InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Fireside Chats ❯ Part Twenty-Three: Distant Voices ( Chapter 23 )
Author's Note: Man! I just keep delaying the main point of this arc. I meant to have it show up last chapter, and ended up postponing it to this one, and now new plot developments have pushed it back again. So hopefully next chapter will be the real meat of the arc; this is mostly setting up for it. Hooray for filler! Though, really, this chapter plays a part in the whole arc, it's not something I recommend skipping. But you'll notice who doesn't appear! Go figure. Well, even Takahashi-sensei does it occassionally (leaves the title character entirely out of a chapter).
Part Twenty-Three: Distant Voices
"Sesshomaru, my son, I have something very important to teach you today, and someone very special to me that I want you to meet," the Inu no Kisaki, Kuukoku no Kiraboshi, smiled as she directed her only child over to stand beside a very large pine tree deep within the forest.
Sesshomaru looked up at his mother, his golden eyes wide with anticipation.
"You remember all those wonderful stories your aunties have told you, about how your father rose to power and took control over the entire western provinces?"
"Do you know how it is that we know so much about those stories? The western provinces are a long distance away."
"No, Mother, I don't know."
"It is because of the trees. This forest is full of demon trees. Your father's territory also houses a forest of demon trees. This is the Tsuki no Mori; your father's forest is the Niji no Mori."
"Demon trees, Mother? Youkai that are like trees?"
"Youkai that are trees, my son. The demon trees are the historians of the youkai world. They store within their trunks all the histories and stories of our kind. They cannot move, and so they are not dangerous youkai. Therefore, unlike other youkai, demon trees must never be killed. You must always remember this, my dear little son: never, ever kill a demon tree. You never know what vital, valuable information you will be destroying along with the demon tree. All ruling taiyoukai have a demon tree advisor. Therefore, I'd like you to meet my most trusted advisor of all. This," she patted the big pine tree, "is my dearest friend in the world, Eimaimatsu."
Sesshomaru chided himself harshly for the impromptu stroll down memory lane -- what a time to do so! But all he could think of, as he parried the blows hurled at him by these demon trees here, was that Eimaimatsu and his mother had lied to him.... no, he told himself, they had been wrong. They had not lied to him, they just hadn't known.
"But Mother, what if a demon tree attacks me?"
"Demon trees don't attack little princelings," Eimaimatsu replied sagely, startling Sesshomaru with the depth and timbre of his voice, as a kindly old face formed in the bark of the tree. "They are generally passive, and those that are not usually reek of their demonic energy. With your sensitive nose, you'd be able to smell a hostile tree and avoid it." The face smiled gently. "But do not worry. I promise you that I won't ever let a demon tree hurt you, Sesshomaru, Prince of the West."
Sesshomaru snorted in frustration. Don't kill a demon tree. Why did he have to think of that now, when he was being attacked by demon trees?
And why didn't I sense their demonic presence?
He stabbed Tokijin into one trunk and dug his claws into another tree's bark, throwing all his poison generating energy into a venomous sting. Whether or not it worked, he didn't bother waiting to find out. He swung around and grabbed Tokijin again, the sword vibrating in his hand with a veritable bloodlust.
Blood. Give me blood. Tree blood will do, only let me kill!
"Don't kill a demon tree." The refrain seemed to scream in his mind over and over, even as he hacked and maimed at the limbs of an unknown number of demon trees.
He was hard-wired not to kill demon trees. His mother and Eimaimatsu had seen to that from the time he was old enough to walk. It was one of the most fundamental, most basic, most absolute properties of his entire being. He almost never killed mundane trees unless it was necessary.
What was he to do? These trees were trying to wrap him in their roots and branches, to restrain him. They were likewise targeting his companions.
Do not lose control. That had to be Tenseiga. Tenseiga knew how he'd felt upon finding Eimaimatsu's cadaver. Tokijin had no memory of such things. Tenseiga looked into the past; Tokijin saw only the here-and-now. Tenseiga knew that he was close to losing control over everything. He still had so much to learn about himself...
"You don't want that on your conscience," Eimaimatsu said, his gong-like voice sparkling with vivacity. "You don't want the death of a demon tree on your conscience."
Sesshomaru slashed at the swaying branches, trying to clear a path while Jaken, Aun and Rin tried to maneuver out of the forest. He had forbidden Jaken from using the Staff of Two Heads against the demon trees. The last thing they needed was a forest fire.
Never kill a demon tree. You never know what else will be lost. He swirled around and slashed visciously at the tree that seemed to be leading the attack. Don't kill a demon tree. You don't want that on your conscience.
He was getting fatigued. He hadn't slept very well the past several nights and fighting countless demon trees with all his energy, while trying to keep from blowing the place apart with his bottled-up power, was starting to wear him down.
Never kill a demon tree. Don't kill a demon tree.
Let me kill! Tokijin raged.
Don't lose control. Tenseiga soothed.
It was sound advice, but it wasn't helping.
Hiuchimaru loped through the forest, listening to the trees as they directed his steps and guided him toward where a taiyoukai intruder had been discovered, and was currently being detained by the surrounding demon trees.
This forest was more densely populated by demon trees than any other forest anywhere; Nijimaru had told him it was because there was a nexus somewhere deep below the earth nearby that just radiated waves of spirit-power, the kind that youkai could use. Youkai were naturally drawn to it, just as they were drawn to the Shikon no Tama, but unlike the accursed jewel, this was pure power, generated by the earth itself. It was not tainted by the polarities of the world.
"There is a mountain there, directly over the nexus, that is not natural," Nijimaru warned. "I believe that it is not part of the earth itself. I do not know what it is, but it is different from earth and stone. I believe it is there because of the nexus of power."
"What kind of power lies in the nexus, Father?"
"I do not know, Hiuchi, I did not get close enough to find out. Once I reached the edge of the forest, I felt too ill and weak to go any closer. It is not the kind of spiritual powers that human clergy possess -- the kind that can instantly purify and immobilize demons of all sorts -- but it is an energy that has such incredible potential that in its raw, pure form, it is hard to handle. Be very careful when you reach the borders of the forest. Do not venture outside of your forest. You will have enough to do keeping the peace amongst the gregarious demons and the demon trees. Do not worry about the sacred mountain, but do not for a moment forget that it is there, and that it is dangerous."
Hiuchimaru effortlessly swept through the living forest, his keen ears having picked up the sound of confrontation some distance ahead of him. The three uma-youkai he'd commanded to come with him ranged out behind him, unable to keep up with long stride. Well, no matter. He could handle the situation himself. Whoever it was that had intruded upon the peace of the Eien no Mori would soon be dealing with the lord of the forest.
As he neared the location of the impromptu battle -- Whoever it is, he's giving the demon trees a good fight! -- he felt a moment of consternation. There was something about the feel of the vicinity that made him hesitate.
Don't transform, Sesshomaru reminded himself, feeling his aura begin to glow red with frustration. Dammit! If it were anything but a demon tree, I'd have flattened it by now. Any opponent but a demon tree--! No, don't transform. Don't transform. Keep your calm. Don't lose control.
Then his left shoulder screamed with acute agony. He looked down in disbelief to see an arrow impaled in his shoulder, only a matter of inches diagonally above his heart. The shock of the impact interrupted his subconscious attempts to transform, and his transformation energy wicked away like air through punctured lungs.
The demon trees didn't lose a beat and started to engulf him in their collective roots. It was eerily reminiscent of Naraku trying to absorb him, and yet...
Aun roared and one head blitzed a tree with its internal lightning. The other head blazed a hole in the forest canopy with its thunderous power; then the dragonet, with Rin and Jaken just barely clinging to its tack, launched skyward.
I have no choice. With Rin and Jaken both safely out of the way, Sesshomaru channeled his energy into Tokijin, feeling the sword grab hungrily at the power he supplied it. I don't want to do this. He slashed the roots and branches away from himself, burning the appendages with his demonic energy. I have no choice. He raised the scintilating blade -- I don't want to do this, but I have no choice! -- and slashed around in a violent arc, slicing cleanly through the base of the trunk belonging to the demon tree that seemed to be leading the assault.
Instantly the other trees let go, started and afraid now that their ringleader was struck down. Sesshomaru squelched a roar of.... Anguish? Triumph? Frustration?... and let Tokijin cut loose with a devastating scythe of destructive power, splitting the trunks of all demon trees within a thirty-meter radius around him and felling them with a mighty crash. The forest then fell absolutely silent.
Panting with exhaustion, Sesshomaru looked up and around, sensing that someone else was nearby.
Holy mother of all that is sacred...
Hiuchimaru felt his blood go ice cold. The raw display of killing power aside, there was no mistaking this inu-taiyoukai. Between the awesome currents of power that fairly danced around him, the flowing stole of fur that graced his shoulder, and the azure crescent moon that adorned his regal brow, this was none other than the Prince of Dogs, Sesshomaru.
I'm not ready to take him on!
Not that he would ever be ready, he feared. This same demon lord had been the one to kill Nijimaru.
Had I known who was being detained by the trees, I sure as hell wouldn't have shot that arrow!
Hiuchimaru knew also that he couldn't erect a barrier strong enough to hide himself from Sesshomaru.
As the two demon lords locked gazes, Hiuchimaru felt his blood entirely freeze. The inu-taiyoukai stepped deliberately toward him, his hand raised and his claws glowing a menacing lime green. The hogosha-youkai, who was on the verge of attaining taiyoukai status, stood his ground, hoping that submission would work a second time on a member of this inu-youkai clan. It had worked on the half-demon that shared this demon's blood.
Without saying a word, Sesshomaru slashed his hand savagely across Hiuchimaru's face, simultaneously releasing as much venom as he could through his claws. A lesser demon would have dissolved in the toxic miasma, but Hiuchimaru was not a lesser demon. Nevertheless, his eyes stung badly with the vapors of the poison and it was all he could do to remain standing.
"That," Sesshomaru growled, "is for making me kill demon trees."
Then, inexplicably, the dog demon lord turned and strode away, retrieving his dropped sword and slashing the bark off a few mundane trees as he went.
He was too tired to finish you off, a voice whispered into Hiuchimaru's mind. That's the only reason you're still alive. He didn't have anything left in him to kill you.
It was not a comforting thought.
Ah, well, at least I've been spared. And at least I have time to train Opaaru yet. Ah, but first things first.