InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Fireside Chats ❯ Part Twenty-Five: Living For Tomorrow ( Chapter 25 )
Author's Note: Sorry for the long delay, everyone. I got inspired to write my original-fiction work, and that will ALWAYS be top priority over fanfics. After all, I could conceivably get published someday (I can dream) with those, while fanfics can never be legally published. So, gomen-nasai for the long delay between chapters, but I hope this chapter makes up for it.
Disclaimer: Uh.... I don't own Inuyasha, but you knew that.
Part Twenty-Five: Living For Tomorrow
Hiuchimaru retreated to the edge of the copse of trees, instructing his uma-youkai brethren and waiting for the group of humans to finish packing up their camp. He seemed unhurried, and frankly seemed like an altogether different youkai from before. Inuyasha was suspicious, but Miroku and Kagome seemed unconcerned. Opaaru was helping them pack up, a veritable fount of boundless youthful energy as he inspected their belongings with unbridled wonder. He seemed particularly attracted to Inuyasha, constantly asking the inu-hanyou strange questions that generally left the silver-haired half-demon speechless with confusion.
"I could really go for a nice bath right now," Kagome complained as she closed up her backpack. "I feel like I haven't bathed in a week!"
"I believe I have a solution," Hiuchimaru said from the edge of the clearing. "There is an onsen near where I wish to take you. If you'd like, we can stop there first."
"Really?" Kagome turned to face the hogosha-youkai and put on her best puppy-eyes face.
"No need to beg, priestess," the demon chuckled. "By the way, I don't believe you told me your name?"
"I'm Kagome. Kagome Higurashi."
He bowed slightly in acknowledgement. "The use of a surname is not common in this part of Japan. Where are you from?"
"Tokyo," she said without thinking, and almost kicked herself.
"Tokyo, huh? I don't recall hearing of it. But then again, I am not particularly current on human civilizations. Where is that near?"
"I see. Young lady, there is something unusual about you. A flow or a current that surrounds you, almost like a barrier of a kind. It's flexible, to some degree, but I can't quite identify it. Do you have any idea what it may be?"
Kagome felt her blood chill slightly. She'd heard something similar a few times before, usually in reference to the fact that she was from a different time era.
Hiuchimaru looked her over silently, then waved his hand dismissively; "If you're not comfortable talking about it, I won't grill you. Perhaps, though, you should meet with my mate. She has unusal vision and maybe she can help you. If you'd rather not, it's all the same to me." He looked over at Opaaru, who was being entertained by Shippo's shapeshifting. The colt looked so much like a human child rather than a horse-demon that it was uncanny, especially with his bright, open expression and joyous laughter. Hiuchimaru's eyes narrowed slightly in annoyance
"Deplorable behavior, Opaaru," he said sharply. "Are you a foal or a stallion?"
"I'm neither, Father. I'm just a colt!" Opaaru laughed as he bowed respectfully to his sire. "That's what Mama calls me, you know."
"And are you a suckling or a weanling? Come along, boy, make yourself useful and clear the area. I need room." The demon strode purposefully to the center of the copse.
"What?" Kagome's jaw fell open a bit as Hiuchimaru's entire body became radiant, a faint blue umbra surrounding him.
"Everyone, to the trees. He needs lots of room. This is a tight copse, so get close to a tree," Opaaru announced, grabbing Inuyasha by an arm and pulling him toward the trees. Kagome, Miroku and Sango followed suit, leaving the clearing entirely empty.
Hiuchimaru called up a twin spiral of light from the ground. As the double-helix engulfed him, he disappeared. The helix widened until it nearly filled the clearing. Then suddenly it disappeared, leaving behind a tall, proud spirit-horse.
"Okay, everyone, pile on!" Opaaru said brightly. "This is the best way to travel through this forest. Hiuchimaru knows every corner and turn, and can travel at extremely high speeds. Last one on gets the rump!" With that, the colt darted across the clearing and leaped up into the air, somersaulting and landing squarely on the spirit-horse's shoulders. He was grace in flight while he jumped, his gangly coltish movements transformed into a fluidity of motion. Despite his youthful appearances, he was a very lithe, agile being.
Inuyasha scooped up Kagome into his arms, plucking Shippo from Miroku's shoulder, and with a great heave, he jumped up onto the spirit-horse's back. Miroku and Sango piled onto Kirara, who gave them a lift up to the horse's shoulders.
"Grab onto the mane," Opaaru instructed, directing them to grab onto a hank of the silver-flaxen hair. "He moves extremely swiftly, and if you aren't secured, you could get swept off by a branch."
Inuyasha was stubborn, but he wasn't, by any stretch of the imagination, an idiot. While he didn't like to take orders or suggestions if he didn't have to, this was one of those times when it was not very wise to disregard the suggestion. Swallowing his pride and biting back on his masculine-protector tendencies, he gripped the horse's mane and dug into the copper hide with the claws on his feet. The big copper horse swung its head around and eyed him, blinking in annoyance, but otherwise didn't reply. Once everyone was settled into place (Shippo clung for dear life to the front of Kagome's shirt; Kirara, in her kitten form, curled up inside the front of Sango's yukata, causing an amusing weird bulge off the collarbone.) the horse rose into the air and, with a mighty thrust, propelled itself forward, accelerating rapidly into blinding speed, flashing through the forest, dodging the trees expertly. Kagome yelped in surprise, letting go of the mane and flinging her arms around Inuyasha in her panic. The hanyou grunted and put an arm around her to steady her, gripping the horse's mane tightly in his left hand as he did so.
"I hate rollercoasters!" Kagome moaned wretchedly.
Opaaru was laughing merrily, enjoying the ride. He was entirely unpretentious and openly jubilant with living. Kagome just groaned and clung to Inuyasha for dear life. Sango and Miroku also, much more serepitiously, maintained contact with the inu-hanyou, taking comfort in his strength. As they raced through the forest interior, the scent of the distant onsen tickled the inside of Inuyasha's nose. The place was rife with the smell of uma-youkai, like it was a location they frequented regularly.
"Okay, hang on, we're going up!" Opaaru said brightly, as their ride banked sharply upward, taking them up through the canopy like an arrow. As they burst into the late afternoon sunlight, the giant spirit horse began to slow down by dipping his left shoulder and proceeding to circle around a rocky clearing. As his momentum wicked away, the rocky clearing proved to be the onsen itself, a small but beautiful little mineral hotspring.
"He's doing this because if he were to stop suddenly, he'd throw you all right into the trees. He's used to giving others a ride. He does so for myself, Auntie, Mama and little Mimiko all the time."
As they slowed, they spied another youkai already at the onsen, looking up at them expectantly. Opaaru made a greeting gesture and leaped off of Hiuchimaru, somersaulting to the ground and landing with rather more aplomb than was strictly necessary.
You may dismount now, Hiuchimaru transmitted to them. I have slowed down enough for you to dismount.
Inuyasha positioned Kagome on his back, and looped his arms over Sango and Miroku, strapping them to his sides. He coiled his legs underneath him and launched. As he landed, he accidentally dropped Miroku, sending the monk sprawling into the dirt.
"Nice landing," Opaaru said with a grin. "I don't imagine the ground tastes very good, though."
"No," Miroku said genially, "it doesn't. But I'm alright."
"Welcome back, Flint," the female uma-youkai said with a smirk as she looked up at the glowing form of Hiuchimaru, who in the processes of transforming back to his usual form. The youkai was crouched before a small campfire, with an unusual stone pot over the fire, as if cooking something. Kagome recognized the smell, but couldn't quite name it... it reminded her of something Western, not indigenous to Japan....
"This must be Hiuchimaru's mate," Kagome said softly. Inuyasha just grunted, choosing to neither agree nor disagree. Something about this youkai didn't ring true as the mate of a hogosha-youkai like Hiuchimaru.
The female youkai was far from pretty. She had a long horse-like humanoid face, with wide-set eyes that gave her a disturbingly inhuman expression. Her ears were much longer and more pointed than either Opaaru's or Hiuchimaru's, and she had far more movement ability with them; rather like Inuyasha's dog ears, she could twitch her ears to indicate thought, most likely. Her countenance was dry and slightly bitter. Her hair was a dark, dark brown and fell from her head in messy spirals. Her wide mouth was curled into a wry smirk.
"Well, well, Flint, what have you brought us? A monk, a hanyou and a pair of human women, eh? Welcome to the Forest of Eternity," she said. Her voice, in contrast to her looks, was musical and very beautiful. "You amuse me, Flint."
"Indeed," Hiuchimaru said as he emerged from the flames of his transformation, straightening his haori. He seemed entirely unamused by the female. "I live to amuse you, after all, Koe."
"Now now, Father, Auntie Koe, no fair fighting. We have guests," Opaaru said with a bright smile. "Auntie, where's Mama?"
"Mmm, good question," the female named Koe said. "She should be back any time. She went to get some more food from the villagers, I think."
"Did she take Mimiko with her?" Hiuchimaru asked sharply.
"Of course not. She left the foal with me, of course." Koe gestured over to a small nest-like structure, where a toddler sat up, blinking sleepily. Opaaru crouched down before the toddler and fondly tousled its hair.
Inuyasha stiffened abruptly upon seeing the tiny child. As Opaaru picked the toddler up, it was clear that this was a little girl, and that she was unlike the others around her. She had a very human face, though her eyes were set wide apart, but she had horse ears on top of her head, much like Inuyasha's dog ears were for him.
"She's cute!" Kagome said as she chucked the little girl under the chin.
"This is my little sister Mimiko," Opaaru said proudly, while little Mimiko giggled and waved her arms flirtatiously at Kagome.
"Half-sister, you little baka," Koe said acridly.
"Not that it matters," Hiuchimaru replied with a cold stare at the horse-faced woman. "Speaking of which, you're the half-sister of his mother, so it doesn't matter either. I don't see you producing any offspring anyway."
"Flint!" a voice called joyously from the trees. Hiuchimaru turned in the direction of the voice, just as a woman burst out of the underbrush and threw herself at him, flinging her arms around him and planting a firm kiss on his mouth. However, the momentum caught him off guard and sent both of them splashing into one of the hot-springs. Opaaru snerked with laughter and shook his head. "Mama is dramatic, there's no two ways about it."
"What the..." Miroku's face fell into a completely befuddled expression, which Sango found inappropriately hilarious.
"You idiot," Koe muttered as she stood at the edge of the spring and planted her hands on her hips. "Both of you, actually. A pair of idiots, I swear. Come out of there and dry off! Besides, Ashita, it appears that Flint has brought you a present."
"Huh?" Hiuchimaru said as he swept his wet chestnut hair out of his eyes. "What are you talking about?"
"What?" the new arrival asked as she parted her ebony mane of hair and started methodically wringing it out. Koe stooped to offer her a hand, pointedly ignoring Hiuchimaru, who climbed out of the spring shaking his hair and wringing his clothing out.
"Don't get any stupid ideas, Koe," the hogosha-youkai said coldly. "I brought them here because I wish to discuss things with them. And you, Ashita, likewise: don't get any stupid ideas."
The woman, Ashita, looked put out. "I'm appalled you think so of me. Here I've been waiting for you, and this is how you greet me? Flint, I'm ashamed! I was worried about you! I haven't been able to See you for a long time; every time you leave my side, I fear I'll never find you again!"
Hiuchimaru sighed heftily. "Not this again, Ashita. You're the daughter of my predecessor; if he knew how weak you've become with this irrational fear, I'm sure he'd cry tears of shame."
"Irrational fear!" Ashita looked shocked. "You think my fear of you dying is irrational? Look at you!"
Kagome turned quizzically to Opaaru. The young colt shrugged; "Mama has a form of foresight. That's why she's called Ashita. She can See into the near future, up to two days in advance, but only selectively. She panics when she can't See Father, because she fears that means he's either dead or will be dead soon. And lately whenever she tries to See him, she can't."
Inuyasha approached the colt, his eyes set in cold fury and his mouth twisted into a snarl. "Why do you associate with that?" he pointed savagely at the child in Opaaru's arms. "That is a hanyou. What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Ashita squawked in alarm and leaped forward, getting between Inuyasha and her children. "What do you want? Why do you care if my daughter is a hanyou? You're a hanyou yourself!"
There was the scraping shing! of a sword being drawn as Hiuchimaru stepped forward, Kiribitou in hand. "You lay one finger on my daughter and I will kill you where you stand." Ashita snatched Mimiko from Opaaru's arms, then seized the colt's arm and dragged him along behind her as she ran to hide behind her mate. Hiuchimaru's countenance was beyond menacing now. He was furious.
"She's not your daughter," Inuyasha snarled. "You can't be her sire, so she's not your daughter. Why do you protect her?"
"She is my daughter, because I have adopted her as such. Who are you to dictate who I call family, you lousy transient nobody half-breed?" Kiribitou began to glow a sickly red shade, and flames began to sparkle along the sharp dual edges of the sword.
"Why do you adopt a child that is not your own?"
"She belongs to my mate. My mate is my family. Thus, I have a duty to protect and raise this hanyou girl to the best of my abilities. She may serve me well as she grows anyway. How dare you insinuate that I, who have specifically bred this half-demon half-human child, would forsake her just because of her parentage, when I myself was the reason for her parentage!" This time the horse demon was hostile and ready to attack with everything he had in his arsenal. He wasn't going to back down or submit. "You may provide valuable information as to the fate of my father and youngest sister, but I WILL NOT allow you to bring harm to my current family!"
The vehemence in his words was the last thing Inuyasha expected, and he lowered his hands, holding them out in a submissive gesture.
"What do you mean, you are the reason for the girl's parentage?" Miroku asked gently, trying to soothe the hostility.
Koe spoke; "I am called Koe because of my voice. I can speak to souls in other dimensions or long distances away... but I cannot hear them. We used to combine my voice with the hearing of a demon named Mimiseri, but he has since gone into hiding. I used to be able to Speak to the dead... but now I don't know if my voice reaches them because I can't hear them. Ashita has this inexplicable ability to amplify a mate's talents in her offspring. She has produced before, and so far all of her children exhibit their fathers' abilities. And when Mimiseri went into hiding, was about the time that Himawari, who is Flint's oldest sister, first started hearing rumors that their other sister, Midoriko, was dead. Flint has been concerned about his sisters for a long time, and has wanted to know where Midoriko is."
"His sister is named Midoriko?" Sango asked, slightly alarmed.
"She is," Hiuchimaru said as he sheathed Kiribitou and put one arm around Ashita, and his other arm around Opaaru. "She was named for someone my father knew and greatly respected. Without Mimiseri, I had no way of knowing what has happened to my sister, and I was getting desperate. Nijimaru suggested using Ashita and breeding a replacement.
"We found a monk who has some level of clairaudience. So Koe used her voice to lull him into a hypnotic state and Ashita bred with him. We're sure that Mimiko has highly developed hearing; we just hope it's enough to serve us. But even if she doesn't, she's my responsibility, and I will care for her as I am able. I don't care what most demons think of hanyou; she's part of my family herd and I will do my best to protect and raise her."
"Can you tell us more about this Midoriko for which your sister was named?"
"I think you already know about her," Hiuchimaru said mirthlessly. "You are from the taijiya village where her remains are kept. She was the priestess who purified and nullified dangerous demons. She was an ally of Nijimaru's and helped him keep humans away from his forest. He regarded her very, very highly, and when she died, he became very bitter towards humans, believing that her death was because the humans nearest her didn't bother to help her. They left her to fight the demons herself, and she ran out of energy and was forced to produce the Shikon no Tama as she died."
"So..." Miroku said, the answer dawning on him, "That's why he hated the Shikon no Tama so much! Because he knew quite intimately the circumstances surrounding its creation, and knew that it was created because the woman he admired was allowed to exhaust herself."
Hiuchimaru shrugged and looked over his shoulder. "Why don't we continue this conversation once you all have had some time in the hot-springs and had something to eat. I think the food is about finished cooking, isn't it, Koe?"
"Aye, I do believe so."
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: (born Hai'iro) (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).
Ashita (born Kuronin) (female): hogosha/uma-youkai; ancestral ruler of the Eien no Mori, daughter of the previous Guardian; formal mate of Hiuchimaru and mother of Opaaru; she is faintly precognizant and can see possible futures up to 48 hours in advance
Koe (female): half-sister of Ashita (they share the same mother); she has a particularly powerful voice and can sometimes speak to souls in other dimensions or time periods
Mimiko (female): hanyou daughter of Ashita and a human monk, formally adopted by Hiuchimaru
ashita - tomorrow; the near future
hai'iro - gray color
koe - voice
kuro - black
mimi - ear(s)
nin - human