A/N: I write this in the hopes that this will be that last chapter, proper, of this story. Anyone who has read through this story knows that I have been writing on it on and off (but mostly off) for over five years, I think. I am happy to finally finish this. I hate leaving projects unfinished and I know I took some liberties with the story that maybe hardcore fans may not have. However, it was my story and I had a lot of fun writing it. So thanks for reading it. And I hope you enjoy this last installment of My Devotion.
Chapter 35: Tamponade
Rin could hear the clang of steel as she tried to crawl her way down the hall. Many times she tried to make her way to her feet, but her legs would not function normally and she did not want to risk falling when the children were so close to coming. She had possessed the presence of mind to drag Hinotsume out into the hall with her, but it was awkward to pull along from her position on the floor.
Lady Rin had to stop as the pain grew more intense. She tried to catch her breath as she made her way to an old and rather secluded wing of the castle where she hoped she would not be found. Since Sesshoumaru did not entertain, he had transformed most of the rooms into storage. This one held old riding equipment in need of repair, such as saddles and bridles. Overflow farming supplies like hay and seed were also stacked against the walls.
She tried not to panic, but she couldn't catch her breath. Rin could not do this alone. It was her first time. She prayed for Kagome or Sesshoumaru to come, but knew the likelihood of either happening was very slim.
Another contraction gripped her, this one closer than the last had been. Her eyesight clouded red and she heard the fine silk of her kimono rend as she clenched it in her fist. When she caught her breath again, she looked at her fingers and saw that they were tipped with razor sharp claws. They began to shake, so she ran them through her hair so she wouldn't have to deal with it.
"Pull yourself together, Rin. You knew this might happen. Someone cannot always be here for you. If you have to do this alone, you can manage."
She grunted and tried to breathe through the next contraction. Whatever solace she had tried to gain from her own words fled.
Kagome lifted herself from the ground when she was sure that demon was not coming back for her. She ran back to the castle and picked her way through the gardens. Then, she slowed and made her way to the room she shared with InuYasha to get another bow and quiver of arrows. She didn't know who she would encounter and it was better to be safe than sorry. In any case, she needed to make her way back to Rin. She had a sinking feeling that Rin was in trouble and she had to get back to the birthing chambers in case she needed help.
Before she even got to the room, she heard the sounds of battle coming from within. She pressed her back against the outside wall, then quickly darted a look inside. She didn't recognize either of the figures, but knew that Rin was not there so she left them to whatever disagreement they had.
"Rin," Kagome hissed. There was no response. She searched nearby rooms quietly, to no avail. It was not until she saw a scrap of silk on the floor. It had snagged on a roughened floor plank. There was not enough of it to definitively distinguish it as Rin's. There was not even a way of knowing how long the scrap had been there. However, Kagome's intuition was telling her that this conclusion, however premature, was probably the correct one.
The miko searched for another clue as to her friend's whereabouts, and stumbled upon a blemish near the base of a doorjamb. She touched her finger to it and sniffed. It smelled of smoke and the ash smeared when she rubbed it between her thumb and forefinger.
"This must be from Hinotsume," Kagome murmured to herself, perplexed. But it was like she was dragging it. And the only time Kagome knew of Rin being able to wield the fiery power of the demon blade was when she was in intense pain. And that would have to mean that Rin was in active labor.
Kagome felt the blood drain from her face. This was not good at all. Their plans had hinged upon Rin being protected in the birthing chambers. Now, there were people fighting in what was supposed to be a safe room. And Rin would be incapacitated. That is, if she wasn't already.
The miko's eyes searched out another burn mark and she found one a ways down the hall. When she knew there was a definite trail, Kagome began to run and call Rin's name, heedless to who might overhear.
Though Kitani was trying to fight long enough for Lady Rin to get away, there was some part of her that found it difficult to fight for her life. There was something about knowing the future that took what fear she should feel and turned it into vapor. This was why she was the first one to strike.
Daiyami was a large opponent, so she knew his legs would be a weak point. She feinted towards his face, then dropped to the ground as he would have taken a swing at her. He missed her head, but he had seen this approach before and jumped, clearing the leg she swung out to trip him. He then brought his foot down to try and stomp on her. But with catlike grace, she rolled backwards and sprung to her feet.
Daiyami advanced at her, but she used the momentum from her backflip to handspring towards the wall. When her feet made contact with the wood, she pushed off of it and knocked Daiyami to the floor. He swore and punched her in the face before she could get her bearings on top of him. He was strong and she went sprawling off of him, quickly spitting out a fang before she choked on it. She would die soon, but it would not be by her own fang. At all costs, she had to push him out of that window.
When she made it to her feet, it was to the sight of Daiyami holding the sword that she had previously only moved, not dispatched. And there, like a vision, was the light of the open window coming in from behind him. In that moment, when time slowed and she was acutely aware of her breathing, the thunder of her warm, beating heart, Kitani knew what must be done. She did not hesitate. She charged Daiyami and took the sword in her belly, faltering. But she used the inertia of her muscular yet petite body to push forward and ram him through the open portal.
She watched his head burn in a haze of red crackling static, and all of his demonic features disappeared. He was dead before he hit the ground. But when she hit the ground on top of him, she took the sword to the hilt with a scream. She rolled halfway off of him and started to panic at the sight of her body run through. Something in her mind could not accept the association. She knew she was in shock as the blood pooled warmly around her. And then, as her breathing slowed, she didn't know anything at all.
Heron had come with her brother to fight on Rin and Sesshoumaru's behalf. Even still, Takachi had insisted she stay near the back. Maybe, he said, it will not be necessary for you to fight. But now, anyone could see that the battle would not be so easily won. While her brother would be less than pleased with her inability to cower, Heron didn't care. Phoenix women were taught to fight just like their male counterparts. Despite her station, she disliked playing the role of a simpering lady.
She backed away from the others, jumped into the air and ignited into a ball of fire, shifting into her true form. She beat her fire-tipped wings and took to the skies. Takachi turned to stare at her in disbelief when she flew overhead. He would have followed her, but he was busy with two or three opponents.
"Fool girl," he muttered under his breath. While Takachi was the leader for his clan as first born son, the bloodline was carried through the daughters. He was tasked as protector until his sister took a mate. That is why Takachi had been able to mate outside of the clan. But Heron did not have those freedoms. And as she was the only Phoenix daughter, he could not risk her ashes being cast to the four winds.
In a blaze of fear filled fury, he swung his sworn and made quick work of the closest demons, only fairly sure they were foes by their dogged pursuance of him.
"Go," he shouted to the warriors he commanded. "Protect your Princess!"
Heron laughed in a high pitched screech and swooped upward towards the silkworm demons. She flew along the perimeter, touching her wings to theirs. They caught fire and her enemies fell to the earth like a shower of meteors, even as the sun rose.
Careful of the other allies in the air, she spouted fire from her beak and beat it into a vortex that cut through the silkworm demons. She rarely got to spread her wings and it was exhilarating. She was reading herself to do more damage when Takachi's guards surrounded her, leading her away from the battle and forcing her to land. The fire on the tips of her wings burned to her trunk, leaving a more human form in its wake. She glared at the men around her, angry tears pricking her eyes.
"How dare you!" she shrieked, approaching one of the demons. He kept his eyes rooted to a spot above her head.
"We are under orders to keep you out of harm's way, Princess."
"Of course you are," she sighed, allowing them to lead her closer to the palace, where it was safe.
Sesshoumaru was able to sniff out opponents, but even that sense was becoming somewhat dulled by all the blood being spilt around him. If only there were some way to distinguish between friend and foe, they would be able to win. Though the allies of the Western Lands were outnumbered, they were not overmatched.
A jaguar demon turned to him and charged.
"Dragon Strike," he yelled, cutting the demon down.
Then, out of the sky, a Silkworm Demon fell between him and the felled yokai, still smoldering. When he glanced down, Sesshoumaru noticed something strange. While the light of the flaming demon lit they eyes of some of the fallen, the eyes of the Shade he had slain reflected none of the light. In fact, they absorbed it.
InuYasha sliced a demon in two with the Tetsusaiga before it could stab Sesshoumaru in the back.
"Keh, you're welcome."
"InuYasha, the Shades' eyes reflect no light. You should tell the others."
"Right." He nodded. Soon, the tide began to turn in their favor. When word had made its way to the skies, Shippo broke away to inform Souten. He walked out of his blue foxfire.
"It's time, buttercup. Tell them that they will know a Shade because they have no light in their eyes. Got it?"
Souten nodded and blew a whistle hanging around their neck. It was the signal for the flanking jaguar demons to move out. They both watched from above as they began to surround the outcast demons. Shippo grabbed Souten around the waist and kissed her soundly. He could still make her blush it seemed.
"Please be careful," he murmured against her horsehead before letting her go.
"I promise. I have to go now. I have to tell them. Promise you will be careful too."
When the trail stopped, Kagome could hear sounds of distress and followed those, sure that they would lead her to Rin. Sure enough, she was right. She found the young woman in the center of the room on the brink of panic. Dust motes danced around her in the afternoon light.
"Kagome! Thank Kami. Help me please!"
Kagome ran over to her and saw a red mist hovering over Rin's eyes. As she reached for her hand to stroke it, she noted the sharp, pointed appearance of her nails.
"Rin, you are early yet. You cannot be delivering now."
"I fear," she grunted, "that it is time…whether or not I want it to be."
"No," Kagome ordered lowly, gripping Rin's face between her hands. "This does not happen now, do you understand me? You must at least wait a few more weeks. If you give birth now, your pups will most surely die."
"No!" Rin cried. Kagome shook her to regain her focus.
"I'm here. I know your pregnancy has been stressful, but you have got to relax. That is the only way I will be able to help you. Do you understand?"
Rin nodded vigorously.
"Now, I need you to be strong. I have a medical kit in my room. I need to get it. It will help to slow your contractions. Since it is so early, hopefully it can help us stop this. Your water hasn't broken has it?"
"No," Rin said, feeling more grounded already. Kagome moved about the room, arranging the bags of seed into a small cot. Then she helped Rin onto it.
"Good. Theoretically, if we can get you into a state of extreme calm, we should be able to at least slow this until the pups are ready."
"But Kagome…" Rin whimpered, "I'm so scared. For my babies. What if when you're gone—"
"Ssh…ssh…breathe with me," Kagome commanded. When Rin got the hang of it and was able to do so through the contractions, Kagome stroked her hair, Rin was like a younger sister to her in many ways. When she had gone through puberty and had no female to explain it to her, Kagome had been there. It was only fitting she should be there for the birth of her first pups.
"I won't let anything happen. As long as you keep breathing like this everything will be fine. I will be back before you know it."
Rin was gripping Kagome's hand like a lifeline. But she trusted her enough to let go. She also knew she had to let her go if she was going to help her.
Kagome backed out of the storage area and followed the trail of burn marks back to the birthing chambers. That way she would be able to find her way back to Rin. But when she made it back, she noticed there was a peculiar silence there where before there had been the clash of steel on steel. She notched an arrow and approached slowly, stepping over the Silkworm Demon's corpse. Beneath the window was shattered china. She pulled back the bowstring and peered out of the window. There she saw another charred corpse and a demon run through with a sword, clinging to the last threads of life. Before she could approach, another female demon walked out of a mist that seemed to appear from nowhere. She knelt next to the woman with the sword in her chest.
"B-besammit," Kitani choked on her own blood. Whereas a human would be dead by now, her demon blood prolonged her suffering.
Bastet's eyes were filled with sadness. She stroked her cousin's bloody tresses.
"Why would you not heed me, Kitani? Why?"
Knowing that she had a few seconds, maybe minutes to live gave Kitani a moment of clarity. She could not speak so she merely shook her head as if to apologize. She could see now that she had been led by her grief; that she had never healed from Donis's death.
"I will deliver you back to your people. So rest now."
"Stay…with them," Kitani used her last breath to say that, to make amends. Her vision darkened around the edges for the last time and her life flitted through her mind.
Besammit closed Kitani's open eyes when the queen breathed her last. "I can't. There is no future for me where that happens. Believe me."
Kagome backed away from the window and found her room without being stumbled upon by any enemy demons. She quickly grabbed the bag that held her medication and medical supplies. She then found an armful of clean towels and stripped the bed of its blanket. She rifled through her medical bag. She always traveled with it, but she had not packed for this kind of occurrence.
"Tocolytic, tocolytic, aha!" she smiled, pulling a bottle of nifedipine from the bottom of the bag. She also found a corticosteroid that, while not exactly made for premature labor, would serve its purpose.
When she returned to her young friend, she checked all of her vital signs and measured the time between contractions. Though it was a gamble, especially in times such as these when she could not properly monitor Rin, she slipped a tablet beneath her tongue. Kagome then explained that the steroid injection would help the babies' lungs to develop and gave her a shot for that too.
The miko notched an arrow and faced the doorway while also trying to time the contractions. At least there was no window in this room that she had to worry about.
"Even if you can't sleep, please try to get some rest."
Rin nodded and closed her eyes.
Micah led half of their ranks into battle. The demons that had joined the Shades never saw them coming. Though, as a warrior race, the Jaguar demons preferred to engage in combat face to face rather than surprise tactics, he felt no shame in dispatching their opponents from behind. Many of them were felled with slit throats and well-placed stabs under their ribs before the enemy was even aware of what had happened. Above him, demons rained from the sky. Whereas before they had almost blotted out the rays of the rising sun, their numbers had dwindled to less than half. He knew that it would not be long until they were overcome or surrendered.
Before long, Sesshoumaru, InuYasha, and Takachi had stopped the progression towards the castle and were, in fact, pushing the Shades back. When InuYasha panted in exhaustion, Sesshoumaru fought on for his family, his stamina seemingly endless. But by then, the Jaguar demons had effectively cut off any means of escape. As they realized the futility of their uprising, the ringing of steel and war cries slowly gave way to a quiet filled with the moans of the wounded and dying.
"Surrender, and I may just let you live," Sesshoumaru said with the same quiet calm he always used when murder was on his mind.
"Never!" someone yelled from within the crowd. His dissent was quickly followed by a groan and a thud. Presumably, one of the Jaguars way of keeping the peace.
"Where is your fearless leader? He has sent you here like bleating sheep for slaughter. And yet, he is conveniently absent. The way I see it you have two options. Surrender or die."
Slowly, they began to drop their weapons. The Silkworm Demons, having watched so many of their own being burned alive, understood what was happening below and also surrendered. They, too, made their way to the ground and were relieved of their weapons.
Souten, Shippo, Kirara, Korryu, and Sango landed near their friends.
Sesshoumaru did not have a large dungeon, especially not large enough to house all of these prisoners of war.
"Escort them from the plateau."
The Phoenix Lord nodded.
"And when you get there, take no prisoners."
"But you said—"
"I do not suffer fools gladly."
Twenty minutes later a vortex of fire that could be seen for miles went up into the sky. Upon seeing it, Sesshoumaru turned and began walking back towards his home and the woman who waited there.
Kagome heard footsteps approaching and pulled back on her bowstring. When she saw Sesshoumaru in the doorway, she could have wept with joy. She did not ever think she would be so happy to see InuYasha's daiyokai brother. But that must mean that it was finished. She lowered her bow and left the room in search on InuYasha and the others.
Sesshoumaru's eyes were only for Rin. He knelt beside his Lady and cupped her cheek gently. Her eyes flew open.
"Are you hurt," he murmured softly.
She beamed at him. "The children tried to come early. But I am fine now. I have a feeling that everything will be just fine. And you?"
The edges of his lips curved up into a sardonic smirk that was uniquely his.
She smiled back at him and, for a moment, everything was right in his world. There would be a lot to clean up since the battle was concluded. Though they had prevailed over their seemingly insurmountable enemy with the help of tactics, the Western soldiers and allies had not walked away unscathed. It had yet to be determined how many had fallen, but regardless, there would be grief for all involved clans. To say nothing of what would transpire with the demon council once it came time for this to be discussed. But for that moment of profound peace, none of it mattered.
He kissed her soundly and thought to himself, 'No one but her may ever know the depths of my devotion.'
A/N: Well guys, that is it for the story. I hope you liked it. I may be making some small changes like to fix typos as time goes on. Then again, maybe not. Teehee. But in all seriousness, I hope this was as fun for you to read as it was for me to write. There will most likely be an epilogue, but you needn't feel like I have abandoned the story again for a few years *sweatdrop* as it will just make a happy ending and is completely optional. SakuraAnkh outie!