga fans out there.
Also, a big thank you to my excellent beta Tarrin4ever.