InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Fireside Chats ❯ Part Eight: Waking Mystery ( Chapter 8 )
Update: A few clarifications added, fixed some nonsequitur moments, adjusted some grammatical inconsistencies and streamlined the punctuation.
Part Eight: Waking Mystery
Kiniromaru leaned against a tree root, chewing thoughtfully on a blade of grass. Nearby, her stallion grazed greedily on the lush grasses of the small clearing. The sun dappled his golden coat and made his silver-flaxen mane sparkle. The horse demon let her eyes lose focus as her thoughts wandered. She was damned lucky none of her tribe had been with her when she confronted the hanyou and his group. That strange girl that the hanyou seemed particularly fond of would have blown her entire cover.
She brought a hand to her chest, fishing out the small stone-flower she wore around her neck. She knew it wasn't a Shikon fragment. But her tribe didn't know that. That's why they allowed her to be their leader - because they thought her power came from the fragment.
She wasn't an ordinary uma-youkai. She had been born to a ranking uma-youkai dam, but her sire wasn't another uma-youkai. Her sire was a hogosha-taiyoukai, a guardian demon lord. In her own way, she wasn't so different from that hanyou, but at least she could fool other demons. She had no human blood, thankfully.
Her dam had named her Kiniroko. Her name change had come later, once she'd grown to adulthood and matured into her faint hogosha-youkai powers, when she'd grown strong enough to take over leadership of the herd, and thus earned the name Kiniromaru. It was a masculine name because herds were led by stallions, not mares, but she was strong enough to defeat any challenger.
As a general rule, forest uma-youkai despised hogosha-youkai though no one quite knew why. In a way, it was like despising hanyous. No one knew exactly why they so disliked them, only that it was the thing to do when confronted with one. So if her herd of uma-youkai ever found out that she was a cross breed of uma-youkai and hogosha-youkai, they'd overthrow her or oust her.
She had convinced her herd that her power came from a Shikon fragment, to explain why she was so much stronger than them. Nijimaru hadn't approved of the deception, but so far he hadn't called her on it publicly.
She shook her head angrily, scowling. Her sire was so irritating! She couldn't understand why he hated the Shikon no Tama so much, and to hear him so publicly declaim the jewel had been embarrassing. It would have been unforgivable if that human wench had blown Kiniromaru's cover in front of any of her herdmates. Her scowl deepened. That hanyou would've been hard pressed to save that stupid girl if that had happened! As it was, Kiniromaru was less than charitable about the girl. Things could still quite easily get very ugly.
She picked up a pebble and tossed it into the tiny stream. It was all so irritating. She hated deceiving her herd, but she couldn't bear the though of telling them the truth. They'd abandon her for sure.
Her stallion nickered to her, bumping her affectionately with his head. She chuckled and patted his cheeks, scratched his forehead and then pushed him away. She loved her horse. He loved her despite all this.
Finally, she sighed and stood up. Grasping her pike, she decided that it was time she headed home. The pieces would fall where fate willed them to fall, so it was pointless to worry.
Then her hogosha senses roared in her blood.
A human in this sacred demon forest? And it wasn't that saucy wench with the hanyou, either. Kiniromaru flared her nostrils to take in the scent, searching the area with narrowed eyes. This human, though female, was far younger than that wench. It wasn't reproductively mature; it still had the scent of infancy.
The horse demon wrinkled her nose in distaste. Humans were not allowed in the sacred forest unless the reigning hogosha-taiyoukai, Nijimaru, permitted it. And Kiniromaru was quite certain that he hadn't invited this girl here. Therefore, there was nothing for Kiniromaru to do but to kill the human. That was the iron-clad rule. Humans could not come into this forest except with Nijimaru's blessing. Any who did so had to be slain quickly. Humans were a serious threat to uma-youkai, though Nijimaru never explained why. It was just something they had to take on faith, really, that humans were such a threat to their lives and peace.
Kiniromaru pulled her bow into place and nocked an arrow in it.
A little girl in a yellow-and-orange checkered kimono was foraging in a berry patch. Her shiny black hair was caught up in a spiky ponytail just above her right ear. She was very young... Kiniromaru was a poor judge of human age, but that child looked too young to be away from its mother!
I wish I didn't have to do this; it's just a foal! she thought. But I must protect this forest. Forgive me, little one. I will try to make it as painless as I can.
Kiniromaru sighted her target, the child's heart, and fired. The girl stood up the moment the arrow left the bow; the arrow missed its intended target, impaling itself instead in her abdomen. Kiniromaru flinched. Gut wounds were terribly painful and were notoriously slow at causing death. The girl screamed in pain and fear, collapsing into the berry patch. Kiniromaru swore blackly and grabbed her pike. The girl was now out of an arrow's range; she'd have to make this quick. She was better with her pike than with a bow and arrow anyway.
As she closed in on her prey, she came upon a small toad-like demon, catching him by surprise. With a swift punch and kick, she dispatched him, sending him rolling into the stream. The girl was sobbing hysterically as she pulled the arrow out. Her pitiful cries cut Kiniromaru to the quick. She had to do this -- she had no choice! It made her stomach violent with disgust even as her mind repeated over and over that she had no choice, the human must be slain.
She pinned the girl to the ground and raised her pike. "I don't want you to suffer, little one. Please understand that. I have no choice. I'm sorry."
Before the spearhead of her pike connected with the girl's chest, however, a jolt of energy struck Kiniromaru in the chest and set her backwards, throwing her against a tree. Looking up in dazed confusion, she froze in terror at who stood before her.
Three strides into the small copse of trees that he was certain contained Bokuseno, Inuyasha froze. Completely froze - as if all his muscles had ceased to function. His eyes glazed over and his body tensed.
Kagome touched his shoulder experimentally. "Inuyasha?" When he didn't respond, she tugged on his arm. "What's the matter?"
Still no response.
"Inuyasha! Come on, snap out of it! What's the matter?" She was becoming spooked by his complete stillness.
His expression became one of horror. His jaw flexed and his mouth formed her name, but no sound came from his throat.
"Inuyasha! Snap out of it!"
What do I do?she thought anxiously. What on earth is wrong? Why is he behaving like this?
I guess I have no other choice then.
The horror was unspeakable. He was surrounded by demon trees, and they were not pleased. Seriously not pleased. One of the trees held him bound tightly to its trunk, bound by root and branch so that he couldn't move at all.
The other trees were trying to tear Kagome limb from limb. Her screams of fear and agony, her pleas for him to save her, were driving him insane.
I have to protect her! I swore to protect her! Let go of me, you fucking coward tree!
Then suddenly, Kagome's body gave way. Her cries ceased abruptly. The forest floor was suddenly inundated with blood and the stench of human death.
His vision swam red as his demon blood roared through his veins, drowning his humanity. He'd avenge her.
"Foolish hanyou!" sneered the tree. "Did you honestly think you could SIT BOY!"
He tasted loam.
What the FUCK?!
"Inuyasha! What happened?"
Kagome... she was okay?
Inuyasha raised his head from the forest floor, shaking the loam out of his eyes. "Wha... what the fuck just happened?" He looked around in bewilderment. Kagome was kneeling in front of him, apparently completely unhurt. There were no visible tree roots...
"You weren't moving. I had to say it, to bring you out of whatever that was. I'm sorry, but it's the only thing I could think to do."
What the fuck was that just now? I saw the trees... I saw them kill her! Oh GOD! He reached out and grabbed her by the forearms, pulling her into a tight embrace. She was ripped apart by demon trees, and I couldn't save her!
His arms constricted around her. The images were so fresh in his mind that he could still taste the foul scent of her death.
"Inuyasha... you're squeezing... I can't breathe!"
"Oh, sorry..." he released her quickly, embarrassed that he'd gotten so emotional over that... whatever that was.
"Your worst nightmare, I imagine," a deep rumbling voice answered. The resonance and timbre of the voice was weirdly reminiscent of Ryukotsusei, but there was no malice in the voice, only timeworn sagacity. "I do apologize; my defenses are quite unpleasant, but they do their job admirably."
Inuyasha whipped Tetsusaiga out of its sheath as he whirled around. "Who are you? Where are you?"
"I am right in front of you. My name is Bokuseno." A face formed in the bark of a magnificent demon tree. "I believe you have been searching for me, Inuyasha."
"I am. I assume you seek answers. What would you have me tell you?"
Inuyasha stared dubiously at the tree. He wanted desperately to doubt this creature - it seemed too surreal that he'd found Bokuseno so easily - but he could feel Tetsusaiga resonating, almost as if in greeting. It was the same feel the sword gave off whenever Totosai was around.
Tetsusaiga recognized this tree.
"You could start by explaining why my sword recognizes you."
Bokuseno seemed unfazed by Inuyasha's surly reply. "The sheath that you keep Tetsusaiga in is made from my bark. Tetsusaiga recognizes the kinship of its sheath to me. Sesshomaru's sword, Tenseiga, has a similar sheath."
"Nice segue," Inuyasha commented. "Speaking of Sesshomaru, what the hell does he want with me?"
"If he wanted me dead, I'd be dead. He's had numerous chances, yet he squanders all chances. I've seen him in battle with others. He doesn't waste any time lecturing them. He just cuts them. But when he's fighting me, he's always running his mouth. One of my friends suggested that maybe my father appointed Sesshomaru to be a teacher to me. Is that possible?"
"Possible," Bokuseno agreed, "but not true. Your father did not really trust Sesshomaru where humans, or half-humans, are concerned. Sesshomaru's reasons for what he does are entirely his own. And they are quite straightforward.
"Sesshomaru is his father's heir, but he cannot truly inherit while you live. Therefore, he must kill you to inherit. But in his arrogance, he believes that killing you is beneath him unless you are a worthy opponent. And he believes that if you are truly your father's son, then only he will be able to kill you. In essense, he spares your life in combat with him simply because he does not believe killing you to be worth the effort. He wants to fully inherit, to be the undisputed king of the land, and if you mature into your full potential and he were to kill you, he would gain stature and power in doing so."
"That makes sense," Inuyasha said. "Sesshomaru rarely -- if ever -- does anything unless he can benefit from it."
"Therefore, while I would not say that he is training you, I will say that he is testing you, to see if you are a worthy opponent yet. You must remember that Sesshomaru is a full inu-taiyoukai. Both his mother and father were inu-taiyoukai. He has the potential to be greater than the Inu no Taisho, but he has much growing up and maturing to do as well. In fair combat, there is no way you could defeat him. You have seen displays of his powers firsthand. But even Sesshomaru himself does not know the limits of his full potential."
At some point during the demon tree's speech, Kagome noticed that Inuyasha's ears went erect and still and his body tensed. He ceased to pay attention to the demon tree's speech.
"Inuyasha, what is it?"
"I smell human blood. Fresh human blood. Very fresh human blood."
Bokuseno was silent a moment. "Humans are not allowed in this forest except as the taiyoukai ruler of the forest allows it. If a human is caught trespassing without Nijimaru's permission, the uma-youkai are duty-bound to kill it."
"There's something disturbingly familiar about that scent though. I recognize it somehow. Come on, Kagome. I have a very bad feeling about this."
Kagome hurriedly said her goodbyes to Bokuseno, thanking him for imparting his knowledge to them. The demon tree didn't reply, but she didn't exactly expect him to either.
As Inuyasha took off in the direction of the blood he smelled, Kagome tried to wrap her mind around all that had been revealed.
"I'm sure I smell Sesshomaru," Inuyasha said as he launched up into the canopy for swifter travel. "If I'm right, things may get very ugly."
last updated: August 28, 2005