Usagi's family is killed and she ends up staying with the Higurashi family, but weird things keep happening, this strange guy with silver hair and golden eyes kidnaps her and demands she give him the Shikon no Tama. But what is it?
Usagi yawned and leaned back against the trunk of the tree and sighed in contentment. After Rei's outburst, Usagi, Kagome, Inuyasha, and Kouga had been excused so the fully-trained priests, priestesses, and demon slayers could iron out all of the details to the huge endeavor they had before them.
Sitting on the ground next to the blond was a tall glass pitcher full of lemonade so cold condensation was running down the sides and forming a small puddle on the ground around it. Lying on a branch, seemingly asleep, was a young man wearing red with long, silver hair. One fang was visible on his lip as it poked out of his mouth.
"Ne, Inuyasha." The blond girl started as she glanced up at the tree branch he was currently resting on. One eye opened and looked lazily down at her. "Do you want some snacks and lemonade? Yuuichiro-san brought it out for us." The girl explained with a small smile up at the hanyou.
"Keh." Inuyasha said to himself as he crossed his arms over his chest and turned his gaze to the sky. The sun was barely at it's noon-day peek and the days heat was already settling in place. Usagi took another sip of her lemonade and looked up toward to sky. For the first time in the last week, it was a peaceful day. Kagome was walking around the shrine with Kouga and his two friends in tow placing a barrier around the Hikawa Shrine. Since they had agreed to help, Kagome and Usagi felt they should erect the temporary barrier in gratitude. Kagome had lost in rock, paper, scissors so she was the one placing the seals around the shrine grounds while Usagi got to relax in the sun.
"Mou... Are you going to sulk all day? I already apologized for saying the word in there." Usagi pouted as she took a bite from one of the half-sandwiches on the plate. Inuyasha's eyes narrowed and he merely grunted in response before turning his face away from her and crossing his arms over his chest.
"Selenity-hime?" A voice said quietly as a small black cat came out from behind the trunk of the tree. Inuyasha growled low in his throat and jumped down from his perch in the tree. In the same motion, he reached down and picked the talking cat up by the fur on the back of her neck. Luna arched her neck instinctively and drew her legs close to her body with her tail between her legs.
"What the hell do you want now, baka neko!" Inuyasha growled out holding firmly onto the cat. Usagi jumped up and ran toward Inuyasha with a frown on her lips.
"Hidoi, Inuyasha!" She cried as she reached for the shocked feline and plucked her from Inuyasha's hand. "You shouldn't pick on animals weaker than you!" She protested, giving the scowling hanyou a stern look. When she was satisfied, she turned her attention to the black cat in her arms. "Are you all right, Luna?"
The flustered feline looked gratefully up at her blond savior. That was just like Selenity-hime, protecting those weaker than herself. That had been one of her strongest features in her previous life. Luna had limited memories of that time but that was something that was impressed upon her mind.
"Thank you for reconsidering, Selenity-hime." The cat said as she bowed as best she could in the blond girl's arms. "Rei and the others have been most anxious to meet with you."
"Eh? Why would Hino-san want to meet with me?" Usagi questioned with a puzzled look on her face.
"Wait... You haven't come here to discuss your safety?" Luna questioned as Usagi sat down and placed the feline on the ground next to her. Inuyasha crossed his arms over his chest with a scowl and sat down in the grass next to Usagi.
"No we didn't." Usagi explained as a sweatdrop slid down her forehead. "We came to request Hino-san and her grandfather's help to place a barrier around the city to keep the youkai out."
"Keh! I told you before, she doesn't need the protection of some little girls in short skirts. She has me to protect her." Inuyasha grumbled with a glare directed at the black cat.
"We can't trust anyone to protect her but ourselves!" Luna argued as she glared right back at the silver-haired hanyou.
"Get over it. They can't protect her from youkai at all. I've seen them try. It's pathetic." Inuyasha said with a twitch in his eyebrow. This little cat was persistent and annoying. There was no way a bunch of little girls would be able to protect Usagi.
"I'll really be fine, Luna." Usagi said with a smile to try to reassure the black cat. "Inuyasha is really strong. So is Miroku-sama, Sango-chan, and Kouga-kun."
"You don't get it." A female voice spoke up suddenly. "No matter how much you fight it, you're our Princess and it's our duty to protect you." Rei was glaring down at the blond and the hanyou in muted anger. Her eyes narrowed further when they focused on the young man in front of her.
"We don't need your help, onna." Inuyasha said menacingly as his ears laid flat against his head. "I'm more than enough to protect her. You little light show with fake fire is worthless."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Rei demanded as the pitch of her voice dipped menacingly.
"Keh! You really don't think I knew you were one of those Sailor whatsits?" Inuyasha asked with a smirk. "Humans may be fooled, but you can't hide you scent. Especially from a dog youkai." Inuyasha explained as he tapped his nose.
"Eh? You're one of the Sailor Senshi, Hino-san?" Usagi cried as a look of shock settled onto her soft features.
"Of course she is!" Luna said with a frown at the clueless blond. "Why else would we ask you to meet at the Hikawa Shrine?" Usagi just shrugged her shoulders. She wasn't psychic, how was she supposed to know what their meeting place meant.
"So which one are you, Hino-san?" Usagi questioned with a slight frown. Inuyasha looked over at the blond when he caught something in her scent. It was like the scent of great pain. Her eyes had lost their normal sparkle and she had the sad smile he remembered so well from his dreams.
"What does it matter?" Rei asked as she quirked an eyebrow at the blond girl.
"It matters." Usagi said as she raised her :eyes to the dark-haired girl. As she lifted her face, the smile slid from her lips and an intense look entered her cerulean orbs. Inuyasha had only known the girl for a short while, but he had never seen such a serious and intense look in her eyes before. A shudder ran down his spine as he memorized that look. He would have to make sure he hightailed it out of there if it was ever directed at him. Especially since she had control over him and could 'sit' him at any time.
Usagi was again reliving what had happened to her family at the hands of the Sailor Senshi. A deep frown crossed her lips as her memories began to replay in her mind's eye. It was something that had been happening at least once a day since that fateful day.
- l - l - l -
Usagi had been on clean-up duty at school and was leaving really late. Her partner for the week had been out sick so it had taken twice as long as it normally would have. She had to bang the dust from the erasers, wash the blackboard with a wet sponge, put all the chairs up on the desks and sweep the floor so the janitor could come in and buff it when the students left.
She sighed in annoyance as she rushed toward the park to meet her family. They were celebrating Shingo's award for the science fair project he'd worked on for the last several months. It was quite an accomplishment because of his young age. He'd been competing against kids twice his age and had taken first prize. To celebrate, they were having a cookout in the park and would be going to a huge arcade later that night, followed by an amusement park the next day.
Usagi glanced down at her watch and grimaced to herself. She was really running late. They were going to be leaving for the arcade soon and Usagi definitely didn't want to miss that. One of the things that Usagi and Shingo had in common and could connect on was their love of video games. Shingo would beat her at almost every game they played, but she would smoke him at the Sailor V games any day of the week. Shingo didn't much like the game but he had to play with her to pacify her so he could kick her butt at other games.
Usagi waited impatiently at the red light glancing down at her watch again. She could see the entrance to the park about a half a block in front of her but the light seemed to be taking it's sweet time on changing. She bit her bottom lip in frustration as she glared at the light, willing it to change. After several more seconds, the light finally changed and Usagi found herself running across. She kept up the pace and ran the remaining distance and turned into the entrance to the park.
As soon as she passed through the gateway, Usagi stopped and grabbed her chest as a tight pain gripped her heart. She felt a cold shiver course through her body as a feeling of dread settled onto her as the pain in her chest increased. Something horrible had happened or was happening at that moment. Usagi immediately pictures her family and her feet began to move on their own. She wasn't even aware that she was running as fear and dread gripped her entire being. She was running faster than she has ever run before as the feeling just seemed to increase. She had tunnel vision as she swerved around people trying to outrun the heavy cloud that seemed to be following her.
'Please be all right, minna...' She silently begged as she leaped over a narrow stream and landed gracefully on the other side. Up ahead she saw a huge cloud of smoke and saw chunks of rock flying into the air. That was the area of the park where her family was supposed to have their cookout.
"Oh no..." Usagi said as she stopped dead in her tracks and watched the scene before her. She could see lightning crackle and shoot down from the
sky. Huge red and orange flames were visible above the trees as Usagi stared on in horror. "Shingo... mama... papa..." Usagi said quietly as she regained her composure and took off at a dead run, making her earlier dash look like a crawl.
"Shingo! Mama! Papa!" Usagi cried as she cleared the trees at top speed. She stared in horror at the scene before her. She saw her family all lying on the ground in what looked like a bubble full of water covering them completely. Standing above the still bodies was a giant monster with slightly humanoid features.
Perched on it's shoulder was a man with short blond hair and cold blue eyes. He was wearing a purple jacket with matching pants and had his arms crossed over his chest. There was a triumphant look on his lips as he watched five girls from the other side of the clearing. Usagi recognized them instantly as the Sailor Senshi that had been become fairly famous from all of the times they had saved people from monsters in the city of Tokyo. Usagi didn't pay any attention to the Senshi as she made a mad dash toward the unconscious forms of her family.
"Don't go out there!" A female voice yelled as Usagi made her way out into the open. She felt someone grab her from behind and then she was rolling across the hard ground. Usagi knew instantly that one of the Senshi had tackled her.
"Let me go!" Usagi screamed as tears filled her eyes. She tried to claw her way toward her family but was grabbed around the waist by a pair of arms. She fought against the girl preventing her from reaching her family as tears blurred her vision. "That's my family in there!" She cried as she continued to fight against the Senshi with raven-black hair that was preventing her from reaching the people she loved.
"You can't help them!" The senshi yelled as she tightened her grip on the blond and began to drag her backward. A tall Senshi with brown hair in a high ponytail ran up to help the dark-haired girl restrain Usagi.
"Iie!" Usagi screamed as she continued to fight to reach her family. "Mama! Shingo! Papa! I'm coming! Don't leave me!" Sobs racked the terrified girl's body as she saw her family getting further away. The two Senshi had picked her up and were taking her back under the cover of the trees.
- l - l - l -
Usagi snapped back to reality as the memories receded. Inuyasha looked at the girl curiously and confusion. Something very strange had just happened to the young priestess-in-training. Her scent had changed drastically multiple times in the last few seconds as she stared at the violet-eyed girl above her. It had gone from suspicion to extreme dread, then went to a supreme sadness. It was shortly followed by anger and then on to determination. Inuyasha made an extra mental note not to push her too far. He could be laid out for a month if he pissed her off too badly.
"It doesn't matter." A new voice said a Aino Minako walked up to the small group of people under the tree. "No matter how you feel, it's our duty to protect you." Minako said with a small smile. Inuyasha glared at the new comer and stood up in front of Usagi with his arms crossed over his chest.
"Like you protected my family?" A quiet voice asked from behind Inuyasha. Usagi was still seated on the ground. Her face was pointed slightly downward and her bangs were covering her eyes, which effectively hid her facial expression. Usagi rose to her feet and put her hand on Inuyasha's wrist. Her bangs were still obscuring her face as she stepped up beside the hanyou. "You couldn't protect them, so what makes you think you'll be able to protect me?"
Usagi looked up at the two assembled girls with tears of sorrow and anger brimming them. A guilty look appeared on Rei's face as she saw the expression on her face. Minako turned her face away as the painful memory resurfaced. She diverted her eyes as tears begin to fill her eyes as well.
"We're so sorry, Tsukino-san..." Aino Minako said as she felt a tear slide down her cheek. "We tried to save them... we really did."
"But when i tried to get to them to save them, you stopped me!" Usagi cried as the dam broke and tears streamed down her cheeks. Inuyasha's eyes widened as he saw the raw emotion on her face and he reached out a hand to the blond girl. He placed his hand lightly on her shoulder in a reassuring manner. He really hated to see the girl cry for some reason he couldn't quite understand. Some part of him wanted to take the petite blond in his arms, lick her tears away, and crushing her into his chest. He settled for just putting his hand on her shoulder, though. Usagi placed her hand on top of his and gave him a small smile. Inuyasha felt electricity shoot up his arm at the small touch from the blond girl and the thankful look she gave him. He felt his cheeks warm when she squeezed his hand lightly and turned her attention back to the two guilty-looking girls in front of her.
"If you had gone to them, you would have been killed too!" Rei protested as she looked back at Usagi and the demon standing beside her with his ears drawn back and a concerned look on his face.
"At least then I wouldn't have the hole in my chest that I can't fill!" Usagi cried as more tears leaked from her eyes. "I think I trust Inuyasha to protect me WAY more than I trust any of you!" Inuyasha felt his cheeks warm more at Usagi's words. She sounded like she truly trusted him. 'I'm just a hanyou... can I really live up to her expectations?' A sudden thought hit Inuyasha as a small wave of panic hit him. 'Wait a minute... Has she made me go soft? She's just a means to an end. Once I have the Shikon no Tama, I won't need her anymore.' Only... part of him was wondering if he could really stand to part from her.
"We're done, Usagi-chan!" Kagome announces as she and Kouga rounded the corner followed by Ginta and Hakkuka and several brown wolves. The two teenaged girls tensed as they saw the appearance of the newcomers. They definitely weren't human from the way they looked to the clothes they wore. "Hino-san, Aino-san?" Kagome questioned as she saw the two girls standing in front of Usagi. Kagome immediately noticed the tears streaming down her adopted sister's face as she stood glaring at the two girls in front of her. Kagome rushed to her friend, briefly noticing Usagi's hand covering Inuyasha's and a worried look on his face. "Are you all right, Usagi-chan?" Kagome asked as she reached out her hand to place it on her other shoulder.
"I'm fine, Kagome-chan." Usagi said with a watery smile. Kagome could see the pain in Usagi's eyes but didn't say anything else. She knew the only thing that could cause that look was mention of her family. Instead, Kagome turned a vicious glare on the two girls facing off with Usagi.
"I don't know what you said to upset Usagi-chan, but I think you'd better go find something else to do." Kagome said in a low, threatening voice. She hated to see her friend cry. She had enough happen to her in her life she deserved to have her past lie in the back of her mind. She was just beyond the grieving phase and was just heading down the path of healing. Surprisingly, the appearance of Inuyasha seemed to have pushed her down that path much farther than anything had since Usagi had come to live with them.
"It's all right, Kagome-chan. I'm going to go for a walk." Usagi said as she gave Kagome a reassuring smile to show she was really all right. Kagome knew she wasn't but also knew that Usagi needed some time alone. She smiled back at Usagi and nodded, taking her hand from her shoulder as the blond turned away from her. Usagi stopped after a few steps and looked back at Kagome. "I won't leave the barrier." With that, she disappeared around the corner of the house.
- l - l - l -
Kagome was annoyed that she lost. That meant she had to walk around the whole Hikawa Shrine to put the ofuda in place. Compared to her family shrine, this place was HUGE! She wouldn't have minded the walk so much if it had just been her and Kouga, but trailing behind them were Kouga's companions and several large, black wolves. She no longer feared them, they were very sweet to her since Kouga had taken a liking to her. They acted like over-grown dogs with her, nudging her hand so she would scratch their ears. What annoyed her is that she wanted a little alone time with Kouga so she could get to know him a little better. She also wanted to ask him the significance of the small mark on her neck. It hadn't been there until he'd kidnapped her several days ago.
"Ne, Kouga-kun." Kagome started as she looked at the confident wolf demon walking beside her.
"What is it, Kagome-chan?" Kouga asked as he flashed an award-winning smile at the petite girl walking beside him. He watched as her cheeks stained pink a little at the intimate name he used.
"Where did this mark on my neck come from?" Kagome questioned earnestly as her fingers lightly brushed over the small scar at the base of her throat. It was Kouga's turn to blush as he scratched the back of his head in embarrassment.
"I marked you as my mate of course." He said as he quickly regained his confidence. In a wolf tribe, females always preferred aggressive males so he had followed his instincts and taken what he wanted. With that mark on her neck, and his scent clinging to her, only the strongest of demons would try to harm her.
Kouga's words hit Kagome like a slap in the face. She felt her eyes bulge and at first felt heat infuse her face. Her embarrassment quickly shifted and her eyes narrowed as anger suddenly leaped up from her belly. 'Marked me as his?' Her inner thoughts screeched as she felt a burning in her chest. Right at that moment, Kagome wished the spell that had been placed on Inuyasha's rosary hadn't been burned because she wanted Kouga to be
lying on his belly in the middle of a crater twitching.
"What the hell?" Kagome screamed as her anger reached the boiling point. "How dare you do something like that without my permission!" Kouga's confident smile melted from his face and was replaced by extreme confusion. He raised his hands on defense but wasn't able to get a word out as a resounding slap filled the air. Kouga felt his cheeks stinging and turned his head to look back at the pair of normally warm, chocolate colored eyes. The warmth was gone, there was fire flashing in her eyes as she pulled back her extended hand and prepared to swing again.
"Kagome-chan..." Kouga said slowly as he caught her hand in his when she swung again.
"Don't 'Kagome-chan' me!" Kagome cried as she tried to pull her hand free from his iron, yet gentle grip. She felt insulted to her core. 'Who is he to choose who I should be with?' She thought furiously as she tried to tug her hand free. "I'm and independent woman! I'm quite capable of choosing who I want to be with! Now let me go!"
A hurt look came onto Kouga's face as Kagome yelled. He had done what instinct had told him to do. It had told him to give her his mark to protect her and let every other demon know she was spoken for. He felt her trying to tug her hand free, but he held on. He had to make her understand. His hurt expression softened into a smile as he saw the fire in her spirit. She would make very strong pups indeed. He knew he never wanted to tame that fire in her. 'Her lips look so soft...' He thought to himself as he studied every detail of her face. 'I wonder what they taste like...'
Kagome saw the hurt look cross Kouga's face and, though she felt bad, she was still burning with anger at the arrogant wolf demon in front of her. She tried to pull her hand free of his grip and was surprised when he placed the back of her hand against his chest and a soft smile crossed his features. She feel heat rush to her face when he reached his other hand up and traced it along her cheek softly, brushing a few strands of hair back.
"Wha..." Kagome started but stopped as she felt a pair of soft lips against her own. Her eyes widened in shock as she saw a face extremely close to hers. Her anger instantly faded into shock as her eyes slowly closed and she responded just as gently. All too soon, Kouga pulled back and looked into Kagome's eyes. His normal smug smile replaced by a soft expression.
"I knew you were special." Kouga said softly as he wrapped an arm gently around the blushing girl and pulled her into his warm embrace, resting his chin on the top of her head. "I'll protect you with my life, Kagome-chan."
- l - l - l -
Usagi stumbled onto the sidewalk that led up to the shrine when her foot met a crack. She felt her arms flail as she lost her balance. In horror, she squeezed her eyes shut and braced for the impact. Instead of hitting the hard ground, Usagi felt herself sink into what felt like a lot of fabric like a sheet or curtain.
"Keh. How can a klutz like you expect to be a miko?" A slightly gruff, annoyed male voice asked. Usagi opened her eyes and looked up to see a pair of golden orbs looking down at her. She was against Inuyasha's chest, and he had one arm around her waist and the other on the middle of her back.
"Ar.. arigato, Inuyasha." Usagi said as a slight rose tint touched her cheeks of her tear-stained face. Usagi tried to pull herself from the hanyou's arms but he didn't budge.
"Stop crying." Inuyasha said as he raised one clawed hand and wiped a tear from her cheek. Usagi watched his face, looking for any sign of what he was feeling, but was unable to read his expression. She could feel more tears brimming in her eyes as she looked up at the handsome young man holding her in his arms.
"Inuyasha..." She breathed his name as the dam broke anew and she buried her face in his chest and sobbed. She knew... She knew somehow that he knew the pain of losing your family.
Inuyasha wasn't surprised when the blond human, Usagi, buried her head in his chest in a wave of fresh tears. He instinctively pulled her closer and stroked her hair with one clawed hand in a reassuring manner. He felt her small form shake with her sobs as he felt her warm tears soak into the fabric of his shirt. He slipped his hand around her waist and gently lifted her from her feet. She didn't even seem to notice as he leaped lightly onto the roof of the house and settled down on the warm tiles and pulled her quivering form into his lap. He could smell the salt from her tears as she readjusted slightly in his lap to find a more comfortable way to sit. Inuyasha felt heat infuse his face at the electric shock that seemed to run through his whole body at the slight movement.
After another fifteen minutes passed, Inuyasha could feel the shuddering spasms that were racking her body disperse to an occasional hiccup. Inuyasha was still stroking her silky hair absently when she raised her head from his chest. He saw a solitary tear sliding down her cheek and out of pure instinct, he leaned forward and licked the salty liquid from her cheek. He didn't notice the brilliant blush the tinged her cheeks as he pulled Usagi back into his chest.
- l - l - l -
"Where's Usagi?" Sango asked as she looked around the grounds for the familiar blond girl. Kagome stood in front of her with Kouga at her shoulder. His two friends stood several paces back engaged in quiet conversation.
"She went for a walk to clear her head. I think Inuyasha is watching over her." Kagome said quietly to the taller brown-haired taijiya. Sango's eyes narrowed slightly at the mention of the hanyou that had, up until recently, been after the Shikon no Tama and the two girls who were quickly becoming her closest friends. She didn't trust any youkai. A very tragic incident had happened a few years back. Before when youkai had still remained in the shadows and most people still believed them nothing more than legends.
- l - l - l -
Sango lived in a small village in northern Japan. Though it had all of the modern conveniences, indoor plumbing, electricity, telephone, and internet, it was still relatively back wood. The people of the village had a secret that every member kept close to their hearts. Even the slim few that ventured out into the world would hold this secret to their grave. Every member was taught to withstand truth serums and torture to keep this secret. They were the decedents of a clan of youkai exterminators that had passed on their weapons and skills throughout the five hundred years that youkai had lain dormant.
This, of course, wasn't the only secret withheld by the people of Sango's village, though. Sango had been taught well and hadn't revealed to anyone, including her new-founds friends, that in the cave hidden beyond the tiny village was a cave that held the secret to the creation of the Shikon no Tama. Even now, with the village destroyed and everyone dead, Sango couldn't find it in herself to reveal this to her friends. They would be upset with her for not telling them if it was ever revealed, but Sango was still unsure if she could trust those with demon blood who had become part of her small party.
The people of her village had become aware of the awakening of the demons fifteen years prior and had stayed hidden in the shadows slaying demons who became too bold. Sango had been taught well and was one of the top taijiya's from the village. She went on the frequent, secret missions to slay rogue demons that decided to attack humans. The worst day of her life was the first time her little brother, Kohaku, had joined their demon slaying party...
"What if I mess up, oneesan!" Kohaku whispered as he walked alongside his older sister. Their outfits were similar, hers with pink accents, his with blue. The masks used to block strong poisonous youki hung around their necks loosely. This was Kohaku's first time to be included in the taijiya party going to slay a demon. They kept their presence hidden among the masses by strategically placing moles in towns, villages, and cities to gather in-tell on where they have rebel youkai attacks. They would also follow whispered rumors, urban legends, and the occasional tabloid story. All-in-all, maintaining their secret presence and still doing what they were trained to do took a lot of work.
"You'll do fine, Kohaku." Sango said as she smiled down at her nervously fidgeting brother. "Father feels you are ready. Besides, when you aren't around, father praises you." She continued as she put a hand on Kohaku's shoulder. She noticed the pink tint appear across his freckled nose before a bright smile spread across his face and dispelled any of the remaining nervousness he felt. She smiled and pulled him to her side with her arm draped across his shoulders.
Unlike the relationship between most siblings, Sango and Kohaku didn't argue and bicker at all. Due to the close-knit nature of their community, there was little interaction with children their own age outside of the village. They made due with the few siblings and children that were around the same age. Sango had watched her brother growing up and been there when he fell. She even helped train him in the ways of the taijiya. It was more than just killing youkai. They had to learn about different poisons and natural remedies that grow native in different regions so if they were injured and separated from the group, they could tend to their own wounds. Not only that, but they had to know how to properly care for, repair, and recreate their weapon on the fly. The training was not just for the body, but the mind as well. Strategy and teamwork were a necessity to be a true taijiya. Sango was among the most elite team their village had to offer, which was also led by her father. That
was another reason for Kohaku's nervousness.
They were again following rumor that had trickled onto their radar, which brought them to a rather historic little town in the east. The main focal point of the village was an old palace which had been built during Sengoku Jidai, otherwise known as the feudal era or era of the warring states (AN: That was the translation in a lot of the fansubs I watched). When they entered the town, a large cloud of jyaki seemed to be dangling above the palace, which was situated in the very center. To any normal person, this evil aura was unnoticed. Only those with spiritual powers or training like the taijiya were able to sense this negativity. Sango saw a visible shudder wrack Kohaku's body as they approached the palace on foot. The streets were strangely empty as they approached their destination. It was nearly sunset and the rumor said that a ghost would appear at night and drag off anyone who was left outdoors. This led to all of the citizens bolting themselves into their homes well before nightfall.
"Such horrible jyaki..." Sango mused to herself as she reached down and pulled her mask over her mouth and nose. Kohaku, observing his older sister, pulled his mask up as well, making sure it was tightly sealed to his face. Sango reached back and loosed her boomerang from her back, holding it at the ready as alertness set in. Kohaku observing his sister's precaution did the same, pulling the bone scythe from his waistband and grabbing the chain dangling from it in his other hand.
"Oh? So the Legends of an ancient youkai exterminating Clan is true." A deep, amused voice filled the air in the courtyard of the palace they had just entered.
"Come out where we can see you, youkai!" Sango's father yelled out, his voice booming and echoing around the courtyard. A deep, sinister laugh echoed around the slayers. They had unconsciously formed a circle, all of them facing outward, their weapons ready. With the echo, it was impossible to tell where the youkai was and where it would attack from. Sango's sharp eyes scanned the surrounding areas and locked on two dull red points of light to her right.
"Hiraikotsu!" She cried as she hurled her bone boomerang toward the glowing eyes with all the strength she could muster. The deadly weapon flew end over end into the gloom surrounding them. They all heard a roar of pain as the boomerang sliced through the figure in the fog.
As a unit, all of the taijiya ran toward the injured youkai. When they were closer, the figure of a giant spider stood before them on six legs, two of them having been severed by hiraikotsu. The boomerang had stuck in the mud bank of a small stream behind the angry youkai. Sango held up her right arm and a blade burst from against her forearm, glittering dangerously in the dim light.
Before anyone could blink, Sango's father and his right-hand man charged into the fray. The rest of the team hanging back to cover them if they needed it. Sango and Kohaku stood at the ready, being that they were the second wave of attack. As soon as their father and his partner jumped out of the way, the two of them joined the fray. Sango was the lead with Kohaku as her backup. His duty was to watch his sister's back as she attacked full-force. It was a simple, yet powerful strategy. Then again, the simpler the strategy, the easier it was to stick to.
"You're on, Kohaku!" Sango cried as she rushed in with her blade raised. She would distract the youkai to allow Kohaku to attack while she retrieved Hiraikotsu from the mud bank.
Kohaku gripped his scythe tighter and plunged in after his older sister. Sango slashed at the many eyes with her katana to blind it from Kohaku's form that was hidden behind her height. Sango smiled as she glanced back at her brother. They had a special connection most siblings didn't have. He had figured out her strategy without any words spoken between them. That's what made up the best taijiya teams. Being able to predict your partner's strategy without a word spoken between them. Sango's blade made contact with several of the tender eyes and she used the momentum of the attack to flip over the top of the giant spider and land softly behind it on the mud bank. "Now!" She cried as she reached one hand up and grabbed the tassels of Hiraikotsu.
"Hai!" Kohaku cried as he let loose the scythe he had been twirling above his head by the chain. At the same moment, Sango wrenched Hiraikotsu from the mud.
"Hiraikotsu!" Sango cried as she threw the giant boomerang toward the giant spider in the same instant. The two weapons ripped through the youkai's body like a hot knife through butter. The scythe was wrenched back by Kohaku before it came near his sister and the giant boomerang made a wide circle, missing Kohaku, before it returned to it's wielder's hands, making her feet slide back in the slippery mud a few steps. After one more howl of pain, the spider collapsed to the ground and ceased all movement, dead in a pool of it's black blood.
"Not bad for a first time, Kohaku." Their father said as he placed a hand on the new taijiya's shoulder. He turned his stern face down to the boy and a slight smile touched his lips.
"Arigato, father!" Kohaku said returning the smile as he bowed respectfully to the head taijiya. Kohaku's father clapped him on the shoulder as they turned from the dead demon and all met up in the center to regroup.
"You did great, Kohaku!" Sango cried as she jumped over he dead spider and made her way to her brother, a bright smile lighting up her face, pride burning in her chest.
"You've slayed the monster!" A timid voice cried out. The group of slayers turned their eyes toward the small group of people that were timidly looking out one of the shoji doors of the ancient palace. They had stunned looks on their faces at the display of skill and power they had just seen.
"We've been saved!" Another voiced cried out as people stared to emerge from their homes. Sango, though, didn't relax. If the youkai was truly dead, why hadn't the jyaki that was hovering thickly over the town dissipate? Sango was searching for the source of the jyaki when she heard one of the slayers cry out in pain and collapsed in a heap on the barren ground.
Her eyes widened in shock at what her eyes met, though. Standing over the fallen man, scythe raised, was Kohaku. Blood was slowly dripping from the scythe as Kohaku raised he weapon over his head again and struck out against the other taijiya in the courtyard. Sango watched in horror as her brother struck again and again, bodies falling in his wake as crimson blood sprayed across his face and clothes and was absorbed by the parched earth underfoot.
"Kohaku!" Sango cried out in horror as he turned his eyes to her and raised his scythe once again. She blocked with Hiraikotsu, sending the scythe bouncing off to the left. Kohaku quickly recovered with a yank on the chain, the scythe returned to his hand. "What's gotten into you, Kohaku?" Sango screamed as she held Hiraikotsu up as a shield, blocking another attack. The next time the scythe came her way, Sango ducked and the chain wrapped around the top of the boomerang. With a sharp jerk, Kohaku pulled the oversized boomerang from Sango's hand and directed it over his head so it landed some distance behind him.
That's when Sango noticed it... there was something... a tiny spider? Behind his right ear with a shiny thread attacked to the back of it. Sango followed the thread with her eyes to the growing crowd behind her coming out of the palace. It didn't take her long to locate a smug-looking man in the midst of the crowd that a distinctly evil aura to him.
"I'll kill you, youkai!" Sango cried as she drew a katana from her side and turned her full attention to the youkai hiding in plain sight.
"They have gone insane! The ghost of that monster has made them turn on us!" The youkai cried as he pointed and accusing finger at Sango and Kohaku. "They'll kill us all!"
Sango wasn't fooled one bit. She ran full-speed toward the man striking up a riot ad jumped into the air, the only thing on her mind was freeing her brother from the demon's control. "Shine!" She cried as she sliced her sword down through the man. His body emitted foam and skin turned a sickly gray color. As her feet touched the ground, Sango felt an intense pain in the middle of her back, which causes her to freeze in her tracks.
Slowly Sango turned and her eyes met a pair of cold brown eyes devoid of any emotion. The scythe was wrenched ruthlessly from her back, forcing Sango's knees to give out and hit the ground. A shot rang out, followed by a second and a third and Sango watched in horror as bullets peppered Kohaku's body.
"Kohaku!" She screamed as she released the handle of her katana and rushed to her brother, shielding his body with her own. She felt bullets hit her, some passing all the way through into Kohaku. "Kohaku..." Sango whispered as she picked her head up. Pain shot through her body, but she ignored it. She raised a blood-stained hand an cupped his cheek. His eyes fluttered open and filled with tears.
"O... onee... san..." He whispered and his breath left his as his head slumped over to the side. Teas stung Sango's eyes as she drew his face back toward her and pressed her forehead against her.
"Kohaku..." She whispered as tears streamed from her eyes. The pain finally became too much to bare and her vision became hazy before everything went pitch black.
- l - l - l -
Sango snapped out of her reverie when she felt a pressure on hr backside. Her cheeks heated instantly as an embarrassed and angry blush appeared across the bridge of her nose.
"Ecchi!" Sango yelled at the top of her lungs as a resounding 'smack' filled the air.
"Ah, it was worth it..." Miroku said as he rubbed
his cheek with a contented smile on his face, a big red hand print evident on his cheek.
"Once we have Usagi, we can start the procedure of putting up the pure barrier." Kaede explained as she looked around the group.
"Her and Inukoro are on the roof." Kouga said jerking his thumb behind him, his mouth twisted in disgust at his insulting name for Inuyasha. Minako flinched slightly when they asked about Usagi, the guilt of their failure twisting her insides. The heart-broken, cold accusing stare still fresh in her mind. They were definitely not in for a easy job at this rate. Earning the trust of their Princess was going to be very difficult now.
Rei was looking at her hands, a scowl marring her normally beautiful features. She was aching with guilt inside but was trying her best to convince herself it was merely anger she felt down deep. She knew they had failed, but to see the results, to hear the loved one left behind mourn and accuse was really unsettling. She always thought she was strong and had gotten over feeling guilty for something she didn't do, but it was her duty to protect the weak and she had failed miserably. She frowned deeper and balled her hands in fists at her sides.
"I really think Usagi needs some time." Kagome said as she shot a glare at the two girls that had upset Usagi so badly. She was very protective of her adopted sister. Usagi might put on a brave face and hide the way she was feeling with a smile, but Kagome knew deep down, she was still feeling the pain of her loss as strongly as the day it had happened. "Besides, you guys were talking for a while, aren't you all hungry?"
- l - l - l -
Usagi felt tired and drained. She was aware of a pair of strong arms wrapped protectively around her and a chin was resting lightly on her shoulder. Her tears had ceased several minutes ago and now she just felt hollow and empty inside. She sometimes wished she had been with them when it had happened, but she would inwardly scold herself for that thought. She knew her family would be upset with her and scold her for thinking any such thing. That's why she would put on a brave face, smile and laugh and try to make the most out of life. She didn't even realize how much she liked life until she first met Inuyasha and had her life threatened. A soft smile graced her lips as she snuggled deeper into his broad chest and breathed in his scent. She felt safe with him now. He might be rude and arrogant and a complete jerk at times, but he had a gentle side as well. Usagi had a feeling she was the only one that had seen that side of Inuyasha in a very long time.
Inuyasha breathed in the scent of the girl in his arms. Her normal clean smell of lilies and soap overlaying the gentle scent of her filled his senses and made him feel slightly heady. The smell of salt was heavy in the air and he could feel the moist warmth of her tears soaking through his shirt. He tightened his arms around her small frame as she buried her face deeper into his chest, her arms moving from his chest to loop under his arms and wrap around his waist. He felt his face flush at the intimate contact as his body stiffened in surprise. He relaxed a moment later and on impulse, kissed her head softly and began stroking her hair reassuringly.
He was remembering the pain of when he lost his mother. He had been a young child, no older than six years old when she'd gotten sick. Even though she had once been the Princess of her land, no one would treat her illness since she had fallen in love with a youkai and had a bastard hanyou child outside of wedlock. Of course she and his father had been mated, life partners, and loved each other deeply. Human wouldn't accept her tie to Inu no Taisho and would call her a whore and shun her. She never let their words harm her, but Inuyasha felt a fury rise up inside him even now when he remembered. He tightened his grip on the blond girl tighter and sunk into his own recollections.
- l - l - l -
A young boy with long silver hair, golden eyes, and a red outfit was rushing through the trees at top speed. Held close to his chest was a multitude of bent stalks and partially wilted leaves. To an unskilled observer, the small bundle would be seen as just a bunch of weeds, but in actuality, then were herbs used to treat various injuries an illnesses.
Inuyasha gripped the precious bundle closer to his chest, trying not to crush them as he leaped over stumps and fallen branches. He had finally managed to evade the human villagers who had pursued him from the field he'd gotten them from. When his mother had fallen ill, he tried to go buy medicine from the villagers with money that his mother had made selling the fabrics and rugs she had woven.
Times were hard for everyone, especially for Izayoi and her young son since few people would do business with her no matter how good the quality. He had grown desperate and had to resort to taking the herbs under the cover of dark. He hadn't expected them to set people out at night to watch the fields. If he hadn't been a hanyou and used to the forest, he probably wouldn't have escaped. He had still taken several minor injuries during his run for freedom. He wiped his pained tears with an over-sized sleeve as he sped to his destination. There was no time to cry while his mother was suffering. Besides, he had received much worse injuries from the other children in the village.
Inuyasha burst unto a small clearing in the middle of the woods and quickly covered the distance to the small hut in the middle. There was a small field behind the house where they grew plants for food and a small shed beyond that for their sparse livestock. They consisted of half a dozen chickens that weren't laying eggs with ant consistency, an old goat with one teet (AN: a family friend has a goat that lost her teet/'udder' in an accident), and a lonely cow whose milk was quickly drying up.
Inuyasha pulled back the cover hanging over the door and entered the dimly lit hut. The fire had burned down considerably, but it was still pleasantly warm within the confines of the walls. It had been weeks since Izayoi had been able to rise from her futon on the floor, he strength was nonexistent these days. Inuyasha was quiet as he picked up the stone pestle and cracked, clay bowl his mother always used to grind up herbs and dyes for the fabrics and threads she weaved. Working quickly and as quietly as possible so as not to awaken his mother, Inuyasha began to grind up the herbs. He put some more wood on the fire and a small kettle to warm some water for the herbal tea. He had seen his mother make the same tea for him when he was sick and frowned in concentration as he worked.
After several minutes, Inuyasha was able to put the herbs in the warming kettle. He wiped sweat from his brow, ignoring the dirty smudge on the back of his hand from the motion, and smiled in satisfaction as he caught the scent of the familiar mixture. It smelled just the way it did when his mother made it. He waited patiently until he saw bubbles in the kettle before he pulled it off the fire and poured it into an awaiting cup.
"Mom, wake up." Inuyasha said gently as he held the cup protectively with both hands. She had to drink every drop and she would get better. He had convinced himself she would be up again the next day laughing and playing with him. "I finally have some medicine to make you all better." His hopeful voice said as he smiled down at his mother's sleeping form. Izayoi's eyes fluttered open and looked up to meet the golden eyes of her only son.
"Inuyasha..." She breathed as a smile graced her lips. She reached up and stroked his cheek gently, brushing a few silver strands back from his face. She licked her thumb and rubbed a smudge of dirt off of his cheek.
"Do you feel better yet, mommy?" Inuyasha asked as he set the cup down and put his hand over his mother's on his cheek.
"Aa..." She said quietly as she continued to smile sadly at her son. She wanted so much to be there for her son, but she was starting to despair. She hadn't been able to rise in weeks, she knew things weren't looking good for her. Her arms were skinny and her hair was losing it's shine and luster.
"I have some medicine for you, mommy." Inuyasha said brightly as he took her hand with his and laid it gently at her side. He reached down carefully and picked up the cup filled with the medicinal tea he'd painstakingly made for his ailing mother. "Here, drink this." He raised the cup and held it close to her face as she slowly picked her head up from the pillow under her head. Just as the cup touched her lips, it shattered, showing warm tea all over Izayoi and Inuyasha.
Inuyasha's eyes widened in shock as he saw the pieces of pottery fall to the ground. The liquid was slowly seeping into the dirt floor of the hut. Inuyasha placed his hands on the moist soil as tears started to fill his eyes.
"We won't allow you to do that, you little thief!" A voice cried from outside of the hut. Inuyasha stood and pulled back the flap covering the door and peeked out at the large group of village men assembled outside of the hut. There was one man standing out front fitting another rock into the sling he held in his left hand.
"I tried to pay you!" Inuyasha cried as angry tears filled his eyes. His mother needed that medicine and they had been preventing him from getting it.
"The world is better off without your kind, filthy half-breed!" Another villager yelled as he loosed a rock directed at the young silver-haired child peeking his head out of the hut.
"Mommy is sick! Please leave us alone!" Inuyasha cried as he stood protectively in the doorway.
"That whore deserves it for having a filthy hanyou!" Another villager cried. This enraged the rest of the gathered humans, their torches waving in the air.
"Kill the thieves!"
"Get rid of that whore!"
"Let's slay the demon!"
Inuyasha shielded his head as a rain of stones fell down on his head. He cried out in surprise as something fast and loud hit the side of the hut with a solid 'thunk'. He looked to his left and saw his haori sleeve pinned to the wall with an arrow. In a panic, Inuyasha fled back into the hut. He felt around under the floorboards and pulled out a knife that they used for preparing food and stood over his sick mother holding it up in defense, blocking his mother's prone form with his body. That's when he felt the temperature within the hut growing rapidly. He looked up and saw that the thatch above their heads was on fire. In a panic, he went to his mother's side and bent down and grasp her by the shoulder.
"Hurry, mommy!" Inuyasha cried as he tried to help her sit up. She complied weakly, leaning heavily on Inuyasha as she managed to get into a sitting position. "We have to get out of here!" They could hear shouting and various thing hitting the sides of the hut as Inuyasha struggled to get his mother to her knees.
"Inuyasha... please forgive me..." Izayoi said quietly as she managed to get onto her knees. "If we leave now... the villagers will kill us... we won't even reach the trees..." Inuyasha coughed as smoke began to fill his lungs. He attempted to pull his mother toward the door, but she just pulled her child to her chest and protected him from the blistering hot flames that were already licking at their clothes.
"Mommy! Mommy!" Inuyasha cried as he tried to pull himself from her arms to get them out of the burning hut. The smoke was thicker in the air and Inuyasha could feel himself slow down as the oxygen in the air depleted, feeding the flames. He felt something wrap around him and all he saw was red as he lost consciousness.
- l - l - l -
Inuyasha's eyes were clouded over as the old memory replayed vividly in his mind. When he'd woken up the next afternoon, he had been partially buried in the ash wrapped tightly in the Robe of the Fire-rat, which he still wore to this day. He pulled Usagi tighter into his chest as his eyes closed. Finally he had someone he could connect to, someone who had lost someone they loved to a tragedy. He felt sorrow for the blond girl because he knew the pain she was suffering only too well.
He was enjoying the warmth they were sharing when she stirred and pushed herself gently back from his chest. She smiled sadly up at him, cerulean blue meeting crisp gold in a profound gaze. Inuyasha felt a sudden warmth in his chest as some of the pain and sadness he'd felt for so long seemed to lessen. Without thought, he felt his body leaning forward, his face closing in on her soft pink lips. He was vaguely aware of her eyes closing as he leaned in and his lips claimed hers. An explosion went off in Inuyasha's head at the light touch of his lips over hers. He felt an electric shock run from his lips all the way down to his toes, then back up to his head, all of the hairs on his body standing on end as goosebumps burst out on his skin.
He was right... her lips were super soft... her taste delicious... She leaned into him, her soft hands reaching up to cup his face, one hand on each cheek. A low growl sounded in the back of his throat as his arms wrapped around her, pulling her tight to his chest and he deepened the kiss. He felt her lips part as she gasped slightly and he took this opportunity to slip his tongue into her mouth. Another explosion shot through his body as he tasted her, running his rough tongue along hers hungrily. He trailed his hand up her back, running his fingers through her silky, golden hair. Inuyasha felt heat infusing his whole body as the kiss continued. After several more seconds, both of them had to pull back for air. Inuyasha crushed her tiny frame into his chest as he continued to stroke her hair with one clawed hand, both of them panting for breath.