The Second Heart
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha, however, the plot of this little 'kaidan' is actually mine. Finally, I own something!
"So.. tell me, Sesshoumaru – whose idea was this little... ghostly get together, hmm?" Kagura asked the tall, handsome youkai huskily, taking a sip of her wine with an inviting look in her eye. "I just do not see you as the type to invite ninety-nine guests to your home just to tell one hundred ghost stories."
A jaded eye looked out over the crowd of people on his lawns, settling down and preparing for an evening of ghost stories and fun with distaste.
"It was not my idea, Kagura," he said, a faintly disdainful tone in his voice. "It was my ward's... and I, foolishly perhaps, had agreed for her to do as she saw fit this Halloween. She enjoys the macabre and I should have known better. But as much as I dislike this, I promised and also promised I would attend. I do not go back on my word."
"Hmm," she said, admiring the color of the blood red wine as she swirled it gently in her fluted glass. "And if you are going to do something, you always go all out for it, do you not?"
"Only the best," he said mockingly as he looked at the kaze and then moved away. "If you will pardon me it is time to begin the festivities," he made his excuses sarcastically. "The sooner this is done is the sooner I can regain my peaceful home."
Kagura watched the daiyoukai move through the crowd, silver hair swaying rhythmically, and felt almost hypnotized – what she wouldn't give to warm that male's bed.
She didn't notice the attention of a small, dark-haired human woman... or the mocking smile that flitted across her beautiful little face before she moved back into the shadows as the lights from the great house were turned off, leaving only candlelight illuminating the large stretches of lawn on which the invited people were beginning to take seats.
Those candles, though, they left many, many dark spots along the edges of the crowd...
And the small woman found one such dark patch, and waited for her turn to tell her story.
It would be the highlight of this night – at least, for her. A highlight that had been several hundred years in the making.
The purpose of the party was simple – one hundred guests were invited and the only thing they had to bring was a ghost story – and they had to submit their ideas beforehand, so that no one would tell the same story twice. It did take some planning, but Rin was perfectly happy to take the time necessary to do it.
The idea behind this type of party was that once the one hundredth story had been told, a spirit would appear – and what better way to celebrate Halloween than with a guest pulled from the other side?
Of course the girl didn't really believe that's what would happen, but it would still be great fun. After all, in today's day and age, who believed in ghosts?
As the evening wore on Sesshoumaru settled back lethargically, bored out of his mind. He was, after all, almost a thousand years old and had seen and even participated in his own share of horrors that those gathered here this night would never believe.
He could tell them all stories that would turn them white with fear and horror if he chose to.
Most of the stories being told were just uninspired re-tellings of Japanese ghost stories, nothing new or original, so when his turn came he drawled out a tale of murder and mayhem from the Sengoku Jidai that none there had ever heard. With his distinctive baritone speaking in such bland tones yet describing such grisly death and destruction, his story was the highlight of the night... and the one hundredth and final tale.
As silence fell after his voice faded away, everyone began thinking along the same lines – the stories had been told, the night was over – but another voice was heard suddenly, and everyone on the lawns turned to look at where it was coming from in confusion.
The dark-haired beauty had, however, chosen her spot well and could not be seen by anyone there, only her seemingly disembodied voice giving away her presence.
"That was a masterful tale, proud youkai Lord," came her voice, "and as good as any I have heard in many a year. But... I believe I have one that can better it. Would you like to hear it?"
There was a murmur of voices from all over the lawn encouraging the invisible speaker, though no one noticed that Sesshoumaru himself said nothing... for his eyes were narrowed – he knew that voice.
"Once, in an era far removed from this one, there was a youkai and his human lover. They had met by accident, but neither could forget the other afterward and as these things always seem to go, over time they fell in love. Now, the youkai had a half-brother that he had never told his lover of; since the two brothers were not very close and didn't often see each other, the youkai had not felt the need." The voice faded for a moment, and those on the lawn were almost breathless waiting for more.
It was just as she wanted it, though her story was mostly for Sesshoumaru – by the time she was through, everyone would know the darkness of the truth he'd hidden so well.
"But as all things seem to happen in such matters, the younger half-brother appeared one day and the youkai had no choice but to let him stay, since the manor was just as much his home. The meeting of the youkai's lover and his half-brother went well – they seemed to get along in an easy manner, and at first this pleased the elder brother. It could only be good to have peace in his home."
Sesshoumaru stared raptly into the darkness hiding the figure only he could see – and then, only as a shadow, but the story was causing a definite reaction in him even if no one else noticed it. He could only listen, spellbound, as the story unfolded...
"After a time, however, his heart darkened and began to fill with jealousy and suspicion began to eat at his soul. Why did they get along so well? More and more as time went on the once light-hearted home began to play host to shadows and nightmares..." the woman's voice trailed away, but to the listeners there was something in that voice that made their skin crawl. It wasn't hard to see where this was going...
The sense of anticipation could be felt as the story continued, and the woman played on that, building up to the finish she had planned for so long.
"It didn't take long, really, for the youkai to become filled with hate and anger, his jealousy blinding him to the truth, and finally one night he confronted his young lover about his suspicions. She was, by turns, horrified, hurt, and then angered – but the youkai would believe nothing of her denials, and in a violent passion of jealousy and offended love turned to hatred he plunged his hand into her chest and ripped out her heart. Feeling absolutely no remorse, only self-righteous anger, he tossed her heart upon her corpse and then poured poison over her, and she simply disappeared, never to be seen again."
Frozen, Sesshoumaru almost wasn't breathing as he listened to this story from the distant past, and stilled completely, unable to move when he felt the eyes of the woman in the shadows on him.
They always say the truth will out...
"His brother he also confronted and killed in a fight to the death, not listening to his denials any more than he had his erstwhile lover's. And all of you here listening to my tale are thinking, how sad... but how is this story any different than a million others of tragedy and misplaced jealousy? Because this time, the rest of the story will be told. You see, the young woman's tale doesn't end with her death."
All those listening so raptly and staring at the darkness framing the storyteller caught the merest glimpse of cerulean eyes flashing brightly in the night before the darkness once more enfolded the speaker. Some few even noted the direction of that piercing glance, and began to wonder...
"The young woman descended to the underworld where she wandered in grief-stricken darkness for many years. But after a time she came upon the dwelling place of the Master of that darkness, and beseeched him for audience. She wished to gain righteous vengeance upon her murderer. Now... the Master of that place had heard many such requests and most of the time he denied them. He was more inclined to let fate play itself out without interference. But this girl's request was so unusual that he could not help but consider it."
There was an odd sound of almost... laughter in the woman's voice as she said that, and some began to become uneasy... there was something not right about this story.
But it was too late to stop it, and the woman's cool, collected voice continued speaking.
"Finally, after years of considering the woman's request, since time means little to the dead or the Lord of the Underworld, her request was granted and she was allowed to ascend back to the land of the living one Halloween night to take her most unusual revenge." The voice paused, and then asked, "Would you all like to know about that revenge?"
A swell of voices broke, assenting, calling for the finish to the strange tale...
And she obliged.
Finally stepping forth from back in the shadows, the people on the lawn were interested to see a beautiful, dark-haired and blue-eyed young woman. She was dressed in an ancient and beautiful hitoe framing many formal layers, but that was not remarked on so much, for on this night there were many strange forms of dress.
However, she had eyes for no one but their host, and as she walked across the lawns easily avoiding contact with any person there, it was noted that their host was seemingly just as spellbound by the young woman. He could not seem to pull his eyes away...
"It has been a long time, Sesshoumaru, has it not?" the young woman asked as she stood before him. "I am glad to see that you remember me."
"Kagome," he murmured, a haunted, angered look in his eyes that those closest to him caught. "So you have come for your vengeance, have you?"
"I was innocent, Sesshoumaru. Your brother and I were just friends. You held my heart-" she smiled then, a sharp smile as those on the lawn began to shrink away, wide-eyed at what they were hearing, "-and quite literally, the night you killed me."
"And will you now take my life in return?" he asked coolly, his eyes opaque – she could see that he still didn't believe her declaration of innocence.
And then her smile gentled, and she shook her head.
"No. Death... is too easy, Sesshoumaru. And you do not fear it, at any rate. This story will end much, much differently than that." She held out her hand, then, and every person that was close enough to see what she held shrank back, horror-struck – in it lay a beating heart... her beating heart.
"This then, is my vengeance upon you, Sesshoumaru Taisho. You had my heart in love and then you took it in life. So now you will be forced to keep it – within you and it will be your conscience from this night forth. You will know the truth of my words and my innocence, and be unable to ever take another as a partner or lover. You will end your days alone and covered in guilt as you were once so covered in my blood." And with that she pushed her hand into his chest, sliding it in like a knife into butter, and everyone could hear his audible gasp as the truth of her words sank into his consciousness – she had been innocent all along.
She had always loved only him.
And as she pulled her hand out of his chest, all could hear the dual beat of the hearts within him – his own, and hers...
"Now I can rest knowing that my story has been told and my innocence known," she said, and before the frightened eyes of ninety-nine people, and the remorseful and horrified eyes of one she faded away, her granted vengeance complete.
He would never forget the words she whispered before disappearing completely...
"I still love you, Sesshoumaru, and I always will. And this truth you will also have to live with – because despite your murder of me, you never forgot me and you never stopped loving me, the hate only as deep as your belief in my guilt. Now you have been stripped of that protection, that belief in your righteous anger, and you will once again be able to love only me yet be left knowing what you did to the one you loved, for the sound of my heart beating within your chest will always be there to remind you – to haunt you."
Hand to his chest where both hearts were now beating in a body that felt as though it had been ripped apart, Sesshoumaru dragged dazed eyes up to stare at the silent group of people looking back at him in disbelief and horror.
Kagura, eyes glazed and stricken paled and stepped away from him as he met her eyes. "You... you did such a thing to someone because of your own madness? You... you killed her..." she seemed dazed and almost unable to believe what had taken place – and relieved that it hadn't been her. He was quite well aware that she had been lusting after him, but she wasn't any longer. He knew he wouldn't see her again, but that was really no loss to him.
His gaze moved on, to the accusing, pale face of Rin. That... that one hurt. Rin was like a daughter to him – though the truth was she looked a great deal like Kagome, and that was why he'd taken her in to begin with.
Kagome's shade had spoken truly – even thinking she had betrayed him with his brother and hating her for it he still couldn't help the side of himself that loved her, that would always love her, and when he'd found Rin as an orphan on the streets... she looked as though she could have been the daughter he and Kagome could have had.
Should have had... if he hadn't lost his mind and his future to jealousy and madness.
So to see her looking at him with such horror in her eyes, such fear... it broke what Kagome's vengeance had left of his heart. The rest of those that were there that hadn't already stumbled away from his place in disbelief and shock, he didn't care about... but Rin's reaction was almost more than he could bear.
Kagome had gained far more in her very unique form of vengeance than she'd even hoped for – and he deserved it.
She had been innocent... and he'd ripped her heart out with his own hand. He would never be able to escape his guilt – or his pain.
And as the last of those who'd witnessed her vengeance left to return to their own lives, and Rin left him standing on the lawn in the darkness without a word, Sesshoumaru could only laugh – a hollow sound, and listen to the sound of both his hearts beating...
He would always be branded as the murderer of his lover by the beating of his second heart, and he would never be able to escape that telling sound – no matter what he did, it would always echo his murderous actions to anyone who could hear.
It was, you could say, his own personal mark of Cain.