Disclaimer: I do hereby disclaim all rights and responsibilities for the characters in this foray into creative license… especially for the one with three eyes. A nod of recognition is bent towards Rumiko Takahashi for her creative prowess.
Author's Note: For those of you who aren't up on the manga, this fic contains spoilers for Chapter 518.
This oneshot was originally posted to Live Journal on October 27, 2009.
It was like being forcibly shaken from a reverie and discovering that something you'd been aimlessly looking for was right in front of you the whole time. Two centuries ago, Totosai would have sworn all of this was impossible, and yet... Well, old friend, it seems your whelp was listening after all. The smith peered intently at the chaotic scene before him, attuned to every nuance in the highly-charged atmosphere. Who'd have thought?
The Inu no Taishou's eldest son had inherited incredible potential from both his parents, but like most adolescents, he'd gotten his priorities turned around somewhere along the path to proving himself. Driven by a desire to surpass his sire, Sesshoumaru lost his soul to ambition, and robbed of his father, the young lord could no longer be checked. Pride made him ruthless—so much so, that Totosai had made himself scarce for fear of becoming a pawn in the inu-youkai's bid for ever-increasing power.
Avoidance meant survival, so Totosai had never apologized for leaving Tenseiga hanging from the branch of a tree for Sesshoumaru to find. That was common sense. Myouga had heartily endorsed the plan... and had joined him in beating a hasty, airborne retreat. Disappointing a demon like Sesshoumaru is as good as a death sentence, and the Fang of Heaven was not the inheritance he was counting on.
Didn't see this'un coming, blind old fool that I am. The demon he'd feared to face stood before him, bathed in brilliant youki. Sesshoumaru's arm was miraculously restored, and in his outstretched hand he grasped a demon blade of surpassing beauty. His true strength is now revealed, but what will he do with it? Sesshoumaru's eyes blazed fiercely, but the smith perceived an underlying wonderment in that unguarded moment. Can I make him listen... now that I know he can hear?
"An unexpected turn, eh, Momo?" The old smith absentmindedly scratched a spot behind his bovine companion's left horn and sighed. "I do believe this'll be the death of me."
The three-eyed cow mooed in agreement, belatedly alerting the miko to their presence. "Totosai!" exclaimed Kagome. "When did you get here?"
"Hey, old man," gruffly greeted his old friend's hanyou son. "You gonna explain this, or what?"
"Eh? Well now... Not sure what good it'll do. Look for yourself, Inuyasha. That's your brother."
"I know that!" he retorted, waving towards Sesshoumaru. "I mean... what happened to him?
Totosai tugged at his beard. "Looks to me like he's found a sword."
"Well, that's... erm... true," Kagome interjected brightly, her hand on the hanyou's arm.
"Why do I bother?" sighed Inuyasha, turning his attention back to Sesshoumaru.
The old man chuckled quietly to himself; he didn't mind the whelp's disregard. Keeps the upstarts from getting any big ideas. Not many people believed the legends that had risen up about Totosai's abilities anymore; they thought his fabled skills were just that—fables. Is it any wonder? Ancient and withered. Creased and gaunt. He was easy to underestimate, but they were still fools not to see how much power coiled tightly below the surface. Of course, not everyone was so easy to fool; Sesshoumaru knew. Oh, yes, he's a clever one... like his father before him. As the lingering play of power lit up the air around the Inu no Taisho's eldest, the swordsmith's eyes drift out of focus. Most people wrote off his vacant expression as a sign of encroaching senility, but that's only because they couldn't hear. Few could.
His was a lost art... or very nearly so. There had been a time, long ago, when Totosai's skills were in great demand. Demons came from hither and yon, pestering the renowned smith for personalized weapons. Most of them were looking to make a name for themselves and saw a youki-imbued blade as a surefire claim to fame, but they found the old craftsman less than willing to become a stepping stone on their path to glory. Turned 'em all away... mostly.
In the beginning, the Inu no Taishou had been one of the crowd—just another gloryhound with grand ideas. Totosai had sent him packing more than once, but the dog was persistent. Nothing but a loiterer. He took to hanging about the forge, bronze-gold eyes watching intently as other petitioners came and went... and learning from their mistakes. The Dog General was a swift judge of character, but thankfully, he kept his opinions to himself... until Totosai's visitors were out of earshot. Then, he'd spare a few choice words for the two-bit tyrants and aspiring overlords. They traded their assessments over tea or sake cups, and gradually, an odd camaraderie developed. For the sake of that friendship, Totosai relented... and agreed to listen to the Western Lord's wish.
The wily conqueror seized his opportunity, and laid out his plans. He had something to protect—a woman he loved—and a two-fold plan that covered every eventuality. One blade to defend life. One blade to defy death. And in the Inu no Taishou's telling, Totosai heard the song of swords... and knew he would accept the commission.
Sacrifices were required to forge a blade of power, and the owner was invariably called upon to give up some part of themselves. Mostly, Totosai used bone, though a time or two he'd crafted fine pieces from more unusual offerings—braided hair, scales, feathers, and even shells. The substance mattered little; so long as the material had known the pulse of life, it could be recalled to it. Of course, there were variables. Strong emotions, clear desires, inherent strength, an indomitable will—these were the intangibles that had elevated Tenseiga and Tetsusaiga to become his unrivaled masterworks.
Today, each of Inu no Taishou's sons bore a blade—his pride, their inheritance. One fang. Two distinct voices. Sibling blades for sibling rivals. "Drawing them both out wasn't easy, was it, Momo?" the old smith mumbled, a nostalgic smile quirking his lips. Totosai doubted that anyone else could've managed the feat.
Demon weapons had become increasingly rare. People assumed the scarcity was because the process was veiled in secrecy, jealously guarded by smiths who could charge exorbitant fees for their expertise. Nope... not even close. While the metal-work could be learned by any dullard with a strong back, the forging of a demon blade wasn't a skill that could be passed on to just anyone. You're born to it, plain and simple. That... and the dumb luck of being discovered by a master. It had been millennia since his own master had bequeathed him his hammer, and in all the intervening centuries, Totosai had only run across a few youkai worth testing. Each apprentice had shown promise, but all had fallen short of his expectations. Their efforts yielded serviceable weapons, but with lesser, unintelligible, and even discordant songs.
Briefly, Totosai had toyed with the notion of taking on Inuyasha, for when the hanyou had come to him for help with Tetsusaiga, he'd shown a definite affinity for his blade. However, it quickly became clear that while Inuyasha was eager, he was also impatient... and too impetuous to listen. He might know Tetsusaiga's voice, but that's only because that fang is as cocky and boisterous as the boy who carries him. Eh... maybe in a few centuries. It'd be interesting to see what sort of blade a hanyou is capable of calling into existence.
His last pupil had been an abomination, and Totosai despaired of ever taking on another. Kaijinbo had soaked up the smith's lore, a quick study, but greedy. Cleverness isn't everything, especially if it exists without compassion. Heedless of his mentor's warnings, the apprentice succumbed to the lure of greater power, which he bought with the lives of innocents. Totosai's horror and disgust when he'd witnessed Kaijinbo's unholy glee as he dragged a snarling, moaning blade from the flames had quickly turned to booming wrath. He'd broken the blade and banished the wretch.
From that day on, Totosai swore that he would not teach his art to any without honor. Ambition has no place in the forge. Power, yes. Confidence, certainly. However, a calm, clear voice was required to coax a weapon into consciousness, then hone its awareness until their presence and personality were established. You can't force it. Finesse was required to frame a weapon and call out its unique abilities. In his experience, blades could be reluctant, stubborn, shy, lazy, even frightened. They only took shape once they trusted the firm hand that drew them from the crucible of creation.
Totosai's gaze drifted lazily to the little girl who watched Sesshoumaru with rapt attentiveness. Echoes of the Fang of Heaven's sweet song whispered brightly in her soul, unseen but undeniable proof of the taiyoukai's compassion. He's heard Tenseiga's voice... yet another promising sign.
Sesshoumaru peered narrowly at the blade in his hand, then at the hand that had been returned to him—flexing his fingers upon the hilt, sighting down the length of the blade, testing its weight, scenting the power-drenched atmosphere. Golden eyes flicked his way, and Totosai pursed his lips and inclined his head. The whelp was probably too proud to ask, but the acknowledgment of his presence was an implicit invitation. He wants answers, and he knows I have them. The shades of respect were very faint, but it was a start.
The old smith was lost in thought for too long, and Sesshoumaru recalled him with a question. "Why are you here?"
Ah... how to explain? The truth might interest him. "Tetsusaiga and Tenseiga called together, and I came to see what they were on about," Totosai replied, drawing a flabbergasted look from Inuyasha. Sesshoumaru only blinked... but that was quite the concession.
Totosai carried an almost paternal pride where the weapons of his birthing were concerned. They acknowledged him, respected him, spoke to him... for he had forged their existence and knew the pulse of their personhood. He clearly recalled the first time they'd cried out together; he and Myouga still marked the anniversary each winter. Such a desperate cry... filled with grief. Death and birth. Tenseiga's triumph and Tetsusaiga's tattering. A resurrected woman quivering from shock and cold and a hanyou babe's lusty wail. So many sacrifices... so much changed... and continues to change.
"Old man, what are you talking about?" Inuyasha demanded, curiosity lurking beneath his brusque question.
"Weren't you listening?" Totosai replied in scolding tones.
"Well, yeah. You're talking, but that don't mean it makes sense," the hanyou retorted. "Are you saying you can hear my Tetsusaiga?"
"Are you saying you can't?" the smith tartly returned.
Scuffing a toe in the dirt, Inuyasha shrugged. "Maybe... sometimes. But I ain't crazy."
Totosai chuckled rustily and slid off Momo's broad back. "And what about you, Sesshoumaru? Do you believe this doddering old fool?"
The taiyoukai peered down his nose at him, but he finally answered, "Yes."
"Glad to hear it," the smith commented, nodding absentmindedly to himself. His eyed Sesshoumaru's new arm critically. I'll bet he's downright pleased with himself over it... although he cannot know why he's been made whole. It just goes to show that even the cleverest of strategists can't outmaneuver destiny. It's a waste of time to fight fate. The only true obstacle to an apprenticeship would have been his lack of an arm. All the giftedness in the world wouldn't have made up for such a handicap, but with the return of his arm came the revival of long-lost hopes. Fate has a funny way of going around and coming around.
Totosai shambled over and held out a gnarled hand. "Let me see it," he demanded fowardly. There was reluctance, but Sesshoumaru acquiesced with grace and relinquished the blade. Whether it was an acknowledgment of his expertise or a lingering respect borne of his friendship with his father, Totosai didn't much care. As soon as he had the blade in his hands, nothing else mattered. A clarion greeting shivered through his palm—a sure, true song that revealed depths of power. Perfect. The old man poured over the decorative etching that embellished the sword's slim length as if reading its messages. He tested the edge, then gave the flawless blade a flick with his claw; as the note rang out, he blinked away tears. Only Sesshoumaru could have called forth a weapon from his very youki—fully-formed, keenly-honed, and aptly-named. He's a natural... and you're a beauty... Bakusaiga.
What pleased Totosai most was the fact that this blade rivaled his crowing achievements. None of his old apprentices had produced anything that measured up; there was no contest. He has staggering potential. If he can be convinced, Sesshoumaru could not only succeed me... he can exceed me. Now, there's a heady thought.
Sesshoumaru was waiting for his verdict, stiff and straight as he tried not to look as though he was hovering. Totosai sighed, then peered up into the tayoukai's too-calm face. "You've got talent; it's not just any youkai who can pull a sword out of thin air."
Deep within golden eyes, there was a flicker of response, but all he gave back was a soft, "Hnn."
With all due respect, Totosai offered the sword back to its rightful owner. Cocking his head to one side, he added, "This is Bakusaiga."
Sesshoumaru's eyes widened imperceptibly, and he murmured, "I know."
"So you've been introduced! That's good," Totosai beamed. "Once all this Naraku business is out of the way, we should talk about what's to follow." It was utter lunacy, madness even, but when that time came, he was going to suggest that the Inu no Taishou's perfectionistic, reclusive, sword-obsessed son learn a trade.
"What're you talking about, Totosai?" Inuyasha asked warily.
"Eh? Oh... the future, of course," he replied, though his mind was once again lost in the past. You'd have loved this twist. I'd even wager you're behind it somehow... though I'm not sure which one of us you're trying to torture. Totosai ambled back to Momo and scratched the cow's muzzle, wholeheartedly wishing he could personally tell his old friend that apparently, they'd be sharing an heir.
End Notes: For its two hundredth contest, the Live Journal community iyfic contest presented the Week 200 Extravaganza. Twenty themes were selected, and all of them needed to be incorporated into one story. The prompts were: anniversary, beginning, contest, death, emotion, fight, forward, future, love, new, parent, protection, resurrection, revival, sacrifice, sword, tree, two, two hundred years ago, and what follows. They all appear in Heir Apparent, which tallies in at 2,352 words.