Disclaimer: Inuyasha and its characters are created by Rumiko Takahashi, not me, but the new plots and the original characters (Akiyama, Moriko, Kajimaru, Eiko, Shoichi, Katsuo and Natsumi) are mine. This fanfiction had been written for entertainment purposes only and without intention of infringing upon any copyright.
Title: A Latent Destiny
Genre: Mainly action/adventure, with romance building up over the course of the story.
Summary: The wish was made out of the kindness of her heart. Little did she know that the consequences would be so shocking. Despite everything that insisted on going wrong, Kagome persevered in mending what she perceived as her error, and found herself embarking on a journey which brought her closer to Sesshoumaru.
A/N: April 2009: There are 9 chapters to this story so far, and it is still incomplete. It is currently on hiatus, but it's highly unlikely that I will finish this story since my interest in Inuyasha has dwindled over the years. So, please bear this in mind if you choose to continue reading - This story is incomplete and likely to remain that way.
A Latent Destiny by elle6778 – Chapter 1
The inky night was silent bar the usual sounds of the forest. There was a gentle breeze in the air, ruffling the leaves overhead, sending shafts of moonlight dancing on the ground and upon his person.
Seated in a meditative pose, Sesshoumaru gazed unseeingly at the shallow stream before him. He had traveled far before he finally decided to indulge himself in some much-needed meditation while Rin and Kohaku slept under Jaken and Ah-Un's watchful eyes a fair distance away. The warning youki he had released earlier would ensure that none of them would be bothered.
Closing his eyes, Sesshoumaru inhaled slowly, savoring the scent of nature around him as he allowed his senses to expand further, to merge with his surroundings. It was at such time that he gathered his thoughts of the day, mulling over events that had taken place and their implications. This was the time for him to restore his energy.
The harsh bark of laughter followed by a feminine chortle of delight reached him and his eyes immediately snapped open. Although the sound originated from some distance away, his sensitive hearing ensured that he heard it loud and clear. Irked at the disturbance to his peace, Sesshoumaru frowned disapprovingly. Any youkai would have known better than to do so, which meant that the intruders could only be ignorant humans.
As the infuriating sounds traveled closer, Sesshoumaru stood up and directed his gaze at the direction from whence it came from. The voices were oddly familiar. As he concentrated, he managed to discern the words.
"Are you p-pleased with the gift?" the familiar male voice said, choking back his laughter.
"It's beautiful, but-"
By now, Sesshoumaru had heard enough to identify the owner of the voices as Inuyasha and the human wench who had been following the hanyou for the last three years. Sesshoumaru's lips instantly curled in distaste. Not only was he disturbed, it had to be his infuriating half-brother who was responsible for this inconvenience. And from what Sesshoumaru could tell, Inuyasha was in his human form tonight, which explained his reduced senses.
"My Lord…" Her voice was hesitant.
Sesshoumaru raised a brow, astonishment instantly replacing his irritation. The wench was addressing Inuyasha as 'My Lord'? How ill-fitting. Though born with Inu-no-Taishou blood in his veins, Inuyasha's countenance was far from appropriate for a lord. What possessed the human wench to address him as such?
Inuyasha let out a choked sound. "I-It is late. You should rest."
"Wait!" A paused followed before the female continued. "My Lord? This gift… I don't understand…"
Sesshoumaru raised a hand, pressing his fingers against the bridge of his nose. There was something utterly intolerable about Inuyasha being addressed as a lord. Also, there was something odd about this conversation. It did not seem real, though from what he could discern from their words, they were apparently courting.
"A-Are you not pleased enough to accept it?" Inuyasha's voice sound forced.
"Yes. I like it. But why? Why are you giving me such a thing?"
"Should there be a reason?"
"My Lord. I meant no offence, but you're not the type to give presents."
"You once bestowed a gift upon me."
"Yes, but that's me. And you're…you." A rough exhalation of breath was heard. "I just want to know what you mean by it."
"You want to know?"
Sesshoumaru heard the sound of scuffling followed by a feminine shriek of protest. Inuyasha's hysterical laughter filtered through the trees. Once again the miko shrieked in the most reprehensible manner, bringing a scowl onto Sesshoumaru's face.
"Stop it, Inuyasha! I'm going to say it!" the wench warned amidst her strangled breaths.
"What? I was just following the script!"
"The script said nothing about slobbering all over me, you idiot!"
Script? What were they referring to? Their tone of conversation had changed so much that Sesshoumaru could hardly believe that he was listening to the two same beings. Curious despite himself, he continued to listen, cloaked in the shadows of the forest.
"You said you'd help, Inuyasha," the wench accused.
Inuyasha snorted. "What do you think I'm trying to do here, Kagome? And don't forget that I didn't ask to get pulled into this stupid show."
"If you didn't show up at my school during that festival those years ago, you wouldn't have given them the idea to put you into this year's performance."
"Hey! That's not my fault! You were the one who brought those demons along with you."
"How on earth should I know that those are demons? I thought they were just dried fruits! How am I supposed to know that they'll turn into demons when you stick them on the electric stove?"
Sesshoumaru could only surmise that from the unfamiliarity of the words that the wench was referring to some object in her own time in the future. Still, their conversation was becoming tedious, as one would expect from any conversation involving Inuyasha. It was time he departed. He should seek another location to continue his meditation.
It was quite unfortunate that Inuyasha had chosen that very moment to crash gracelessly through the forest. Right into the place he should avoid, Sesshoumaru thought disapprovingly as the hanyou stared at him in the most unbecoming slack-jawed manner. Instead of his usual silvery white hair, Inuyasha was wearing a headful of black human hair.
"You! What are you doing here?" Inuyasha asked warily.
Sesshoumaru pointed out evenly, "It is you who invaded this Sesshoumaru's peace."
Inuyasha's expression turned suspicious. "Keh! You've been around so much that I'm beginning to think that you're following us. Just leave us alone, alright?!"
Eyes narrowing at his brother's rudeness, Sesshoumaru intoned blandly. "Your impertinence knows no bounds, little brother."
Out of the corner of his eyes, Sesshoumaru saw the approach of the miko. The moment her gaze landed on him, her eyes widened.
"Oh, Sesshoumaru," she exclaimed with relief. "I thought it was some other nasty demon. Thank Kami it's only you."
Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed further into irate slits. Did the wench just dismissed his significance? She seemed almost pleased to know that it was him and not another demon. And what gave her the right to address him with such familiarity?
"Get back, Kagome!"
"Inuyasha, you're not fighting with Sesshoumaru today," the wench said firmly. "Remember what day it is?"
"Damn it, Kagome! I'm not weak!" Inuyasha declared vehemently. "And anyway, Sesshoumaru has been turning up all over the place nowadays. Maybe he's looking for a fight."
The miko rolled her eyes. "Osuwari," she intoned quietly.
Inuyasha's reaction was instant. One moment he was glaring at the miko, and the next, he was face down on the ground in the most humiliating pose. Sesshoumaru felt his lips twitch. It never failed to amuse him each time this happened, even though he knew that this degradation should not be borne by someone of Inu-no-Taishou's blood.
Still, for the moment, he would amuse himself at the sight.
Kagome knew that Sesshoumaru had been around the same area as them recently, but considering that they were all hunting Naraku, such a thing was hardly a surprise. But Inuyasha's continual paranoia about it was beginning to grate on her nerves. Turning away from the cursing and swearing hanyou, Kagome switched her attention to Sesshoumaru. The taiyoukai looked as he always did, elegant, poised and altogether unreadable.
The silence was growing awkward. She did not know Sesshoumaru very well. Apart from the first few times when he had actually targeted her, the later encounters had only involved Inuyasha and not her. Though she had to say that she had seen things over the years which led her to believe that he was not all that bad.
After all, Inuyasha was still alive, wasn't he?
Wracking her brain for something to say, she finally settled for, "Umm… So, how are things going?"
She saw a slight thinning of his lips, but that was the only response she received from the taiyoukai. How typical, she thought with growing irritation. There she was trying to be civil and he could not even answer one simple question. She supposed she should have expected it. Why would he be civil to her when he barely talked to his own brother?
"Never mind," she muttered under her breath as she turned around to kneel beside her growling friend. "Are you alright?"
Inuyasha managed to lift his head to glare at her. "What the hell was that for?"
She rolled her eyes. "I couldn't let you fight Sesshoumaru, could I? Anyway, it'll wear off in a minute."
When she looked over her shoulders, Sesshoumaru was gone.
Inuyasha peeled himself off the ground. "Damn it, Kagome! I wasn't really going to fight him," he snapped irritably as he brushed the dirt off himself.
She straightened defensively. "How should I know? I just don't want you to get hurt."
"Keh! As if that's going to happen anytime soon. And anyway, we haven't fought for a while." He frowned thoughtfully. "I haven't tried my Kongosoha on him yet."
Kagome rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Next time, don't expect me to heal you when you end up being torn apart by Sesshoumaru."
Inuyasha snorted in disbelief. "Then Kikyo can do it."
As if on queue, the undead miko stepped silently out of the shadows. Her pensive eyes turned from one of them to the other, making Kagome feel acutely uncomfortable. Kikyo always made her feel this way when she was anywhere near Inuyasha. Like she should not be too close to Inuyasha.
"Kikyo," she greeted quietly.
The resurrected miko gave her a small smile. "Kagome. Shippou is looking for you."
"Oh!" Kagome exclaimed, and then took a step away. "Then I guess I'd better head back to the village, huh?"
Waving her fingers at both of them, she turned around and began to walk away. As she pushed past the forest foliage to return to the village, Kagome mulled over the situation between her, Inuyasha and Kikyo. Her lips twisted. No, not her. Just Inuyasha and Kikyo, she corrected wistfully. She should be used to it by now, shouldn't she? After all Kikyo has been traveling with them for the last few months and it was clear what was happening between Inuyasha and Kikyo.
She really wanted to hate the older miko and she had done so, at first. But as time passed, she had been forced to see the truth. Inuyasha might love her, Kagome, but he would always love Kikyo more because he was in love with Kikyo.
A resigned sigh escaped her. Ah well, it was not as if she was an old maid just yet, right? She was only eighteen. Inuyasha might be her first love, but in time, she would find someone else. Right? She would be going back to the future to visit her family tomorrow. Maybe that would be a good time to do something about it.
She took a deep, fortifying breath and clapped her hands together. Yes, she would remain optimistic and take things as they came. Who knew, maybe the one she was destined to be with would show up sooner than she thought.
If such a thing like destiny existed.
It was dawn when Sesshoumaru finally returned to gather his ward, Kohaku, Jaken and Ah-Un. While Kohaku sat silently under a tree, Rin rushed towards forward, ending up with her arms wrapped around one of his legs.
"Sesshoumaru-sama!" she greeted cheerfully, her brown eyes shining with innocent happiness.
"Rin," he intoned as he placed a hand on her head. Even after almost three years, he still could not comprehend his strange attachment to this ningen child. However, he had long decided that it was pointless to ponder upon the reasons for it. Rin's presence pleased him, and he would ensure that she remained by his side.
"Kohaku brought us some breakfast," Rin declared, pulling out a wrinkled package.
His nose told him that it contained rice. Glancing away from his ward, his gaze went to the human Rin had found a few months ago.
Both the human boy and his undead miko companion had been gravely injured by Naraku when Rin had stumbled upon them. Inuyasha and his companions had arrived soon afterwards. Between them, Naraku had been driven away once again, leaving the last Shikon shard safe in Kohaku's neck. Irked at the entire debacle, Sesshoumaru had decided then to bring Kohaku with them, ignoring the protests from Inuyasha and the rest. The last thing he intended was for Naraku to lay his filthy hand on the final shard, and it was clear that Inuyasha and the rest were far from competent guards.
Kohaku stood up to walk towards them. "Sesshoumaru-sama," the slayer greeted. "Those in the village nearby gave me some rice balls. I hope that it was alright to share them with Rin."
"Can we visit the demon slayers' old village? Kohaku told me about it and I want to see it," she said, blinking up questioningly at him.
Sesshoumaru stilled. Rin wished to see the demon slayers' village? He did not wish to disappoint her. However, he had more pressing matters to attend to. Naraku had to be found and he had no intention of taking a detour. Annoyed that Kohaku had brought such a thing to Rin's mind, he cast a cold look at the slayer, who had the grace to look embarrassed.
However, before he could respond to Rin's question, his senses sharpened at the familiar scent in the distance. Eyes narrowing, he hissed under his breath, "Naraku."
Jaken squawked in alarm. "Sesshoumaru-sama! The despicable hanyou, is he present?"
Turning to his retainer, Sesshoumaru instructed, "Take Rin and head towards the west."
A pair of bulging eyes blinked at him. "B-But… You will be alone."
Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed. "You imply that this Sesshoumaru is incapable of defeating Naraku?"
Jaken gulped and shook his head quickly.
A soft tug on his hakama brought Sesshoumaru's attention to Rin. Giving him an earnest look, Rin declared, "Rin will be safe with Jaken-sama and Kohaku. Please take care, Sesshoumaru-sama."
He gazed at her silently for a moment, and then he nodded. Apparently satisfied, Rin bounded off after Jaken. Kohaku made to follow him. Turning to the slayer, Sesshoumaru hardened his expression. "You will remain with them."
The slayer hesitated momentarily, and then he nodded, "Hai, Sesshoumaru-sama."
The two humans and Jaken immediately mounted Ah-Un. With a quiet rumble, the beast soared into the sky. Satisfied that they would be out of harm's way, Sesshoumaru headed towards the opposite direction. He had searched for Naraku for the last few cycles of the moon without success and now, he would ensure that the hanyou did not escape. His hand reached down to touch the hilt of Tenseiga, the only blade he possessed ever since Toukijin was destroyed during the battle with Moryomaru. It did not matter, for Toukijin was simply made out of a lowly oni.
His own strength would prevail against Naraku.
The tension in the air was practically crackling.
They were standing in a clearing at the base of a cliff, surrounded by a dense forest which protected them from the worst of the wind. But their position was far from ideal, considering that Naraku was looking down at them from his perch atop the cliff. They were effectively trapped. But then again, that was probably Naraku's intention all along.
Flanking her was Sango and Miroku, both prepared for battle, even though this was the last thing they had expected this morning when they woke up. The appearance of Naraku's trademark dark miasma had caught them by surprise, since the hanyou had been missing for months. Shouting a warning to Kaede and the villagers to stay indoors, they had rushed out to chase after Naraku only to be led to this clearing.
Kagome cast her eyes towards her right. Considering how violent these encounters were, they were too close to the Bone-Eater's well for her comfort. The well was separated from this clearing only by a thin strip of forest. But she could not afford to think about that now. Gritting her teeth, Kagome stood in battle stance with a glowing arrow taut against her bow. Kikyo was in a similar pose at the opposite side of the clearing, her expression betraying nothing but utter calmness as she stared up the cliff. Kagome wished that she could be that calm. On second thoughts, it was probably impossible because she had to have that sort of composed temperament in the first place.
"My, my… what a wonderful surprise to find all of you gathered here," Naraku drawled mockingly.
Fangs bared, Inuyasha shouted from the middle of the clearing, "Get down here and fight, you coward!"
"Kagome…" Shippou whispered nervously from behind her. "I have a bad feeling about this."
"Shh… it'll be alright. Just stay close to me, alright?" Kagome soothed.
Naraku's laughter echoed across the clearing. "Get down there, you say?" he sneered. "As you wish."
Kagome choked back a gasp when the wing-like flaps behind Naraku spread out just as he leapt down the cliff into the middle of the clearing. He did not seem concerned at all that he was surrounded by them. Instead, his eyed them one by one until he reached her.
"The protector who failed to protect the Shikon-no-Tama." His red eyes narrowed. "I will complete the jewel today right before your eyes."
"Keh! The shard isn't even here with us, you idiot!" Inuyasha shot back.
Naraku raised a brow. "We shall see about that."
"I'm sick of hearing your voice!" Inuyasha yelled as he charged. "Kongosoha!"
At the signal, Sango and Miroku sprung into action. Hiraikotsu spun through the air at a deadly speed, headed straight for Naraku as Inuyasha brought down his Tetsusaiga. A barrage of diamond spikes shot out of the fang, reaching for Naraku but before anything could connect, a shimmering red barrier closed around the smirking hanyou. To Kagome's surprise, Inuyasha's attack was repelled. Kongosoha used to be just about the only thing that could penetrate the barrier.
"His barrier has gotten stronger, damn it!" Inuyasha snarled as he streaked forward. "Stop hiding behind your barrier, you bastard!"
Kagome knew that they had to try to break the barrier. Raising her bow and arrow, she took aim and shot just as Tetsusaiga threw another attack at the barrier. To her delight, the barrier wavered. It was not quite enough yet, but it was a start.
"Again, Inuyasha!" Kagome yelled.
Her eyes met Kikyo's then, and with a nod of unspoken agreement, both of them raised their bows and aimed. Their glowing arrows hit the barrier the instant Inuyasha's red blade connected. As cracks began to appear in his barrier, Naraku's expression twisted in irritation.
"Hah! We'll get you soon!" Inuyasha declared smugly. "Just wait!"
Kagome's eyes widened in alarm when Naraku lifted his arms to retaliate. Inuyasha was the closest target at this moment. "Watch out, Inuyasha!" she yelled frantically.
The unstable barrier exploded outwards, throwing Inuyasha towards them and sending waves of demonic energy rippling across the clearing. Kagome twisted around, hunching over a shaking Shippou to shield him from the energy blast. When the last of the waves had passed, she quickly straightened and to her relief, found that none of her friends were injured.
She glanced down at the white-haired hanyou nearby. "You're alright, Inuyasha?"
Inuyasha nodded once, and then got to his feet. "That's all you got, Naraku?" he taunted.
Ignoring his words, Naraku raised his eyes to the top of the cliff. "Look who has decided to join us," he mused, raising a brow. "Came to save your little brother, Sesshoumaru?"
Surprised, but keeping her hands firmly on her bow and arrow, Kagome glanced out of the corner of her eyes to find Sesshoumaru standing high on the cliff in all his aristocratic glory. He was staring down at Naraku with a look of utter disdain.
"You stay out of this, Sesshoumaru!" Inuyasha yelled.
"Silence, little brother." The taiyoukai's tone was condescending.
Inuyasha instantly bristled, but before he could open his mouth, Kagome hissed at him, "Let it go, Inuyasha! This is not the time to squabble with Sesshoumaru."
Even from that distance, Sesshoumaru had obviously heard her. But apart from casting her a contemptuous look, he said nothing. Then her attention was drawn to the approaching swarm of youkai spreading towards them from beyond the forest. The sight was a familiar one, Kagome thought with annoyance. Naraku always brought his youkai reinforcements, the coward.
Lifting her bow and arrow, she aimed towards the middle of the dense swarm. Her arrow whizzed brightly through the air before it connected with its targets. Guttural howls broke from the wounded youkai as the swarm dispersed in all directions.
"Sango, Miroku, two of you take the left, I'll do the right!" Inuyasha yelled as he leapt forward.
Sango and Miroku nodded, and then Kirara brought them to the left. Her bow and arrow strung in readiness, Kikyo stood on the opposite side. They effectively surrounded the still smirking Naraku.
After so many years of fighting, Kagome knew that she had to remain distanced from the main bulk of the swarm so that her arrows would work. Close quarter combat was not something she was good at, but as long as she was somewhat distanced, she could release shot after shot of arrows infused with her miko power. Those youkai who dared to venture close was rewarded with blasts of Shippou's improved foxfire.
As the battle heated up, Kagome periodically scanned the battlefield to check on her fighting friends. Perched on Kirara, Sango repeatedly sent her Hiraikotsu spinning through the air, slicing into any available youkai. Miroku was dealing with the ground-based opponents, using his Shakujo staff to destroy them. Further to the right, Inuyasha was leaping from one youkai after another, taking them down with his Tetsusaiga while Kikyo covered the flying youkai above him.
Then Kagome's eyes landed on the taiyoukai. Sesshoumaru's attention was fixed intently on Naraku as he made his way through the swarm, only extending his one hand to swipe them aside like inconsequential flies when the low-level youkai got in his way. To her surprise, she noted that Naraku did not seemed concerned by Sesshoumaru's approach. Instead, the hanyou simply waited with a knowing smirk. She could not help but wonder what Naraku was up to and if this was actually a trap.
"Kagome! Watch out!"
Shippou's warning instantly snapped her out of her contemplations. Kagome's eyes widened when a youkai flew straight at them from the side. Not even thinking, she pulled her arrow from the bow just in time to drive the sharp tip into the belly of the flying youkai, stopping it just moments before it attacked.
"That was close," Shippou exclaimed shakily as Kagome yanked the arrow out of the youkai, grimacing as she did so.
Drawing the bloody arrow back against the bow, Kagome said apologetically, "Sorry, Shippou. I didn't see that coming." The youkai swarm was thinning visibly, she noted with relief. Soon they could focus on Naraku instead of his pests.
Eyes still fixed on another incoming youkai, she did not respond until her arrow hit the target. Then she glanced down to find Shippou looking worriedly into the distance. Wondering what had caught his attention, Kagome followed his gaze only to suck in a sharp breath.
"No…" Kagome whispered shakily as her blood ran cold.
Kohaku was there, wearing a blank expression as he pulled a screaming girl forward. His deadly sickle held to Rin's throat, Kohaku's eyes were eerily empty, confirming that he was not in control of himself. So that was why Naraku was not concerned about Sesshoumaru. Naraku had planned for this to happen.
"Kohaku!" Sango yelled, instantly turning around to head towards her brother.
Keeping his hold on Rin, Kohaku jumped away from his approaching sister. He was headed away from them, running towards the forest. As Kagome watched with growing horror, Sesshoumaru's swung his attention away from Naraku. Now his gaze were fixed on the possessed boy, his eyes gleaming with fury.
"Release her at once," the taiyoukai snarled from across the battlefield.
Kohaku did not respond. Instead, he stepped into the forest with a struggling Rin in his arms. Sesshoumaru tried to follow, only to be blocked by a fresh batch of youkai.
With a slash to decimate more of the youkai swarm, Inuyasha spun around, his eyes widening as he took in the latest development. "What the hell are you doing, Kohaku?!"
"Kohaku! Don't do this, please!" Sango pled as she chased after her brother.
As Shippou clung to her back, Kagome decided to follow and ran into the forest. She was determined to make sure that no one got killed. Gripping her bow tightly, noticed that Kikyo and Miroku had joined her.
"Kagome, we're headed towards the well," the kitsune exclaimed nervously.
She grimaced. "I know. Hopefully nothing will happen to it," she muttered as they broke out of the forest into the clearing. The well was visible, but they were far enough that nothing should get to it.
A maniacal laughter filtered through the trees, drawing Kagome's attention away from Shippou and onto Naraku who had just emerged. "Touching, don't you think, Inuyasha? What would happen, I wonder, if Kohaku kills Sesshoumaru's little pet?" Naraku mocked as he launched into to air to glide in the direction Kohaku had taken.
Swinging Tetsusaiga around, Inuyasha growled, "You talk too much! Stop controlling Kohaku and fight!"
Pausing mid-air, Naraku's eyes narrowed. "You want a fight, I'll give you a fight," he hissed.
Kagome tensed in preparation when tentacles shot out in all directions from Naraku's back, her bow and arrow now aimed at their enemy. Between her and Inuyasha, they would have to make sure that Naraku was occupied. Sesshoumaru was not far behind, but he was being delayed by Naraku's never-ending tentacles. She knew that the taiyoukai would save Rin, but he needed the rest of them to distract Naraku.
A flash of white out of the corner of her eyes caught Kagome's attention just as her arrow pierced one of Naraku's tentacles. She glanced around to find Kikyo aiming at Kohaku, her features set in a grim expression.
"Let the girl go, Kohaku," Kikyo said in an uncompromising voice.
Kohaku did not respond. Kagome gasped when an angry Sango rushed forward to stop the resurrected miko from killing her brother. "Kikyo! Sango! Don't do it!" she yelled.
Inuyasha paused at the sight, his eyes widening in alarm. The brief moment of distraction allowed Naraku to drive a tentacle into his shoulders. As Inuyasha cried out in pain, Kagome tore eyes away from Kikyo and Sango. Aiming, she shot at Naraku again. When her glowing arrow forced Naraku to retract his tentacle, Inuyasha stumbled towards Sango. Kagome almost groaned when she realized that she was left alone with Shippou to deal with Naraku. Fortunately for her, Miroku seemed to have noted her predicament and immediately left Sango to come to her side.
"Tsk…tsk…Your friends abandoning you, I see," Naraku sneered.
Deciding that it was pointless to argue with him, Kagome simply shot off another arrow while Miroku took care of the newly arrived youkai swarm around them. Reaching back for another arrow, she almost cursed out loud when she realized that she only had three left. At times like this, she wished that she had proper combat training. Relying solely on arrows was a severe disadvantage.
Naraku hissed in fury when another of her arrow pierced him. When he retaliated with two spiked claws bursting from his shoulders, Kagome instantly brought up a barrier around her, Miroku and Shippou. A quick glance out of her barrier towards her friends made her gasp.
The situation was growing more unpredictable by the second with their current stand off. Rin was being held captive by Kohaku, Kohaku was being threatened by Kikyo, Kikyo being warned off Kohaku by Sango and Inuyasha was rushing madly towards the fray with Sesshoumaru coming in from the opposite direction.
"Kikyo, no! Stop right there!" Sango shouted, aiming her Hiraikotsu at the other woman. "I swear I will throw this at you."
"Damn it, Sango! Don't do anything stupid," Inuyasha yelled harshly.
Kikyo showed no sign which indicated that she had heard either of them. The bowstring tautened further and in one swift move, Kikyo's glowing arrow sped through the air right at Kohaku. With a shriek of anguish, Sango released her Hiraikotsu at the undead miko.
Kagome felt as if she was frozen to the spot. There was not enough time to do anything but to watch with horror as Kikyo's arrow pierced Kohaku's back, right where the tainted jewel laid. At the same time, Sango's Hiraikotsu connected with Kikyo's chest, sending the resurrected miko smashing into the side of the cliff. The undead miko's body began to deteriorate into dust as the stolen soul floated like wisps of smoke into the air.
"No…" Kagome choked out.
"Kikyo!" Inuyasha roared, launching himself towards the wisps which used to be Kikyo.
But he was too late.
Sesshoumaru shot forward just in time to catch Rin's body before she hit the ground. He had attempted to get to her earlier only to be thwarted by Naraku with each step he took. It was close, too close. Naraku would pay for this, he growled inwardly as he glanced down at Rin.
He immediately went cold. Dread filled him when he realized that he could sense nothing from the little body. There was no sound of heartbeat and he could not hear or feel her gentle breath. Shifting her slightly, his eyes landed on the thin line across her neck which was now beginning to trickle with blood. The slayer's sickle had sliced across her neck.
Ignoring the sounds of battle around him, Sesshoumaru lowered her to his lap and unsheathed Tenseiga.
He waited for it to pulse, but there was nothing. The blade was not responding and he could not see the pallbearers of the afterlife around Rin. His fingers clenched tightly around the hilt, willing it to respond. What was the meaning of this? Why would Tenseiga fail him now? Could it be that Tenseiga could only be utilized once for each life?
Slowly, his fingers unfurled.
The soft thud of the blade falling to the ground barely registered. His attention was fixed onto the lifeless body in his lap. No words escaped his lips, the clamor of protest only pounded loudly in his mind. This could not be. Rin could not be dead. An unfamiliar feeling welled up inside him, painfully hot and cold at the same time. He could feel a lump in his throat and his chest felt strained, as if it was breaking apart.
Rin. The only one he sought to protect with his life. And he had failed. He could no longer lay his eyes upon her smile. He could no longer hear her voice. He could no longer feel her little fingers tugging him. He closed his eyes, forcing his mind to accept the devastating fact, forcing himself to suppress his anguish so that he could recompose himself.
Gently laying Rin down on the ground, Sesshoumaru straightened to his full height. His fingers clenched into a fist.
This was all due to his manipulating.
Fury like none other flared up within Sesshoumaru. Youki crackled thick and heavy around him as his body began to stretch, his fangs and limbs elongating in reaction to his expanding anger. He flung his head back as the raw power coursed through him. He would transform into his true form and made sure that Naraku paid for this with his life. His blood pounded in his ears, and he opened his mouth to release a snarl of pure rage.
Then he stilled.
There was something different about it. Something he had never felt before during his past transformations. Pausing, he glanced down. What remained of his left arm, the stump, was glowing. His lips parted in a silent gasp when the stump elongated right before his eyes. He had expected it to grow over centuries to come, therefore the sudden regeneration was unexpected. A bright flare followed and he could not help but wince at the sharp pain shooting down the arm. A spear of light glinted off a shiny surface, puzzling him even further.
When the bright flare finally dissipated, Sesshoumaru found himself staring in astonishment at the unfamiliar blade held in his fully reformed left hand. What was it? How had it appeared from within him? Then, realizing that nothing weak could possibly be born out of his own body, Sesshoumaru tightened his grip. Somehow or other, his anguish over Rin's death must have called forth this blade.
And Naraku would be the first to perish at the tip of this blade.
Prepared for battle, Sesshoumaru turned around only to find that the entire battle had paused. Everyone was turned towards him, wearing varying expressions of shock. Their reactions were of no interest to him. His attention immediately landed on Naraku. The hanyou's expression betrayed nothing, but the tension in his body told Sesshoumaru all he needed to know.
Inuyasha was the one to break the silence. "What the hell was that?"
Not turning away from Naraku, Sesshoumaru bit out, "It does not concern you, Inuyasha. Stand back."
"What?! I'm not backing away from this!" Inuyasha declared heatedly.
Naraku smirked. "What? Another new sword, Sesshoumaru? Shall we test it then?"
Sesshoumaru shifted the blade to his right hand and without warning, streaked straight at the hanyou. Expecting the move, Naraku instantly sprung into the air with his tentacles exploding outwards. The writhing appendages shot towards him, and Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed in anticipation. In a swift move, he sliced across the tentacles, sending the severed ends flying across the clearing.
"Tsk… tsk… Have you not learnt? I can just regene-" Naraku broke off abruptly.
Landing some distance away, Sesshoumaru watched with satisfaction as Naraku's eyes widened in shock. The hanyou had just realized that he could no longer regenerate. Sesshoumaru directed a quick glance down at the carvings on the blade, silently pleased at its ability. Naraku was at a disadvantage without the ability to regenerate.
Inuyasha's humorless laughter reached him. "Let's see how you like my attacks now that you can't regenerate!" the hanyou spat darkly as he brought Tetsusaiga down. "Kongosoha!"
The diamond shards pierced Naraku's body, tearing away his tentacles. Mouth open in a snarl of outrage, Naraku lashed back. Purplish spikes shot out from his elbows, laced with dark energy. Sesshoumaru hissed as one of those spikes grazed his arm. Holding his new blade in front of him, Sesshoumaru released a blast of youki straight at the hanyou.
Naraku staggered backwards when the attack connected with him. Eyes glittering with hatred, the hanyou snarled, "I will not let you win!" With that, the hanyou rose into the air.
No. He would not allow Naraku to escape. Fingers tightening around the hilt, Sesshoumaru directed another offensive youki strike at the fleeing hanyou. At the same time, Inuyasha swung Tetsusaiga downwards.
The two attacks connected with Naraku at the same time. His cry of pain pierced the air as the diamond shards glowing with the youki attack fractured his body part by part. Shafts of dark beams radiated from Naraku's body as he arched backwards, his face contorted in agony.
Then a deafening crack split the air as his body disintegrated.
Sesshoumaru simply stared as the tainted jewel dropped to the ground. Naraku was finally destroyed and Rin's death was avenged. Although the hanyou's demise was gratifying, Sesshoumaru could not help but feel somewhat empty at the victory when his eyes went to Rin's unmoving body. It did not matter how many were killed.
Nothing would bring Rin back to life.
It was silent.
The sort of silence one would expect after a momentous event. There were neither the usual sounds from the forest creatures, nor the flora which surrounded them. But if one tried hard enough, one could hear the almost silent sound of the wind blowing past them, as if to reassure them that they were still alive.
The warm breeze ruffled her hair and those of her comrades, but Kagome barely felt it. Still stunned from what they had just achieved, Kagome stared numbly as Inuyasha's white mane shifted gently in the wind. He was crouched over the pile of dust which used to be Kikyo with Shippou standing silently beside him.
Naraku was gone.
Dragging her eyes from her long-time friend, Kagome looked down at the complete Shikon no Tama nestled in her bloody palm. Shippou had collected the last of the shard from Kohaku's body and Inuyasha had given her the rest. Three years of her life had been spent hunting this small jewel down, gathering the scattered shards, and now, it was whole again.
"We did it," she whispered.
But victory felt rather hollow considering the number of fatalities.
Rin, Kohaku and Kikyo.
Kagome turned toward Sango who was cradling a lifeless Kohaku in her arms, noticing that the taijiya wore a bittersweet expression. Tear tracks glistened down her cheeks, the evidence of her anguish. A worried Miroku was seated beside her, lending her his silent support.
Then Kagome's eyes strayed towards the taiyoukai standing apart from them. Face set in his usual impenetrable mask, Sesshoumaru simply regarded them wordlessly. The only outward sign of his sadness was the bleakness in his golden eyes. Kagome did not know whether he had come across them by chance, or he had been tailing them all along. Whatever it was, she was glad that he had joined in, otherwise they might not have made it.
But at what price, Kagome wondered sadly. The taiyoukai had lost Rin, the only person that Kagome suspected had managed to instill some emotions in the stoic lord. Was it all worth it?
She glanced at the completed jewel in her hand. Some time ago, they had all decided that it was best for her to not make the wish. After all, no one could tell if the wish was pure or not and because of that, they should not risk it. She was supposed to bring the jewel to the future with her and keep it there. Then, from time to time, she could use it to return to visit her friends once in a while. It was what she wanted as well because the thought of leaving her friends for good tore her up inside.
Still, a wish would bring smiles back onto their faces. She wanted nothing for herself, but her friends certainly deserved to have more after what they had gone through. None of them would agree with her, she knew. Because they were just like that.
She had to do it now. There was no reason to delay. With a heavy heart, she stood up. Quietly, she made her way to the well, careful not to attract any attention. Seated at the rim of the Bone-Eater's Well, Kagome brought the completed Shikon-no-Tama up to eye level. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes to prepare herself to make the wish.
"I wish for my friends… and Sesshoumaru to regain the loved ones they had lost at Naraku's hands," she whispered softly.
The jewel instantly glowed right before her eyes. Its brightness intensified by the second until she was blinded to everything but the pure white light. It pulsed together with her, sending waves and waves of energy spreading outwards. When the light dimmed slightly, Kagome began to notice that the jewel was fading.
And so were her hands.
A shaky smile crossed her lips as she looked beyond the dissipating light towards her shocked friends. Even though Sesshoumaru was standing some distance away, she could see that he, too was surprised. Sweeping her eyes past him, her gaze landed on the small form of Rin.
The little girl was stirring.
It worked, she realized as relief coursed through her. She tried to find Kikyo and Kohaku, but the rest of her friends were rushing towards her, blocking her view. They would not reach her in time, she noted sorrowfully. Not that it would make any difference if they did.
"Kagome!" Inuyasha yelled, his eyes wide with alarm. "What are you doing?!"
"I've got to go now," she said quietly.
"Kagome!" Sango and Miroku called out in unison.
Shippou let out a strangled cry as he sped towards her. "Kagome! Don't go! You said you'll stay!"
"I know, Shippou. I'm sorry." A lump formed in her throat, choking her. "P-Please take care, all of you. Be happy. I love you all."
Then she leaned back and felt the air rush past her as she fell through the well.
She was instantly enveloped by a strange feeling. There was the usual shimmering blue around her, but she felt fuzzy, like everything was unreal. Something was touching her. What was it? Panic overwhelmed her for a moment, until she felt its non-threatening nature. It was warm, somewhat familiar and it was embracing her. Filled with a languid sensation, she closed her eyes. For a moment, she saw flashes of images she could not identify but once again, it felt familiar.
Her feet touched solid ground. That odd feeling intensified, and she reeled back blindly as her mind was bombarded with unfamiliar images, none of which she could quite put her finger on. Something wrapped around her, seeping into her. What was going on?
Then it was gone.
Relieved the weird sensation had stopped, but finally figuring that it was probably due to the fact that the Shikon-no-Tama was now gone, Kagome opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by the four walls of the well, shadowed in darkness. She was home, she thought with a pang of bittersweet emotion. Maybe this was how it was supposed to be. Her job in the Feudal Era was done and she was now home to live a normal live. Somehow, the idea was not that appealing, but she knew that it could not be helped. She had made so many plans before, like visiting the Feudal Era over the weekends, seeing how things develop between her friends, watching Shippou grow up…
She choked on a sob. But now, there was no way back, right? Feeling drained, she sank to the floor. She would miss them dreadfully, but it was not as if she did not know what would happen when she made that wish. They would be happy with their loved ones now. Sure she was miserable about it, but it was worth it, right?
Pushing herself to her feet, she took a deep breath and stiffened her spine. Well, she just have to make the best of it, she decided firmly. She had to further her studies and then find a normal job. Maybe she could go into something which made use of her knowledge of the Feudal Era.
Brushing away her thoughts, she began to climb up the well. When she reached the top, she swung her feet over the rim and stood staring at the familiar wooden structure surrounding her.
A tingling at her side caught her attention and her hands came up in reflex. Glancing down, she instantly paled when she saw a somewhat familiar pinkish glow at her side. The Shikon-no-Tama was back inside her? This was impossible. She had made a wish. Why would the jewel be within her once again? Had something gone wrong with the wish? She continued to stare at the glow and only now she noticed that there was something different about it.
Filled with trepidation, Kagome let her hand fall as she turned around to eye the well. What happened? Did she do something wrong? But that could not be right. She saw Rin move. It must have worked. Did she miss something? Or this entire thing about the Shikon-no-Tama disappearing after a pure wish was simply a false rumor? Maybe the jewel would not disappear no matter what she did. Should she go back in and make another wish?
Groaning helplessly, she clapped a hand to her forehead. Maybe she should just take a break, rest a little before she went back there again. She deserved a bath after all the fighting. Then she would start thinking of what to do.
Mind made up, Kagome walked across the wellhouse to the door and yanked it open.
Then she froze, gaping at the figure blocking her exit.
"Sesshoumaru?" she squeaked disbelievingly.
What was going on? Was she dreaming or something? She blinked quickly, trying to dispel the image that could not possibly be there. But he was still there, as real as she was, staring at her silently. He looked just like he did a moment ago when she left the feudal era, dressed in his pristine white silk kimono. Then her eyes narrowed in suspicion as a single thought occurred to her.
"You followed me through the well?" she asked warily. But how? She had always thought that only she and Inuyasha could go through the well to her time. And Sesshoumaru must have gone through before she did, because how else could he be standing outside the wellhouse?
His eyes flickered, but he said nothing.
Planting her hands on her hips, Kagome frowned. "Look, Sesshoumaru. You've got to go back. This is not your time, as you've probably noticed."
"You're mistaken, Miko."
Kagome's frown deepened. "What do you mean, I'm mistaken? This is my time, and yours is back there through the well." She pointed at the well to emphasize her words.
His gaze hardened. She had not seen that look directed at her for sometime now. Alarmed, Kagome took an involuntary step back into the wellhouse. Then, realizing what she was doing, she instantly stiffened her spine. She would not let Sesshoumaru intimidate her. She knew by now that he did not kill randomly, so it was unlikely that he would harm her.
When he spoke again, his voice was flat. "Whilst it is true that this is your time, you will find that it is not as you remembered."
"What…" she faltered in confusion. What was he talking about? Baffled, she could only stare as he stepped away from the door to reveal what his body was shielding.
Kagome felt her breath rush out of her lungs at the view which greeted her.
The sky was painted an eerie hue of purple and red, even though it was clear that it was neither dawn nor dusk. A faint smell which reminded her of burnt trees mingled with the scent she associated with demonic youki filled the air. As her eyes traveled downwards towards the horizon, she realized that she could not see any of the usual apartment blocks built not far from the shrine. Her gaze swept further down to the ground in front of her, expecting to find the familiar concrete paving, only to find herself staring at an expanse of ground dotted with wilting grass.
"Where am I?" she whispered apprehensively.