InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Fireside Chats ❯ Part Twenty-Two: Spirits Afire ( Chapter 22 )
Author's Note: I use a little pun here. "bake-uma" is Japanese for "spirit-horse" and refers to what Hiuchimaru's true form is. Entei (who shows up in episode 141 and probably won't show up at all in this entire fic, just because he's so far removed from this arc) is described as a "bake-uma" or a "yoruba." Inuyasha calls Hiuchimaru "baka-uma" which means "stupid horse." The difference in pronunciation is very subtle, but it makes a world of difference. I'm italicizing the words for the emphasis of the pun, just to call attention to them, mostly.
Part Twenty-Two: Spirits Afire
As the first lights of dawn broke through the trees, illuminating the argent hair of the transient demon lord resting against a pine tree, the Fang of Life, Tenseiga, hummed in its scabbard. Sesshomaru's eyelids lifted warily.
What is it, Tenseiga? What troubles you? Is it the walking dead that we follow? Are they nearby?
Everything. Nothing. Yes. No.
Sesshomaru ground his jaw. The sword's duplicity was getting on his nerves. It had been pestering him off and on the past several days. Ever since he'd followed that scent to the poison-filled hut and had seen his brother's pathetic packmates all racked out helplessly, succumbing to the poison.
If I were half the bastard Inuyasha thought I am, I'd use it to my advantage that my arrival save their miserable hides. I'd make him pay some form of tribute to me. He would too, if I forced him to. He's as pathetically soft with those humans as Father was.
Tenseiga speared his thoughts with an annoyed lance of pain as it dredged up from deep memory the image of his father dying in his arms.
Stop it, Tenseiga.
Tokijin murmured in the back of his mind as well, its thirst for blood and destruction increasing. Sesshomaru ground his teeth tighter, feeling some of the joints in his lower jaw popping at the unexpected pressure.
Bloooooood.... Give me blood.
Silence, Tokijin. Sesshomaru mentally pierced the blade's focus with a bolt of irritation. It demurred instantly.
In truth, he was getting heartily sick and tired of the sword's tunnel-visioned, single-minded focus for unceaseable destruction.
Not even Father's greatsword had this kind of bloodlust, and it was forged of a dragon's fang.
He stood up, the rustle of fabrics of his clothing awakening the dragonet creature as he stood. Aun lowed a greeting; Rin and Jaken each stirred in their slumber as the dragonet stood up, sending the imp rolling from its shoulders into the dust. Rin hung onto the twin manes as the creature raised itself to its full quadropedic height. The left head shook itself very equine-like, while the right head yawned hugely, very canine-like.
Jaken sputtered and spit the leaves out of his mouth. "What's the matter, my lord? Does something approach?"
"Lord Sesshomaru?" Rin asked hesitantly. "Are you all right?"
"He's fine, you stupid girl! Lord Sesshomaru is always fine."
Oh how wrong you are, you moronic twat, Sesshomaru thought irritably. "We're goi--"
Tenseiga seized him just as he was speaking, pulsating strongly and resonating in its scabbard. It was trying to warn him of something, he was certain of that. Tokijin's attention swiveled around.
Demon trees. Hostile demon trees.
"My lord?" Jaken asked. "What's the matter?"
"Rin. Get on Aun and stay there."
"Um, I am on Aun, my Lord..." the girl said hesitantly, arresting his attention with the statement. That moment of inattentiveness was all the demon trees were waiting for.
"Careful, Inuyasha," Miroku warned. "That bake-uma is generating a strong demonic aura! It's a strong one and not one to underestimate."
The spirit horse snorted menacingly and took a step forward, lowering its head and unhinging its jaws. Its mouth glowed an ominous blue.
"You know something, baka-uma?" Inuyasha growled, curling his lips back and baring his fangs in a canine snarl, as he drew Tetsusaiga. "You picked the wrong day to fuck with me. You make one wrong move and I'll Wind Scar your ass to the North Sea."
The horse neighed, its ears pinned flat to its skull, eyes blazing. The neigh carried through the forest, seeming to reflect back and to surround them with its cacophony. Shippo, whose hearing was more acute than the humans' was, cowered with his hands over his ears. Even Inuyasha squinted with the noise.
Deep in the forest there was a clamoring, like a great army moving.
"What is that?" Kagome wailed over the sheer volume of the noise.
"It's probably that horse's herdmates coming in for the kill," Sango said with a shudder. "God, we've got to get out of here! I didn't survive that horrible poisonous fog only to die at the hooves of demon-horses!"
"Shut up! None of you is dying, not while I'm around!" Inuyasha shouted. "Now stay there. Kirara, make sure nothing happens to them!"
Kirara roared in agreement and braced herself curling her tails around her human companions.
The horse threw its head back and reared up, balancing itself on its hind legs. Its mouth widened and a serpentine hissing issued from its jaws. The blue glow from its mouth sparkled and flashed, and then enormous blue flames jettisoned forward. They were a greenish-blue not unlike Shippo's fox-fire. But unlike Shippo's fox-fire, they were hot and persistent, and deadly as the flames of hell. With out delay, the horse launched its assault. Inuyasha blocked the horse's strikes with Tetsusaiga, but the animal's size enabled it to blaze a path across the grove. Shippo tried to put up a fox-fire block, but the demonfire blitzed right through it, singing the little guy's tail badly (even Shippo didn't quite understand why it was his tail that got singed instead of the rest of him).
"Why didn't my fox-fire work?" he sobbed as Kagome gathered him close and tried to calm the frightened kit.
"Because your fox-fire is a form of demonfire, which is exactly what that thing is using," Miroku said. "Since that creature is full-grown, fully-matured demon -- and might even be a demon lord -- its demonfire is much stronger than yours."
Sango ducked behind Hiraikotsu as another stream of demonfire blazed through the copse.
"It's not burning any plantlife!" Kagome marvelled.
"AUGH! Miroku hollered as his right arm was scored by a stream of the fire. "But it's burning me! It'll burn us to ashes if we're not really careful."
Kirara batted at the flames with her tails while Inuyasha paused in battle to shrug off his fire-rat haori. He hurled the cloak over Kagome, who drew Sango and Miroku in under the cloth's barrier.
"Why didn't the fire burn your glove, Miroku?" Shippo asked, noticing that the burns on Miroku's arm and hand were surrounding the purple glove that covered the hellhole in the palm.
"Because the cloth is saturated with spiritual powers. Anything strong enough to hold back the Wind Tunnel is strong enough to repel demonfire. It's partly because of the prayer beads, too. Pity that that's the only cloth I have that's that strong, spiritually."
"Indeed," Sango said, shifting Hiraikotsu to block a jet of demonfire. "I'm just glad I had a chance to repair Hiraikotsu a couple of months ago. That extra veneer of polish is helping it to hold off this demonfire, but I don't know how much longer it'll hold."
"Let me try something!" Kagome said, grabbing her bow and quiver. Nocking an arrow into the bow, she took aim of the horse's forehead, aiming for the center of the six-pointed star. Hit the mark, please! She released the arrow and prayed.
The arrow blazed a bright pink ray of light as it erupted from the bow, searing through the air and striking the center of the horse's forehead. But unbelievably, the arrow shattered against the star. The spirit-energy exploded upon impact, knocking the horse back against the trees. But the arrow's unexpected shattering shocked Kagome stupid.
"That's never happened before," Shippo observed.
"The arrows have taijiyan flint arrow-heads. They should carry the spiritual energy all the way through -- they should have broken that creature's head open!" Sango ground her teeth. "What in the world is going on here?"
"What are you doing, Miroku?" Kagome asked, noticing that the monk was sifting through his many sutra charms.
"Trying to find one to neutralize that thing. Sango, is that creature a hogosha-youkai, do you think?"
Sango peered at the creature from the safety of the cloak and Kirara's flame-retardant fur. "I think so. I'm about five-to-one sure that's a hogosha-youkai."
"Eighty-percent is good enough for me. INUYASHA! Watch out!" The monk stood up and hurled a sutra through the air. The scroll arched through the copse and struck the horse in the forehead just as it was about to strike.
The horse screamed and fell backwards, crashing to the ground as its blue fire swirled up around it. The demonfire swirling through the air dissipated as the blue fire around the horse demon coalesced and dispersed in a cloud of bluish-gray smoke. Gone was the mighty, hut-sized spirit horse; what was left was a human-shaped demon lord knocked flat on his back by the blow of the sutra charm.
He was rather handsome, actually, with cherry-wood chestnut-colored skin and hair that glittered between golden-flaxen and silver-flaxen. He was dressed in a manner that rather reminded Kagome of Sesshomaru, but without the long sweeping sleeves, the oversized shoulder-stole or the bizarre spiked armor. His clothing was simple but regal. His hands bore gauntlets, and he wore a shoulder-scabbard, which housed a broadsword whose hilt was set with a blazing fire-opal.
The demon's forehead was decorated with that same star pattern. As he came to, his eyes glinted with a slight opalescence.
Inuyasha thrust Tetsusaiga a mere breath's-width from the demon's throat. "Any last words before I slit your throat?"
The demon looked up at him with an expression that was altogether too close to wonderment.
"Just two... for your priest, as a matter of fact."
"Keh. Oi, Miroku. The demon wants some last rites, apparently."
The demon chuckled to himself as Miroku came over and knelt beside him awkwardly. "Actually, all I wanted to say was, nice shot. I've never been hit like that before. I suppose it's nice to be defeated by someone this strong. All right, inu-hanyou. You've defeated me. Carry out your execution." He tipped his head back, baring his throat for execution, and closed his eyes resignedly.
Something's not right here, Miroku thought. He's submitting too easily.
"Inuyasha..." Kagome said from where she leaned against Kirara. "I think... I think that that's a bad idea..."
Inuyasha looked over at her, then around. Dammit, all I can smell is the smoke from the demonfire. If we're surrounded, there's no way for me to tell.
He sheathed Tetsusaiga and crossed his arms in frustration.
"You're... not going to kill me?" the hogosha-youkai opened his eyes and sat up.
"You submitted. I can't kill you if you submit like that. It's against my nature. I'm of inu-youkai stock, in case you didn't notice. Who are you?"
"Not the first question I'd expect from you when you fail to deliver the execution you threaten," the demon said with a smirk as he got to his feet. Miroku scuttled back, suddenly full of misgivings about the creature.
The demon noticed his departure and chuckled drily. "You've beaten me fair and square, monk, hanyou. I'll leave you two alone." His expression hardened. "However. The exterminator and the priestess have some answering to do."
Inuyasha's hand darted out faster than the eye can see and seized the demon by the throat. "You touch a single hair on anyone's head, and I'll rip you limb from limb. Don't you dare fuck with me, baka-uma. Now, I asked you a fucking question." He released the horse demon's throat.
"Good grief," the hogosha-youkai said with a dignified set of his shoulders. "You've got a temper on you. My name is Hiuchimaru, and I am the guardian of this demon forest. I am the only son of uma-youkai leader Saoirse and hogosha-taiyoukai Nijimaru, guardian of the Forest of Rainbows."
There was a collective sigh of dismay. This demon was related to Kiniromaru and Nijimaru!
Great, now what? Kagome thought. He's got to know who was responsible for both of their deaths...
"Okay," Hiuchimaru said after a long silence, his countenance hardening, "I can tell you know at least one of those two, by your faces. And considering my mother died about twenty years ago, I'm assuming it's Nijimaru you knew, though why he had anything to do with a hanyou, an exterminator, a monk and a priestess, is beyond me. What's going on? How did you know Nijimaru?"
Suddenly no one wanted to speak.
"Answer me!" Hiuchimaru growled. "How did you know my father? And why won't you talk?"
"Fuck you, baka-uma. I defeated you; I don't have to answer your fucking questions. You answer me this," Inuyasha snarled. "I saw Kagome shoot you with an arrow. It shattered on your forehead. Why?"
Hiuchimaru glared at him but thought better, apparently, of challenging the group that had so completely overcome him. "I told you that my name is Hiuchimaru. I have an affinity to flint. The arrow's head was made of flint. By my very affinity with the stone, I cannot be harmed by flint arrowheads."
"The only other relative of Nijimaru that I recall had an affinity to ice," Miroku said contemplatively. "It wasn't immediately obvious, only when she transformed into her spirit horse form, but she had immense powers over ice."
Hiuchimaru's gaze hardened again. "You knew my sister Kiniroko?" In the blink of an eye he drew his broadsword and held it to Miroku's throat. "Answer me! How the hell do you people know my father and my little sister? Nijimaru disliked humans, and Kiniroko downright hated them." The sword in his hands pulsed with a strong demonic presence. It was a youkai blade.
Inuyasha stepped in and parried the blow of the broadsword, pushing Hiuchimaru back. "I warned you, harm a single hair on any of them and I'll slice you into bits. I fucking damned near lost all of them to some no-good walking corpses with poison and fire at their commands, and I'll be goddamned if I let you hurt any one of them!"
"I don't understand," Hiuchimaru said with disbelief. "What is your sword made of? It's not steel. And it can't be iron, because iron reacts to flint as well!"
"Enough with the fucking questions. I've had it with you! WIND SCAR!"
A barrier spiraled up around the demon, deflecting and absorbing the Wind Scar. Hiuchimaru held up a hand as if commanding an army to hold its fire...
"Wait. Do not shoot. I did provoke it."
"Lord Hiuchimaru!" a voice called from the northern edge of the copse.
A breeze swayed one of the trees and an unusual birdsong seemed to capture Hiuchimaru's attention for a moment. Then, faster than sight, he lunged forward and used his sword to bat Tetsusaiga out of Inuyasha's hands when he wasn't paying attention. The sword cartwheeled through the air and landed not far away inside the forest.
"You stay here. I'm not done speaking with you." He brought his hand up to his lips as if he were speaking an incantation... and then with a single whistle, he raised an energy barrier dome around the group. "Ishi, Sekiei, Hekigyoku, you three come with me. The rest of you, keep them here. I want to question them further and I don't want any of those weird demons that have been rampant lately in this part of the forest to disturb them."
He disappeared through the barrier and vanished into the forest.
"Dammit!" Inuyasha rammed against the barrier.
"He knows about Tetsusaiga's barrier-breaking ability, I'm sure of it," Miroku said. "That's why he knocked it out of your reach, Inuyasha. I really think there's nothing we can do right now. We'll just have to sit and wait for him to come back. I'm exhausted now, I'm afraid."
"And what if he doesn't come back, huh?"
"The barrier will weaken in 24 hours if he doesn't return to strengthen it," Miroku replied. "He'll be back, or else we'll be able to get out. I need to rest, and I imagine that Sango and Kagome do too."
Names:hiuchi = flint
ishi = stone
sekiei = quartz
hekigyoku = jasper
Saoirse is just a name I found that I really liked. It's not Japanese -- I think it's French -- but I liked it anyway. I don't have any idea what it means.
last updated: September 7, 2005