InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Fireside Chats ❯ Part Fifteen: To Be Or Not To Be ( Chapter 15 )
Disclaimer: The chant in Kiniromaru's dream is quoted from William Shakespeare's "Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" 3.1.58. The lines Kiniromaru says at the end of the chapter are from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" epilogue.
Author's Note: O.O holy crap... the contents and events of this chapter took ME by surprise. I hope this was worth the wait - it took me a long time to actually write. Dude, I think my muse switched places with Naraku! Don't lynch me! For more information on the story henceforth, please see the Author's Afterword at the end of this chapter.
Update: A few clarifications added, adjusted some grammatical inconsistencies and streamlined the punctuation.
Part Fifteen: To Be or Not To Be
"Damn, it's been a week now and she still won't talk to us," Miroku jabbed the ground with his staff in irritation. "She hasn't made a move against us, and Kagome hasn't seen any major changes in the Jewel shard."
"Patience, Monk," Sango said dryly. "After all, patience is a virtue."
"Boy, Miroku has no virtue at all, does he?" Shippo commented.
"Pardon me?" Miroku grunted as a vein popped out on his forehead and his eyebrows twitched.
Kagome snickered at the banter and pressed a warm, damp cloth to Kiniromaru's forehead. The demon had taken a turn for the worse overnight. She had refused to speak to anyone, even Shippo, who was trying his best to be as cute and cuddly and harmless as possible to try and cajole her into talking to them. She also refused any proffered food, preferring to forage for herself outside. Like her equine nature, she ate grass, but unlike a horse, she actually plucked the blades of grass and gathered a handful before eating it.
"Watch it, Mutt-face! Don't try that again, or I'll rip your throat out!"
"I'd like to see you try that, wolf-cub!"
Kagome sighed. Koga and Inuyasha still didn't get along, though they refrained from fighting too much in front of Kiniromaru. Right now they were carving up a giant boar that Ginta and Hakkaku had managed to capture and subdue until Koga delivered a killing blow. The boar would feed the wolf-demons, their wolf underlings, and the rest of the group for many days.
Kiniromaru flinched and pulled away. They had brought her out into the sunshine to see if it would help her feel better. Ginta and Hakkaku sat next to Kagome, thus fulfilling her promise to Inuyasha to not be around Kiniromaru without someone else nearby, someone who could anticipate and intercept the horse demon if she made a move. The two wolf-demons were currently gorging themselves on the boar's liver, happily sharing it between them.
"What's happening?" Hakkaku asked, pausing in his feasting. "She seems restless."
"I think it's the liver. She can probably smell it and it makes her sick," Ginta reasoned. "Maybe we should move away."
"Move away from Kagome," Koga snarled, "and I'll rip out YOUR livers! Stay where you are, morons!"
It was warm and dark. It felt so safe.
Kiniromaru opened her dream-tinted eyes to find herself in a warm, misty forest... home...
A soft voice in the distance was chanting or reciting ...whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows...
"Kiniroko, why do you cry?" Mama's voice was insistent and cut through the chaos. "Do you still grieve for me?"
"Mama?" ...to die... to sleep... no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache... "Am... am I... dead?" ...that flesh is heir to... "Is this what death is like?" ...to die, to sleep... to sleep... perchance to dream...
"No, Kiniroko. This is merely a dream." ...for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause... "Your soul called to me."
"You must make a choice, Kiniromaru," another voice said. That was Nijimaru. "Your soul is splitting in two because of its dual natures."
...for who would bear the whips and scorns of time... "You are half uma-youkai and half hogosha-youkai. Sadly, you cannot be both. One part of you yearns for oblivion, to join your herdmates in death. Without the herd, you are empty, with only your hatred and anger to sustain you. Revenge is hollow, Kiniromaru. When you have exacted it, what else is there? You will still be empty."
At last she saw them. Her mother, young and vivacious, clad in her traditional armor, which she'd worn the day the demon exterminators cut her down, stood as a silent reminder of a time of peace and comfort, lost to the threads of fate. Nijimaru, radiant in his spirit-horse form, towered over Mama, a symbol of sagacity and responsibility.
...but that the dread of something after death, the undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveller returns...
Kiniromaru felt her heart constrict in anguish.
Nijimaru paced forward to stand before her and lowered his great head. His rainbow eyes caught hers and he held her gaze firmly. "There is no shame in revenge, Kiniromaru, but there is no honor in it either. Exacting revenge will not revive me or your herdmates. In the end, you will lose that which sustains you."
...thus conscience does make cowards of us all; and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought..."What else is there?" ...and with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action...
"My dear," Nijimaru said gently, "you are still my daughter. You have the blood of a hogosha-youkai in you. That part of you strives to live. It seeks find something sacred to protect, and to protect it. The Forest of Rainbows is beyond help now. Bokuseno and the other demon trees will protect themselves as they can; there is nothing more you can do for them. But you may still find your own place in the world.
"Because of your dual-heritage, your soul seeks two ends. Your uma-youkai nature seeks death; your hogosha-youkai nature seeks to survive. You must decide now how to end it, before the decision is taken from you.
"If you choose death -- a shameless choice, for your life ahead is fraught with pain and dangers -- you must remove the Shards in your heart and allow your body to wilt. And then you must be utterly destroyed. Your heart must be torn apart, or Naraku will resurrect you for his own purposes.
"If you choose life, you must allow the young priestess to heal you. You will need to leave the Shards in your heart until the healing is completed. There is simply no other way. I cannot heal your wounds quickly enough to sustain your life; the Shards sustain your life while your body heals itself. But you must forgive humans and youkai alike for the destruction of your tribe and forest. You must find peace within yourself, or you will be consumed by your own rage. Your heart is weakened by the Shards and the poison, and your soul will become an easy victim. There is no other way, if you choose to live. You must forgive humans and try to protect them."
Kiniromaru put her face in her hands. "I'm not like you, Nijimaru. I'm not a decent person."
"You are a decent person, Kiniromaru, and I trust you to make what decisions you think are best. Should you choose death, I will welcome you into the afterlife, but if this is your choice, I ask that you pass along some information to the young priestess who has tended to you. If you seek death, at least grant them what answers we can give them.
"Ahh," Nijimaru sighed. "I have run out of time."
Kiniromaru realized the mist was dissipating. "Wait! Where are you going?"
"Kiniromaru, please listen very carefully, for what I am about to tell you is very detailed."
Sango frowned in contemplation as she pored over the texts she and Miroku had unearthed from her village's library. With the repairs on Hiraikotsu completed -- the giant boomerang presently sat on a rack, a coat of sealant curing on it -- she had thrown herself headfirst into researching the possible connections of Nijimaru. His name rang a bell but she couldn't recall anything about him. She was sure that if she'd heard his name before, that meant that someone in her village had encountered him or learned something of him, and that meant that the archives would say something. If there was a record of encounters with him, it might shed some light on why things turned out the way they did.
Because the archives were still somewhat private to Sango, she preferred to go through them alone. Miroku respected her space and spent a lot of time tending the graves, as well as taking care of menial tasks with Shippo and Kirara's help. Ginta and Hakkaku made themselves useful by hauling water and keeping the pantries stocked with foods. Koga and Inuyasha had come to an uneasy truce, at least as long as Kiniromaru was around. Once the horse demon was gone, they'd probably be back to their old ways faster than one could blink an eye.
Sango sighed in frustration as she shuffled the papers.
"Mreeew?" Kirara warbled from where she sat in Kagome's lap.
"Sango? Did you find anything?"
"No, not yet. There's so much here to dig through, and yet so much missing. This is such a nightmare to go through!"
"Mangy wolf! I oughta cut you in half for that!"
"You can't even keep up with me, Mutt-face!"
"Without those shards in your legs, neither can you!"
So much for the "uneasy truce"... Sango shook her head in resignation as Kagome stifled a laugh. Sango shuffled the pages again as Kirara crawled into her lap, and started reading yet another one.
"Hogosha youkai -- a youkai shapeshifter with guardian capabilities. Unlike a kitsune or tanuki, the hogosha youkai has few forms it can take. Generally there are two: a humanoid form, and a basic nature, or true, form. It is believed that the legendary Inu no Taisho is one of many types of hogosha taiyoukai, but this is unconfirmed.
"Hogosha youkai cannot be exterminated through traditional means. Hogosha taiyoukai are even more difficult to destroy; rumors state that only another taiyoukai can truly destroy one of the hogosha taiyoukai. Their powers are seated in their hearts, and only by tearing apart the heart can one destroy a hogosha taiyoukai or hogosha youkai.
"One of the more famous of this type of youkai is a horse hogosha taiyoukai who guards a distant demon forest, the Niji no Mori. The guardian's name is believed to be Rainbow Circle. He is many centuries old and is gifted with very strong shielding capabilities. He is also rumored to possess extraordinary healing powers, capable of regenerating damaged, diseased or destroyed vital organs. However, he is unsympathetic towards humans and it is said that no human who enters his forest ever leaves alive."
Rainbow Circle... wait a minute! That's a literal translation of...
"I found it!"
"'Regenerate damaged, diseased or destroyed vital organs'?" Miroku squinted at the page. "Interesting. Never heard of such a talent."
Kagome was just placing a damp rag on Kiniromaru's forehead when suddenly the horse demon's right hand darted up and seized her by the throat. Kagome barely had time to grunt out a surprised squawk before she found herself airborne.
Inuyasha spit out a shocked invective just as he looked up to see Kiniromaru lunge for Kagome's throat, then the horse demon threw Kagome back with a considerable amount of force. Kagome crashed into Inuyasha, who then crashed into Koga, sending all three of them sprawling into a heap. By the time they'd gotten untangled, Kiniromaru was on her feet, glaring at them. Her golden eyes are tinged with red, her aura slightly shaded the sickly red of madness.
Kagome noticed that the two shards in Kiniromaru's heart were turning black as the mare looked around. She eyed Hiraikotsu on its rack, then looked at the forge where Sango had used materials to repair her weapons. Her platinum hair drifted in the wind and her golden skin paled.
"This gods-forsaken place," she rasped, flexing her claws. "Of all the places in the world to bring me, you bring me here, the one place I never, ever wanted to come. Now I remember why I detest humans so. The taijiya killed Mama for her bones!" She turned her grief-stricken eyes on Sango. "Nijimaru couldn't save her, because the taijiya hacked her apart! She had never hurt a human without just cause -- the taijiya killed her because she was in the way and they thought her bones would make good weapons!"
Kiniromaru took a threatening step toward Sango -- and collapsed into a heap, sobbing and clutching her chest. Kagome noticed a pulse of blue power eminating from the shard in her heart that seemed larger.
"What a fine mess," Koga snorted, looking at Sango. "Mutt-face's brother killed her father, and your tribe killed her mother. And through all of this, more worthless humans caused the deaths of her packmates. I begin to see why she's so vengeful."
Inuyasha muttered gratuitous obscene language as he drew Tetsusaiga and pointed it directly at Kiniromaru. The horse demon looked at the point of the blade with something akin to relief.
She scrubbed a hand across her face; "Nijimaru spoke to me in a dream just a little while ago. He's figured out what it is you want to know. If you'll give me the chance to talk, to tell you what he wants you to know, then you can have your way with me, hanyou."
"Then start talking," Inuyasha growled. "Your unprovoked attack on Kagome sealed your grave."
Kiniromaru smirked. "We'll see about that." She paused and grabbed a handful of grass, chewing on it almost absently. "Nijimaru was a healer as well as a forest guardian. He was able to heal grave injuries and poisonings by taking the damage into himself. As a hogosha taiyoukai, his thresholds were almost limitless in the realm of mortality. The only taiyoukai to ever get the upperhand with him was Sesshomaru. Nijimaru never bothered with the Dog General. He knew better than to cross the path of the Dog General. He underestimated Sesshomaru, though, and that nearly cost him his life. Sesshomaru's poison was potent on Nijimaru because Nijimaru could heal just about anyone but himself.
"The healing you've witnessed coming from the Jewel fragment is not actually from the fragment itself. It's from a crystalization of Nijimaru's soul. You know that the Shikon no Tama is made up of souls. Therefore, by being implanted in his heart, it was able to add his soul to its own. Because the shard resided in his heart, in the very seat of his soul and his power, it became parasitic and attatched itself to him. In time it began to consume him, crystalizing his soul and his powers in a layer around the shard itself. In his efforts to shield and immobilize the shard, he inadvertantly gave it free rein, and it seized control of him, draining his powers drastically. He began to feel the subtle influences of Naraku and felt the shard in his heart start to control him. He knew that the only way for him to stop the shard from consuming him entirely and putting him at the mercy of Naraku was to be killed... and because of how old he was, Nijimaru believed the only one who could kill him was Sesshomaru.
"Sesshomaru is a taiyoukai, and understands that to kill a taiyoukai, you must destroy the source of power, the seat of the soul. Sesshomaru would know to shred Nijimaru's heart in order to defeat him."
Kiniromaru paused, plucking more grass and chewing on it thoughtfully.
"Nijimaru couldn't manipulate situations, but he could take advantage of opportunities as they arose. When he saw Sesshomaru go into a killing rage, he decided that that was his chance to finally be freed of the prison the shard had made of his own body. But because I was caught in the middle of it, it made things difficult. You see, when Nijimaru saw that I was fatally wounded -- but not killed -- by Sesshomaru, his final thoughts were of me. He was my father, after all, even if I never referred to him as such, and his dying wish was for me to live. The shard took him at his word. When it was expelled from his heart as he died, it willed itself into Kagura's hands, and thus into my heart."
Kiniromaru laid back in the grass and pressed her hands to her eyes. "I didn't ask to be saved. I didn't want to be saved. But I didn't have a say in it. Once the shards were implanted, Nijimaru's healing powers that had crystalized with the one were awakened. Thus, what remains of his soul, encased by the fragment, has spent the time since it was implanted trying to save me, because that was Nijimaru's final thought before he expired."
She sat up, wincing. "I'm not so different from you, hanyou," she said softly. "I have two natures. I am half uma-youkai, and half hogosha youkai. The two are uneasy allies at best. Uma-youkai despise hogosha youkai for their solitary lives and their mystique. Part of me strives to join my herd in death. That is the uma-youkai in me. But part of me strives to live, to carry on. That is the hogosha youkai in me. But they can no longer coexist in me. I have to make a choice, Nijimaru said. Either to live or to die. If I live, I must give up my revenge. Which I can't be sure I could do. If I cannot forgive humans and youkai alike, eventually my hatred will consume me."
"Why don't you join us?" Kagome offered. Inuyasha and Koga both stared at her, and Miroku froze completely. "Seek your revenge against Naraku, for trying to use you. We could use your strength."
"She has a point," Sango said gently. "Please let me make amends somehow for what my people did to your mother. Join us in fighting Naraku. We can heal you and make you as good as new. Kagome has the most wonderful medicines."
Kiniromaru stared at both women incredulously. "Idiot! You don't get it, do you? I don't give a damn about this Naraku. Revenge is empty, pointless. Once Naraku has been destroyed, what else is there for me, if I make that my life's goal? Once revenge has been exacted, then what?"
The air grew uncomfortably still as each person thought on that topic.
"I have no hatred for Naraku," Kiniromaru said calmly. "If I were in his place, I'd probably do the same thing with someone like me. I'm not a good person, you know. However, I want nothing to do with him either. His battles are his own concerns, and I will not be coerced to fight someone else's fights for them." The horse demon stood up slowly. "I am what I am. I am no more than that. I'm not what Nijimaru wanted me to be. I'm not what Mama wanted me to be. I'm not even what I wanted to be. But I am who I am and what I am."
"You're half-hogosha," Kagome reasoned. "Join forces with us, help us destroy Naraku, and you'll become what you were born to be, won't you?"
"Born to be?" Kiniromaru spat savagely. "I've already done what I was born to be. I'm uma-youkai. I'm not hogosha youkai. I don't have Nijimaru's iron constitution. I don't even have Mama's unshakeable calm."
The horse demon looked up at the sky. "Rainbow Circle, they call you. I'm not like you, Nijimaru. I'm not a good person. And I'm not a guardian. I'm a horse demon. That's all I am. I'm not strong like you. I can't forget the hatred I feel for humans, and I'm not strong enough to endure alone."
She flexed the claws on her right hand. "I choose death," she choked out as, with a quick darting jab, she stabbed herself in the heart with two of her claws. She slumped to her knees as she felt around inside the muscle tissues until she'd located the two shards, and with a tearing jerk, wrenched them out.
"You gave me the choice, Nijimaru. To be, or not to be. I choose not to be." She dropped the shards in the grass and pressed a hand over her bleeding chest. "Inuyasha," she said softly, staying his name to his face for the first time. "If you have a shred of decency or humanity, you will destroy me. You will see to it that nothing survives but ashes. I don't want to be used by Naraku again."
Inuyasha raised Tetsusaiga in response. "No arguments here."
"Stop!" Kagome said frantically. "Kiniromaru, you can't mean that you want to die! That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!"
"What, just because you humans are too stubborn to die, I have to be the same? I'm not human, you idiot! A horse that is crippled cannot survive. Dogs and wolves can get along without a leg. You saw yourself -- Sesshomaru is unhindered by the loss of his left arm, even when transformed into his spirit-dog form. But a three-legged horse would not survive. What do you do when a horse shatters a leg beyond repair? You kill it out of mercy. Horses are fragile creatures. My nature is that of a horse."
"Inuyasha, if you raise that sword any higher, I'll yell the word!" Kagome shouted at Inuyasha. "I'll yell it until your back breaks!"
Kiniromaru dug her claws into the ground and hurled a clod of dirt at Kagome. "Stay out of this, you stupid human!"
"I told you all," Inuyasha growled, "that if it came to it that she needed to be put down, that I would do it. We've learned what we needed to, and she's asking me to put her out of her misery. Don't try and mess things up!"
Miroku put a hand on Kagome's shoulder. "He's right, Kagome. Kiniromaru isn't human. She's suffering, can't you see that? And Naraku won't leave her alone. Not if he can so easily sway that hatred to his favor."
"Destroy me," Kiniromaru said with a shuddering sob, "and release me from this shell of a body, so that I can finally be at peace. I want to go with Mama and Nijimaru..."
"Everyone stand back," Inuyasha ordered as he raised Tetsusaiga again, glaring pointedly at Kagome. Miroku dutifully put his hands over Kagome's mouth to prevent her from Sitting him into the underworld.
"Forgive me," Kiniromaru murmured, her face contorted in pain, "I tried... but I can't prevent it any longer... the hogosha youkai in me strives to live. Please, use whatever technique you have to thoroughly annihilate me..."
She no longer crouched there. Instead, her spirit-horse form loomed menacingly over them. The force of the youki winds spiraled around her.
*Forgive me. I did not wish this to happen... Please, set me free...*
"Inuyasha! Use the Backlash Wave on her!" Sango yelled. "Even I can feel her demonic winds!"
"The Wind Scar alone won't tear her to pieces like she wants," Miroku added. "Sango's right, use the Backlash Wave, if you can!"
"I'm way ahead of you guys!" Inuyasha launched at the golden mare as she spat a shower of ice at him, throwing all of her demonic power into the attack. With a heave of Tetsusaiga, he unleashed the Backlash Wave at her, using the Wind Scar to seize Kiniromaru's aura and attack and turn it against her. The mare didn't scream as the whirlpools of energy began to tear her flesh apart. Instead, she seemed relieved.
As the Backlash Wave dissipated, a single, long platinum strand of hair settled on Inuyasha's haori. It was all that was physically left of Kiniromaru.
A soft breeze wandered through the silent village, as the ghostly voice of the departed horse demon sang out, as if in relief
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you...
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
Inuyasha sheathed Tetsusaiga and looked skyward. "Be at peace, Kiniromaru. You didn't deserve what all you had to go through."
Author's Afterword: If you're wondering why Kiniromaru had to die: she was never intended to be more than a fleeting character. She developed into too much of a main character, and this story isn't really about her. Because she had led such a harsh life, in the end I decided that death was the only release she could accept.
last updated: August 28, 2005