Title: Every Ending is Also a Beginning
Author: Kristen Sharpe
Date: May 8, 2007
Genre: General
Rating: K
Disclaimer: Inuyasha, the character and the series, belongs to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan Inc., and Sunrise.
Notes: This idea came to me while wondering why Naraku didn't steal the Shikon no Tama before the villagers could burn it with Kikyou's body.

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Miyatsu sighed. It seemed as though every ray of sunlight that pierced the forest canopy found its way directly to his shaved head. Not for the first time the young monk regretted having to abandon his hat.

There was a groan of discontent from his stomach. Ah, yes. He had had to abandon his hat and the remains of his last good meal. It had now been three days since he had enjoyed a half-decent meal.

Miyatsu stretched his right hand out to study it appraisingly.

"This is all your fault, you know," he said to it. "If you could behave around women, we would still be at that last manor, enjoying their wonderful hospitality."

No response. His hand, apparently, was completely unrepentant.

The young monk let the appendage drop and sighed again. He should probably look into a mirror and give that lecture. It wasn't as if his hand alone was to blame.

"I should have asked her more tactfully," he commented. "But, when the hime-sama deigned to speak to me, I was overcome by her beauty."

Unfortunately, he had been so overcome he had immediately asked the lord's daughter if she would bear his child. The answer had been a firm "no". A firm "no" that her guards had reinforced even more firmly.

His stomach moaned unhappily yet again. With no remedy for its woes, Miyatsu trudged onward.

After a few minutes, he realized that the worn footpath he was following was widening. Miyatsu brightened immediately. With any luck he was finally nearing another settlement. He picked up his feet and hurried along. He hoped it was a prosperous village with a few good meals to spare for a weary, hard-working monk such as himself.

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"What happened here?" Miyatsu surveyed the shattered village with horror.

A third of the small settlement had been reduced to charred timbers. Smoldering embers were still visible in the ruins.

There was no one in sight.

Frowning, Miyatsu stretched out his senses. If this were the result of war or bandits, there would be nothing to sense but the ugly residue of human bloodthrist and terror. But, if it were done by youkai…

Miyatsu stiffened.

Yes, he could sense jyaki. Jyaki and another power that was foreign to him. But, it was strong, the sort of power that was an irresistible lure to youkai.

The monk gripped his staff resolutely. There would be time enough to eat later. There was work to be done here.

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"Onee-sama!"

Kaede threw herself on her sister's fallen form, desperately searching for the sound of a heartbeat. But, there was nothing. Kikyou's body was still, lifeless.

Numb, Kaede barely felt gentle hands pulling her away from her sister. She barely felt the sticky smear of blood now smudged across her cheek. She simply stared at Kikyou's pale face. Then, she glanced up at the hanyou hanging limply from the tree above them. Why had everything gone so terribly wrong?

Kaede turned her gaze back to Kikyou. She was just in time to see one of the village men reaching for the Shikon no Tama.

"No!"

The little girl lunged at the man, knocking his hand aside.

"You can't touch it!" she cried. "No one should touch it!"

The villagers stared at her in surprise.

"We have to burn it," Kaede continued. Her voice broke. "We have to burn it with Onee-sama."

For a moment, there was a stunned silence. Then, someone laid a hand on Kaede's shoulder.

"As to be expected of Kikyou-sama's little sister."

Kaede turned to find old Kenjiro smiling at her gently.

"Aa, you're right, Kaede-chan," he said. "That was Kikyou-sama's order." Carefully, he reached around the little girl and pressed Kikyou's fingers more firmly together around the jewel.

Kaede offered him a feeble smile and stepped back as the other men came forward to carry Kikyou back to the village.

Cold, red eyes watched from the forest's shadows as the little procession carried the miko to her pyre.

"So, Kikyou chose to die." A dark shape slipped through the dense undergrowth, its form shifting and changing. "A pity. Selfish desires taint the jewel so beautifully."

The crimson eyes tracked the young man Kaede had prevented from touching the Shikon no Tama. His face was caught in a petulant scowl. His pride was still burning at the indignity of being reprimanded by a child.

The newborn youkai laughed to himself as he watched the darkness festering in the human's heart.

"Just the slightest push…," the creature murmured to himself.

Yes, just the barest of nudges, and the man would steal the jewel for him. Of course, he could take it without help at any time he wished, but the day could do with one more betrayal. Selfishness and the hate born of a wounded heart gilded the Shikon no Tama with such lovely layers of taint.

A smile sketched its way across a slowly forming face. The darkness writhing along the forest floor drew into itself, twisting into human shape. Malevolence cloaked itself in the mundane.

"So, you can assume others' forms."

The transformed youkai turned and watched with Kenjiro's tired, old eyes as a young monk stepped out from behind a tree.

Miyatsu smirked. The being before him looked human. It was even starting to feel human. But, he could still sense the faint aura of jyaki emanating from its hunched body.

"Ho, have you come to exorcise me, Houshi?" the youkai in human form asked. Its voice was frail, a perfect copy of the old man it was playing.

Casually, Miyatsu planted his staff against the ground. "That depends on your business here," he said. "Did you attack the village?"

"No, I didn't attack it." The youkai offered him a wrinkled smile. "It seems a young hanyou caused all the damage. He was trying to steal an item of great power that was guarded by the village miko."

The monk frowned. "A companion of yours?" His frown deepened. "Or a pawn?"

The youkai's answering smile was all the more terrible for appearing on a human face.

"He was quick to believe me when I took on the young miko's form," the youkai answered. "I suspect he was quite enamored with her."

"I see." Miyatsu reached into his robes and let his fingers rest lightly on the ofuda concealed within.

The youkai laughed. It was no longer the laugh of an old man. "Do I disgust you, Houshi?" His borrowed human form shifted. "Come then."

Miyatsu didn't move. "What is your name?"

"My name? You will be the first to hear it," the youkai answered. "I am Naraku."

"The abyss, huh?"

Then, Miyatsu was in motion. Wordlessly, he rushed at Naraku, hurling three ofuda into the youkai's face.

Caught mid-lunge, Naraku snarled and tore the paper talismans apart. As they vanished in whorls of fire, his red eyes searched for the hateful monk. But, the man was gone.

Almost.

Inhuman ears heard the faintest jangle of the monk's staff as it began its descent toward his head. Spinning, Naraku slashed at the monk with the lethal claws of the hanyou he had mimicked earlier.

A sharp cry of surprise escaped Miyatsu as Naraku's talons caught him in the chest. The blow threw him back across the clearing, where he landed heavily on his side. His staff clattered to the ground beside him.

"Hmph." Naraku advanced on the fallen monk. "Is that the limit of your strength, Houshi?"

Miyatsu let out a groan, rolling onto his stomach. His right hand clutched at the wound on his chest.

Naraku laughed. "Pathetic." He smirked as the sound of labored breathing reached his ears. "Shall I leave you here to watch me claim the jewel?" He crouched at Miyatsu's side. "Or shall I finish it?" His clawed fingers flexed.

Suddenly, the fallen man lurched. In one smooth motion, Miyatsu rolled onto his back and slapped an ofuda against Naraku's forehead with the hand he had been hiding. The hand Naraku had thought he was using to staunch his wound.

With a roar Naraku reached to shred the talisman, but the instant of distraction was all Miyatsu needed. His other hand reached out to snatch up his staff and bring it down squarely on Naraku's head.

Naraku shrieked as a rush of power infused the ofuda, searing through him. His voice split, becoming an inhuman chorus of agony. It was the voice of the countless youkai that formed his body. As they struggled to escape the pain, his humanoid form dissolved once more into a seething mass of darkness.

Miyatsu watched in grim satisfaction.

Then, the darkness contracted. For an instant, old Kenjiro's face appeared out of the twisting form.

"This is not over, houshi."

With that, the monstrosity lunged for the open sky in an explosion of putrid miasma.

Miyatsu threw up an arm to shield his face. With his staff he drew a hasty barrier around himself. It shuddered, but held back the poisonous maelstrom. Then, as quickly as it had come, the flood of poison dissipated. When the air had cleared, there was no trace of Naraku.

Miyatsu released the barrier.

"What a terrible creature."

He parted his shredded robes carefully to look at the wounds on his chest. As he had guessed, the parallel slashes were shallow. Blood was oozing sluggishly from each gash, but it was nothing life-threatening.

With a sigh, Miyatsu cast a quick, longing look in the direction of the village. The scent of smoke was heavy in the air, but, the power he had sensed earlier was fading. Obviously, the villagers knew how to contain the power the youkai had wanted. There was no reason to trouble them.

Instead, Miyatsu turned to the south, where he could still sense the faintest residue of Naraku's horrible jyaki. If he moved quickly, he might catch the youkai while it was still weakened.

"Naraku, huh?" The monk squared his shoulders. With quick steps he left the little village behind. Over his shoulder, a curl of smoke rose from the trees as Kikyou and the Shikon no Tama began their own journey into the unknown.

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If Naraku seems rather weak in this fanfic, I was working under the theory that he has only existed as Naraku for possibly less than a full day and is still developing his powers and solidifying his multi-part body. Also, he doesn't have any Shikon shards to augment his power.

The title didn't come easy on this one, and I'm still not sure about it. It was inspired by the quote, "But all endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time." - Mitch Albom.