The Abyss of Paradise

Phase Three: Undeclared Truce

Inuyasha woke up with a start, awoken by the sharp pain in the back of his neck.

Years of fighting taught Inuyasha one important rule: waking from an unguarded sleep was one of the most foolish things to do. You mind as well jump off a cliff if you didn't know where you were, simply because, in this day and age, sleep was deadly, if not suicidal.

"Dangling without life, swing left and right to travel onward."

Emitting a furious roar from deep within his chest, Inuyasha jumped to his numbed legs and pointed his claws in the direction of the voice. His demonic eyes swiveled every which way in the darkness, hungrily searching for the one responsible for his hostility.

"He's already gone."

Inuyasha whirled around, coming fact-to-face with the same strange human girl from before. He, on impulse, grabbed her neck in one rough hold and placed his other hand next to her head, one clawed index finger on her soft temple.

Ba-dump.

He grinned smugly, her heartbeat betraying her fear. Her face, what had at first confused him, was the perfect mask.

"It doesn't matter," the girl hissed, painfully so, as he tightened his grip. "Nothing matters."

"Who the hell are you?" Inuyasha demanded, pushing her to the wall. "Where'd you get those clothes?"

"I'm as good as dead."

Her words bemused him. To hear such calm, decisive words out of a weak human girl, so fragilely made, was nothing but a contradiction in itself. Her mouth said one thing while her heart said another. Inuyasha blinked. It was the same foreign, dangerous feeling again; this disturbingly tangible heat that coursed through his veins, boiling his blood.

Inuyasha immediately released her, much like before, and cautiously stepped back. "Who are you?"

The girl didn't respond, not at first. She rubbed her eyes and leaned back against the wall before saying, "My name is Kagome and, if I'm right, this isn't my world."

Inuyasha dropped his claws, though he stayed in his fighting stance. This was one of those rare moments in life that made living tolerable; when this dying little, apocalyptic world managed to surprise him with a completely random gift of entertainment. In this case, it was a neurotic human girl. "Alright, Ka-go-me. Let's say I believe you. Where are you from, exactly?"

"Another land entirely. Not this world, that much I'm sure," Kagome closed her watery eyes, tired. "This is a dream to me. I'm here only because I'm asleep."

"Wake up," Inuyasha grabbed a lock of her hair and harshly pulled her head up. "I'm still talking to you."

Kagome suddenly pulled her hands from behind her back, conjuring a familiar weapon that was now pointed at his face. He smirked.

She was a feisty one.

"Don't touch me," she said, though she was beginning to lose her balance. "Don't forget I saved your life."

"No you didn't." Inuyasha still yielded and dropped his hand, letting go of her hair. The moment he freed her Kagome slumped her shoulders, completely giving up on standing. She fell forward and onto Inuyasha, grasping a handful of his unkempt hair as her head rested on his chest. Inuyasha, in question, made no move to catch her. Letting her rest on his chest was good enough, at least in his mind.

"I told you who I was," Kagome coughed, finding comfort in his warm clothing. "So who are you?"

"It's Inuyasha. The forbidden vagabond."

"Forbidden. Why?" She was beginning to lose consciousness.

"I'm half and half."

"Half…human? And half…"

"Demon." A third voice answered.

Inuyasha turned to his right, though he had to awkwardly grab Kagome's wrist to stop her from sliding down onto the ground. "You!"

It was the fox boy, this time completely free of the shadows. His lower body, now uncovered, consisted of two canine legs and a bushy hay-like tail. The fox boy smiled, though his face was a little pale.

"Call me Shippou."

Inuyasha would've struck the boy down the moment he saw him, but Kagome had suddenly began exerting all her weight into his chest, forcing him to instead step back.

"Don't hurt him," she said, barely above a whisper. "He's our guide."

"Guide?" Inuyasha retorted. "I never agreed to this!"

"You agreed the moment you accepted the Cards," Shippou said.

"They were an heirloom!" he growled. "Besides, I work alone."

"Where will you go? By killing a guard you've condemned yourself to the top of the most wanted list. You are no longer a vagabond, but a wanted man," Shippou smiled humorlessly. "Your only hope now is to join us, unless you want to challenge His Majesty alone."

Inuyasha squinted. Then his face turned into that of a horror-stricken child's, as if suddenly hit by an overwhelming epiphany. "Wait…you're a—"

"Your guide. Nothing more, nothing less."

Kagome tipped her head back, a sick sensation traveling up her throat. "Footsteps."

Shippou and Inuyasha turned to the entrance of the dark mines. Shippou sighed, saying, "They have already found us. I suggest you listen to the girl, Inuyasha, and follow the path she chooses."

Inuyasha watched as the boy step back and seemingly disappear through the wall, leaving a slow but steady ripple in the shadows.

"To the right," Kagome interrupted. "My blade."

Inuyasha turned to see that Kagome was already heading towards the other end of the mines, pointing her glowing blade as she limped forward. "Hey!" he yelled as he caught up. "What are you doing?"

"We have to get away from the guards. They'll kill us. Kill you on sight, but with me, I don't know what they'll do…"

With a grunt he cut her off and examined her Vorpal Blade. It was glowing brilliantly blue, radiating visible waves of powerful heat.

"Hurry. We have to go…"

Inuyasha turned around and grabbed her outstretched hand, pulling her closer. "Get on. You're too slow." He leaned down and yanked her nearly lifeless body onto his back. Kagome's said limp body sagged on his back as he adjusted her weight and found a suitable position. He seized her thighs and stood up. "Hold my shoulders, you moron."

Hesitantly, Kagome snaked her arms around his neck and rested her elbows on each of his shoulders. Her blade still in one hand, she pointed the weapon forward. "They're near."

Inuyasha got on one knee and, without another thought, jumped. His head brushed the cold ceiling, but that did not slow his pace; nothing slowed him, not even Kagome's weak groan.

"Just because you're tired doesn't mean I'll slow down!" he yelled mockingly, going so far as to squeeze her thighs just to spite her.

Kagome was in no mood. "No… it's the blade."

Inuyasha frowned before he suddenly screeched to a halt, passing an opening and stopping on a wooden landing. Of course!

"Give me that!" Inuyasha snatched the hot blade out her hand and held it tightly in his own, even as the handle seared his palm. "Idiot! This blade requires strength of pure Will! If you hold onto it without any you'll only kill yourself!" Even before he finished his lecture he saw some color return to the girl's face. Somewhat glad, Inuyasha strapped the blade onto his coat, making sure it was secured before lowering Kagome to her now able feet.

"Right," Kagome blinked, regaining her composure. "Yeah, I feel a lot better now."

"Don't touch any weapon until you're physically and mentally rested," Inuyasha growled. "Now get on my shoulders."

"Excuse me?" She looked at him, incredulously so.

"Look," he said, pointing ahead. "We'll have to cross by jumping on the hanging ropes, and I'll have better balance if you're on my shoulders and not on my back." Kagome saw that he was, in fact, telling the truth. There was a gap between the landing they stood on and the landing on the other side of the broad ravine. Fifty feet below the ravine, oddly enough, were tiny clumps of quaint little shacks nestled alongside several waterwheels. There was no way to jump across it like the last chasm.

"Alright." Kagome said as Inuyasha leaned down, yet again. She had a strange feeling he was actually enjoying this… but ignoring that, she sat on the nape of his neck and straddled her legs around his head. She grabbed his hair as he straightened up, nearly falling off.

"You better not use my ears as reigns."

Kagome lifted her hands and realized she had been squishing his dog ears. They were such velvety ears.

She gasped when the dog-eared one promptly jumped off the wooden platform without another warning. He caught the first rope with ease and swung back and forth. Feeling sick, Kagome hunched down and screwed her eyes shut, gently clutching the dog-ears and wrapping her legs around Inuyasha's whole head.

"As much as I'm enjoying this," Inuyasha said, "I need to breathe."

Before he finished, though, Kagome shouted, "GUARDS!"

Inuyasha cursed and twisted his body to the left just as a spear shot past them. Having gathered enough momentum Inuyasha leapt to the next rope. Another spear flew by, just nicking Kagome's kneecap. Inuyasha leaned forward and caught the next rope with one hand. Before the guards threw another spear he swung back and, with a mighty lunge, shot off and landed on the opposite landing.

There was no time to waste.

"Stay on!" Inuyasha yelled just as Kagome got ready to jump off his shoulders. "There's no time to change position!"

Kagome bent her head down to avoid the rocks as Inuyasha hopped onto a nearby catwalk. He continued running until the ropes were out of sight.

"Good," he smirked. "Guess they didn't make it past the ravine."

"So," Kagome paused. "Can I get off your shoulders?"

"Why not? I like this position. Aren't you comfortable?"

"No."

It was while toiling in the earth did the slave bother looking up. Imagine the slave's shock when he saw two people, a human girl on the shoulders of a silver-haired dog man, approach him. Imagine his greater shock when the girl, without a moment to lose, abruptly asked, "How do you become small for a day?" Even the dog man seemed shocked by her rather odd question.

So, it was lucky for Kagome that this slave was willing to help.

"I can offer you some assistance," he started, "if you retrieve something for me first."

To the right, right, right.

Bounding across the creaky floorboards, the tiny creature caught a faint yet familiar scent.

To the left, left, left.

The creamy white Kirara halted when a closed door came up. Kirara stared, as if confused to be in front of the door that was, in fact, the entranceway. Kirara turned around and examined the room. Everything was familiar. Yet it should be unfamiliar. Strange. Very strange.

Perhaps, maybe… the two-tailed feline was lost?

Two tails twirled and curled before the feline, unexpectedly, stood up, forepaws swinging wildly, gestures similar to that of a symphony conductor. Something changed as Kirara's gestures became more elaborate and crazed. The door before the cat shifted and grew two sizes in width. Kirara stopped, and then climactically fell forward, landing on two rigid forepaws.

And as if nothing had happened, Kirara turned around and began dashing to the opposite end of the room.

I'm late, late, late.

"There's the "Danger" sign," Inuyasha turned to Kagome. "Ladies first."

Kagome, having finally regained some strength, rolled her eyes before stepping into the mine cart and sitting down. Inuyasha soon followed, though not before pushing the cart down the steep, descending slope. At first, it was a smooth ride through a cool, breezy tunnel. It soon, however, became slow and arduous and increasingly annoying, what with the constant clicks of the rickety wheels.

"You know," Kagome began, trying to break the uncomfortable silence. "I think I'm ready to hold the Vorpal Blade now."

Inuyasha faced her with one brow up. "Oh? Are you now?" he pulled out the blade from his trench coat and dangled it in front of his face. "Not before you tell me why."

"Why what?"

"Why you're doing this. Why you're following that fox's orders."

"Fox?"

"The boy. Your guide."

Kagome sighed. "He never game me orders. I just chose to do this because…it's better than waking up and dealing with my real life."

"Your real life." Inuyasha, though he would never admit it, was interested.

"The constant fear, the constant anxiety, and people who just look at me like a hopeless freak… Yes, it's much better here. I have a purpose to accomplish in this decaying world. And if I end up dying here, at least I'll die doing something. That's why I don't mind doing something as pointless as what we're doing right now. It makes no difference to me."

Inuyasha smirked and handed the blade over, though he refused to leg it go when Kagome tried to tug it out of his hand. "How very noble of you."

"What about you?" Kagome asked, all the while fighting for her blade in their small tug-of-war. "Why did you agree?"

"It just so happens," he let go of the blade, letting her win, "that I was looking for the Fortress of Doors. Since that slave promised to direct you to the Fortress if you retrieved his whatever, I'll be dogging along for a while."

"Why were you looking for the Fortress?"

"I heard it was a place of answers. And, in this world, a place like that is more valuable than, say, a goldmine."

Kagome sat back down on the other side of the cart, trying to find a comfortable position. "So, how does being a half demon work? Is this world controlled by demons, or…"

"Good question," he said, leaning back on the cart. "Demons actually died out years ago, though a few managed to survive the purge. The guards are the ones who run this world—and they're nothing but defiled humans who lost their humanity eons ago. Humans with souls are automatically slaves, minus the snitches and the bribers; they have some authority and power here."

"So, the boy, our guide, I mean…"

"Is a pure-blooded fox demon."

Which explained why Inuyasha had been so shocked when he got a good look of their guide, Shippou. Kagome contemplated her Vorpal Blade, rubbing the cool handle with her tender fingers. "What about His Majesty? Is he a human?"

There was a long pregnant pause before Inuyasha, looking the other way, replied, saying, "A forbidden—half man, half demon. Like me."

Strange. Very strange. Kagome had the feeling that he was omitting a lot of details. It was as if he was feeding her snippets of alarming truths to avoid answering the bigger questions. For example; why was Inuyasha following her if he knew the slave had knowledge of the whereabouts of this so-called Fortress? Wouldn't he be more inclined to beat the location out of the slave? And if Inuyasha was a vagabond, and a forbidden at that, why did he need rescuing from that one particular guard? If he truly was a wanderer he must've crossed paths with many other guards during his travels.

Nothing was adding up here.

"Anything the matter?"

Kagome looked away, naturally embarrassed to have been caught staring. "No. Nothing."

As Inuyasha smiled, charmingly in his own, beastly way, Kagome could not help but notice the deceptive glint in his eyes. Something about him was…off.

Had she, in a weird, alarming way, not felt safe resting on his warm chest? Had she not felt comfortable sitting on his sturdy shoulders? What had come over her to admit in her mind that she, miraculously, felt good when she was near a deceptive man like him? He was not her savior. He was not at all truthful. Although admittedly attractive. But nevertheless…

Kagome watched him through her bangs, the half demon in question passing the time by shuffling the Cards he had pulled out of his red trench coat.

She could not help but feel that…she should be wary of him and not guards. That he wasn't the type to trust when you went to sleep…

End of Phase Three: Undeclared Truce


AN: Oooooooooooooh. Didn't I promise Inu/Kag tension? Yes, Inu's a sneaky fellow. Anyhow, Shippou's finally pulled himself out of the shadows and Kirara's… acting like a typical nekomata. If you don't know what a nekomata is go to Wikipedia (google that) and type in Nekomata. You'll understand what Kirara was doing once you go to the link. I'll give you a hint, just to save time: Japanese mythological creature.

Now…REVIEW for MORE, MORE, MORE Inu/Kag…ness…essity!