InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Chronicles ❯ The Great Shippouni ( Chapter 61 )
[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~The Great Shippouni~
“There's no one here.”
InuYasha stared at the abandoned castle, tightening his grip on Tetsusaiga. “I don't like it. It's too easy.”
Miroku nodded. “And you think your book is here?”
“I don't know. It's the best lead I've had, though. Where would he keep it?”
“And you're sure Norimitsu has it, InuYasha?” Sango asked in a low tone.
InuYasha shot Kagome a glance. Kagome avoided it. She'd been so quiet since that night by the water, so withdrawn. It helped him. It saved him from having to keep himself under control. Well, sort of. No, now he just had to keep the desire to comfort her, to reassure her, at bay. It was better this way, for now.
InuYasha stifled a sigh. “Yes.”
“Why do you think Norimitsu would have it?” Miroku asked.
“He knows too much. He had to get his information from somewhere.”
Kagome put her hand over Shippou's mouth and waved at the others. “Someone's coming!”
Miroku got into position and waited as the others did the same. It had been decided that InuYasha's proposed strategy of Kaze no Kizu-ing the door open and barging inside wouldn't be conducive to searching the castle for the missing book. Miroku's plan had been a little less violent, where they were all in position to grab the first person to leave the castle gates. With any luck, it'd be someone who could tell them where they might find the diary. But it was Sango who had proposed the idea they were utilizing, which, in Miroku's opinion, was a far more subversive approach. Dressed in his familiar monk robes over his slayer clothes, he would try to gather information as a wandering Man of the Cloth.
Miroku stepped directly into the path of a young peasant woman as she lugged her cart through the castle gates. “Pardon me, Miss . . . I was wondering if you work here in the castle? If so, could I trouble you for a bit of information?”
The woman blushed. From her place hiding beside Kagome, Sango uttered an irritated growl. “Yes, I work for Norimitsu-sama . . . What sort of information, houshi-sama?”
Miroku offered his most winning smile. “I seek a book that has been rumored to be in your lord's possession. It's a diary . . . do you know if your lord is in possession of such a thing?”
The woman frowned thoughtfully and shook her head. “No . . . I can't recall seeing any such—wait! There was a book months ago . . . . in Norimitsu-sama's bureau. I was cleaning in there, you see. Small book? Brown hide? Very old?”
Miroku nodded. That was close to the description that InuYasha had given of the one he had in Kagome's time. “That sounds like it must be the one . . . you didn't by chance look inside the cover, did you? Because if you had, you would have seen the name Izayoi?”
A light flush stained the woman's cheeks prettily, and she shrugged. Slowly, cautiously, the woman nodded once. “I wasn't peeking, mind . . . but aye, that name, and another . . . InuYasha?”
Miroku bowed humbly, taking the woman's hand in his. “My heartfelt gratitude, Miss . . . .” He straightened his back and stared as the woman bowed, too. Without thinking, he reached over and rubbed. The woman screeched and hurried off with her cart as a very angry Sango stepped out from behind the bushes, brandishing Hiraikotsu menacingly.
“Give me one good reason not to clobber you, you lecher!” she growled, exasperation manifested in her movements.
“It's got to be the robes! They're cursed!” Miroku hurried to explain.
“The robes, huh? Give it a rest, pervert,” InuYasha remarked as he stomped past the couple.
Seconds later, Sango's strangled gasp filled the air followed by the crack of palm meeting cheek.
“What are you planning to do?” Kagome asked as she caught up with the hanyou.
He shot her a condescending look. “I'm going to get that diary,” he answered, as though it was obvious.
“InuYasha! You can't just waltz up there and demand it,” she pointed out in a way-too-reasonable voice.
“Hide and watch, wench.”
“No! You don't know where Norimitsu is! He could be in there, for all you know!”
“Keh! We've watched the castle for the better part of two days! If he was in there, we would've seen him. I didn't come all this way for nothing. I'm getting my mother's diary. Now move.”
“No. You don't know he's not in there, and you're not storming the castle alone, InuYasha!” The miko's aura surrounding her crackled and popped, sizzled as it reached out, seemingly of its own accord, to wrap around InuYasha's youki to contain it.
“Kagome's right,” Sango remarked as she caught up with them. “You can't just rush in there without a plan, InuYasha. Norimitsu might not be here but that doesn't mean that the castle is defenseless.” Miroku was right behind her with a bright red handprint on his cheek and a deliriously happy grin on his face.
“Keh,” InuYasha snorted, catching sight of the monk. “Serves you right. `Monk-in-Pain'. There you go.”
“I love being a monk,” Miroku said with a dreamy smile.
InuYasha rolled his eyes and brushed off Kagome's hand as he strode toward the castle gates again. Kagome didn't give up so easily. “You can't!” she insisted again.
“Listen to Kagome for once,” Miroku remarked as he and Sango got closer. Shippou hopped up on InuYasha's shoulder. “It is probably still in Norimitsu's chambers, if the woman was correct.”
“Damn it,” InuYasha growled, flexing his claws in exasperation. “We're wasting time! I'm going now!”
“Let's try to think of something else first, InuYasha!” Kagome pleaded.
“Like what? You got an idea?”
Her expression darkened as she shifted from one foot to the other. “Well, no . . . .”
“Keh! Didn't think so.”
“I could get it,” the little voice said quietly.
All eyes turned to stare at Shippou. Kagome was the first to speak. “No, Shippou. It's too dangerous.”
Shippou puffed out his chest proudly. “Keh! I'm kitsune youkai! Stealth is my middle name! Subversion is my way of life! Secrecy is my specialty . . . and I've got all those great magic tricks that I've learned, too!” Sango and Miroku exchanged worried glances. Shippou looked like he'd suddenly realized something as he hurriedly covered his nose with his little hands. “I wasn't trying to be like you, InuYasha!”
Kagome sighed, shaking her head slowly as she tried to find a way to tell the kit that he wasn't going to go. “Shippou, it's great that you wish to help, but I don't—”
InuYasha cut her off, a thoughtful frown on his face as he stared at the kitsune with a narrowed gaze. “You know, I bet the runt could do it. What do you think, Shippou? You want to try?”
Kagome's eyes widened in shock as she gaped at InuYasha. “InuYasha! No!” He ignored her and watched as Shippou hopped down and ran toward the castle gates. “What are you thinking? Go get him!”
InuYasha shook his head as Miroku spoke up, “Shippou's right. If anyone has a chance of sneaking in and getting out without getting caught, it'd be him.”
Kagome frowned as she watched Shippou transform himself into the image of the woman that had supplied them with information. He'd gotten good enough at the illusion that he didn't even have a tail.
“InuYasha, if something happens to him, I swear I'll—” Kagome warned as she twisted her hands together nervously.
InuYasha cast her an indecipherable look. “If anything happens to him, I'll let you.”
`He's worried, too . . . .'
Shippou walked calmly into the castle among the humans and the few youkai as he tried not to draw notice. `If I was Norimitsu, where would my bedchamber be? Hmm . . . .' Shippou shrugged. `Up the great staircase, of course!'
Shooting a quick glance around, he hurried up the stairs. `Here I go . . . the Great Shippouni . . . on a mission that will test my skill and daring . . . . Though many have entered, few have survived in this, the Hall of Hell . . . also known as Norimitsu's stronghold . . . .'
Peeking into the different rooms as he came to them, Shippou concentrated on keeping his disguise in place as he hurried down the hallway. `The hanyou was too noisy to be of any real help, plus he loses his temper far too easily . . . the human monk would be too distracted by the women of the castle . . . the youkai exterminator would be too busy trying to control the monk . . . Kagome probably could have done this—if she could have gotten away from InuYasha long enough to, which I doubt . . . . So that leaves me—the Great Shippouni—alone on this most important mission! This Shippouni shall not fail!'
Stopping outside the last door in the hallway, on the very end, Shippou nodded slowly. `This has to be it . . . the Great Shippouni is going in! Mission: retrieve hanyou's diary . . . .'
He opened the door and peeked inside. Norimitsu's lingering scent was overwhelming, and Shippou made a face. `He even smells foul.' The kitsune slipped into the chamber and transformed back to his normal form. `The woman said it was in a bureau . . . .'
There was only one bureau in the room. Shippou skittered over to it and rifled through the drawers, careful not to mess up anything in his search. It wasn't there. `Trouble with Mission: hanyou's diary is not here . . . ahh . . . coffers!' Vigilant to close the drawers back without making a sound, the kitsune hurried over to search through the first of three coffers at the foot of the very large futon.
With an entirely pleased, almost sinister in a wholly-childish-way laugh, Shippou pulled the old diary out of the middle coffer and held it up for inspection. `Mission: accomplished! Never send an inu-hanyou to do a kitsune's task! Keh!'
Stashing the diary inside his shirt, Shippou resumed his female disguise and hurried out of the chamber and down the stairs. `Now, just get out of here and back to the others, and I'm home free . . . .'
Shippou squelched a shocked cry as a heavy hand landed on his shoulder and spun him around. “Wench! There you are! Stop lazing around and get in the kitchen!”
“I . . . uhh . . . I have to run an errand,” Shippou hurriedly said.
The man eyed him suspiciously. “Did something happen to your voice? You sound a bit off . . . .”
Shippou coughed in the man's face. “Nothing, really, sore throat . . . very painful . . . .”
The man stepped back and shoved Shippou toward the doors. “Get ye gone, wench! We don't need ye coughing all over the food!”
Shippou didn't wait to hear more. Taking off as fast as he could, the kitsune raced across the room and out the doors, transforming back into his normal shape as he darted through the castle gates. He skidded to a stop just before Kagome grabbed him up, squeezing the life out of him in her relief. “I got it,” he choked out, digging the diary out of his shirt and handing it over to InuYasha. InuYasha stowed the diary into his haori after flipping back the cover and seeing the inscription. It was the diary. He'd recovered it, at least . . . . “Oi, wench! I can't breathe!” Shippou grouched then gasped and covered his nose as he shot a fearful glance at the hanyou.
InuYasha did reach for the kitsune's head. Shippou squeezed his eyes closed, waiting for the imminent tweak that never came. Instead, InuYasha ruffled his hair. “Not bad, runt. Not bad.” InuYasha turned to lead them away from the castle but stopped short at the equally stunned looks on the exterminators' faces. “What?” he growled as he deliberately stalked off between them. Shippou lunged out of Kagome's arms to land on InuYasha's shoulder.
“What was that?” Sango asked incredulously.
“I can't say that's a positive development,” Miroku remarked with a shake of his head.
Kagome passed them both. Neither missed the small smile on the miko's face.
“That was odd.”
Miroku nodded. “Let's hope he doesn't really take after InuYasha. One hot head is enough.”
Sango nodded, too, before falling in step behind Kagome. “Let's go.”
“And for my next illusion, I need two volunteers . . . . InuYasha and Kagome! You two look like good sports!”
InuYasha shot Kagome a sidelong glance. Sitting across from him on her bedroll, Kagome didn't look like she really wanted anything at all to do with him, not that he could really blame her. This entire trip had been nothing but a battle of wills: his desire to protect her from his baser instincts, and her need to be near him, to draw comfort from him. The trouble with that was that he really couldn't stand to be near her because those impulses were getting harder and harder to ignore. Bad enough in the beginning. It used to be that kissing was the only thing that triggered the tell-tale shifting in her scent. Lately, though, it only seemed to take an innocent look. Why that was, he wasn't sure. `Baka . . . because of that stupid stunt you pulled in the stream that one day . . . the test backfired on you. Kagome saw what you wanted her to see, and now you're paying the price for that. That's what you get for not thinking your plan through . . . . Keh!'
But Kagome got up and walked over to Shippou, which meant that she fully expected him to do the same, and after Shippou had so brilliantly executed the diary mission, he really didn't have the heart to deny the kit a bit of fun. Shaking back his raven locks—he hated that he was human and vulnerable for the night—he stood and headed over to the kitsune and miko.
Miroku and Sango, with Kirara curled on her lap, sat in rapt attention, waiting for this new `trick'. Shippou grinned at both InuYasha and Kagome. “Hold out your hands, please.”
They both did. Shippou frowned. “A little closer, please.” They complied again. InuYasha rolled his eyes. A sudden `snick, snick' and a smooth cold something against his wrist, and InuYasha gaped at the shiny metal ringlet that encompassed his wrist—and at the matching one around Kagome's.
“Shippou . . . .”
Shippou giggled. “Now for the magic words, and the manacles will miraculously disappear!” Waving the small black wand, the kitsune drew a deep breath and said, “Abracadabra! Make the shackles disappear!”
And, of course, the handcuffs stayed right where they were.
“Shippou,” Kagome began, trying to keep her tone even, “please tell me you have the key . . . ?”
“Fucking now, runt,” InuYasha threatened.
Covering his head with one hand, the kitsune waved the other as if to stall the thumping he knew was brewing in InuYasha's mind. “All right . . . I'll unlock you if you really want me to . . . .” Shippou dug around in his magic kit box as InuYasha glowered at the kit. Kagome shifted her weight from one leg to the other nervously. “Umm . . . I . . . umm . . . I can't find the key . . . .”
“What?” InuYasha bellowed.
Miroku and Sango exchanged amused glances. “Bet he lost it on purpose,” Miroku muttered. Sango nodded.
“You'd better fucking find it, runt, or I'll thump you good!”
Kagome winced at the absolute hostility in InuYasha's tone. She turned as best as she could and started rummaging through the box with her free hand. “Shippou, where did you put that key?” she demanded, her voice rising in panic.
“I had it in there, honest!” Shippou whined, wringing his hands nervously.
“Damn it, Shippou, get over here so I can thump you!”
“Fuck! You do it! You can reach him better than I can!”
“I'm not thumping him!”
“Miroku! Sango! Help me!” Shippou squealed, launching himself over InuYasha and Kagome's arms and straight onto Sango's lap. He landed on Kirara who shrieked out a frightened yowl. Miroku jumped up as Kirara swiped at him with her paw since he had been holding Sango's hand and was therefore the first thing that Kirara saw when rudely awakened. Sango tried to restrain the fire cat youkai as well as the kitsune, who was trying to crawl into her body, if his frantic movements meant anything. InuYasha growled menacingly. Kagome started to cry.
“Oi! No crying, wench!” InuYasha snarled. “What the hell are you crying for?”
“I'm not crying!” she sobbed. “I'm going to bed!” Her grand exit was halted when InuYasha refused to budge from his spot. The cuff around her wrist stopped her, and she stumbled back. “What are you waiting for? Break it!”
InuYasha glared at her. “That anxious to be rid of me? Fine!”
“I'm not the one acting like you don't exist, baka!”
“Keh!” Grabbing hold of the slack chain between their joined wrists, InuYasha tried to jerk them apart. Kagome yelped as the cuff cut into her wrist, and he immediately stopped. “Damn it!”
With a frustrated sigh and a quiet sniffle, Kagome sat down, her arm raised, supported by the handcuff and InuYasha. “I thought you said you were going to bed,” he grumbled.
“Well, I can't since you won't move,” she replied mulishly.
“Come on, Miroku, let's go wash that out,” Sango remarked as she examined the lacerations on the back of Miroku's hand. The two exterminators and the kitsune hurried toward the nearby river.
Kagome jumped when InuYasha stuck his free hand under her nose. She ignored it and stood up, stiffly walking over to her bedroll and flopping down with a wince as his wrist tugged hers. “Easy, wench. I'm human tonight, remember?”
She sighed as he sat down behind her, leaning forward enough that she could comfortably move her arm. “I remember.”
He winced at her sad, defeated tone.
The stars reflected off the mirror of the lake, a myriad of colors dancing in the night. A soft breeze rippled over the humans and kitsune. Shippou sighed and stared at the water.
“Hand it over, Shippou,” Miroku finally said, flexing his hand under the bandage that Sango had carefully applied.
Shippou dug into his shirt and pulled out the tiny silver key. “How'd you know?”
Miroku shook his head. “Come now, Shippou. I know every trick in the book, remember? And I saw you stick it in your shirt.”
Shippou sighed again. “They have to talk, Miroku. If they don't talk, InuYasha will never take Kagome as his mate, and if he doesn't do that, then he'll mess up everything.”
“Everything?” Sango echoed.
Shippou shrugged, his little shoulder drooping slightly. “All I wanted since my father died was a family. That's all, I swear . . . I just thought maybe . . . .”
Miroku smiled. “Well, your heart's in the right place. Tell you what. Unless it seems as though it will do more harm than good, I'll keep the key until tomorrow morning.”
Shippou dashed a hand over his eyes. “You . . . you will?”
Miroku ruffled the kit's hair. “Far be it for me to ruin your dream.”
Shippou finally smiled, and the three stared at the lake in silence.
Sango, Miroku, and Shippou with Kirara curled around him slept soundly.
In the middle of the night darkness, InuYasha kept watch over his sleeping friends. Careful not to disturb the chain between his wrist and Kagome's, he shifted and sighed. `Damn that kit . . . I know he did this on purpose . . . what the hell is with everyone? Why do they care so much about what happens between Kagome and me?'
Staring at the dancing flames, he frowned. He hadn't found Norimitsu but at least he'd been able to recover the diary. `I'll find him, too, and I'll make him talk . . . .'
Another odd thing he'd noticed today suddenly occurred to him. They'd run into a couple of weaker youkai earlier, and when he'd drawn Tetsusaiga, he'd noticed that the blue aura around the blade had diminished again, almost the same shade of bluish-white that he'd first noticed the night that Kouga had tried to take Kagome, the first night he'd seen the Aoirotoku in action.
Startled out of his musings by the sound of Kagome's voice, he sighed. “Thought you were sleeping.”
“Can I ask you something?”
Something in the tone of her voice made his chest ache. “I ain't stopping you.”
She sighed, and he heard her swallow hard, as though she was trying not to cry. “Have you . . . did you . . . . It's okay if you've changed your mind, you know? I understand . . . .”
His frown darkened. “Changed my mind? About what?”
“About you and . . . and me . . . .”
He could hear the thickness in her voice, the tears that swelled in her throat. “You can tell me. I won't hate you.”
“Keh! Stop talking nonsense, wench. Of course I haven't changed my mind . . . . Have you?”
“No,” she sniffled. “But why—?”
He made a sound midway between a growl and a sigh. “I just . . . I've got a lot on my mind, that's all.”
She rolled over onto her back to stare up at him. Her eyes were dark, shadowed. She was hurting, and it was his fault. He wanted to give her what she needed, the reassurance that he still wanted to be with her. For now, though, there wasn't much he could offer without damning himself, too. “And you can't tell me what these things are?”
“Don't worry,” he muttered. “Go to sleep. We've got a long way to go tomorrow.”
“Okay,” she agreed softly. “InuYasha . . . will you kiss me?”
He stared at her for a moment then leaned over, placing a warm kiss on her forehead. “Now go to sleep,” he said gruffly.
He didn't miss the tears in her gaze as she closed her eyes. A terrible melancholy seemed to flow from her, touching him deep, leaving his own soul aching. He reached out to touch her but stopped. He couldn't, not yet, not until he'd found some sort of foundation, some sort of stability. He owed her that. He owed her a lot.
Surrendering to an exhausted sleep, InuYasha sighed when Kagome's breathing evened out. Stroking her hair with his human fingers, InuYasha closed his eyes against the pain that surrounded her, as thick and stifling as Naraku's miasma had been but in a completely different way.
As though she could feel his touch in her sleep, Kagome sighed and shifted, turning her head toward him as she nestled her cheek against his palm. He leaned over again, kissing her cheek, her eyes, her nose. She didn't stir.
`Baka! Just a little longer, Kagome . . . let me get a few more answers . . . for us.'
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Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Chronicles): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.