InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Desideratum ❯ Ashes to Ashes ( Chapter 4 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter 4~~
~Ashes to Ashes~


Sango scowled as she stared at Miroku's back.  Striding along, using his shakuju as a walking staff, the monk stared straight ahead, seemingly oblivious to the taijya's ardent attention.

"Earth to Sango-chan . . . Are you okay?"

Sango blinked and forced her gaze away from the monk, eyes shifting to meet Kagome's worried gaze.  "I'm sorry," she replied.  "You were saying?"

Kagome frowned, eyes clouding with concern, and she wrinkled her nose as she adjusted the straps of her backpack and scowled thoughtfully.  "You've been like this all day," Kagome remarked.  "Is something wrong?"

She shot Kagome an apologetic glance and shrugged, hitching Hiraikotsu more securely over her shoulder as she hastened her step and lifted her chin.  "Of course not, Kagome.  I was just thinking, I suppose."

"You're sure?" she asked, her voice tinged with a suspicious lilt.

Sango forced a bright smile.  "We should be reaching Bunza's village soon enough."

Kagome sighed.  "I've been a horrible friend lately, haven't I?"

Caught off guard by Kagome's softly uttered question, Sango stopped and turned to stare at her.  "Why would you say that?"

Giving a slight shrug, Kagome kept her gaze trained on the path beneath their feet.  "I just mean that I've been so caught up feeling sorry for myself that I haven't really been listening, have I?"

Sango clucked her tongue and quickly shook her head.  "That's not true, and you've had every reason to be upset."

Kagome winced.  "Maybe, but that still isn't an excuse . . . I'm sorry."

"Don't be.  You've always been there for me.  It's your turn to let us support you for once."

Forcing a wan smile, the miko shrugged and adjusted the strap of her backpack.  "So tell me . . . What's bothering you?"

Sango tamped down the furious blush that threatened to stain her skin.  "Nothing," she replied hurriedly.  "Nothing at all . . ."

"Is something wrong with you and Miroku?"

Sango missed a step and hoped that Kagome didn't notice.  "Not really," she insisted when one of Kagome's eyebrows shot up in silent question.  "I'm sure I'm just imagining things."

"Things?  What sort of things?" Kagome pressed gently.

Sango sighed.  "He's been a little distracted lately . . . nothing important, I'm sure."

Kagome digested that in silence, frowning as she stared at the monk's back.  Shippou was perched atop his shoulder while Bunza strode ahead of them, chin lifted proudly, leading the way along the path toward his village.

"I hope that we're not too late," Sango mused, following the direction of Kagome's stare.  "I wish Inu—"

Kagome winced as Sango cut herself off.  Lowering her eyes as she scowled at the dirt path, Sango's cheeks blossomed with color that she couldn't suppress.  She hadn't meant to say that . . . Stealing a glance at Kagome, she bit her bottom lip.  She wasn't crying, but her eyes were suddenly awash with tears that she stubbornly held back, making Sango feel even lower than she already did for the careless slip of the tongue.

"Kagome-chan, I'm sorry."

Kagome shook her head and blinked furiously, a slight quivering of her lips belying the calm in her tone.  "Don't be."  Her voice lowered almost to a whisper, and she dashed the back of her hand over her eyes.  "I miss him, too."

Sango started to tell her that she was sure that InuYasha was fine, wherever he was.  Bunza's yell interrupted her.  Turning to follow the direction of the lynx-youkai's outstretched finger, Sango gasped when she saw it: the thick, billowing cloud of acrid black smoke rising over the trees in the distance.  Miroku hollered at Kirara, and in the blink of an eye, the fire-cat-youkai transformed.  He hopped onto her back as Sango broke into a sprint to catch up with the monk, vaulting onto Kirara just before the cat leapt into the sky.

"What do you think is going on?" Sango murmured quietly.

Bunza climbed onto Kirara's head as Miroku shot her a worried glance.  "I don't know," he replied, his tone carefully calm despite the feeling of foreboding that was so palpable that she could almost touch it.

"My papa's all right, isn't he?" Bunza asked, his eyes lit with concern and a choking sense of fear.

"I hope so," Miroku said, unable to summon more reassurance than that.

Sango winced.  Something in his voice sounded so final—too final.  Without thinking about it, she reached around him, squeezed Miroku's hand.  Miroku spared her another glance and tried to smile.  "We'll do what we can, right, Sango?"

Sango nodded and glanced over her shoulder to see Shippou's inflated form trailing behind them.  So far away that Kagome appeared no more than a misshapen blob on the bright pink Shippou-balloon, Sango tried not to think about how wrong it seemed to her.  Too used to seeing Kagome huddled against InuYasha's shoulder as the hanyou sprinted wherever they were heading, the sight of the miko with the youkai child . . . Somehow it made Sango want to cry . . .


:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:


InuYasha glared from his half-brother to the strange hanyou and back again.  Defenses high as he cracked his knuckles and reached for Tetsusaiga, his glare narrowed when Sesshoumaru uttered an unnerving sound—one InuYasha had never heard from him before.  He chuckled.  "Be not a fool, InuYasha.  This is neither the time nor place for me to see you dead."

"As if you could kill me!" InuYasha scoffed without taking his hand off Tetsusaiga's hilt.  "What the fuck are you doing here, bastard?"

Bored gaze flicking over his half-brother in an entirely dismissive sort of way, Sesshoumaru didn't look away.  "Where is your miko?"

Grinding his teeth together in an effort to suppress the pang brought on by the blatant reminder, InuYasha snorted.  "Keh!  None of your business."

"So you've misplaced her?"

"Shut the fuck up!"

Sesshoumaru smiled just a little though there was no actual humor in the expression, only a sense of condescending loathing.  "Still as ill-tempered as ever, I see."

InuYasha's gaze shifted from his irritating sibling to the strange hanyou beside him before flicking back to Sesshoumaru's face once more.  "Who the hell is that?" he demanded, jerking his head to indicate the intruder without actually acknowledging him.

"Who, indeed?" Sesshoumaru replied, his expression shifting into a narrow-eyed scowl.

"I'm not in the mood for your games, bastard," InuYasha snarled.  "Either tell me what the hell you want, or get the fuck outta my forest."

"I see you did not exaggerate about his foul disposition," the strange hanyou commented, his gaze mocking, the half-smile on his face almost insincere.

"Odd.  I thought I understated it," Sesshoumaru remarked dryly.

InuYasha glowered at Sesshoumaru for another minute before shifting his eyes to the side to assess the hanyou.  "Who the hell are you?"

The hanyou started to speak.  Sesshoumaru's hand shot out to silence him.  "Who he is matters not.  Your business is with me.  This Sesshoumaru simply dispatched Sora to lead you here."

"That Sesshoumaru can kiss my ass," InuYasha growled without taking his eyes off the hanyou.

Sesshoumaru held his hand out.  Sora bowed slightly before shrugging off the beat-up, dirty brown backpack.  Scowling as he dug a black folder out of the bag, he handed it over before refastening the buckles and slinging it back over his shoulder again.

Sesshoumaru looked over the contents of the folder, an altogether nasty smile surfacing on his features before he tossed it onto the ground at InuYasha's feet.

"What the fuck is that?" InuYasha demanded without sparing the folder even a moment's glance.

Sesshoumaru's smile dissipated.  "It's your future, baka."

"I don't want or need a thing from you," InuYasha assured him.

Sesshoumaru stepped forward slowly, deliberately.  The strange clothing he wore—Kagome had called it a suit—seemed to add even more coldness to his already frigid façade.  Something else struck him as strange, but he didn't bother to try to figure out why.  "I don't care if you want it or not.  Times are different, half-breed, and you will not embarrass me."

"All the more reason for you to shove that folder straight up your ass.  As if I give a shit if I embarrass you or not."

"It matters not to me, InuYasha.  Sora, call him."

The hanyou dug a little black device out of his pocket and flipped it open.  The soft beeps that sounded as he pushed the buttons made InuYasha's hackles rise, and he couldn't quite stop the low growl as he jammed his hands up his sleeves to keep from using Tetsusaiga to silence it.

"Good day, Houjou-san . . . yes, this is Sora . . ."

InuYasha growled at the mention of that particular name, balling his hands into fists as he clenched his jaw and glared at his deranged half-sibling.  Sesshoumaru didn't even blink.

"What the hell is that all about?" InuYasha demanded.

"I arranged for a tutor for you, baka.  Houjou-san was to instruct you."

"Houjou?" he snarled, caught somewhere between outrage and disbelief.  "As in, the little shit that used to bug Kagome all the time?"

This time, Sesshoumaru chuckled, as though he were enjoying InuYasha's displeasure.  He probably was.  "Yes, Houjou . . . I know nothing of his . . . bugging . . . the miko, however, he was highly recommended by the university, so unless you think that he is too smart for you . . ."

InuYasha erupted in a low growl again.  "He ain't fucking smarter than me.  Go to hell, bastard!  I don't need your help."

The expression that surfaced on the youkai's features spoke volumes about his agreement with InuYasha's claim.  "In any case, he's definitely the best one for this task."

InuYasha uttered a terse snort.  "Keh."

Sesshoumaru stared at him for a long minute then shrugged.  "I should have known that you would be too afraid to try."

"Afraid?  To try what?"

Eyes narrowing in silent warning that InuYasha summarily ignored, Sesshoumaru raised an articulated eyebrow.  "Afraid to carve out a life for yourself here . . . or are you giving up before you even try?"

"Go to hell, Sesshoumaru," InuYasha growled, cracking his knuckles.  For reasons that InuYasha didn't understand and didn't really care to think about, Sora chuckled at him.

Sesshoumaru nodded at the folder on the ground.  "Being a half-breed doesn't make you worthless, InuYasha.  Being a coward does."

InuYasha started to reach for Tetsusaiga.  Stifling a low growl, he stooped instead and retrieved the file.  Scowling at the strange papers, he could only make sense out of one of them.  'Akamori InuYasha,' it said.  "What the hell is all of this?"

"Those are everything you need to exist in this world, baka," Sesshoumaru said.  "Take them and invent yourself or remain forever a worthless half-breed."

"Bastard," InuYasha gritted out from between tightly clenched teeth.  "I hate your fucking riddles!"

Staring at him for several long seconds, Sesshoumaru's expression remained impassive.  When he finally did speak, his words were clipped, as though InuYasha had succeeded in getting on his nerves at last.  "As I've stated, InuYasha: either you do what needs to be done so that you don't dishonor your father or me, or you come to my house, and I'll see you dead."

Taking a step closer to his half-brother, InuYasha did not back down.  "Why don't you shove your threats up your ass?"

"Would you like me to . . . take care of him for you?" Sora asked, keeping his gaze trained on InuYasha's face though his question was directed toward Sesshoumaru.  The almost smug little grin on his face hadn't dissipated, and for reasons that InuYasha didn't really understand, that grin was almost enough to goad him into losing the little bit of patience that he had left.

"If you think you can, then by all means," InuYasha ground out.

"Do not waste your time, Sora," Sesshoumaru interrupted dryly as he turned on his heel to walk away.   "We are finished here."

Sora spared a moment to bow before following Sesshoumaru without a word.

InuYasha didn't look away until the two had disappeared into the trees.  Gaze falling back on the folder in his hand, he snorted.  'Keh!  That bastard . . . always dishing out stupidity . . . I don't need his fucking help!  I don't need—'

The sudden flash of brown eyes and black hair . . . the gentlest smile and softest laughter carried on the breeze.  InuYasha gritted his teeth again, closing his eyes as he grimaced at the sharp pain that stabbed at his chest.

'Kagome . . .'

He opened his eyes, told himself not to bother looking around.  She wouldn't be there, as much as he wished otherwise.  He couldn't stand the disappointment, and yet . . .

And yet his gaze still traversed the forest.  His chest still constricted painfully when he saw the trees, the leaves, the rich, brown earth, and no Kagome.

Dropping the folder on the ground, InuYasha jerked Tetsusaiga from the magnolia wood scabbard.  Unleashing an infuriated howl as the blade transformed into the beloved sword of the fang, he heaved it over his head, holding the hilt in both hands before bringing it down onto the earth with a ferocity that shook the ground.  Yellow-white streaks of flame shot out of the blade, ripping deep gashes in the dirt until the flames converged, exploding against a gnarled old tree.  The detonation of wood splinters and dust clouded the air but did nothing to assuage the anger that still ravaged InuYasha's emotions.

Letting go of the sword, InuYasha fell to his hands and knees.  Claws scraping the rich, damp earth only to leave empty indentations in the ground, he crumbled forward, rested his forehead against the forest floor.  How could such an innocent wish be twisted into something so ugly, so tainted?

'I just wanted to stay with her,' he told himself, chanting it over and over in his head like a mantra.  'I just wanted to belong with Kagome . . .'

He hadn't felt quite so lost; quite so alone in such a long time.  He hadn't felt that way since . . .

'Since Kagome woke me up . . . since Kagome saved me . . .'

Eyes stinging, nose tingling, he felt the tears rising.  Squeezing his eyes closed, he shook his head, groaned softly as his chest constricted, another painful wave of desolation ripping through him with the force of a gale wind.  The tears would not come.  Maybe it wouldn't have been so painful if he had at least been left with some sort of hope.  What hope could there be for a damned soul?  What sort of answers could he find in something that held no logic, no reason?  Kagome had given him a reason to fight.  Kagome, Sango, Shippou, and Miroku . . . The friends he had told himself that he didn't need; the family he used to think he didn't want.  They were all gone, weren't they?  Five hundred years . . . They couldn't have survived five hundred years.

'Shippou!' InuYasha thought suddenly, head snapping up as he sat back on his heels.  Sesshoumaru had lived through those years, hadn't he?  If he had, then maybe Shippou . . .

If he could find him, maybe the kitsune could answer some of the questions that plagued him.

'Then again,' he amended with a grimace as he pushed himself to his feet once more.  The questions about Kagome . . . Had she been happy?  Had she found a life for herself that hadn't included him?  InuYasha swallowed hard.

Maybe some questions were best left unanswered . . .


:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:O:


Kagome stared around at the smoldering embers and dying flames of the once proud lynx-youkai village.  Smoke stung her eyes, burned her nose, and as she picked her way through the packed earth path, she slowly shook her head.

They were too late.

In the distance, she could hear Bunza's frantic cries as he called out time and again for his father, for anyone he knew.  There were no answers; just the crackle of burning wooden supports and the blazing fields . . .

'If InuYasha had been here . . .'

She shook her head quickly.  Thinking about him wouldn't really help at all.  No matter how many times she wished that he were still here, it didn't change a thing.  Even if he had been there, it wouldn't have guaranteed that he would have been able to stop the oni that had laid waste to the village.

It looked as though the lynx-youkai had fought bravely.  The signs of struggle were conspicuous even in the rubble left behind.  Shippou hopped onto Kagome's shoulder, covering his nose with his tiny paw-like hands.  "Kagome?  They're all gone, aren't they?  All of them . . ."

Kagome swallowed hard and nodded.  "Yes, Shippou.  I think they are."

"And Bunza's father?  He's gone, too?"

Kagome didn't answer right away.  Lifting her chin and squinting as she tried to see through the billowing smoke, she spotted Miroku ducking into the huts, looking for any survivors while Sango did the same on the other side of the path.  Bunza's voice was fading in the distance.

"I think . . . I think he's gone, as well."

"So he's an orphan, like me," Shippou mused sadly.  "Will he stay with us, Kagome?"

"I . . . I don't know."

Shippou hopped down and shifted his gaze around the ruins.  "Even if we had gotten here in time," he mumbled, dashing the back of his hand over his eyes, "without InuYasha . . ."

Kagome gritted her teeth and knelt beside the kitsune.  "You listen to me, Shippou," she said, determination lending her voice a strength that she didn't really feel deep down.  "Even if InuYasha . . . Even if he . . . that doesn't mean we'd have gotten here on time . . . besides that, we're strong, too.  Miroku and Sango . . . and I can be strong . . . InuYasha wouldn't want us to give up.  Don't you know that?"

Shippou bit back his tears and slowly turned to face Kagome.  "You're right," he agreed.  "I can be strong, too!"

"Of course you can," she assured him.  "We all can, can't we?"

"Kagome?"

"Hmm?"

Shippou shuffled his feet in the dirt and scrunched up his shoulders, chin dropping as though he were afraid to look her in the eye.  "Is he ever coming back?"

"I don't know," she said.  "I just don't know."

Shippou whipped around suddenly, scanning the area behind them.

"Shippou?"

The kitsune darted off, scampering through the debris and completely ignoring Kagome.  She got to her feet as he disappeared into the fog of smoke.  "Shippou!"

"Kagome-chan, what's wrong?"

Kagome glanced at Sango as the youkai exterminator skidded to a stop beside her.  "Shippou just ran off," she explained.  "He acted like he heard something . . . or sensed something."

Sango didn't wait to hear more, and Kagome hurried along behind.  The jingling of Miroku's Shakuju rang out as he joined the women.  "Shippou!" Sango called, glancing back and forth as her high ponytail swung around her shoulders.  "Shippou, answer me!"

The kitsune stepped out onto the path in front of them, a perplexed sort of expression creasing his brow as he scratched his head thoughtfully.

"Shippou!" Kagome exclaimed as she ran to the child and snatched him up.  "Why did you run off like that?"

"I sensed . . . something," he told her.

"The oni?" she pressed.  "But—"

"Not the oni," he insisted.  "It felt like . . . like we were being watched."

Miroku scowled at the surrounding trees.  "He's right," he agreed at length.  "I can feel it, too."  Raising his voice, he jammed the tip of his staff into the ground.  "Whoever is there, come out and show yourself."

The forest remained still, silent—too silent.  As though not even the trees dared to stir, the effect was eerie, and Kagome couldn't help but tighten her hold on Shippou's small frame.

"They're gone . . . all gone," Bunza said sadly, shuffling down the path from the village.  His eyes were dull, vacant, too shocked to feel much of anything, Kagome supposed.  As much as she hated to see the youth in such a state, maybe it was better that way.  Time enough to mourn his loss later, when he wasn't standing in the midst of the place that he used to call 'home'.

"Bunza . . ." Sango began, taking a few halting steps toward the lynx-youkai.

Bunza drew himself up proudly, face screwing up in a determined scowl.  "Thank you for your help," he told them.  "I guess I don't need you anymore."

"Come with us," Kagome said, letting Shippou hop onto Miroku's shoulder so that she could step up beside Sango and kneel before the child.  "You can't stay here alone . . . You can come with us, if you'd like."

Bunza's cheeks reddened as he shook his head.  "I must rebuild my village," he decided.  "That's what my father would have wanted."

"Your father would have wanted you to be safe, Bunza," Sango said softly.  "My family—my village . . . they were all destroyed by Naraku.  Come with us now, and someday you can come back here and rebuild your village, but in order to do that, you have to live, right?"

Bunza stared at Sango for a moment but finally nodded.  "Humans are weak," he decided as a quickly dashed a trembling hand over his eyes.  "I can protect you."

Kagome watched as Sango picked up the youth and hugged him close.  The look on the slayer's face tore at Kagome's heart, and she choked back a wash of tears.  Did it matter how many years it had been since Sango had first lost her village?  No, Kagome supposed it didn't.  In the end, the pain would always be there, just below the surface, and maybe the only thing that made it bearable was the support of those that she called her friends.

'InuYasha . . . I miss you . . .'

"Let's go," Miroku finally interrupted, though not unkindly.  "There's nothing more we can do here."

They trudged along the path in silence, oblivious to the pale violet eyes that peered out at them from the darkest shadows of the trees.


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A/N
:
Sora: Sky.
Shakuju: Miroku's staff.
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Final
Thought from Shippou:
I know I sensed something there
==========
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Desideratum):  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.

~Sue~
Chapter 3
Chapter 5
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