Setting: Manga Canon.
1. This was inspired by a 2009 challenge prompt called "Dark" in the Inu Yasha Themes Livejournal community.
2. Somehow, this story has turned into a sequel to both "Conspiracy" and "Secret-Keeper". I don't know how this could have happened. Certainly when I began writing this prompt I didn't envisage it as a sequel to anything, and those two stories were never consciously designed to work together. And yet, somehow, all three stories have become connected. Despite the order in which I've written these stories, the plot order would be as follows: "Conspiracy" followed by "Secret-Keeper" followed by "Sacrifice". Obviously, since this wasn't planned, all three stories can be read alone, but they seem to be working quite well as sequential stories as well. Isn't it weird how muses sometimes work?
Summary: A different look at why Kagura couldn't be saved. A darker look.
'In order for the sword to mature, you pretty much have to make some sacrifices.'
It was said that the dog was a creature possessed of supernatural vision. Stories told of dogs that could divine wealth for virtuous masters, guide cruel men to ruin, and whose howls foretold disasters that had not even happened yet. It was in the nature of a dog to be prescient. It was in its blood, and in its very bones.
For a dog's fang to be used to forge a sword that could itself forge a future for a wayward dog… it was more than poetry, the sword-smith knew. It was destiny.
Such concepts that were deemed so important to youkai and humans alike were meaningless to one that was neither. It existed to ensure events unfolded as they were supposed to. It possessed no interest outside of this one, single duty, but in all matters pertaining to its duty, it was relentless.
If it bothered others that a sword capable of compassionate acts could accept as its true master one that lacked compassion, it did not bother the sword. Its purpose was, after all, to awaken compassion in a heart that had none.
If it had to wither unused, an ornament that completed an armoured look, the sword was not concerned. Its patience weathered such empty years with greater fortitude than mere flesh ever could. It was still doing its duty, after all – constantly reflecting one muscle that lay buried beneath layers of armour and silk. Uncared for, perhaps; ignored, it was true: yet it was faithfully carried nevertheless.
If it was willing to allow its true master to be felled, to experience the shock of pain ripple through his body before it deigned to intervene, that was this sword's right – as was sustaining its master's paralysis simply to ensure his vulnerability to a mere human child. Surely it was justified upon experiencing that first flutter of awareness for the state of another's health? If that built up its master's pride, creating a false sense of security in the face of death, to lie by omission of its unspoken weakness, and to fan the flames of arrogance by supporting the creation of a maleficent sword, was that not appropriate? If the prideful could only be taught through a moment – no matter how brief – of humility, then was it not best to allow them to climb to a great height before they fell?
And so, if it decided to stand by while its master watched a woman die, ignoring his call as he had once ignored its presence at his hip, then surely that was no more than its purpose demanded? To be the reason its master knew what it was to feel sorrow and anger at a life so uselessly lost, to be waiting for that very moment before offering something more – something that would make the climb to that prideful summit all the easier – then did that not mean it was performing its duty admirably? Was it not also true that to encourage its master further, it would be reasonable to try such a successful trick twice, to let slip a second life? And was it not an act of wisdom to ensure its still-reeling master would then immediately learn one of the most damning truths about the sword at his hip? After all, why let momentum falter when it was clearly achieving so much?
If its behaviour was dark in any way – if it reflected that of the predator toying with its prey – then that was only acceptable. It was forged from the fang of a dog. It was a predator. This was, after all, the one truth left about the sword that had barely been revealed, that had been ignored, not just by its true master, but even by its own creator. For Tenseiga was the one sword this sword-smith had created that he never understood. It was a simple failure, one that stemmed from a single source: the smith had misunderstood the purpose for which the sword was crafted and had thus believed that producing a compassionate master would require ownership of a compassionate sword.
He had been wrong.
He had forged a sword that, in completing the purpose for which it had been created, had given up everything its master needed to obtain.
Toutousai had not created a sword of compassion.
He had created a sword of sacrifice.