Note: Two things I want to mention…
Number 1: I have put a PC andrews profile up on MySpace and on Facebook. I was able to put a link to the MySpace page in my author profile here. For Facebook, I think you have to search for me. I should be under Pc Andrews. They are not really "personal" accounts, and as far Facebook, I don't know much about how it works, but I thought I'd give it a try. Please check them out if you have a chance.
Nuber 2: This chapter ran too long to get all the stuff I wanted into it, so I'm posting it this way. Next chapter will be more action…
Chapter 45: Empty Hearts and Dry Tears
"Well, do you see it?" Renkotsu asked urgently. He was on all fours next to Ginkotsu, frantically scanning the ground.
"No, I don't think it's here, Renkotsu. Remember what Jakotsu said. He gave it to Toshiro, who was using it the last time I saw him." Ginkotsu answered unhappily.
"DAMMIT! That means that the shard might be in Kagome's time! Gin, make sure this area in secured, just in case we're wrong!" Bankotsu was captured, and that meant that Renkotsu was now in charge. Renkotsu had no idea when Bankotsu would be free again. He only would know it if Bankotsu were to actually die. And Renkotsu knew that Bankotsu was still alive, so therefore, had the potential to come back at any time, and whisk the command of the Shichinintai right back from him. That, and only that, was why he hadn't strangled Jakotsu for giving the Shikon super shard to his boyfriend!
Why couldn't Sesshomaru have given me the shard? I'm definitely smart and clever enough to keep it out of Naraku's hands! I would know how to use the shard wisely! I need the shard. I DESERVE the shard.
With those angry thoughts swirling in his head, Renkotsu growled, "Is Jakotsu still around? We have to talk!"
"I'm here. What is it?" Jakotsu asked glumly as he emerged from the woods. Fires had been set all around the fortress to dispose of all the dead from last night.
"Ginkotsu, you and I are the ones who have Bankotsu's seals on our faces," Renkotsu began. "He never got around to giving Suikotsu's back to him. You know what that means, don't you?"
"Nothing?" Ginkostu guessed.
"He's not a part of the Shichinintai! At least, not right now. And it's just as well. Bankotsu was able to handle him. Frankly, I don't think I can. Certainly not without a jewel shard!"
Jakotsu gaped. "Renkotsu what are you talking about? You have to keep Suikotsu! We need every brother we can get!"
"Look, we're not going on any jobs now, so we don't really need him. He'll just get bored anyway. If Bankotsu manages to escape Naraku, then, that might change things. But until then..."
"Are you out of your mind?" the three brothers heard over them. With a start, they turned to see Inuyasha. "Answer me, you stupid human! Are you?"
"Inuyasha, butt the hell out of Shichinintai business!" Renkotsu ordered him.
Inuyasha completely ignored Renkotsu and turned to Jakotsu. "Are you going to allow this?"
"I agree it's a terrible idea!" Jakotsu gasped.
"When Bankotsu is not here, the majority vote is suspended, and Jakotsu knows this. He has no say in this case, Inuyasha."
"Renkotsu, I can't believe this. He's been with us almost five years! In all this time, you never let go of what happened with you and him, did you?" Jakotsu said in amazement.
"No! This has nothing to do with that! It's just a practical decision, that's all," Renkotsu argued.
"Never mind, Jakotsu. So Suikotsu won't be with you anymore. Suits me fine. He's too good for the likes of you anyway!" Inuyasha spat. "I'll have him join my group. His medical knowledge would be invaluable to the humans in our group."
"Renkotsu, the hanyo has a point! You don't send a doctor away, anyone in military knows that!" Ginkotsu reminded him.
"I've got an idea. Let's forget we ever had this conversation," Jakotsu urged them.
"No, I'm going to tell him you're planning to get rid of him," Inuyasha grinned.
"Inuyasha, please don't do that. It might make him run off, and then none of us will ever find him," Jakotsu reported unhappily.
Inuyasha was just about to tell Jakotsu that he'd just track Suikotsu down by smell, he remembered something. Tonight it the night of the new moon. I can't smell him that well even now. I won't regain my demonic powers until the morning. I can't have anything happen to Suikotsu while I'm out of comission. "Alright, fine," he growled. "Do you think you can keep him here?"
"Yes, I'm sure I can. Renkotsu, maybe you'd better stay away from him for a while, seeing as how you're finally siezing an opportunity for revenge..."
"Jakotsu, you don't know what you're talking about!" Renkotsu protested.
Jakotsu simply rose and left. "We didn't have this conversation, Renkotsu!" he called back as he left. Inuyasha decided to follow him.
"Hey, what's this all about?" Inuyasha demanded.
"Toshiro and Kagome made it back okay?"
Inuyasha smiled. "Not a scratch on either of them. And Naraku can't get through that well. So they are safe."
"Good. I'll miss him terribly, but he has to be safe. He had the jewel shard, didn't he?" Jakotsu guessed.
"I think you are probably right. Better there, out of Naraku's grasp. But I bet Renkotsu there is cranky about it."
"Oh, yes! No wonder he's rambling about Suikotsu. He was hoping that Bankotsu would be taken out of the way, and that he'd have a jewel shard to do with whatever he wanted! Naraku Jr., anybody?" Jakotsu quipped.
"Heh! I still don't get what the problem is with Suikotsu," Inuyasha frowned suddenly.
"It's a long story," Jakotsu warned the hanyo, "and I don't even know all the details. But Renkotsu doesn't like Suikotsu, for many reasons. Jealousy, I think, is one of them. Their personalities clash a lot. And then, of course, there was that incident in Nagasaki years ago when Suikotsu first joined us. Renkotsu and Bankotsu had some kind of squabble, and Renkotsu had punched Bankotsu in the stomach. But Suikotsu saw it, and got mad at Renkotsu, even though Bankotsu had told him, point blank, that was none of his business. So, a few days later, Suikotsu had managed to get some of the others to turn on Renkotsu when Bankotsu's back was turned. It was bad; I had to jump in and try to keep Renkotsu alive long enough for Bankotsu to get back there and straighten everything out."
"So what happened?" Inuyasha asked with a bit of alarm.
"Bankotsu has very strict rules for us. One of them is that no one is to strike another, well, except Bankotsu, but he's the Big Brother. Anyway, Suikotsu argued about this, and Bankotsu wasn't having it. He can use Banryu to create a sort of field around a person, one that creates a great deal of pain. I've been in it a time or two myself, and I don't consider myself a very delicate person, but it's nightmarish. If I lasted five minutes in there, that was a record, I think."
"So, Bankotsu used this...field on Suikotsu?" Inuyasha growled.
"For seven days."
"What?" Inuyasha gasped.
Jakotsu had to hold his forehead in his hand just thinking about it. "It was horrible, they both almost died!"
"What do you mean they both almost died?" Inuyasha grunted. "Suikotsu was the one in trouble!"
"You don't understand how Banryu works, do you? If Bankotsu uses her like that, he endures the exact same pain that he is inflicting on the other! But he wasn't backing down, and to his dismay, Suikotsu's tolerance for pain is beyond anything we had ever seen in a human."
"Shit... So, I guess what happened is that Suikotsu finally backed down?" Inuyasha frowned. He didn't like the idea that Suikotsu had to be the one to give in at last.
"We don't really know for certain. On the morning of the seventh day, we found them both unconscious on the floor of the inn where we were staying. Renkotsu was furious; it took them two more days to recover from it."
"Well, I should think so! Seven days of non-stop...whatever!" Inuyasha complained.
"With Renkotsu, it was always 'time is money,' that silly ass!" Jakotsu grumbled. "If Bankotsu hadn't invested the time and effort in Suikotsu, we would never had become the great mercenary team we were. It's ironic, actually. I've been with Bankotsu from the beginning. All of the others were already part of the Shichinintai when we came across Suikotsu. In fact, we had a seventh brother, but he had died, and frankly, we needed to replace him."
"Really? There was another brother?" Inuyasha asked, intrigued even though he really shouldn't care.
"His name was Kamakotsu. He was young, maybe even younger than Bankotsu. Spoiled son of a lord, but he wanted to break out of that life, it was too confining for him. He was a good fighter though, and he had been trained well even before Bankotsu and I got ahold of him. He died of consumption, if you could believe it. Actually, we all had gotten it."
"Consumption...you mean that illness where your lungs are literally falling apart? How did you guys ever survive that?" Inuyasha gasped.
"Oh, humans can live with consumption for years, Inuyasha. We had Mukotsu, he was a bit more adept then the rest of us with herbs, but, as you might have guessed, he was more adept with killing roots than with healing ones. The very fact that we had found a doctor with warrior skills, you can't overstate the stroke of good luck that was!" Jakotsu said.
"So, it was Suikotsu who was able to heal you all then," Inuyasha surmised, "when you guys got those powers from the Empress?"
"Yes. Each of us has something invaulable to offer the group. Renkotsu needs to remember this, instead of panicking like he is apt to do. I hope Bankotsu makes it back here soon, for Suikotsu's sake more than anyone else's." Inuyasha didn't answer him. I don't want Bankotsu around anymore at all! I can keep Suikotsu safe from Renkotsu, I don't care if that group stays together or not!
"I'm going to go find him!" Inuyasha told Jakotsu, then took off.
Suikotsu was in a turmoil. Where could Kikyo be? He had already wandered beyond the borders of the ruined fortress gounds. He wasn't as good a tracker as Jakotsu, nor did he have Inuyasha's keen nose. All he had was his own mind, fractured as that was.
"Well, where you you go if you were trapped in a clay body?" Suikotsu asked the Doctor. "You're the one who is always supposed to be so damned sensitive, aren't you?"
"I...I didn't mean for her to get upset. If only she hadn't run away! I could already have..." the Doctor lamented.
"Fool! She's probably committed suicide already!" Suikotsu snarled.
"No! She didn't, not yet!" the Doctor said with conviction.
"Either that, or Naraku grabbed her again. That bastard wants to fuck her in the worst way. Maybe he already did, while you and Inuyasha were busy getting all of us nearly killed," Suikotsu growled.
"Just shut your mouth!" Suikotsu grabbed his crystal and grit his teeth. The last thing he needed was his evil half heckling him while he was trying to convince Kikyo to live once again. If Naraku has harmed her, that will make my plight all the more difficult, but I will not give up on her.
There were some higher cliffs than the one near the castle. Suikotsu walked to the edge of one such cliff. It was steep and rocky. He peered down, and his sudden panic caught in his throat. Kikyo was there, crouched between ledges about twenty feet down. Suikotsu decided to try and get her off that ledge, but to do it, he had to start climbing down too. Carefully, he slipped over the edge of the cliff.
Kikyo realized someone was above her. She squeaked and leaped to her feet when she saw it was Suikotsu, the absolute last person she wanted to see. She began to shake her head, but she knew already that wasn't going to do any good. Suikotsu was a stubborn man if there ever was one. Why should he get himself killed trying to save me when I'm so doomed?
"Kikyo, I'll help you! Just let me get down there and we'll climb back up!" he called down to her.
"Suikotsu, NO! I jumped down here! I...I lost my courage to jump any further!" She sounded like she was trying desperately to cry, but couldn't.
"Kikyo! Don't do that again, please! Why would you do something like that?"
"Because I'm not a real woman! That we were even together that one time...that was selfish of me to do that, to take advantage of you like that! Just let me go, and move on with your life, please. You deserve more than what I have to offer, nothing but danger and grief!" Kikyo begged him.
"Kikyo, we can start over together! Please, listen to me! I will not leave here unless you come with me. Kikyo, remember what I was talking about earlier, about what ability the Yokai Empress gave me? Because Sesshomaru brought me fully back to life, I have been reborn, with that power! I had always known that if I only were able to use your considerable spiritual powers, I could channel them in a manner that would restore you to a true human woman's body!" Suikotsu explained to her.
Her dark eyes were doubtful. "Your certainty puzzles me. What if it doesn't work?"
"Oh, I'm confident because I know it will work. Besides, will you be any worse off if it didn't?" Suikotsu pointed out.
"There is only one way I would agree to this, Suikotsu. You must agree that if you heal me--"
"Oh, I will heal you," Suikotsu cut in.
"You must agree that if you heal me, that you will be with me again," Kikyo pushed on.
Suikotsu gave her a look, mingled amusement and desire, and he silently held out his hand. Kikyo slowly reached her tiny hand up, and it was soon enclosed in his big one. How she wished she had a body, a real one, she thought wildly. How it would be reacting right now! Suikotsu caught her in one arm around her waist, then pulled them both up over the cliff's edge.
Once they were both on solid ground again, Kikyo trembled as she was swept into Suikotsu's arms. If she only had a heart, it would be pounding at the look in his eyes. She was nearly panicking; she didn't want him kissing her cold lips, and he looked like he was about ready to devour her. If she had bee able to breathe, she would have taken a relieved sigh when he put her back down on the ground.
"If you want me to be with you, then there is something you must agree to, Kikyo," Suikotsu dropped on her. Kikyo felt hot annoyance boil up. Now what was he up to? His deep sepia eyes riveted her to her place, even if his hand hadn't had an iron grip on her arm. "Those beads that Inuyasha wears, who made them?"
"I...I did!" Kikyo revealed.
His eyes flashed with satisfaction. "Good, then you can make a set of them for me."
Kikyo was stunned. When she finally regained her voice, she said "N..No..."
"Kikyo, don't say no! Those beads were made to protect yourself against Inuyasha's demon nature, weren't they? And you don't think you need protection from... him? I no longer have a jewel shard for you to purify if I become too dangerous to be around you. And I will not allow you to be harmed at my hand!" Suikotsu told her. "Please, Kikyo, don't break my heart by refusing to do this!"
"I...I have to have a little time to make them, then. It's better if you don't try to heal me until I get this done."
"But, Kikyo, why would you wait?" Suikotsu gasped.
"Because once you heal me, since you are so confident it can be done, I know I'm not going to be able to pull myself away from you long enough to make the necklace," she warned him.
"Really?" Suikotsu asked.
Kikyo looked to the ground, then found a rock. She picked it up and handed it to Suikotsu. "Here, meditate on this. On how much you and this rock have in common!" Then she took her leave.
Bankotsu was sleeping. It had been a dreamless sort of sleep, until he started to feel as though someone was hovering over him. He started to slowly open his eyes.
"You're quite lovely, even if you are a human..." he heard a woman's voice saying. His eyes focused at last, and then flew wide open. Kagura leaned down over him, bringing her bared breasts closer to his face. "Finally waking up are you?"
What do you do if your enemy is only inches away from you? Those words rung in Bankotsu's head. They were Suikotsu's words, spoken years ago, when he was teaching Bankotsu a few new techniques for close combat self-defense. With a grin, Bankotsu reached up slowly and put his hand between Kagura's breasts.
And then, he sent his fist straight through her chest, right out through her back!
Kagura gagged, but didn't collapse. "Just as I thought," Bankotsu murmured in dismay, "there really is no heart there."
At that moment, Naraku emerged. He saw the position Kagura was in, then shook his head. "Wow. I've done some kinky things in my time, Kagura, but I have to hand it to you, I've never dared to go there before."
"Great! Just great," Kagura muttered, then pushed herself off Bankotsu.
"I always thought you were saving yourself for Sesshomaru," Naraku taunted her.
Kagura faced him and widened her eyes. "Sesshomaru!" she gasped.
Naraku snickered. "When I have the completed Shikon no Tama, he will become my vassal, Kagura. Perhaps what I will do is give him to you, if you cooperate with me more than you have been. Take care of the Infant, do what I tell you, and leave Bankotsu alone!"
"You'll give him to me? What if he doesn't want to be given?" Kagura countered.
"He's noble, true, but he is practical as well. I can't kill every demon in the world, Kagura, or there would be no one to rule over, now would there? He will obey my commands. However, I have a feeling that you might be disappointed in him all the same. He's so unlike you, Kagura."
"Opposites attract, Naraku! You mean that you won't be diappointed in Kikyo once you have lain with her?" Kagura asked.
"What I feel for Kikyo doesn't even remotely compare to your infatuation with Sesshomaru, Kagura. I've waited a lifetime for her! When I found out she was brought back from the realm of death, I couldn't believe it! I will not lose this chance! Bankotsu, since you are awakened now, it's time that you set out on your task. The sooner you come back with your brother-in-arms, the sooner I can revive Kagome, and we can get on with finding the final shard of the jewel, and all that will follow. You know your mission, my shinobi."
Bankotsu nodded and said, "Yes, I do, Naraku-sama." He heaved Banryu onto his shoulder, and she was as heavy as his heart.
Inuyasha found Suikotsu sleeping on a set of stone steps that used to comprise part of the huge shrine complex that had stood there fifty years earlier.
"Hey, that has to be uncomfortable," Inuyasha commented. Immediately, Suikotsu snapped up. "It's just me. Did you find Kikyo?"
"Yes. She's a bit angry at me, I think, but she'll have to get past it. Is that food I smell?" he asked.
"Come back to the village. The men have been working on repairs from the battle, and the women have been cooking nearly nonstop. They like to make the repairs as soon as possible here, you'll notice."
In the village, Sango and Shippo were stationed at a long low table. They were spooning rice and vegetables into the ever-empty bowls put in front of them. Sango brightened when she saw Inuyasha and Suikotsu. "Oh, you're back! Kagome made it back okay?"
"Yeah, she did. And her grandfather put some stronger sutras on the well on his side."
"You're still troubled, though," Suikotsu observed. "What's on your mind?"
"Kagome being in her time only solves one of my problems. I have a whole list, Suikotsu."
"Well, I hope Sesshomaru isn't one of them," he commented.
Inuyasha glared at him. "He doesn't like humans, Suikotsu. Be very wary around him; you're getting too familiar with him, and he's going to turn on you."
"Was he helpful to you?" Suikotsu persisted.
"Actually, yes he was. He was able to disrupt Naraku's new body with Tokijin. I think he had to retreat," Inuyasha reported.
Sango gasped. "Inuyasha, so it's true then! Naraku knows that Kagome goes to this world through the well!"
"That's why I had her grandfather put the sutras on the well!" Inuyasha grunted.
"Sutras alone might not be enough," Miroku pointed out as he joined them. He had been just as busy as everyone else.
"Sutras and five hundred years ought to be!" Inuyasha stated.
"We'd know it if Naraku had been able to burst through the well, wouldn't we?" Shippo asked.
Inuyasha's ears, though not a strong as usual, picked up a growling suddenly. He turned around, just in time to see Koga jump Suikotsu! "You bastard! You reek of Kagome!" In an instant, Inuyasha broke them up.
"Koga, just shut the fuck up!" Inuyasha warned him. The pain in his chest was blossoming.
"I gave my little sister a hug before she left here, but if you want to start a fight about it, I'm game!" Suikotsu said with a grin. "Bring it on!"
Koga leaped forth, and leaped back when Suikotsu tried to swipe him with his claws. Inuyasha again drove himself between them. "What are you doing? Why are you defending him? He's as bad as that Bankotsu, and I told you what he had done to her!"
"Koga, you don't know what you're talking about!" Inuyasha growled. Every minute there was something else! However, there might be some good to come out of this. "If you love Kagome like you say you do, then you need to just shut up and come with me, Koga."
"Nothin' doin'! I'm gonna pound this one right into the dirt!" Koga cried.
"Koga, don't you notice that he doesn't smell like a corpse anymore?" Inuyasha gasped.
"Huh?" Koga stopped for just a fraction of a second and sniffed. "Oh. How did you do that?"
"You know, if I was a different kind of person, I might just start getting a bit self-conscious about how I smell," Suikotsu quipped. "But instead, I'm just going to start taking offense to it!"
"Great, now he's in his bad mood! Koga, just stop this, Suikotsu never harmed Kagome, ever! That does it!" Inuyasha raged as he finally managed to land a blow to Koga's face. "Knock it off, Numbchucks!"
Koga was about to bellow at Inuyasha, then he changed his mind and glared at Suikotsu. Ginta and Hakkaku emerged, huffing and puffing as they always did after Koga had already made his appearance several minutes earlier. "Uh, why's he looking at us like that?" Ginta shivered slightly, pointing at Suikotsu, who was so furious that he looked quite like a demon rather than a human.
"Hey, Suikotsu, they're okay, you don't have to attack them," Inuyasha called to him.
"You got a problem with the way I smell?" Suikotsu growled at Hakkaku.
"N..no…you don't smell dead. But, weren't you one of those corpses that Naraku resurrected, like that Kyokotsu?" he stammered.
"Kyokotsu was my brother!" Suikotsu confirmed.
"But, how can that be? You're nothing like him, how could you be?" Hakkaku gasped.
"I am every bit the killer that Kyokotsu ever was, make no mistake about that!" Suikotsu reminded him coldly.
"But, Koga, it can't be!" Hakkaku insisted.
"What're you jibbering about?" Koga grunted.
Warily, Hakkaku inched away from Suikotsu, who was giving him a murderous stare. He reached Ginta and Koga, then Inuyasha heard only hushed words. The words, "our sister (who had to be Kagome)," "future time," and last, but no least, "Greatfather." He heard Koga gasp.
"Just. Be. Quiet…" Inuyasha warned through his gritted teeth.
Can Inuyasha use Koga to help his own cause? Will Kagome find a way to tell Bankotsu that she's alive before he delivers Suikotsu to Naraku and inadvertantly seals everyone's doom? Just keep on reading!