For reizero / nakataniyuushi, for a challenge she gave me a long time ago. It was supposed to be about Kohaku but...well, you'll see.

Head Count

Kohaku was an easily embarrassed human for having no memories. One would think he would be indifferent to women and men alike undressing in front of him, for innocence was relative to things experienced. Kagura was sure that required one to know they had any experience in the first place.

But perhaps, Kagura thought as she watched the boy blush violently from over her naked shoulder, there was something not quite right with that logic. If anything, it sounded like something Naraku would say, and as far as Kagura was concerned, anything Naraku said was not worth trusting to begin with.

"I'm sorry," Kohaku gasped and whirled on his heels so that his back was to her.

Then again, perhaps Kohaku knew more then he let on.

"You don't need to turn around," she remarked, eyeing the boy with perplexity.

"Yes I do, Lady Kagura, or I shall disgrace you."

"Oh please Kohaku," Kagura snapped as she folded her bloodstained robe over her arm. "There is nothing to disgrace. I hold no pretensions of modesty. Please, turn around and stare at my body so that I may feel properly shameless."


She gave a quick glance at Kohaku and saw him gulp. The poor thing was still very much a child, she reflected. Perhaps she should cool her tongue, if only because he looked sickeningly endearing when he blushed. How the brat's sister managed with him in the past, she didn't know. If Kanna weren't so dull, Kagura imagined she would have killed her by now from sheer annoyance.

With a roll of her eyes, Kagura pulled out another kimono and dressed a tad faster than her usual pace. Just a tad. Not enough to make a difference, of course, but well. Today was a special day.

"I've been sent out on a mission and you are to come with me," Kagura informed Kohaku's back. "We are to pay Lord Sesshoumaru a visit, and your shard apparently is payment for some service or another." Here she glanced at him but detected no sudden recoil in him from her words. He simply nodded, as if they were talking about the weather. It unnerved her to no end, that he could take his death with such apathy. "Naraku has determined it should take two days to fly there and back, so naturally we will take about a week." Here, Kagura smiled privately to herself.

"What does Lord Naraku want of Lord Sesshoumaru?" Kohaku asked.

"Some shit about destroying mutual enemies. Actually, Naraku is not expecting Sesshoumaru to accept anything he has to propose. He does, however, want Sesshoumaru to have your shard. I'm not sure as to why, though I suspect it's…to tie loose ends" Her brief hesitation caused Kohaku to turn around and give her a blank stare. Suddenly, there was no boyishness in his features.

"To get rid of me," Kohaku stated mechanically. His expression shifted after a moment, like the folds of a fan, to reveal contemplation. "…Sango will avenge who kills me. More tangling of connections, more conflict?"

"Possibly," Kagura replied slowly, keeping her curiosity in check. She wondered about the little humanity in him left—he seemed to be able to turn it off and on whenever he desired. Surely that had some sort of repercussion.

"We shall leave at dusk," she said instead.

His face smoothing again to blankness, Kohaku gave a deep bow–the kind reserved for ladies of noble birth–and retreated. She knew he was not intentionally insulting her, but she was still glad he did not turn and see her flip him off. Otherwise she might have felt guilty for it, and fuck that.

By the time Kagura made her way through the winding corridors of Naraku's hide out and exited into the courtyard, Kohaku had already summoned a small pack of traveling gear. Kagura could smell wrapped loaves of bread from within the bag and she rolled her eyes. Like a demon and a dead child would need human food to sustain them. A week was a brief time to go without food anyway, in Kagura's opinion. Still, the human servants could in no way know the true identity of the company they served lest they become frightened and Naraku get angry and chop Kagura's head off. Again.

It was most infuriating, having no heart in her body. Death was an inconvenience at one time, and at others, a terrible inevitability. Either way, it was no escape from Naraku.

"Ready?" she asked Kohaku with a drawl, slipping her fan from her kimono and opening it with a slow snap. She fluttered it against her face, feeling power hum through her veins and extend through her fan into the air. It was not the small breeze that refreshed her, but the seducing touch of power-induced wind. She allowed herself another private smile. She was allowing herself a lot of those, these days.

"Yes, lady," Kohaku answered with a nod, tightening the straps of the pack. The tall wooden polls that served to fence the castle in created large shadows that danced with the moonlight. They played across his face, making his features gaunt and then full again in the span of seconds. His skin was much too pale when he wasn't blushing, Kagura decided. He looked...well, dead.

"Alright then," she said out loud and then turned to exit the courtyard into the vast plains of the surrounding lands, ignoring the curious glance of impudent servants as they passed by. Kohaku followed silently.

They walked a mile or two away from the castle, through winding pathways blocked by large twisting branches and gnarled roots that arched above ground. Little light seeped between the gaps of the trees, and Kagura's red eyes gleamed bright and unnerving in the darkness. Like shadows, the two wended lithely between trunks and tree branches until they reached a small clearing with a grove of particularly old trees. Here Kagura stopped, peered around the clearing with acute awareness tuned to any sound or movement, and then pulled a feather from her hair.

"Finally," she said with delight, and released the careful restraint she held over her power.

There was an immediate reaction in her surrounds. Power radiated uncontrolled around her and the wind responded, forming a loose, soft cyclone of energy around Kagura. Grass and leaves alike whispered with breathy sighs. The feather in her hand, reacting to her sudden burst of power, shuddered and grew in size. She dropped it with a careless hand, and it spread its length out large enough to sit on. Kagura closed her eyes, giving herself a moment to take in the breeze against her face and hair.

"You should stop doing that," Kohaku suddenly spoke up from behind her, tone expressionless. She opened her eyes with a start, and turned to him, an eyebrow raised curiously. He did not return her look, merely moved towards the feather. He placed a foot on the feather, testing it for solidness like he always did, and then settled near the base of the feather stalk with practiced ease.

"And why is that?" Kagura asked, still on the ground.

"Every youkai in a five mile radius can sense your energy when you do that. Even Naraku."

"Exactly," Kagura said. She stepped onto the feather with confidence and lounged into a comfortable position. With a flick of her fan, they flew up and away.

They traveled in silence for several hours, zipping along air currents at remarkably fast speeds so that the wind blew powerfully against their faces. Kagura enjoyed it thoroughly. There was nothing more beautiful to her then the near invisible presence that danced and intertwined in complex patterns, that made the very air fold to its command. It was such a powerful thing, wind. It was responsible for all living things that existed in its range of flight, and its range was near endless. Gentle and vicious, it held the power to nurture and nullify.

It was independent.

"It bothers me sometimes," Kohaku said suddenly, his voice quiet against the whistle of the wind. Kagura nearly missed it. She looked back at the boy who sat cross-legged behind her, his gaze lost in his lap.

"What does?" she asked with disinterest, eyes straying to the winds waving curious patterns to the left of Kohaku.

"When you let go of your energy like you did."

Kagura stared at him, wondering why Kohaku was still caught on a subject that had happened hours before. She decided, after a moment's contemplation, that he existed outside of normal time in a place where every moment was connected to all prior moments, where there was no past but merely the present and the memory that lived in the present. She doubted he had a clear concept of the differences between what happened hours before and what happened now. How very...curious.

"Why?" she said at last.

"I can feel it," he said, somewhat uncomfortably. "Through out my body."

Here, Kagura raised her eyebrow. "How?" she said, somewhat archly.

He would not look at her, and some how that made his words seem more vulnerable, as if he were confessing a secret. "When you do that, the shard...pulses. Like cold water through my veins. It's usually warm and soft, but when you did that I hated you. I wanted to kill something, anything, everything, to..." he struggled with the words, "...I don't know. But...I don't like it."

Kagura said nothing. The wind slipped into the space between her and Kohaku, curling around Kagura and brushing comfortingly against her cheek.

Somewhere far behind, in a dark basement, in a dark vase, her heart skipped a beat.

It took them longer to find Sesshoumaru than even Kagura had planned; whether that was because of the youkai's elusive nature or Kagura's inner contemplation it wasn't certain. As they drifted across the country, zigzagging in complicated search patterns, Kagura sat at the head of her feather and thought.

She struggled with her thoughts. Kohaku was often the subject. He was the most curious paradox Kagura had ever come across, second only to Naraku. And, as Kagura was a strategist and opportunist by nature (for apples don't fall too far from the tree), Kagura found herself trying to rationalize and understand this simple human boy who seemed to be the epitome of corrupted innocence.

What does he have that I don't?

The corruption part bothered Kagura very little, for what did it matter if he was corrupted? It wasn't her problem. It unnerved her a bit, but in the end, she could look past it. Aside from that, there was something most strange (frustrating) about his ability to be both innocent and corrupt at the same time, as if he was under and yet apart from Naraku's control in a way Kagura could never be.

Naraku too, flickered in and out of her mind in both a mental and physical manner, his presence a rot on her brain. He liked visiting her body and invading her privacy, seeing the shallow outer layers of her mind and watching through her eyes. The worst part about his visits was that they were dependant upon a bond between her and Naraku forged of youkai blood ties, a bond that had to be opened with consent on both sides to allow passage into each others minds and hearts. It meant that when Naraku demanded entrance into Kagura's mind, she had to give her consent without hesitation lest he sense her traitorous inner thoughts and decide to squeeze her heart till she complied.

It was perhaps one of the more cunning and terrible devices Naraku used against her. It meant that her "consent" was in actuality a submissive reaction, a lowly, degrading act of self preservation, and yet on another level, it meant that she was "consenting" to her own mind-rape. If she tried harder, if she was willing to die rather than be molested in such a manner, maybe Kagura would not hate herself so utterly. But in truth, she was simple not that strong. She was a weak individual, a whore debasing herself to attain feeble freedoms. In the end, she could not blame Naraku for his abuse, and that was the worst part.

So as they drifted across the country, searching for an irrelevant man on an irrelevant quest, Kagura contemplated the boy next to her, who held a freedom she would never taste, with envious, spiteful hatred.

They found Sesshoumaru five days after they departed from Naraku's castle. He was waiting for them on a mountain cliff, face turned toward the setting sun. The girl and the toad demon that followed him were no where to be seen, which only further proved Kagura's suspicion that Sesshoumaru had purposely avoided them until now. Sesshoumaru could never be found unless he gave his consent to be.

Kagura hated him too, yet she couldn't help but admire his causal spiting of Naraku. In fact, she rather favored him for it.

Kagura and Kohaku landed on the cliff in large gust of wind that had Sesshoumaru's silver hair whip like a golden banner in the fading light. Kagura stepped off in a flourish, Kohaku in a more rigid manner–they had been sitting in the same position for days, and though Kohaku was dead, he was still human and his muscles undoubtedly protested at any motion at all.

With a flick of Kagura's fan, the feather shrunk and floated to her outstretched palm. She turned to Sesshoumaru with a highly amused expression. "Pretty as always, I see."

Sesshoumaru didn't not bother to reply. Instead, his eyes flickered to Kohaku, who shuffled slowly to Kagura's side. The youkai's face was expressionless.

Kagura launched into her speech. "Naraku has a proposition for you."

"No." Sesshoumaru's gaze returned to her. "My answer is no."

Kagura smiled. "You will not even listen to his offer?"


"Then you will not take his," she nodded at Kohaku, "shard?"

There was a brief pause. "No."

"Alright." Kagura turned to Kohaku. "Go ahead."

Kohaku pulled his sickle blade from its sheath.

Sesshoumaru said nothing as Kohaku approached slowly. Kagura retreated, pulling out her feather and flicking her wrist in a fluid practiced motion that had her in the air in seconds. She lounged arrogantly on her feather, a hundred feet in the air, and smiled.

"Shikon shards are wondrous things," she called out, unable to stop herself. "He will continue to attack, no matter how often and hard you strike. Death is only a minor hindrance for him and a waste of time for you. There is only one way to end this. Take the shard."

The situation was hilarious to Kagura. It was very unlikely Kohaku would even get close to Sesshoumaru, much less harm him. Nevertheless, Kohaku was also an unstoppable force. Even if the boy's body was chopped into pieces, all Kagura had to do was manipulate his body parts back into a whole with her fan. It was a pointless but endless onslaught.

Not so amusing was the idea that Sesshoumaru might turn his attacks on her, but she was not worried. Her winds could whisk her thousands of miles away in an eye blink, in less time it would take for Sesshoumaru to draw his sword. And while she knew neither she nor Kohaku were a match for Sesshoumaru's power and speed, Kagura's domain was the sky. In the air, she knew that at least she might survive.

Kohaku threw his sickle. Sesshoumaru side stepped with ease and caught it by the handle, pulling the boy forward and knocking him off balance. Kohaku, however, was prepared for this; using the pull as momentum, he rolled forward, snatched a small bag from one of his pouches, and threw it at Sesshoumaru. With an articulate twist of his wrist, Sesshoumaru sliced the small package with an energy whip of green light.

The package exploded in a cloud of black dust.

Sesshoumaru was quick, Kagura noticed. Quicker than any thing she had ever seen. In a flash of silver, Sesshoumaru was out of the dust and had Kohaku pinned to the ground, his hand around the boy's neck.

Kohaku was as expressionless as the youkai. Thick red lines crisscrossed his face and arms, though Kagura couldn't fathom when those appeared. Despite being on the ground and at the mercy of a merciless killing machine, Kohaku appeared relaxed. He stared up into Sesshoumaru's face with calm expectancy.

"What are you going to do?" Kagura called.

Sesshoumaru's arm began to grow green.


An arrow whistled through the air, heading straight for Sesshoumaru. Sesshoumaru turned his head. In the youkai's moment of distraction, Kohaku ripped open his arm gauntlet to reveal an arm blade and made a stab for Sesshoumaru's heart.

He missed. The youkai was on his feet and a few feet away in an instant, an arrow between blackened fingers singed with purification. In the distance, Kagura spotted what she had been looking for-Inuyasha and his motley group of humans. The demon slayer girl was racing towards Sesshoumaru and Kohaku on her fire cat, her face filled with murder.

Kagura smiled and then whistled. Kohaku rolled to his feet, glanced at the approaching group–and even from a distance, his face looked horrible gashed–snatched up his sickle lying on the ground, and ran. Without a backward glance, Kagura urged her feather to dip down towards him, and leveled with his running pace so that he could hop on.

She was not paying attention. The moment her feather was skimming the ground, Kagura felt a piercing feeling in her back and agony burst through her chest, making her tumble off of her feather and fall to the ground.

Sesshoumaru's hand protruded from her chest.

Kagura turned to his face and was unable to stop a bloody smile. "Is that the right way to treat a lady?"

Kohaku pulled out his sword and slashed at Sesshoumaru's weak side, trying to force the youkai to disengage from Kagura and evade. It did not work. The blade bit into the skin of Sesshoumaru's shoulder, making splatters of blood arc and splash into the Kagura's surprised face. Kohaku blinked, and looked up.

Sesshoumaru was staring at him, eyes unreadable in the faint light. Under such intense scrutiny, Kohaku's icy demeanor thawed, and he began to tremble, but still he held the youkai's gaze.

It seemed to go on for days to Kagura. The pain in her chest was intense and yet she too was caught by the spell of silence that ensnared Kohaku and Sesshoumaru.

Finally, Sesshoumaru turned his gaze to her, and she realized why Kohaku trembled so. His golden stare was like a mirror into which she could see her own death.

"I will not participate in these childish games," he warned quietly. His voice was whip-like and sharp.

Trickles of blood gushed from between her teeth. "I'd like my chest back, please," she replied.

Something twitched in the youkai's face. A ghost of something she couldn't discern. Slowly, ever so slowly, Sesshoumaru pulled his arm from Kagura's chest and stood in silence.

"Thank you." She would have curtsied if she didn't feel like retching up all her bloody bits.

Kohaku didn't question or waste time. Grabbing onto the hem of Kagura's robes, Kohaku dragged her onto her feather and they took off in a flurry of wind.

Kagura, spilling black blood onto her feather and dress, peered over the edge of their ride and met eyes with Sesshoumaru, who watched them as they flew farther into the distance.

She smiled and waved.

"I ruined another dress," Kagura sighed, staring irritatingly at her shredded kimono. She had pulled it down in order to bind the gapping wound in her chest, though why she would do so, she wasn't quite sure. It wasn't a fatal wound and it would heal in a few hours, but she began to dress it anyway with the reams of bandages the servants at Naraku's castled had packed. At any rate it would be another three days before they returned to the castle and it was something for Kagura to do to pass the time.

Kohaku had his back to her. She was positive he was blushing.

"The dress is the least of your problems, I think, lady," Kohaku stammered. There it was again, lady, but some how Kagura couldn't make herself take offense. For some odd reason, she was simply not in the mood. So she didn't reply.

They sped along in silence for along while, each entertaining themselves with their own thoughts. Naraku was aware they were returning so he had resigned to wait for Kagura's return rather than waste energy bonding minds. Kagura was free to think whatever thoughts she wanted.

Oddly enough, her mind kept reverting back to their last encounter with Sesshoumaru.

"What was it like?" she asked suddenly to Kohaku. Her dress still hung at her waist, so she loosely crossed her arms over her chest and peered back at the boy.

Kohaku did not turn around. "What was what like?"

"What was it like fighting Sesshoumaru?"

Kohaku stilled. The breath whooshed out of him loudly, and he turned to look at her with a blank expression. Kagura waited with growing irritation.

"Well?" she snapped.

Kohaku took his sweet time. "Like any other battle," he finally said.

"I see." Kagura sighed. She found herself strangely disappointed and she had to turn away to hide it. For some reason, she had expected something profound, something special.

"Though..." Kagura turned back around. Kohaku's face was twisted in a wistful, vulnerable expression. "It would have been a swift death."

Kagura nodded vaguely, turned around

It hit her like a punch in the face.

That was it. That was it. That was the difference between her and him. The difference between innocence and corruption.

He wanted to die. How obvious was that? But he wanted to die. Kagura could barely wrap her mind around the concept. She could joke about it yes, she could contemplate it maybe, but she couldn't want it. Not for a million head-rolling reasons. Not for anything. She was a coward, perhaps, but Kagura was a full-time coward. A quality coward. She didn't want just any cheap freedom, she wanted the whole thing, the whole basket. She wanted the extra bread loaves that she'd never eat, and that extra laugh before her head would fall, and she wanted all the scraps, all the little things—the surge of power, the taste of wind, the ruined dresses, the private smiles.

But Kohaku? He didn't care about any of that. Not for guilty pleasures, not for power struggles, not for acts of defiance. A corpse could not find pleasure in future things. And that too, was obvious, but…he really couldn't. Not an inkling of feeling. Not a care to die. He wasn't a coward, but he wasn't brave either; he wasn't anything.

Kagura wanted control of her freedom, but Kohaku wanted freedom from control. That was it, that was all. Nothing more and nothing less.

There was a difference in that. A big difference. A giant fucking maw of a difference.

Kagura supposed that was what she got for generalizing freedom.

"Pointless," Kagura scoffed at last. "This whole venture was absolutely pointless. Naraku's going to mutilate me. Naraku's going to mutilate you."

Kohaku said nothing, simply stared. Kagura's scowl deepened.

"Stupid. This was all stupid," she muttered. She felt fidgety, like she wanted to kill something. She looked back at Kohaku and pointedly glared. "Would you mind? Turn around. I'm trying to dress here."

Kohaku complied. She glared at his back for some time after between the folds of her kimono, but after a while she stopped. She couldn't find the energy too, really. It was like glaring at a rock wall, for one thing, and for another…

With his back turned, Kagura could admit it to herself. The truth of his words.

Death by Sesshoumaru's hands, huh? Kagura allowed herself a small smile. Swift indeed. He could probably chop her head off faster than Naraku ever could.

There was something morbidly pleasurable in that.