InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Fireside Chats ❯ Part Twenty-One: Most Important ( Chapter 21 )
Author's Note: This chapter takes place immediately after Episode 107, which has aired on Cartoon Network/Adult Swim. It also takes place before the events of Episode 108. I know this chapter's short, but I still haven't quite figured out where I'm going with this new arc.
Disclaimer: Okay, yeah, I'm using Band of Seven instead of Shichinintai. XP Kind of in keeping with the Viz dub. But as I've said before, I've substituted "Iron Reaver Soul Stealer" (which I can't stand) with "Soul Scattering Iron Claws"
Part Twenty-One: Most Important
Inuyasha snapped the branch in his hands and tossed it into the fire to keep the flames going. As it flared, the campfire illuminated the still-pale faces of his three human companions.
An unwelcome chill of fear trickled down his spine.
He'd come so close to losing them. So close to losing everyone he'd come to care about. His makeshift pack...
He clenched his fists in the loam of the forest floor, grinding his teeth against the bitter taste of guilt. I nearly failed them. If Myoga hadn't come when he did, I'd be all alone.
For so long he'd tried to tell himself that he didn't care about anyone, that being betrayed by Kikyo had taught him that no one could be trusted. But he knew he was lying to himself. Inu-youkai and humans alike were gregarious creatures who thrived in communal environments. Both of his natures craved company.
It would have been hard enough losing Kagome. But to lose Sango and Miroku too would have been unthinkable.
To think... I'd actually miss you, you pervert, he thought, studying the monk's pallid features from across the campfire. You drive me crazy, but in a tough spot, your wisdom comes in pretty handy.
He let his gaze wander over to the exterminator, guarded by the two-tailed firecat. And you, Sango. The one person I can rely upon in battle. I can't imagine what life would be like without you right now, with Naraku still to be hunted.
And losing Sango would mean that Kirara, whom he depended on as well, would abandon him. Of all his companions, only Shippo would have been left had Myoga not shown up when he did. And Shippo only because he had nowhere else to go.
The kitsune was curled up beside Inuyasha right now, sleeping fitfully, apparently dreaming. The others were also asleep. It was near midnight, and the nearly-full moon was peeking through the boughs of the trees.
Inuyasha was adamant that the group stay here until everyone had recovered their strength enough to travel. He would protect their encampment himself; he would not take any chances that they might encounter a member of the Band of Seven before they had all recovered.
Shippo twitched restlessly, whimpering.
Poor little guy. He's had a helluva day. I keep forgetting that he's just a kid, a kid who watched as his own father was brutally murdered by Hiten and Manten. He's had it every bit as hard as I have, and he very nearly lost his surrogate family today.
Shippo whimpered, shuddered and cried out as the throes of his nightmare seized him by the throat. A moment of paternal protectiveness enveloped Inuyasha and he placed a hand gently on the little fox kit's tiny shoulder. The fox kit then awoke with a yip of surprise.
"Easy, kiddo, you were having a nightmare." Inuyasha said in a very, very low tone, low enough that he was pretty certain none of the humans could hear him. He pitched his voice at a timbre so deep the standard human ear couldn't detect it.
Shippo looked around the camp, wild-eyed. "They -- are they -- is everyone -- "
"Everyone's fine, Shippo. Go back to sleep."
Shippo curled up into a fetal position and his wide eyes misted over with tears. "I'm scared."
It was hard on the little guy, Inuyasha reflected, because he'd forbidden the kit to sleep in his usual place, curled up in Kagome's arms. Inuyasha was concerned about Kagome's health. She'd taken more poison than the others, and she wasn't as hardily-built as the other two. He wanted to be certain that she'd get plenty of rest. Unfortunately, Shippo wasn't taking the whole situation very well. He liked to be cuddled. It helped ease his fears at night.
Not that I can blame the poor kid, he's been through so much. Unwelcome memories of a vast emptiness of the soul greeted these thoughts. Memories of a mother's warm embrace suddenly gone. There were good memories in there too, memories of love and affection, of being nurtured by a loving mother, but they were followed up by hideous memories of how the town had turned him away upon his mother's death. After his mother died, he'd never again felt the warm comfort of an affectionate embrace. At least, not until Kagome came into his life. Not even Kikyo had been physically expressive of her affections.
Before he had a chance to second-think it, Inuyasha scooped up the trembling kitsune and folded his arms around the tiny body. Shippo looked up at him with wide, incredulous eyes, but Inuyasha deliberately closed his own eyes and shifted his position, slouching down to get comfortable. After a moment, Shippo accepted the unexpected gesture for what it was and burrowed into Inuyasha's arms, slipping off into dreamless slumber.
For some reason, Inuyasha felt at peace. Despite all that had happened, there was a certain sense of belonging, sitting here by the campfire, cradling a tiny warm body in his arms while watching over the rest of his back.
I just hope no one wakes up to see this, and that Shippo keeps his little mouth shut about this. It wouldn't do to have his reputation shattered.
He lost track of time as he dozed, occassionally rousing enough to kick another log into the fire. By the time the day broke clear and fresh, he felt relaxed and more at ease with the events of the past two days. He was still resolved to eradicate the Band of Seven, but now his anger was manageable.
"Amazing what a good night's rest can do for you, isn't it, Master Inuyasha?" Myoga said cheerily from his place on Inuyasha's shoulder as the hanyou set the fox kit down and stood up, stretching his limbs.
"Yeah," Inuyasha admitted. "Now I should go get something for them to eat. Kirara," he looked over at the firecat, who looked up at him with her intelligent gaze. "Keep watch over them. I won't be far."
Kirara nodded and rumbled a deep growling purr in assent.
By the time he got back from a quick hunt at the nearby stream, bringing back a nice catching of fish, everyone was awake and moving, though their movements were still sluggish and groggy. Kagome was in the process of drinking down another draught of Myoga's antidote when Inuyasha tossed his catch onto the ground next to the fire. "Breakfast."
"It's raw," Shippo said.
"I don't cook, you know. I'm a hunter, not a preparer."
"I'll take care of it," Miroku offered with a smile.
"How'd you sleep, Kagome?" Inuyasha asked, trying to keep his mind off of how badly everyone still looked.
"Very well, actually. It was kind of nice, in a weird sort of way. Did you sleep at all?"
"A little, but I don't need much."
"What was that?" Sango asked warily, reaching for Hiraikotsu. Though weakened by the poison, she was still strong enough to heft the weapon, though her aim was liable to be pretty poor.
Inuyasha put a hand to Tetsusaiga's hilt, testing to see if it wanted to be drawn or if it didn't want to be drawn. The sword gave no indication one way or another. Whatever it was, Tetsusaiga didn't recognize it as friend or foe. Inuyasha inhaled deeply, rolling the scent along his tongue to gauge who approached them. He was immediately assailed by the scent of a demon, not a human. Not a corpse, not gravesoil and not death. A pure demon. And though the scent seemed vaguely familiar somehow, he was certain he had never met whoever it was who approached them.
"Kirara, shield them. Sango, use your weapon as a shield. I'll take care of this. It's not one of the Band of Seven. It's a demon, and not one of Naraku's demons, either. Kagome, is there a Jewel shard involved?"
"No," Kagome said as she and Miroku both crouched behind Kirara's bulk. "I don't sense a shard anywhere nearby at all."
"Good. All right, whoever you are, show yourself. Let's just get this over with, shall we?"
There was a deep rumbling from the entryway to their campsite as the demon emerged from the foliage. It was a demon horse -- a spirit-horse -- with hooves that seemed to be aflame with blue fire. The horse's hyde was a rich liver chestnut, and the mane and tail were a flaxen-silver hue. A near-perfect six-pointed star adorned its forehead, and the opalescent eyes blazed with righteous anger. The horse's entire posture was that of territorial aggression.
"Great, more fucking horses," Inuyasha groaned. "No wonder that scent seemed familiar. I bet he's related to Nijimaru."
At the mention of the deceased hogosha-taiyoukai, the horse's expression hardened and the demeanor became hostile. Flames crept up the creature's legs until all four legs were encased in blue fire, from shoulder to hoof.
You are intruding upon my territory, the horse projected aggressively. I do not permit intruders into my territory. Intruders are executed.
Bernice Gordon has done a beautiful piece of artwork that really inspired the early portion of this chapter (Shippo snuggling with Inuyasha). It can be found at http://www.deviantart.com/view/21365687/