Only Works Once
The blue-gray eyes of a miko begged him, silently, tearfully. A plea for clemency, mercy, charity that was not his to give. His chest felt hollow. A single gust of wind might carry him away. Unable to watch any longer, he turned away and listened, waiting to hear her curse his name.
But she never did.
Dappled sunlight spread through the clearing, and the sound of animals and birds filled his ears as though tiny, helpless creatures were crowding around him. It would have been pleasant to shut out this meaningless noise, but as usual he could not let his guard down, even for a moment. How many times had it been proven to him through the actions of others? The instant one faltered, one fell.
Such a beautiful, peaceful day, but his golden eyes only saw meager shades of black and gray. A stale scent carried on the breeze – that of blood and fire, and below that, traces of pain and betrayal. These were all familiar smells to him, so he pressed onward until he stood before the one he sought.
The villagers at the foot of the hill chanted faintly, and he surmised that it was the tail end of a funeral. Although he didn't really care about her death – just enough to feel pleased that she had died for the insult she showed his family – he found himself questioning why the humans would honor such a person. Obviously, the miko had failed in her every duty: falling in love with a filthy half-breed, tainting her precious charge with impurity, and descending into madness or deceit in the end.
It didn't matter. His objective was before him. Standing in front of the broad-trunked tree, he turned his gaze upward and considered his perplexing situation.
A familiar smelling boy with the same light-colored hair as he, bound to the bark by an arrow. He knew if the boy's eyes were to open, they would be the same light colored shade as his own. Triangular ears fitted snugly into messy, matted hair, and suddenly, his world shrank to a single word – hanyou.
Of all the shame in his life, here lay the greatest. His Father's actions, undermining his authority, even after the old dog-demon died. A birthright stolen. The love he had never had. A promise he had broken.
When the boy was young, Sesshoumaru's hold over the land had been uncertain. In all the turmoil and the fighting, he had left the child with its mother, despite his Father's last request. Then, because the situation had seemed to work out so well, in the best interests of all, he had abandoned his half-brother forever. But humans had such short life-spans. How could he have forgotten?
By the time he returned, the boy had changed beyond all recognition. Manners, habits, fighting techniques, words, all of these became coarse and inferior. He had angered, fought, punished, and insulted the boy into submission. Truly though, the hanyou had never learned his place in life.
Now, a razor-tipped bolt pierced the center of his heart. It would have been a death-blow even for one such as himself, and Sesshoumaru wondered idly what the half-breed had seen, the moment before the afterlife gripped him. Would he have remembered his big brother's face? The thought unsettled him, and he dismissed it. Of course not.
Blood still oozed thickly from the wound – it was this odor which had drawn him. The demise of family, carried on the wind until the scent of it reached him, far away, far too late to do any good. His Father's death had smelled like this too, with ashes mixed into it. And although he had not been able to give his Father a proper burial, he resolved to do this one small thing for his half-brother. After all, he had broken his promise to care for the boy. It was the least he could do.
The smooth white silks on his arm rustled softly as he stretched his arm to touch the arrow. It sizzled against his touch, but he grasped the shaft firmly and pulled. The burning increased, until he realized his flesh screamed in pain. Still, the wooden rod did not move.
Then, he thought to crush it, snapping the wood in two – perhaps this would be enough. But the instant his poisoned claws met the surface of the shaft, a scar ripped open inside his mind. It felt like the sudden pain of hearing a string break on a koto or an unexpected stab wound, slicing unavoidably into the deepest recesses of his head.
Betrayal. Hatred so intense that it could only have been love, at one point.
WHY? the arrow asked him, and abruptly he was a pup again, throwing his arms around his mother and shrieking – why?
With a gasp, he stepped backward, releasing the sacred arrow. Silvery hair flashed in the sunlight, settling around his form once more, as he tried to calm his breath. Facing his shame, in glorious silk robes and feudal armor, Sesshoumaru realized he stood helpless. How ironic – he had never done anything to help the hanyou; he could not do anything today either, to give his half-brother a final resting place. The boy's body would rot in place, exposed to the elements, the indignity of his ending known to all.
At his side, the Tenseiga pulsed. Slowly, tentatively, he drew the sword and stared at it. Until today, the blade had always lain dormant. But right now, he could feel its spiritual awakening. What did it mean?
Eyes wide, he looked at his half-brother, then at the sword, and back again. Fuzzy shapes surrounded his brother, like miniature, shadowy imps, and Sesshoumaru heard the muted sounds of a chain clinking and clanking through the air before him. The vision mystified him. Could it be?
Swiping the blade straight through his half-brother's body and the tree itself, he drew the blade down and watched as the shadows surrounding his brother's form dissipated. A heartbeat sounded. The wound on the hanyou's side disappeared. And then… nothing.
The boy lay calm and cold, eyes sealed shut to the world around him. Sleeping now, but sealed forever.
Sesshoumaru's steps gradually led him away from the clearing, and he never looked back at his shame, for this time, he carried it with him.
A useless sword, after all. It only worked once.