The Book of Shikon

"Full" version of this chapter can be found at Mediaminer.

Chapter 11

Ascension

Inuyasha drove down the road after Naraku, speeding to keep him in his sights. Naraku had been following him all along, shadowing his moves. And now the puppet master had descended from the catwalk and taken center stage.

"I'm done being a puppet." Inuyasha growled, stepping down on the gas more. Naraku must have started to notice him, because he sped up too. Inuyasha kept chase and turned as Naraku swerved off the road into the countryside. The book dealer squinted to see through the high grass, with the weeds parting suddenly as Naraku drove over a small river. Inuyasha drove into it, and the car let out a puff of smoke, grinding to a halt. Inuyasha groaned and slammed his head on the horn as Naraku drove away.

"Damn it." He growled. He tugged the black robe over his head and grabbed his book bag. He opened the door of the car and sighed at the deep water before stepping out, the water dipping up to his knees. He rolled his eyes and slammed the door shut, trudging to the shore and shaking out his feet. He reached into his book bag to check and make sure Kagome hadn't stolen anything, and felt something metal. He drew it out and stared at the gun he had used to deliver Tsubaki her final blow. Inuyasha lifted the weapon to his ear and shook it.

It responded with the rattle of a full clip.

- - - - - - - - - -

Dawn had peeked when Inuyasha had left the mansion. By the time he had made it to the next town on foot and gotten a new pair of pants, it was after noon. He was cold from the thigh down, he had a headache, he was tired, and for all he knew either Kagome or Naraku could round the next corner any minute and kill him. And worst of all, he knew he wasn't done yet.

Inuyasha leaned back in his seat of the restaurant he was at and finished off his wine, deciding to wait before working on the fish he had ordered. He picked his book bag up and set it on the table, reaching inside and withdrawing the two Shikon-no-Tama copies inside, Sesshomaru's tattered one and Bankotsu's burned one. He snorted and tossed them haphazardly back into the bag. They were worthless now, in more ways than one.

Next his notebook, which he flipped open and read over the notes he had made when examining the books. The chant in Sesshomaru's book, the L.C.F. engravings, the postcard in Kaede's copy, the…

Inuyasha stopped himself and frowned. He dug back into his bag and pulled out the postcard he had found in the pages of Kaede's book. He looked at it. It was an ancient castle, set high on a hilltop. He flipped it over and read what it said. Sorry Kaede, I saw it first! – Naraku. Inuyasha glared at the card before calling the waitress over.

"Where is this place?" She asked. The waitress said something in French and called the bartender over. He walked over to Inuyasha took the postcard.

"Yeah, I know this place." He said. "Several miles north, out of the way. Why?" Inuyasha shrugged.

"I'm meeting a friend there." He explained. The bartender gave him an odd look.

"Take the 96 north to the Glory Overpass, then turn left. Follow that a ways out into the country, and a couple miles down there's a dirt turn-off east. Follow that, you can't miss it, it's the only turn-off on the road. That'll take you in the general direction of the area, I don't really know the specific roads straight to it."

"Thanks." Inuyasha said. The bartender grunted and walked away. Inuyasha finished his fish in record time, paying and leaving. He hailed a taxi and climbed inside.

"You do out of town trips?" He asked. The driver shook his head. Inuyasha reached into his pocket and dumped what bills he had left into the front seat. "How about now?" He asked. The driver grinned and turned down the street.

- - - - - - - - - -

Dusk had begun to set as Inuyasha halted the driver on the turn-off. He looked out the window. It was from a different angle than the postcard, but on the hill not too far away was the castle.

"See ya." Inuyasha said, grabbing his book bag and getting out. The driver waved and turned around, driving back into town as Inuyasha set off up the hill. Weeds and high grasses littered the broken area. This place was out of the way by all means. Why the hell would Naraku come here? Inuyasha crested the hill and walked around the castle, looking for an entrance.

He found Naraku's car parked outside the gates, which somehow stood tall and intact despite the passage of time. The car was vacant, and Inuyasha peeked inside to spot the keys, but nothing else. Inuyasha opened the door and picked them up, tossing his book bag in the back and slamming the door. He looked at the castle gates and walked towards them. The inside of the castle was bare, with the same weeds and grass as the hill, although remnants of stone and wood indicated it must have been a grand place at some point centuries ago.

As the night fell and the last rays of sun vanished, the only light came from a single turret on the main wall. Inuyasha climbed a set of wooden stairs at one end and walked along a wooden catwalk all the way around the top of the wall. As he neared the lit tower, he put his hand up to the door and listened. Definite voices. Inuyasha slowly pushed the door open and walked inside.

The stone steps spiraled down, eventually to a wooden floor with the steps continuing down. On the floor stood Naraku before a small table, an oil lamp and a thermos lying on it. A briefcase and a can of gasoline lay on the floor. A series of papers and leather lay strewn about the briefcase, what Inuyasha guessed was all that remained of the final copy of the Shikon-no-Tama.

"12, 5, 13, 7, 2…" Naraku counted, laying out the sixteen engravings on the table. Inuyasha watched as he set each of them down in a set pattern, committing said pattern to memory. "9, 1, 5, 16." Naraku finished. "The enigma is solved at last." He laughed.

"To tread the paths of dread and know none, to play the greatest of games and win. Fear no noose, fire or water, let no sword cut, let no axe cleave, and let no arrow pierce. Give unto me the keys of knowledge and unlock the souls. Courage, love, wisdom and friendship, come to me and bestow on me the power…of Naobi." Naraku looked up with a grin, and spotted Inuyasha above him. "Mr. Taisho." He hissed.

"You expecting an apparition?" Inuyasha replied, walking down the stairs.

"Go, you are not needed anymore. You have done your job well but your work is done." Naraku said. "Your payment is at my office, ten times the promised amount."

"You killed for those, they're worth more than money." Inuyasha said, standing before him and nodding at the engravings.

"Infinitely more, entirely." Naraku agreed. "But they are mine, not yours. I've spent my entire life solving their riddle, and at last I have the answer. Leave."

"Not empty-handed." Inuyasha replied. Naraku chuckled.

"You know, despite our many differences…I like you, Inuyasha. I respect you."

"Really?"

"Yes. We have the same passion. I studying these books you've developed the same obsession with them as I have. Sadly, I will be the one seeing that passion through tonight." Inuyasha pulled the gun out of his book bag and pointed it at Naraku.

"Hand them over." He ordered. Naraku smirked.

"Don't be absurd, you're not a killer."

"You'd be surprised." Inuyasha replied. Naraku stepped forward, and Inuyasha stepped back. His foot slipped on a stay paper, and Naraku dove, grabbing the gun and tackling Inuyasha. The two fell to the floor, the rotting wood creaking under their weight. The floorboards snapped, and Inuyasha's leg fell through. Naraku jumped back and pointed the gun at his head. Inuyasha struggled to get up, but Naraku put a foot on his head and pushed him further down, up to his armpits.

"Seems you've found your place at last." Naraku sneered, stepping back. "Good for you." He tossed the gun aside and approached the table with the engravings. He opened the thermos and poured a light blue liquid into the lid, the liquid smoking slightly. "I'm taking a higher road, ascending to equality with God. You can't come with me." Naraku gulped the liquid down, grimacing slightly and tossing the device away. "But you can watch." He picked up the gasoline and began to pour a circle around himself, keeping the table outside the circle.

"That's very kind of you." Inuyasha snorted. Naraku either ignored or didn't notice the sarcasm as he finished the circle.

"It is. There are men who have been burned alive, or disemboweled for just a glimpse of what you are about to witness." Naraku kicked the briefcase aside, kneeling in the circle.

"I offer you my allegiance, master, I pledge myself to you, body and soul. Erase me from the book of life, write my name in the black book of death. Let me fear no noose, fire or water, grant me your supreme might and grant me access to the Four Souls of Naobi. Let it be so." Naraku stood up and held the oil lamp above his head. "Let it be so NOW!" Naraku roared the last word and flung the lamp down. It shattered at his feet, and the gasoline circle quickly caught flame. Inuyasha's eyes widened as Naraku was wreathed in flame.

"Oh my…" Naraku murmured, closing his eyes. "I can feel it, the power surging through me like an electric current. I'm incredible, I'm invulnerable, invincible." Naraku pulled a pocket knife out and ran the blade along his forearms. "I slice my skin, I feel no pain." He laughed, staring at the blood in wonder. He spun around and fell to his knees, running his hands through the fire. "Behold, I dip my hands in fire, I feel no heat." Inuyasha smirked.

"Nice trick Copperfield, how about another?" He snapped. Naraku came out of his power-hungry haze and glared at him, standing up and picked up the gasoline, lifting it above his head and pouring what was left down his body.

"I am invincible!" He crowed, raising his hands as flames began to climb his legs. Naraku laughed as his torso was cloaked in fire. "I feel nothing! Nothing at all!" He declared. He reached up to wipe his brow and let out a breath. "Heat, nothing more." He muttered. His eyes slowly widened, and Naraku looked down at himself. "H…heat?" He whispered. Realization dawned, and Naraku struggled for words in his horror.

"No, no." He gasped, trying to pat out the flames. The floorboards snapped, and Inuyasha fell to the dirt before. He coughed and rushed to the stairs up. "NO!" Naraku screamed, falling to his knees and trying to put out the flames. Inuyasha ignored him and grabbed the engravings from the table, blowing out a few that were beginning to catch fire and running to the stairs. "No, NOOOOO!" Naraku wailed. Inuyasha turned to stare at him and looked down. He reached down and picked up the gun, raising it to Naraku's back. "I'M INVINCIBLE!!!!!" Naraku protested. Inuyasha narrowed his eyes and fired. Naraku's voice and body fell flat.

"Apparently not." He whispered.

- - - - - - - - - -

By the time Inuyasha walked out the castle gates, the fire had caught the wooden catwalk and begun to race along the castle walls. He pulled the door of Naraku's car open and climbed inside, shoving the engravings in his boom bag and tossing it in the back seat. He sat silently for the moment, the only sound of the castle succumbing to flame. Then the silence was broken.

Inuyasha's head whirled around as the passenger door opened, and Kagome climbed inside to sit next to him. Inuyasha stared at her as she smiled at, slowly raising a hand to trace a nail down his cheek. In the ethereal light of the fires, her blue eyes glowed brightly, but at this point Inuyasha wasn't entirely sure it was a trick of the lighting. Her hand fell to his collar bone, going back to grab the back of his neck.

Kagome closed her eyes and leaned forward, pressing her lips to his and knowing hungrily. Inuyasha waited for a moment and brought a hand up to tangle in her ebony hair. Kagome's tongue surged into his mouth, and the hand on his neck left to reach for the car door. The door swung open, and Kagome leaned further into him, all but pushing him to the grass.

- - - - - - - - - -

Naraku's car zoomed down the highway to town. Inuyasha kept his eyes on the road, but kept glancing aside at Kagome.

"Is this it? It over?" He asked.

"For Naraku, yes. And Kikyo and the others. Not for you." Kagome replied. Inuyasha nodded. Not once the entire morning had she brought up the engravings, or anything regarding Naraku's ritual.

"Why didn't it work for him?" Inuyasha continued. Kagome shrugged.

"One of the engravings was a fake." She explained. Inuyasha narrowed his eyes.

"Where's the real one? I want it." He said. Kagome looked at the dashboard and smiled.

"You're low on gas." She said. Inuyasha nodded and turned into a gas station a few minutes later. He got out and filled the car up, the entire time expecting to turn and find Kagome gone. But instead she just sat in the car, staring blankly. It wasn't until Inuyasha went inside and paid that she vanished. But this time, she left something. Inuyasha grabbed the paper that had been stuck under the windshield wiper. It was one of the engravings, and had bright red marker across it.

Houshi.

- - - - - - - - - -

The alley was devoid of scaffolding this time, something Inuyasha welcomed. He pushed open the door to Miroku's book store, and groaned. The shelves were empty, and two workmen were unscrewing a shelf from the wall.

"Excuse me." Inuyasha called. The men turned. "Where's Miroku?"

"Dead." One of the men muttered. "He and his wife got murdered about a week ago." Inuyasha nodded, not entirely surprised.

"What about the books?" He asked.

"Sold or thrown out." The man replied. Inuyasha's shoulders slumped. "Back up, this is coming down." The workman said, putting a hand on the top of the shelf. Inuyasha nodded and backed up.

"Thanks anyway." He said. The men ignored him and tipped the shelf forward. Inuyasha turned to leave, and stopped. Underneath the dust on the top of the shelf, something fluttered to the ground at his feet. He picked it up and brushed it off, blowing away the thick dust.

It was an engraving, the same as the one Kagome had left for him. It depicted…Inuyasha's jaw dropped. The engraving was an ancient castle on a hill, and on the front ground prowled a large dog, snarling and glaring. Perched on the dog's back was a young woman with long hair, a book in her hands. Inuyasha didn't even need to ask what book she was holding.

- - - - - - - - - -

Naraku's car door opened, and Inuyasha stepped out. This time he wasn't at all surprised to see Kagome leaning against the castle gates. He neared and stopped, letting her walk up to him.

"I'd ask what you're doing here, but I know the answer. Besides, you never give me a straight answer anyway." He muttered. Kagome winked.

"Try again, you never know." She suggested. Inuyasha sighed.

"Who are you?" He asked. Kagome smiled, and Inuyasha knew. "Wrong question right?" He said. "Fair enough…" he was silent for a moment before asking again. "Who am I?" Kagome's smile widened, she put a hand on his shoulder for leverage, and pulled her lips up to his ear, whispering a single word.

"Worthy."

She stepped back and raised a hand, the castle gates creaking open. Inuyasha shouldered his book bag and walked inside, never once looking back. Kagome turned and watched him go, lowering her hand and closing the gates behind him.

THE END