DISCLAIMER: I do not own InuYasha *sigh* but the story is completely mine.
I COULD WALK FOREVER
- Umi -
All around the snow was melting, leaving patches of muddy earth visible for all to see. The trees were still bare but there was no doubt that the seasons had begun to shift. It had been a cruel Winter; its sickly grasp had stolen away the health and well-being of the human villages. Demons, too, had believed it wise to remain inside the warmth and comfort of their homes, sheltered from the miserable cold.
But not this demon. No, instead the lone creature wandered the country, having been refused lodging time and time again, village after village. She looked mortal enough but something about her presence seemed to spook the humans. Even now, as the kindness of a new Spring began to lift its head from a long Winter's nap, the demon did not waver in her search. She walked slowly, with a purpose. It had been a long time since she had stopped o rest. Maybe it was the demonic blood flowing through her veins that kept her going for days at a time; perhaps it was sheer determination. One thing was for certain: this creature would stop at nothing.
* * * * *
I could feel the snow crunching beneath my bare feet, giving into my weight and melting into the ground. I pulled my thin cloak around me more snugly, exhaling a puff of breath. It formed a thin wisp of a cloud in front of my face. I raised my hand and watched as the brisk air danced around my fingers. A small smile formed itself upon my cold lips. How I took pleasure in the simple things in my incredibly long life. I had been traveling for weeks, hunger nor fatigue getting in my way. My destination was the West, the land of my origin. I knew not what I would find there, only what I hoped would still be waiting.
All around me I could sense the roots of plant life beginning to stir after long lying dormant. I could hear the heartbeats of woodland creatures pick up in pace as they began to wake. Above it all I could smell sickness and death. It was in my nature to be drawn to such things. They played into my very existence. Yes, I am indeed a demon, but I have a very soft spot in my heart for mortals. My own dearly beloved father was human. Unlike myself, he had long since departed from this world and into the next. Sometimes I still wept at the thought of him. How human of me.
I slowed my pace, coming to a halt. I breathed in deeply, taking in all that was around me. There was a small village up ahead and a significantly larger one to the North; I would avoid them both. There was something else quite close by that I wished to investigate. Deep in the woods to the South I sensed a peculiar presence, one I had not come across in over fifty years. Leaning over, I scooped up a handful of snow and held it between my palms. I breathed into it, willing the tiny crystals to melt until there was nothing but a pool of liquid in my hands. I closed my eyes, muttering the words I knew would give me what I wanted. They flowed off of my tongue as easily as my own name. When I lifted my lids, a picture had formed in the water.
It's him. A smile was once again present on my pale face. He stood much taller than the last time I had seen him and even then he had towered over me; I had been such a tiny thing. He no longer wore his hair in a single plait down his back, the traditional style of one in training. Instead the long, silver tresses were loose to fall all around him, billowing majestically as he walked. His attire suggested that of a lord, a fate I had long since known would befall him. A gasp almost escaped my throat as my eyes beheld the beauty of his ethereal face. The distinguishing marks on his forehead and cheeks had become more defined. The bone structure remained the same but had hardened with age, now seeming almost cold in its resolve. But his eyes… His eyes had remained exactly as I remembered them, the warm shade of topaz as unreadable as ever.
I tilted my hands away fro me, allowing the water to pour out and turn back into snow before falling to the ground. Still so beautiful… The wind picked up as I headed South, pushing against me, forcing me back. A bad omen? I would ignore it. My mission could be delayed for a day or two. I brushed the hair from my eyes, muttering a single word, "Sesshoumaru."
* * * * *
I came across a small hut not long after making my entrance into the woods. I wouldn't have paid it any mind if I had not caught the scent of the inhabitant within. As I approached the small shelter, the smell became more defined. There was an old man inside, perhaps a farmer. He was alone and had been for sometime, the scent of a woman almost completely having faded away from the place. I could smell medicinal herbs and powders in the air. My senses had been correct; this man was very sick. I reached into my cloak and pulled out a small velvet pouch. Undoing the cord around the opening, I stuck two fingers in and pulled out a single strand of long, black hair.
It had belonged to a young woman I had crossed paths with almost a week ago, the poor thing dying from a disease no one could name. She had been most unwilling to accept my help, my appearance discomforting her. That was something I never understood, I looked enough like everyone else. My father had said that it was my eyes that caused everyone to be wary of me; that they were a unique gift most people just couldn't appreciate. After soothing words and much explanation on my part, she had at last given in to my will, allowing me to ease her passing into the Netherworld. I had taken a strand of her hair merely as a tool to be used as often as I needed it. This was one of those times.
I pressed the hair to my forehead, muttering a spell under my breath. Instantly my body began to shift. I could feel my bones quivering, my skin stretching and molding me into my new body. I bowed my head forward, watching as my hair darkened, becoming straight and thin. A surge shook my now frail body and I knew the transformation was complete. I pulled my ill-fitting clothes around me, shivering at the cold that affected my now human body. I was shaking so severely it was hard to move from my spot. I walked slowly toward the hut. There was no doubt the old man would take pity on me in this form.
I knocked on the soft wood of the doorway. I could hear him shuffling around inside, though not as acutely as I longed to. A balding head poked out from behind the flap that served as a door. The old man gasped when he saw me; no doubt my sickly appearance had startled him. "Yes?"
"Excuse me, kind Sir, I seem to have gotten myself lost. Please, can you take me in for the night?" I hoped the innocence of my words would be enough. They were.
"Of course! You poor thing," The old man let out a cough that rattled his entire body. "Come inside, I'll put on some tea." I followed him and sat down beside a small table in the center of the room. The hut was very small but modest and clean. There was a pallet laid out on the opposite end near the rusty stove. Next to it was spot on the floor where another mat must have laid previously, the wood around it dark, forming a perfect rectangle shape. It was clearly the spot where his wife would have laid. This poor man. I could not help but to feel compassion for his loss. I had never felt what it was like to loose a lover, yet I had experienced it through others.
"How long have you been traveling, young miss?" The old man sat down opposite me, pouring a steaming liquid into twin cups. He slid one across the table to me. It smelt harsh and chalky. I raised the cup to my lips with no intention of drinking, flinching, pretending the tea was too hot. The old man smiled at me kindly. "You must forgive the taste. It's a special mix of herbs from the doctor in the next village. He said it will warm the chill in my old bones. I thought you could use it, too."
"Thank you, elder." I took another sweeping glance of the room, cursing my weak human eyes. There was a thin coat of dust on the floor. No recent visitors. There was a basket filled with herbs next to an open cupboard. There was enough food stocked to support one person for quite some time. They won't be curious if he doesn't show up to the village for a while. Another string of forceful coughs erupted from the man, who was looking frailer the longer I sat in front of him. Maybe they won't be surprised to never see him again. I stood up and crossed over to him, pulling off my cloak and wrapping it around his shoulders.
"You're very sick."
He looked at me and nodded slowly. "I'm afraid so, my dear. But don't fret. These old bones have enough left in them to make sure you're taken care of for the night." With another genuine smile, the old man turned from me and began to sip his tea.
"How would you like to die?" The man nearly spit out the contents of his mouth all over the table.
"Excuse me?" He stared at me incredulously. I could see the beginning of fear forming in his small eyes.
"I asked how you would like to die. I could help you if you'd like." The old man stood up quicker than I thought possible of him, his cup flying from his hand and shattering on the floor. He was breathing heavily now. I was beginning to let go of my façade and return to my true form; I'd learned in the past that a slow transition from one to the other is much less frightening. As my powers returned to me I could hear the fluid in his lungs. He didn't have much time left, a few days at most, and his passing would be agonizing. He was destined to die choking on his own blood. I would not allow such a thing.
My body had almost completed its transformation when the old man screamed. It only lasted for a second, the coughing taking over. I rushed to his side for support but he pushed me away. "Demon!" he choked out.
I backed away from him slowly, both of my arms raised in submission. "Yes, I am a demon, but I will not harm you." He shook his head, still coughing violently. He was pointing at me, trying desperately to mouth words that would never be heard, not even by me. The coughing fit exhausting him, the old man fell limply into a heap on the floor. I was on him in an instant, lifting him into my arms as if he were a small child and gently setting him down on his pallet, wrapping a blanket around him. I moved from him and set to work. I snuffed out the fire and sealed the windows and door with a simple enchantment. I grabbed an empty cup from one of the shelves and filled it with water from a bucket by the window. I sighed gratefully as I knelt by the old man; it had been a long time since I'd had everything so readily available.
I lay the back of my hand on the old man's forehead, feeling the sickness in his blood, the coldness of death slowly taking over his body. Yes, it was his time. I whispered a word of awakening and felt the man shift beside me. When, if, he opened his eyes it would be too dark for him to see. It was better this way. "Old man, you are dying."
The old man did something very strange. He did not struggle under my touch or try to run away like so many others; instead he began to cry. "Please do not devour me, demon. I beg of you, leave my soul to pass on!" His body shook with a mixture of coughing and dry sobs.
"I do not wish to hurt you, human, but to help you. If I leave now, you will no doubt die a painful death. I wish to make your journey into the next world a smooth one."
"I- I don't understand… Why?"
I smiled in the dark. "There was someone I could not save, once." The memory came flooding back to me. It was so much a night like this one. I could feel the emotion welling up inside of me and pushed it away. I could not express myself now, not in present company.
"I – I don't-" The old man was sputtering in his confusion. I laid a hand on his chest, soothing him, willing him to relax. I pulled a pouch from my pocket, different from the first. I reached in and pinched my fingers together, pulling out just enough of my own make of poisonous powder. After adding it to the cup of water I lifted it close to my mouth, blowing gently until the cold liquid began to simmer, a thin steam rising into the air.
"Here, this will make you sleep," I helped the old man to drink the concoction and lay him back down. It did not take long for his heart to slow and then cease to beat at all. I pressed my hands together and said a simple prayer for his safe passing into the Netherworld. I pulled the blanket up and over his body. As I let it fall, hiding his peaceful face from the world, a tear escaped from within and slid down my cheek. This man had reminded me so much of…
I couldn't help it any longer. I put my head in my hands as the tears began to fall. My body shook with sobs. Any other demon would be disgraced at my very presence, reduced to such a pathetic display of emotion. Yet I couldn't help it. Try as I might I could not let go and become cold and ruthless like was expected of me. I had been brought up by a human and had therefore learned that emotions weren't something to be ashamed of. It had been difficult to contain myself earlier when the old man had shown me so much compassion, smiled at me so kindly. There was much in common between this man whose name I did not know and the man who had raised me.
Standing, I wiped my face and picked up my cloak, swinging it over my shoulders. I released the charms I had placed on the hut and, with one last look and a smile for the sweet old man, I set out for the South.
* * * * *
A cold rain fell all around me, the steady sound soothing my racing thoughts into a quiet lull. I made no attempt to shelter myself, letting the chilling liquid seep into my clothes, soak my hair and skin. I loved the rain. It was as much a part of me as the nose on my face. My body seemed to melt away wherever a droplet landed, my very being content in the numbness. I shook my head, watching as my hair formed a curtain around me, sending beads of water flying all over. I threw my hands up and raised my face to the gray sky. I began to twirl, letting go of everything that had been plaguing me for so long. A laugh escaped my lips, one I did not know I had been holding in. I stood still, breathing in the world around me.
I picked up the scent of something miraculous just up ahead. I took off in its direction, running at my full potential. My hair was whipped back by the wind, lashing out behind me. I held out my hands, pushing away low branches. I jumped over a clump of bushes in one swift motion. I let my senses take over and lead me to my hearts desire. I came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the woods. It let out into a clearing, the cold ground almost completely bare of any lingering snow. My heart pounded in my chest as a smile filled with childish wonder spread across my face, lighting it up for the first time in weeks.
There before me, only a few yards away, was the closet thing to a perfect sight I had seen in ages. The thin layer of ice had melted, leaving chunks to float along the surface. It was the color of a Spring sky, running cool and clean over the smooth rocks below it. I took a step forward, my arm stretched out, palm out; reaching for it as if I were in a dream. My feet carried me to its bank. I succumbed to its call, falling to my knees and supporting myself with my hands, surrounded by its icy touch. A river. I sighed contently, almost wanting to cry in happiness. Without water, my talents were almost useless. I had resorted to my ability to shape shift to get me through the long season but now that Spring was here, I would become quite powerful once again.
I glanced down at my reflection. My normally dark brown hair appeared to be black, plastered to the sides of my face with wetness. I had none of the distinguishing marks on my face that most other demons of my caliber would. I looked perfectly human, yet it was my eyes that would forever set me apart from the mortal species. My left eye was the color of jade, the right one more comparable to seaweed. My father had always told me that I had once eye from each of my parents. This knowledge had disheartened me as much when I was a child as it did now; his eyes had been brown.
I let myself sink into the shallow end of the river, feeling the water race over me, becoming absorbed into my body. I didn't notice the set of golden eyes observing me. I raised myself to my knees and scooped up enough water to fill my palm. Using both hands, I began to mold the liquid, shaping it into a sphere. I held the now solid mass close to my chest, pulling my hands away and watching as it remained stationary. I then shot my arms out in front of me. The sphere went flying, crashing through trees as if it had been made of stone. I smiled triumphantly. I stood up and kicked at the river, sending hundreds of droplets spraying into the air. With a wave of my arm I sent the droplets soaring into the forest, the beads hardening and turning into shards of crystal, cutting through everything in their path. I threw my head back and laughed. It felt so good to be whole again. Being surrounded by water had always pacified me for one well-known reason: I'm made of it.
My name is Amaya and I am the Sea.
Well, there's chapter one. I hope it wasn't too much of a drag, it was mostly written as a simple introduction to a very complicated character. I'll try to have the next one out ASAP.
And for those of you who are reading my LODT fanfic, I'll have the next chapter out within a few days. It'll be worth the wait!