InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Fireside Chats ❯ Part Twenty-Four: Flint and Steel ( Chapter 24 )
Author's Note: I have been looking forward to this chapter for a while! I finally get to use a few ideas I've been kicking around for a long time but haven't had the proper set-up to use them.
Disclaimer: I'm not sure if people in Feudal Japan actually imported animals from Africa and Sumatra, but seeing as this precedent was set by Rome, I imagine it's not unreasonable to assume someone did it in Feudal Japan. Call it ignorance on my part. Also, the idea surrounding the whole tiger incident was partly inspired by "Tangled Ambitions" by DarklessVasion. The idea of someone using exotic animals in this manner was kind of an idea I'd been kicking around, but discarded as useless for this particular story, until I read her story, and figured out how to use the idea myself.
Part Twenty-Four: Flint and Steel
Inuyasha paced the perimeter of the barrier like a caged tiger, intermittenly throwing Blades of Blood and Soul Scattering Iron Claws at the barrier. Nothing he did seemed to phase the barrier, not even clawing repeatedly at it. Miroku tried a couple sutras on it, to no avail, and not even Kagome's spirit-arrows seemed able to disrupt the barrier's seamless flow of energy. Miroku was certain that the spiritual power in the arrows was having an effect on the barrier, but not enough of one... it seemed like the energy currents altered instantly to compensate when a hole appeared. And because the arrowheads shattered upon impact, Kagome declined to try again after two arrows failed. She was running low on arrows as it was.
Minutes became hours as the barrier continued to swirl soundlessly around them. The three humans and the two full youkai chose to rest and wait, but Inuyasha couldn't stand being idle. His pacing was slowly, very slowly, increasing in speed as he prowled the entire perimeter of their enclosure.
He reminds me of that tiger, Sango thought, a stray memory from nearly five years before coming into focus. Her father had received intelligence about a man who captured youkai and used them in gladiatorial ways, for sheer entertainment. That in itself wasn't really enough to get the taijiya involved... but the fact that several of the youkai incarcerated by this lord were now figuring out how to escape and were rampaging, made it their business in the end. But upon arriving at the mansion, they had discovered that the so-called youkai were nothing more than exotic animals imported from distant countries, starved into aggression and set into a shabby arena in a deathmatch.
Sango clearly remembered seeing a huge Sumatran tiger pacing in its small cage, its amber eyes seething with hatred and madness. It had tasted human flesh before and would forever hunt down humans, the creatures who had so tortured it, until it died. Her father had said the only thing they could do was end its misery. Sango remembered the whole incident as being very hard for her to accept. The very thought that this beautiful mortal animal had to be killed because of its temperament, which was no fault of its own, was very difficult for her to come to terms with. Even now, she didn't much like killing animals except as a food source or in her own defense. That tiger had been caged up, had been unable to defend itself from the spears and swords used to slay it. Its dying screams and roars had haunted her dreams ever since. The taijiya were only supposed to exterminate youkai, not regular animals...
There was something in Inuyasha's entire body carriage that reminded her rather starkly of that beautiful tiger, who fought gallantly despite being caged and weak with starvation. And there was a smouldering madness in the hanyou's eyes. If Hiuchimaru didn't return soon, Inuyasha was liable to work himself into such a rage that his demon side might emerge...
She blinked as a shadow fell over her. Inuyasha stood over her, his cold citrine eyes glaring down at her.
"Hiraikotsu," he said simply.
"Huh? What about it?"
He snorted impatiently. "Throw Hiraikotsu at the barrier. That's the only thing we haven't tried."
Are you out of your mind, Inuyasha? If Kagome's arrows, the monk's sutras and your claw attacks couldn't phase it, what makes you think Hiraikotsu can? "Inuyasha, are you sure about that. Hiraikotsu isn't the kind of weapon to take down barriers with. Its advantage is its weight and momentum. Barriers have blocked it before."
"I know that! I thought maybe its weight and momentum could weaken the barrier enough for me to rip it apart with my claws. I can't sit by and wait, unlike you three useless humans!"
"Well, the idea has some value, but there's a problem. I can't throw it right now. I'm still too weak from the poison to be able to throw it with any accuracy. If I don't throw it just right, it might bounce off the barrier and hit someone in this camp and really hurt them. Sorry, Inuyasha, but I can't do that. I can't endanger the others. Can you imagine what would happen to Kagome if she gets hit by it at full force?"
"Goddammit, I can stop the stupid thing if it gets out of control, you know! I'm tough enough that it won't hurt me."
"And another thing -- I may be able to carry Hiraikotsu right now, but I don't have the strength to heave it at full force. I won't be able to get maximum effectiveness out of a throw even if I could throw it straight."
"Enough of the fucking excuses!" Inuyasha angrily snatched a leather handhold on the giant boomerang and pulled it right out from behind Sango. She just stared in dumb fascination as he lifted the boomerang effortlessly, cocked it back, and with a roar of frustration, hurled it forward.
The giant boomerang spun forward in a dizzying spiral and slammed into the barrier at full speed and full power. It seemed to be working -- the repeated impacts of the Hiraikotsu seemed to be affecting the barrier's flow -- but before Inuyasha could get to the emerging hole and widen it with his claws, the flowing currents of energy shifted and closed the hole again.
Sango stared at Hiraikotsu, laying discarded at Inuyasha's feet as the hanyou pounded futilely on the barrier with his fists.
That was a perfect throw. It had taken her forever to learn how to throw Hiraikotsu like that. And Inuyasha had done it perfectly the very first time he'd picked it up to use as a weapon. He's been watching me. That's the only way he could possibly know how to throw it -- he's watched me throw it and commited my actions to memory.
"Dammit!" Inuyasha crouched down and picked up the boomerang, slinging it over his shoulder with one hand -- He copied that posture from me too, unconsciously! Damn, but he learns quickly! I guess he would have to, to survive as long as he has -- and strode back over to Sango.
"Here. Guess my idea didn't work. But I'll say this much, Sango. My opinion of you just rose a bit -- that thing is hard to throw." His expression said only a slight bit more, and it took a moment for her to realize just how high of praise he was giving her. He had already had a pretty high opinion of her as a fighter, and for him to admit that said opinion was higher now, meant that he was quite impressed. It was rather flattering.
"Don't know why you insist on using it, but it does have its uses," Inuyasha added, bringing her out of her reverie. He looked over at the barrier, flowing evenly around them. "Damn that baka-uma. I'll rip his throat out when he gets back."
"I'd appreciate it if you didn't," a youthful voice piped up brightly as the barrier melted slightly, revealing a juvenile uma-youkai. "He's an idiot at times, but he's got a good mindset and a good heart."
The coltish uma-youkai looked like a ten-year-old boy, if that old. He had bright bluish-green eyes and blue-black hair pulled back into a braid at the base of his neck. He wore no armor, just a simple tunic and hakama. In his belt he carried a long dagger, but no other weapons. He was short, coming barely to Inuyasha's shoulder.
"Who the hell are you?" Inuyasha gaped at the youngster. "And how did you get past that barrier?"
"My name is Opaaru," he said with a bright smile. "And Hiuchimaru's barriers have never worked on me."
Inuyasha's hand darted out and seized Opaaru by the cloth of his shirt, lifting the youngster up off the ground. "You're going to get me out of this barrier, you got that?"
"Sorry, no can do. The barrier ignores me, but I can't hold it open for anyone. I can't even carry living things across a barrier."
"Then why are you here?" Miroku asked as Opaaru squirmed out of Inuyasha's grip.
"Well, I figured someone should apologize to you guys for Hiuchimaru being such an ass and not explaining why this barrier's in place. Attempting to break Hiuchimaru's barrier isn't very smart anyway -- he's perfected it to heal itself -- but if you do manage to break through it, you'll end up with the entire herd trying to shoot you apart. The uma-youkai of this forest don't like humans any more than any other herd of uma-youkai, but with all the things that have been happening lately, they've become much more hostile towards strangers. Father told me just the other day that he wishes Nijimaru were still alive, to help him control all the animosity and uprisings."
"What are you to Hiuchimaru?"
"He's my sire." Opaaru looked a little put out, as if that information was supposed to be obvious.
"What sort of things have been happening around here lately?" Kagome asked, wondering if there were any clues to Naraku's whereabouts to be had here in this forest.
"Well, for one thing, the area adjacent to the forest has been teeming with base youkai. Hiuchimaru has been able to keep them out for the most part, but it's only a matter of time before they breach his blockades. There also have been increased instances where resurrected humans have been penetrating the forest, causing havoc. Father says they are similar to some violent humans who were terrorizing this place a decade or so ago, but that this time they reek of a foul power and fragments of a powerful jewel."
Before anyone had a chance to respond to that, the barrier around them grew bright red and began pulsating. Opaaru spun around, his eyes going wide with alarm. The barrier seemed to ignite, burning with red flames as its revolving currents sped up.
"Oh no! Kiribitou!" the colt groaned in dismay.
The barrier dissolved as the smokeless fire dissipated, revealing Hiuchimaru. The hogosha youkai's eyes were red, a maddened, possessed red reminiscent of Kaijinbo when he was possessed by the spirit of the sword Tokijin.
The broadsword he carried was in his right hand, and its blade radiated a sickly red aura.
"Mezame!" Opaaru called frantically. "Father, don't let it do this! Mezame!"
Inuyasha didn't waste any time in the dissolving of the barrier, and retrieved Tetsusaiga. The blade transformed the moment he touched its hilt, and he pointed it at Hiuchimaru. "I don't know what the hell your problem is, baka-uma, but I've had enough."
"No, don't fight him!" Opaaru said desperately. "Not when he's being controled by Kiribitou! We have to break the trance!"
His words fell on deaf ears as Inuyasha and Hiuchimaru started circling each other like combatant wolves.
"Stop this! Mezame, Father! Mezame!"
"They can't hear you," Miroku said, putting a hand on Opaaru's shoulder. "But don't worry. Inuyasha won't kill your father unless he has no other choice."
"I'm not worried about Father being killed -- I'm more worried about Kiribitou starting a big forest-fire!"
"Kiribitou?" Sango asked. "What's that? You've said the name a few times now."
"Kiribitou is the demonblade Hiuchimaru carries. It's infused with the soul of a fire elemental, and when crossed with a blade of steel, it will ignite." Opaaru looked around. "Steel, steel..." His eyes lit on Sango's katana. "May I use that? There's only one way to break the trance if he can't hear me!"
Sango wordlessly drew the katana and held it out to the young demon. Opaaru took it reverently, bowed in thanks, and launched himself at his father. "MEZAME!" he screamed as he swung the katana with unexpected skill and slammed the blade against Kiribitou.
The force of the blast that erupted from the collision of the two blades sent Hiuchimaru flat onto his back and threw Opaaru across the clearing. Quick thinking on Shippo's part saved the uma-youkai youngster from a painful landing, as the kitsune transformed himself into his big, round balloon-like shape and cushioned the uma-youkai's momentum.
Hiuchimaru sat up slowly, shaking his head bewilderedly. His eyes were still red, but this time they were bloodshot, not possessed.
There's something wrong with his eyes, Sango thought to herself. Some kind of irritant.
"Augh," the hogosha youkai groaned as he cradled his head in his hands. "Damned blade."
"What happened?" Kagome inquired.
"That damned inu-taiyoukai woke up Kiribitou, I think."
"I meant what happened to your eyes."
"Huh? Oh, that." Hiuchimaru stood up shakily, massaging his eyes wearily. "Nevermind."
"Sesshomaru," Inuyasha snarled. "I smell his venom. You encountered Sesshomaru."
"Good nose, Captain Obvious," Hiuchimaru snapped peevishly as he picked up Kiribitou and sheathed it. "And he left me a nice little parting gift. Dammit! Just when I need him the most, Nijimaru is gone."
"Can you explain that sword?" Miroku approached the hogosha youkai. "It seems like a terribly dangerous liability, if it can possess you like that."
Hiuchimaru glanced briefly over his shoulder at the hilt of the sword. "Kiribitou is a demonblade, but not a standard one." He folded his arms into his sleeves. "It was originally forged by humans."
"How can that be?" Sango's jaw unhinged briefly. "A demonblade forged by a human smith?"
"Not exactly. First of all, it's not really a sword, in the sense of most swords. It used to be a sealing blade. It was created by a band of monks some six hundred years ago, for the purpose of sealing dangerous youkai. Because it's made of flint, it's impervious to fire and earth. Unfortunately, this sword was used to seal a particularly strong fire elemental youkai, and the sealing process was done with a slight flaw. Thus, the spirit of the elemental overran the blade and rendered it useless as a sealing weapon."
The same thought was dawning on both Sango and Miroku; "So that means that that sword..."
"...has some form of holy powers?"
Hiuchimaru shrugged; "I suppose you could say that, but I think it's more accurate to say that holy, spiritual powers have little effect on it. There is no way for the elemental to escape -- the incarcerating seal is absolute -- but because of that one tiny error in sealing, it was never fully pacified or subdued. Only someone with a very strong affinity to flint can maintain any sort of control over the demonblade that became of this combination, by reinforcing the flint's dominance. But all it takes is one tiny error in judgment, and the soul breaks through again, and seizes my entire body in its grasp."
"So why carry it at all, if it's that dangerous?"
"Because if I don't, there's no telling what it will do, what will happen. If it falls into the wrong hands, it could burn down every forest in all of Japan. In the six centuries since it was sealed, the elemental has become so hateful and vengeful that if it isn't subdued continuously, it will run rampant until all the world burns. It knows nothing but hatred for the outside world."
"So destroy the blade," Inuyasha said with a snort. "Problem solved."
"Easier said than done. Do you honestly think no one has thought of that, or tried it? The same goes for elaborate rituals to try and finish the sealing. It can't be done. The sword is too well-made and the elemental is too strong. The only answer is for me to keep it with me and to try to keep it under control."
Hiuchimaru paused a moment, and looked over at Inuyasha. "So, Inuyasha, I need some answers out of you. I believe we are both trailing the same quarry, and I should very much like to know what's going on to affect my forest. I imagine you seek some answers as well. Do we have an agreement?"
Nijimaru: (male) hogosha taiyoukai guardian of Niji no Mori. His true form is a large chestnut spirit-horse. Deceased (killed by Sesshomaru).
Saoirse: (female) uma-youkai leader of a herd patrolling the Niji no Mori. Deceased (killed by the taijiya).
Himawari: (female) daughter of Nijimaru and Saoirse. Transient uma-taiyoukai. She has an affinity with plants and nature.
Midoriko: (female) second daughter of Nijimaru and Saoirse. Presumed dead.
Hiuchimaru: (male) son of Nijimaru and Saoirse. Guardian of the Eien no Mori at the base of Mt Hakurei
Kiniromaru (born Kiniroko): (female) daughter of Nijimaru and Saoirse; leader of a band of uma-youkai patrolling the Niji no Mori. Deceased (killed by Inuyasha).
Opaaru: (male) oldest son of Hiuchimaru
Kiribitou: (no gender) Hiuchimaru's demonblade, made of flint and infused with the malevolent soul of a fire elemental
Garyuuken: (no gender) the greatsword worn by the Inu no Taisho at the time of Kiraboshi's death. Destroyed prior to the forging of Tetsusaiga and Tenseiga
Kuukoku no Kiraboshi: (female) the Inu no Kisaki, reigning inu-taiyoukai leader of the northern provinces. Mother of Sesshomaru. Deceased (killed by Ryukotsusei)
Eimaimatsu: (male) demon tree in the Tsuki no Mori in Kiraboshi's territory; Kiraboshi's chief advisor. Deceased (killed by the blast from a Shikon shard).
baka-uma: "stupid horse" (pun on "bake-uma" - "spirit-horse")