Atonement
By Miss Kagura
Chapter One — Murder


Puppets.

Naraku had been bombarding them with puppets all week, and they seemed to serve no other purpose than to keep Inuyasha on edge and exhausted. He hadn't slept in days, and it was starting to show in his lack of manners and rude comments to the others.

Night fell and camp was made, but still the hanyou kept his silent vigil. Amber eyes drifted from the monk, to the taijiya, to the neko, and finally to the kit; they all slept peacefully, although Miroku's hand seemed to be subconsciously migrating to the curvature of Sango's bottom. Kagome, however, was tossing and turning, caught in some terrible nightmare.

Inuyasha leapt down from his tree and watched her mumbling lips, trying to make out what she was saying. "…Yasha you have to…destroy Pythagoras with your Wind Scar…triangles attacking me…" White ears twitched in confusion as the hanyou gently reached out and touched Kagome's shoulder, attempting to wake her up. She didn't awaken, but she seemed to relax at his touch.

The fire reflected off his amber eyes as he carefully watched her sleep, fixated on her beauty. She was too beautiful for her own good, or his, for that matter. Her thick, long black hair smelled like Heaven, and her skin…the tiniest amount of lust flickered in his eyes as they followed the smooth curve of her cheeks, neck and shoulders, until her body disappeared under the sleeping bag. Inuyasha had seen her naked before, accidentally, and try as he might to forget, there were times he couldn't get her body out of his head.

A cool chill blew through the forest, and the hanyou leapt back into the tree, resuming his watch. He sniffed the air and jerked his head to the side, and then took off running toward Naraku's scent. Another puppet was en route to his camp and Inuyasha wasn't about to let it get close.

Not far away, Sesshoumaru cut across the rough terrain of the forest in search of something Naraku had taken from him. The only clue he had was a piece of orange checkered fabric with blood on it, and even if he would never admit it, he was terrified. The dozens of puppets spread Naraku's scent around, making it almost impossible for him to make any progress in finding the little girl.

Sesshoumaru's feet came to a sliding stop as a bright streak cut through the earth, uprooting grass and leaving a ditch as it dissipated. His eyes ignored the dead puppet as they found a figure clad in red.

"Didn't see you there, Asshole!" Inuyasha said as he raised the Tessaiga again.

The next thing Inuyasha knew, he was on the ground, with Tokijin pressed firmly against his jugular. Sesshoumaru allowed his sword to cut through the first layers of skin. "You should not be so careless with Father's fang, Little Brother. It is not a toy to be carelessly thrown about at your will."

The sword returned to its sheath and the fabric of Rin's kimono fell on Inuyasha's chest. "Have you picked up that scent?"

Inuyasha's nostril's flared at the scent of human blood. "No, why would you care? This is the scent of a human."

"Naraku kidnapped my ward," Sesshoumaru said, his lips half-curling into a snarl.

"Keh. Take better care of her then. It's not my problem," Inuyasha growled as he stood up and dusted himself off.

Sesshoumaru's threatening glare locked on Inuyasha. "When Mukotsu of the Shichinintai was going to rape your bitch, it was not my problem."

"She's not my bitch, Sesshoumaru!" Inuyasha yelled back at his brother.

Icy amber eyes sparkled in amusement at his little brother's denial. "I suppose some other woman is responsible for the lingering scent of arousal on you?" Sesshoumaru didn't care enough to continue the conversation, and disappeared before his brother had a chance to yell something crude at him.

Naraku had obviously run his brother into a state of exhaustion, and hanyou that he was, Inuyasha would eventually have to sleep.

Sesshoumaru looked up at the moon, noting that it was only three days until the new moon, when Inuyasha would become fully human. Was this Naraku's plan? To bombard Inuyasha with puppets until there was a period when he was noticeably unable to fight?

Inuyasha's secret kept him alive, and if Naraku and his pets found out when he was vulnerable, Inuyasha was as good as dead.

None of that mattered to Sesshoumaru at that moment, because his mind was focused on finding Rin.

Inuyasha returned to camp, equally frightened of the impending new moon. He couldn't abandon the others, or move everyone out of the area in time. Worst of all, he wasn't sure that Sango, Miroku, and Kagome alone were enough to handle the onslaught of Naraku's puppets. Without him and Tessaiga, their group was considerable weaker, despite the skills everyone else held.

Whatever Naraku's plan was, they had to figure it out before the moonless night.

Three days passed, and in the hours preceding the new moon, Inuyasha felt his strength start to fade. They found a hut to rest in, and Inuyasha spent a half-hour sitting on top of it, watching the sky fade to pink as the sun set. A puppet hadn't showed up all day, which was comforting and unnerving all at once. He was so tired, and he feared he'd simply pass out when he turned into a human.

"Inuyasha, you should come inside," Kagome said. She was standing in front of the hut shouting up at the stubborn hanyou, who simply shrugged his shoulders and looked back to the forest.

The hanyou leapt off the top of the hut and drew Tessaiga, transforming it before his feet hit the ground. "Naraku's scent!" he said as he raced toward it, feeling his energy leave as the sun made its final minutes of light. All he needed was just a couple of more minutes, to get there and hit the puppet with Tessaiga.

The clock was ticking.

It moved into his field of vision, and Inuyasha lifted the sword. "Wind Scar!"

The blast was nowhere as powerful as it should have been, and as soon as it had been delivered, the sword reversed its own transformation, and Inuyasha fell to the ground as one last scent hit his nose. His hair turned black, his senses dulled, and he was suddenly so exhausted he could barely move.

"Th-that's impossible!" Inuyasha said as he crawled toward the remains of the puppet, which he could have sworn smelled of human blood. A shaking hand pulled the pelt up, and there, under the baboon disguise, was a little girl. Normally, his Wind Scar would have completely obliterated a human body, but it was so close to sunset of the moonless night it didn't even kill her instantly. It just tore her open and left her bleeding, jerking, eyes wide as she struggled to breathe, to move, to scream, anything…

And then, Rin was still.

The crunch of footsteps behind him drove him behind a tree, peeking around the corner to make sure it was the rest of his pack. Kagome clapped a hand over her mouth as she dove next to the girl, checking for a pulse. She and the others looked at Rin, and the remains of Naraku's puppet, and made the assumption that Rin was another victim of Naraku's. Inuyasha remained still, and completely silent.

He had killed an innocent child with his sword. His brain wandered to the warning Sesshoumaru had given him about Tessaiga only days before, and a shaking hand reached into his haori. The missing piece of fabric near the hem of the girl's kimono was in his hand. This was the girl Sesshoumaru was seeking. He connected the corpse with the cute little girl always at his brother's feet. Sesshoumaru walked through purification barriers, intentionally fell into traps, and risked his life for the girl.

"I sense a demonic aura!" Kagome said, wiping tears from her cheeks as she prepared her bow.

A glowing ball of energy hovered over Rin's body for a moment, and then suddenly took the form of a kneeling Sesshoumaru. He didn't look at anyone else, or even seem to be aware that they were there. He smoothed his index and middle fingers over her eyelids, and closed frightened, dead eyes that had been capable of bringing him such joy only moments before. His thumb wiped a drop of blood from the corner of her mouth, and then wrenched her fingers from the ground she died clutching.

Miroku and Sango gestured to Kagome, and they started to back up slowly from the taiyoukai.

"Take one more step and die," Sesshoumaru said. His usually icy voice seemed heavy with emotion and grief.

Kagome slid her backpack off one shoulder and pulled out a blanket. "I-I have this If you want something to wrap her in."

Sesshoumaru slid his outer haori off, and awkwardly wrapped it around Rin. It was difficult to do with one arm, as many other things were. He finally pushed one of her limp, broken arms through and tied her green obi around his haori. Claws combed lightly through her hair, and then ran along one of her pale cheeks.

Kagome felt her skin begin to burn and took several steps back from Rin's body. Sesshoumaru's stood and unsheathed Tokijin, and then stepped in front of his brother, who was still sitting on the ground. Sesshoumaru held the tip of it in shaking hands, and pressed it into Inuyasha's throat, where it burned and scraped his skin in time with the rhythm of the trembling hand. His nose told him everything; Rin's corpse smelled like his father's fang, not like Naraku.

Kagome was the first to react and very nearly leapt in between them. "What are you doing? It's not Inuyasha's fault. Naraku killed her!"

His sharp stare cut into her and he put more pressure on the sword, letting blood drip down Inuyasha's throat. "The truth," he said to Inuyasha, who was practically at his mercy in his human form.

Inuyasha pushed his back farther against the tree. Sesshoumaru had obviously figured out what happened, judging from the sword in his neck. The look in Sesshoumaru's eyes was so much more hateful and deadly than he had ever seen on anyone before, and until dawn, Inuyasha knew there was no way he could defend himself or the rest of his pack. "Naraku hid her in a puppet," he said, looking at Kagome, frightened Sesshoumaru might simply decide to kill them all. "This has nothing to do with everyone else. Let them go and then do whatever the hell you want with me."

Scornful, angry eyes pressed Tokijin into his shoulder. "Want you?" he snarled at Inuyasha and twisted the blade, watching the hanyou grind his teeth in an attempt not to scream. Sesshoumaru stared at Tessaiga, and then at the others. "Never."

Inuyasha shoved the Tessaiga at him. "Take it. Just don't kill anyone."

"How proud our father would be to see you kill a mortal child and then offer your blade in her place," Sesshoumaru said as he turned his back on Inuyasha. His piercing gaze moved from one person to another, until it stopped at Kagome, who held Shippou in her arms. "Miko, put the kit down and step away from your friends."

Shippou dug his claws into Kagome's clothing as she started to shake. "Wh-Why?"

"Because I am going to kill you," Sesshoumaru calmly replied.

Miroku stepped in between them and unwrapped the rosary from his hand. "Why would you want to kill Kagome? She has done nothing to you!"

"For the same reason I would kill the taijiya if you had been the one to dispatch my ward," he said.

The monk winced and wrapped the beads back around his hand. "You wish to cause Inuyasha to suffer as much as possible." He looked around, knowing there was no way they could defeat Sesshoumaru with Inuyasha in his human form. His Wind Tunnel would suck up Inuyasha before Sesshoumaru, but Sesshoumaru's speed was the ultimate problem. He always left everyone other than Inuyasha out of his conflicts unless they got out of the way, but he knew it was because he never had a reason to involve them. He gave Inuyasha a look of apology and then bowed. "Inuyasha has committed a grievous offense against you, Sesshoumaru-sama, and taking Kagome would cause him far more pain than I think any of us can imagine now."

Inuyasha stood up grasping his bleeding throat. "Miroku, what the hell are you doing?"

"Let me finish, Inuyasha," Miroku said as he swallowed bile. "However, you can take Kagome away from Inuyasha without killing her."

Sesshoumaru was quiet for a moment, and then his expression softened just slightly. "Everyone leave, except the miko."

"I'm not leaving you alone with her, Bastard!" Inuyasha said.

"You are a disgrace. Get out of my sight!" Sesshoumaru said as he hit Inuyasha with a forceful blast that threw him beyond the group and several meters into the dark forest. Kagome watched as Miroku practically dragged Sango and Shippou away, praying that none of them would do anything to upset Sesshoumaru further.

Sesshoumaru picked the body up and rested it against his shoulder. "You understand that I will kill you and the rest of your pack if you attempt to escape?"

Kagome let out a light sob and nodded. "H-He didn't mean to hurt her!"

The taiyoukai said nothing and when he got too far ahead of her, Kagome stumbled after him, frightened of what he might do if she didn't. After almost half an hour of walking in silence, they arrived at the campsite where Jaken and Ah-Un slept. Kagome sat by the fire and unrolled her sleeping bag, assuming she was supposed to sleep.

"I require a needle and thread," Sesshoumaru said, eyeing her backpack.

Kagome dug through her bag and produced a traumatic needle and suture thread. She offered them to Sesshoumaru, who glared at her. "What?"

"How many hands are required to thread a needle, Wench?" Sesshoumaru asked.

"Oh right, sorry," Kagome said, babbling as she threaded the needle and gave it to him. She noticed the folded-up orange and yellow kimono in his hand, taken from Ah-Un's saddle compartments, and realized he was getting ready to prepare her body. "Do you want help? I have some special stuff to help cover bruises."

Sesshoumaru didn't acknowledge her, and simply turned and walked away again. She presented soap and shampoo to him, and he accepted without as much as a nod. Kagome watched as he stitched Rin closed, cleaned her up, combed her hair with his claws, and dressed her. She always thought he was cold and terrible, but there was no denying that he was acting as if he had lost his own daughter.

Kagome went back to her sleeping bag, and closed her eyes. She hated the whole situation; Naraku's puppets, Inuyasha's mistake, Rin's death, and Sesshoumaru's obvious pain were just too much to deal with. She closed her eyes, and hoped to wake up and find out it was all a nightmare.


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Author's Note: Why doesn't Sesshoumaru use Tenseiga? Later on in the manga, it is revealed Tenseiga will only work on a person once, and Rin was resurrected with it once already.