Chapter One: Transcending the Spider

With her paper lantern bouncing, Kagome rushed down the tunnel, its path twisting between clusters of stalagmites. Hampering her along the way were the scattered bones of youkai, and she kicked them away as she ran. They clattered as they skipped over the ground, stealing not a single thought from her. All that flooded her mind was dread, drowning her with the fear that she might be too late. Her fingers white from gripping it, a sheathed sword was tight against her breast. She hoped that she wasn't too late.

Sweat beaded on her neck, its saltiness itching her skin. Her priestess clothing was stifling despite the cold, autumn night. Then his piercing yell ripped through the air and a chill shot down her spine, leaving a field of goose bumps in its wake. Her run became a sprint.

Opening wide, the tunnel ended with a huge cavern, its vaulted ceiling high above her head. Its faceted walls glimmered with a surreal sheen, reflecting the firelight of dozens of oil lamps that were set throughout the cave. Sprawling from one end to the other was a spider's web of crystal. At the center, lay partially dissolved youkai, their petrified bodies caught in the glasslike strands. She recognized many of them. The three-eyed cow and its rider. The countless wolves and their prince. The tiny flea who had long since turned into glittering dust and had blown away. Her eyes however, avoided one small bundle. With his small arms wrapped around the tiny cat youkai, the terror on his frozen face was unforgettable, its image scarring her mind forever without any need to be reminded. No one died peacefully anymore, especially children.


She looked up, her pace slowing as she searched for who called her. Standing still amid the bustle of other familiar faces was Miroku. She ran up to him.

"Is it done?" he asked, exhaustion hitching his voice.

"I did just as Bokuseno said," she assured, remembering the withered magnolia's final words. "The entire blade has been doused in Goshinboku's sap."


"Miroku!" another yelled.

Turning around, he looked for his wife and found her bounding down the crystallized body of an enormous female inuyoukai as if it were steppingstones. Without compromising her agility, Sango barked orders as she leapt.

"Kohaku, check his binds again! He's weak, but still dangerous. We don't want him getting loose."

She jumped off the paw and landed on the back of a big wolf demon with a tinier demon beside it, still gripping its two-headed staff.

"Rin, keep fanning. The fumes will dull his senses and the pain."

With one final leap, she was beside them and a bit breathless.

"Houshi-sama, please check the seals one last time. This is our last chance. There's no one left to save if we fail now."

"Of course, Sango," he said, and he leaned in close to give her a fleeting kiss on the lips. Then he was gone, heading towards a warding barrier of paper seals at the center of the cavern.

Kagome looked at Sango. Dark circles were heavy under her eyes with fine lines creeping out toward her temples. The last year had easily aged her ten. She was a mother now. But despite her growing brood and domestic lifestyle, she was still a huntress to the core. So, she had fought the futility, the battle too desperate to grieve those who had been lost to it.

"You look miserable, Kagome-chan," she remarked.

Kagome blinked, surprised.

"I wonder if I look just as bad. I think I feel just as bad," Sango added, cracking a difficult smile. "If not worse."

She tried to speak, to reassure her or at the very least, to return the smile, but nothing came.

"It's that bad, is it?" she said with a sigh, and then she gestured to the sword in her arms. "Is it done?"


Sango nodded. "Take it to him. He's waiting."

Swallowing down, Kagome walked away, venturing towards the center of the web. As she neared, she passed by Rin kneeling on the ground. A young woman now, she huddled over a kettle, furiously fanning the sweet vapor that billowed from its spout. Fresh tears streaked down her cheeks, following the stained paths of their predecessors.

Ahead, standing in a field of candlelight, she saw a heartening silhouette clothed in firerat robes and haloed by an unruly mane of hair. Her pace quickened. She could hear his voice as he talked, its raspy edges steeling her nerves. Then her heart slipped a notch when she approached him. His black hair still shocked her, reminding her that the white was long gone. The smooth crown atop his head only added to her sorrow.

"Inuyasha," she called to him.

His back remained to her.

"Inuyasha," she called out louder.

He continued to talk, ignorant of her presence until a deeper voice interrupted him, struggling as it spoke.

Inuyasha spun around, surprised.

"Kagome! I'm sorry, I didn't hear you."

She shook her head, blinking back the tears that reddened her eyes. "Don't worry. I wasn't speaking loud enough."

Shame crept over him, and he reached up to touch his human ears. "I'm sorry."

"Please don't be. It's all right. Tenseiga is ready." Her fingers ached as she opened them, and she held the sword out for him to take.

Frozen by awe, he stared at it for a long moment before finally accepting it.

"If we use this, there's no going back," he whispered, his words hitching in his throat. "If it's a mistake, we won't be able to undo it. It really will be the end."

The voice growled behind him. "Stop wasting time, you deplorable half-breed."

Turning to the side, he looked back.

Bound to a pillar of stone was Sesshoumaru. He stared at Inuyasha, his cheeks gaunt and his eyes hollow. Bare-chested, he wore only his pants and boots with the rest of his raiment strewn beside him and the twisted pile of crystal that was once his pelt. Feathery veins discolored his porcelain skin, condensing over his heart to create the image of a spider.

"The seals are ready," Miroku spoke up as he approached with Sango and Rin not far behind him.

Slipping down the crystal webbing behind the pillar, Kohaku landed softly near the Sesshoumaru's bonds. He tugged on the ropes decorated with paper streamers and adjusted them until he was pleased with their strength. Then as quickly as he had descended, he climbed back up. The attacks were sudden and unpredictable now and to be near the daiyoukai when they struck was to invite death. Sidling along web until he was positioned behind Inuyasha, Kohaku jumped down to join Sango and Rin.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" Sesshoumaru growled, sweating profusely. A violent shiver rolled through his body.

"It might not work," Inuyasha said.

"This is the only way left. It doesn't matter if it works or not. If doing nothing means death, then failure cannot be worse."

The comfort of Kagome's hand touched Inuyasha's shoulder, and he turned to find her beside him. Then she faced him, her hands slipping around him as she pulled him close for a hug.

"It'll work," she promised in whisper. "I know it will."

He looked down into her gray eyes, searching for hope.

She nodded. "Go."

Swallowing hard, Inuyasha summoned the unassailable courage that defined him, and he stepped towards Sesshoumaru. As he unsheathed the sword, Rin collapsed to the ground. Sobs wracked her delicate frame and Kohaku picked her back up, steadying her against his chest. She buried her face into him, unable to watch any longer.

Inuyasha's dark brown eyes rose from the sap-slicked blade to meet Sesshoumaru's golden gaze. He watched as the fragile control his brother had clung to began to crack. His shivering grew into convulsions. His eyes flickered red and the creases knotting his brow deepened as the first wave of pain struck. Flexing hard, his muscles twitched as he strained, and the pulsing veins that ran under the surface of his skin threatened to burst. Malignant, the spider on his chest swelled, its jagged legs growing longer to wrap around him. Then they tightened, crushing his chest to leave him gasping.

"Do it!" Sesshoumaru stuttered, and then he roared, his howls of agony echoing in the cavern. Shards of crystal fell, ringing as they shattered on the ground.

Inuyasha stood frozen as the screaming continued.

The spider grew.

"Do it!"

"Sesshoumaru, maybe we can…"

"Do it now… brother."

Buried beneath the pain and the force of his command, there was a plea. He was begging. That no matter what happened, he wanted it to end. He wanted it to end now, and he needed him to do it.

Raising the sword, Inuyasha pointed the trembling tip towards Sesshoumaru. His focus stayed on him as he readied himself to take one final step.

"I'm sorry, brother."

Thrusting forward, he plunged the sword through his chest until he felt the tip driving hard into the stone behind him. Stunned, he let the sword go, his hands shaking. Impaled cleanly, the spider receded in size and he laughed in disbelief. Sesshoumaru hadn't turned into crystal. It had worked.

"Sesshoumaru," he blurted out, and his relief faded as he watched his half-brother's eyes tarnish.

The daiyoukai coughed, blood spilling from his mouth as it began to seep from the wound through his heart. Tenseiga had truly cut him. A strange smile grew on his lips. His muscles softened and he slumped, his body held up only by the sword that pierced him.

"NO!" Inuyasha yelled, and he grabbed Tenseiga's hilt, yanking on it. Embedded deep into the rock, he couldn't budge it, and he cursed his humanity.

"Stop," Sesshoumaru whispered.

"I have to save you."

"I am saved, you half-breed." He coughed a chuckle, and his head dipped, too heavy to hold up anymore.

Inuyasha let the sword go and reached to support him. "You can't-"

"Goodbye… Inuyasha."

In a long hiss, Sesshoumaru's last breath left him, and he went limp. The pain was gone.