Disclaimer: I don't own anything that belongs to Rumiko Takahashi - that includes all her characters... i.e. Inuyasha. I think Viz might own him too... but I would include them more in a disclaimer if they tried to act like they own him responsibly... Stupid Viz...
(A/N: so after my last fic I've been having a fairly hard time thinking up a new idea for a new story... and since I got over 200 reviews for the last one I have this imminent feeling that I'm going to disappoint loads of people who've been waiting for this. So if I have disappointed you - I'm really, REALLY sorry - but you have to understand that I'm under a lot of pressure right now. I just had an operation on my stomach, my pet hamster just died and now I have to replace him and then I have to go back to school next week - so it's a wonder I've been able to string two coherent sentences together, let alone one fic. Anyway - enough babbling - you probably want to read on now, so go ahead!!!)
The Price of Freedom
He was running - or more like flying since he was moving so fast he could barely feel his feet touch the ground. But he could feel his muscles begin to burn, and his chest begin to ache. How long had he been running...? Well... not very long, but pretty damn far. In fact he'd never actually gotten this far and this close to actual freedom.
Up ahead was nothing but dry earth and sparse grass, with the occasional barren tree that flitted past him now and then - but even further ahead than that was the ocean. With no breeze to create the waves, it was silent, just like the air around him, but he knew it was there. He could smell it. And in only a few minutes he would reach the coastline and be able to plunge into freedom and quit running.
Of course... then he'd have to swim, which is a bit like running, but you have to use your arms too... and that would tire him out further. But the few hours ahead that he must endure was a heck of a lot better than the lifetime behind him.
He couldn't stop now... not when he was so close... not when he wasn't being followed or pursued for once.
"Hang on..." he gasped, and staggered to a halt to rest his hands on his knees and catch his breath.
He was thinking like a prisoner... telling himself not to stop, because there were always critical people watching him. But he was alone now... he could do whatever the hell he wanted! And that meant he could stop for a breath of air if he felt like it! He was his own master now.
A snapping twig made him flinch and whip around, eyes wide in the dark and desperately scanning the area behind him. There was nothing to be seen. But he had been certain that he'd heard something... either that or his mind was playing tricks on him. It would be much more helpful if it was daylight... but he couldn't risk an escape in broad daylight... night time was much safer. But he couldn't wait for dawn to crack and break its light over the horizon. He'd never seen the sun. Well, at least not the real sun. He always wished he could see the land in its warmth.
After a few more minutes of catching the air in his lungs and massaging the stitch in his side, he set off again with a few quick glances around him. Then he was running, still barely recovered from the last lap, but he was determined to put as much distance between him and the bad things behind him.
His lungs were burning by the time he reached the coast, and he was drawing in such ragged breaths that it was all he could hear for a time. But here was the ocean, a black inky surface that spread as far as he could see. He knew that there was land beyond his sight, but the distance between this island and the mainland could only be crossed by boat... but he didn't need a boat.
He took one step onto the fairly recently-made wooden pier that stretched far out of the immediate cove and a little way beyond to much deeper water. It was so that the larger boats could still moor at the very edge. He took another step, and suddenly the vicinity around him was drenched in a blinding white light. He spun and shielded his eyes from the intense glare, but he could see them all around him, in jeeps and boats beside the pier, and two watchtowers to either side of the pier that were responsible for the intense light.
There was a sharp cracking sound somewhere from around him, but he couldn't tell where from exactly since all he saw were dark silhouettes, and barely even that.
"Make it easy on yourself Inu. Give up." Someone spoke, with help from a megaphone or something.
It was a little dramatic for one little Houdini, but necessary. Although… the approaching helicopters were not in the least helpful or reassuring, but there was no way that he was going to give in without a fight.
"You'll have to kill me to stop me!" he screamed and shot off down the pier. Behind him he heard boats revving their engines to catch up to him, and he reckoned they were catching up pretty quickly, cutting off any escape he might try off the sides of the pier. He'd end up sliced and diced by the boats' pedals and would be left for shark food. Not a pleasant thought.
So he fixed his gaze at the end of the pier that seemed to aim directly out to the ocean and towards the mainland. He'd make it... if he could just move faster.
He was less than a hundred metres away from the end when he saw a patrol boat suddenly shoot from its hidden location behind the rim of rocks that enclosed the cove. It killed its engine, blocking his escape rather effectively. But still he couldn't stop, and he was anxiously judging how far, he would have to jump to reach the roof of the cabin on deck, and then into the water without being shot.
He was almost upon it when there was a sharp snapping sound from behind him, and something small bit his shoulder. He knocked it away without hesitation, but he was suddenly finding it very difficult to keep his legs moving. There was no way he'd be able to make it now.
And it didn't help that a sudden shadow flitted up before him and put an end to his escape with one sharp kick to the chest that sent him reeling backwards. He recognised him at once. "Ookami!"
He was swaying now, very dangerously, and his vision blurring. He vaguely heard the sound of thundering feet on the wooden planks behind him before many sets of arms locked around his shoulders and upper arms, trying to force him to the ground. When he wouldn't fall, they kicked the backs of his knees until he dropped, before flattening him facedown on the planks. His vision was fading completely and he was being swamped by men now.
"You'll never get out with that transmitter behind your ear." The shadow said from above him.
He stiffened, suddenly realising what that shadow had just said before a heavy blow fell on his skull and he blacked out.
"Don't worry, Mom, we're both responsible teenagers." Kagome forcefully picked up her mother's suitcase and carried it out the door. "You need to go see Grandpa in the hospital - I understand that!"
"Are you two going to be ok?" her mother called anxiously as Sango started to usher her and Kagome's younger brother towards the car.
"Yep!" they both chorused.
"I hate to leave you at short notice - I mean - now I can't take you to see Mimi and her new husband." Mrs Higurashi was busily packing her suitcase into the trunk. "Are you sure you don't want to come back to the Shrine? Your grandpa would love to see you-"
"It's only his stomach." Kagome smiled, clenching her fists excitedly behind her back. "He poisons himself at least twice a month, he won't be happy if he knows we abandoned our holiday for his sake."
"Well... if you're sure..."
"We're sure." Sango and Kagome chorused again.
"Well..." Her mother hovered by the car door, halfway torn between leaving and staying, before finally slipping into the seat. "See you in a few weeks!"
"You can use my credit card if you need food!"
"Town's just down the main road and left at the first major set of traffic lights!"
They hesitated a moment. "OK!"
"No driving! No wild parties! No drugs! No boys! No sitting around doing nothing!" she turned the key in the ignition and the engine coughed into life.
"Ok!" they smiled primly as she gazed at them suspiciously through the wound-down window.
"Clean up after yourselves, do some gardening, and-"
"Maybe we should go back with her..." Sango mumbled.
"You got the potato chips, right?" Kagome whispered, barely moving her lips as her mother continued to check off her list of things they should and shouldn't do.
"Got them. And I got the drinks too."
"What time?" Kagome glanced at her a moment.
"- and remember! This house is on loan! You trash it and the owners are going to expect me to pay for damages." Her mother finished strictly before breaking into a warm smile. "Have fun without me! I'll call you when I get there! Bye!"
"Bye!" they echoed and waved patiently and watched as she disappeared down the driveway before turning off onto the road.
Sango and Kagome turned back to each other and grinned excitedly. "I can't believe it! The whole house to ourselves for nearly a week!" Sango squealed. "My dad would flip if he knew I was home alone!"
"Well you're not alone – you've got me!" Kagome dragged her around the side of the house and stood close to the roped out fence along the cliff edge. "And the sun! And the sea! And the fresh air! And-"
"Ok - now you're starting to sound like one of those holiday reps." Sango smiled. "But this is like every kids' dream! A holiday on the beach with no pesky parents getting under our feet."
"But we have to clean up after the party otherwise Mom is going to string me up by my guitar strings and leave me dangling for a day or so. Nothing too cruel, I don't think." Kagome turned to Sango. "Race you to the beach!"
"You got your bathing suit on underneath?" Sango raised an eyebrow at her eagerness.
"Me too - let's go!"
They both laughed and half slid, half ran down the steep sloped path to the sandy beach below. It was all theirs. No one else around here knew it even existed.
And he was running yet again. But at least this time they weren't expecting him to try the same stunt twice, in such a short span of time. Last night he'd failed and been tranquillised all day. They probably didn't expect him to come around until the early morning... but here he was... eleven o'clock, and wide awake enough to run a marathon.
As he ran he clawed agitatedly at the small hollow just behind his upright, perked ear. He could feel something that felt like a metal button stuck to his skin - or half buried in the skin all together. He'd never noticed it before because it was so small... and even if he had he probably wouldn't have any idea what it was.
But then he'd been told. And now he knew why he'd never gotten to freedom. Because they tracked his every movement and could cut off his escape before he got too far.
Last night they'd been playing with him. They'd deliberately let him believe he was on his way to freedom before taking it away at the last moment. But now they would have no idea.
With a muffled gasp and a wince, his claws managed to dig under the transmitter and pull it free, ripping the skin slightly. He brought it before him to glance at it a moment, noticing that his fingers were now dappled with blood. Then he threw it as hard and as far as his burning arms could manage.
Then he changed direction and started pounding it back towards the pier he'd discovered last night. They would never know any better. As he ran, he felt the familiar pain etch through his muscles, but this time he just ignored it, while his right ear twitched now and then from the pain behind it.
Then he saw it.
The pier, flooded in light and swarming with men in dark green uniforms. They obviously knew his transmitter was lost... and they obviously planned to intercept him before he got to the coast. But that wasn't even going to slow him down - not when they had no idea where he was.
They were all milling around their vehicles and boats, armed with their tranquilliser rifles and wondering where the dog Hanyou had got to. They peered off into the surrounding darkness and occasionally swung the floodlights around to a likely spot where they thought they might have seen movement. One guard stood particularly close to the darkness around the little camp sight, looking off distantly with one hand on his rifle and his thoughts obviously on something else entirely.
It took him several moments to actually realise that the white blur that passed him and blew a few wisps of hair out of place was actually the Hanyou. He spun on his heel, and by then a lot of other men had realised what was happening.
"He's getting away!" someone yelled as the lights swung instantly onto the pier where the dog-boy was all but leaving fire trails at the speed he was moving.
"Shoot him!" a superior yelled.
Darts flew from all directions - yet amazingly, the ones that were aimed correctly were skilfully evaded. Although for a moment when a few more tranquilliser darts shot his way, he scrambled forward onto his hands as they flew harmlessly overhead - but then he was up and hauling it across the boards again.
This time they were actually worried. They hadn't expected him to be so damn fast.
A harsh order - but a necessary one. Rifles snapped as they changed their ammunition and there was a moments silence before open fire ripped through the air towards the Hanyou. But in those precious few moments, the boy had thrown himself off the end of the pier and was fast swimming away.
"You won't get away, Inu!" the same superior grabbed one of the more dangerous weapons and told the driver of his jeep to burn rubber up the pier. They braked sharply at the end and the superior aimed the weapon. "No one escapes from the island alive, freak!"
Inuyasha heard the loud yell close behind him and paused for a moment to look back at the end of the pier. Something clonked him on the head and he hissed in pain, rubbing the bruised spot before realising what it was exactly that had clocked him.
A grenade. And one that seemed to be missing a pin...
He glanced back up at the pier to see the colonel still holding the launcher he'd just fired before realising he should get away. Before he could even throw his hands up to shield his face, the grenade went off, right in front of him.
He probably would have screamed in pain as the blinding flash consumed him by water rushed to close over his head and his voice was lost in an instant. He was pushed down with incredible force into the murky depths…
For a few brief moments he passed out, but only for a few seconds, though it was enough to disconcert him as he came back around. He was so deep underwater that everything was black; he didn't know which way was up or which was down. If he surfaced, he'd be killed... if he stayed down here, he'd suffocate. His injuries were burning in the salty water and he knew he had to surface... so he just let himself float gradually upwards.
He eventually broke it and greedily gasped for the air to fill his winded lungs... and he supposed that he should be grateful that now he was no longer within range of the pier. He could hear the shouts of the military men in the distance... but they were too far away to see him now. It was pitch black, just like underwater... and he had no idea which way he was heading.
He floated for a few more minutes before the sounds in the distance faded and all that filled his senses was the chilling cold. It was still dark... but that made no difference as he finally gave into the cold and slipped unconscious.
The sounds of the party finishing up could be heard at the house above the beach. Kagome had gotten pretty tired very quickly and had come down to the beach to get away from it. She'd enjoyed herself, but she had to admit that she wasn't exactly a major party animal. Sango on the other hand had enjoyed herself immensely... and seemed to be getting pretty friendly with Miroku.
It wasn't that Kagome was stuck being a cold fish - it was just that the only nice boy there had been Hojo... and as you can imagine, he wasn't the most interesting guy on the planet. So now she just sat on a rock above the shallow water of the tide and imagined the work it was going to take cleaning that house. She was getting drowsy from the humid heat but she was vaguely aware of the last group staggering from the house to trot on their merry way home. Then she heard Sango call.
"Where were you? I would have thought you'd be in the thick of things." Sango tottered up behind her, a little distance away since she didn't want to get her trainers wet.
"Just got tired."
"You need a boyfriend."
"Like Miroku?" Kagome retorted, giving her friend a raised brow. Sango blushed and twiddled her fingers.
"You're not having Miroku." She warned.
"I'll try to remember that."
"You seemed to like Hojo well enough-"
"It's called polite small-talk... why do you think I ran off to hide from him?" Kagome yawned tiredly and slipped off the rock. "We should probably tidy up now."
"Too tired." Sango caught the infectious yawn and stifled it with her hand.
"Yeah... should probably do it in the morning." Kagome was about to turn around to head back up the slope when she saw something that made her insides freeze and snap her wide awake at the same time. "Oh my god..."
Sango frowned with confusion and followed her gaze out to the water. "It looks like... a plastic bag..."
Kagome was still frozen in place. "A plastic bag with arms and legs?!" she screeched.
Sango looked more carefully and let out a short scream. "Oh my god! Shit! That's a body!!"
"Oh no! Oh my god!" Kagome was hopping from foot to foot. "What do we do? What do we do?!"
"Don't look at me!!" Sango screamed shrilly.
"Wait!" Kagome stiffened. "She might still be alive!"
Assuming it was a 'she' due to the long hair.
"Um... then go check..." Sango nudged her towards the waves.
"WHAT?! You go check!" she nudged Sango back.
"No way! You saw it first!"
"It's not an 'it' until it's dead!" Kagome hissed. "And anyway... dead bodies don't float up onto beaches unless it's a horror movie..."
"Kagome!" Sango ground out. "Look around you! We're alone. We're outside the city. There's no one around for miles and those clothes look bloody!"
Kagome took a nervous glance at the bedraggled heap that was washing closer and gulped. The person seemed to be wearing white clothes... with red stains. She firmed up her bottom lip and started to wade out quickly.
Perhaps she was shot...?" Sango offered.
"You're not helping." Kagome snapped as she paddled a little faster, getting past the point where the water reached her waist. She'd be ruining these clothes, but right then she didn't really care.
As she drew close she realised that the person was in fact a 'he'. And almost definitely a he... she'd never seen a boy as well built as this one. But she kinda overlooked that fact since half his face looked like he'd skidded to a stop on a tarmac road using his cheek. Half his shirt was missing, and what was revealed beneath was not a pretty sight. The long white hair was confusing... she didn't think any boy had the patience to grow it so long, but it was mottled black due to soot... or smoke, or something grimy like that - quite like a lot of his exposed skin and clothes.
"Oh shit... are you ok?" she whispered as she reached him, grappling with his one very cold arm. She was hesitant to touch anything else in fear of touching the wounds. "What the hell happened to you...?"
She glanced up to his face again... then a little higher - her eyes widened in shock as she spotted two white triangles of fur poking through the wet mop of hair. For a moment, she wondered why he was in a Halloween getup... before quickly realising he was missing normal ears. He wasn't human.
Sango waited anxiously on the beach, hugging herself tightly as she waited for Kagome to check his pulse. As the girl did so, she drew away sharply and staggered back in the water several feet. She turned back to Sango with a face so pale that she looked like a ghost. "He's dead!"
A/N: Cliff-hanger!!! I love these - it always makes you want to read more... but then again if you don't like the story then you wouldn't want to. Let me know how it's going so far!!!! ^_^