InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Fireside Chats ❯ Part Twenty-Seven: Catastrophe ( Chapter 27 )
Author's Note: Short chapter, I know. But crucial and setting up for the final three chapters. Also, just a quick reminder that this is based on the dub, except for "Soul Scattering Iron Claws" because I hate the dub's "Iron Reaver Soul Stealer" translation of "Sankon Tessou"
Disclaimer: Of course Inuyasha and company don't belong to me. I'm not that clever. But I can claim Hiuchimaru and company... sorta. XP I mean, they're my characters, just set in the world of a preset creation by the incomparable Takahashi-sensei.
Soundtrack: (aka the stuff I listened to while writing this chapter) I used the five Inuyasha character singles I have to keep my mind focused on the anime at hand. Thus, this chapter's soundtrack consists of "Aoki Yasei wo Daite," "Gou," "Kaze no Naka e," "Rakujitsu," and "Abarero!"
Part Twenty-Seven: Catastrophe
Kagome had thought she'd seen everything here in the Warring States era. In the span of only a few months or so (though it felt like years) she'd gone from being a naive, sheltered middle-schooler who was only average at sports and physical activities and only slightly above-average at other aspects of schooling, to a well-travelled, problem-solving teenager with a knack for bandaging injuries and an improving aim with a bow and arrow. She'd seen the gruesome remains of a battle gone horribly wrong, and she'd faced down demons capable of obliterating huge swaths of land with just one blow. Granted, she'd done so with the knowledge that she had at her back the skills of a fully-trained demon exterminator, a well-informed and widely-travelled Buddhist monk with weapons of his own, an untamed but like-minded human-demon hybrid with unimagineable potential and speed matched only by full demons, and the assistance of a pair of full-blooded youkai with transformation and flight capabilities. Anyone could feel brave enough to stand up to something like Naraku or Sesshomaru when backed by that much support. But she prided herself on her own courage anyway.
She'd never felt so helpless as when she saw the arrow hurtle out of the trees and impale itself almost to the fletching in Ashita's chest. Not even when she'd been trapped in Mukotsu's cabin, barely able to breathe and running out of ideas, watching Sango and Miroku crumple under the weight of the airborne poison, not even then had she felt so utterly helpless, because she'd believed somehow that Inuyasha would rescue them. But now, as if in slow motion, she watched the arrow burst from the underbrush, cross the clearing in an eyeblink and strike home, hitting Ashita quite squarely in the heart. Ashita made hardly any noise as she toppled over sideways, her eyes wide and frozen in a look of confusion. Kagome had felt drawn to Ashita's internal pain, sensing that this youkai -- who seemed so human, when you looked at her -- was kind-hearted and inherently good. Somehow, too, the fact that Hiuchimaru had told Opaaru specifically to protect his mother and sister had indicated to her that although he may not reciprocate Ashita's feelings, she was still very important to him... and being that the last thing they'd told him about had been how his younger sister had died at Inuyasha's hands, Kagome couldn't help but fear that the knowledge that his mate had died while the rest of them just stood there looking on would drive him to retaliate violently at them. He was far more likely to take his anger out on these guests than he was to take it out on the son who was far too young to adequately protect Ashita against an attack like this.
Opaaru shrieked in horror a split second after the arrow struck home and dove towards his mother.
No sooner did Ashita hit the ground, apparently dead on impact, than from all around the perimeter of the clearing, the underbrush heaved violently and belched forth a herd of angry, berserk uma-youkai fighters, weapons in hand and murder in their eyes. A few were mounted on horses, but not all. Most had left their horses in the forest, to allow freer movement in a tight space.
Inuyasha swept Kagome up into his arms and fluidly transferred her to his back, using his claws to scatter the uma-youkai near him.
"Kill the aberration!" yelled one of the leaders, pointing to where Mimiko had frozen in fear and horror, dropping into a ball rather like a potato-bug. "Eliminate both of those halfbreed aberrations and get rid of those ugly humans while you're at it!"
Several of the archers archers took aim at Mimiko with their bows. Sango let out a feral shout of fury and hurled Hiraikotsu with adrenaline-charged accuracy. The giant boomerang implanted itself in the earth right in front of the youngster, serving as a shield against the arrows. Kirara transformed into her large size in a split second and leapt through the air to land directly over the toddler, snarling at the uma-youkai who approached her.
Inuyasha backflipped away from a group of uma-youkai who brandished katanas against him. It was too tight of quarters for him to properly use Tetsusaiga; because of the close-quarters, it was likely that any attack he executed would hit someone he didn't want it to hit. So he relied on his claws to speak for him. Kagome could only cling to his back and try not to impede his movements, seeing as she didn't have her own bow and arrow near at hand; she wasn't able to fight without them, because there was no way she could fight these guys hand-to-hand.
Miroku had taken up a stance over Ashita, parrying the swords with his staff and slamming neutralizing sutras on any youkai that dared get too close to him physically. Sango and Kirara defended Mimiko from the sword and knives of the uma-youkai on that side of the clearing.
Curiously, it appeared that the archers didn't have many arrows, so their supply was already exhausted. They hadn't expected this much resistence, apparently. Kagome only wished she could somehow grab a bow from one of them and then grab an arrow stuck in Hiraikotsu or something, so that she would have a weapon. But she didn't want to unbalance Inuyasha by tossing her weight sideways, and given that it was all he could do to keep out of range of some of their weapons, she elected to hang on and hope that Hiuchimaru would return quickly.
Dammit! He may not be back for quite a while; there's no way for us to contact him, since he took Koe with him!
The leader of the attackers had Opaaru pinned in a kneeling position, his arms pinned behind him. "Don't move, little colt, or you'll suffer the same fate as that little freak."
"You let go of me," Opaaru growled deep in his throat. "I won't let you hurt Mimiko and I'll make you pay for killing my mama!"
The leader brandished his long knife and held it against Opaaru's jugular. "Say that again, brat. I dare you."
"FOX MAGIC! SMASHING TOP!" Shippo threw one of his tops, tagged with a kitsune spell, and nailed the uma-youkai leader right on top of his head. (Kagome was distinctly reminded of the move that had nearly defeated Manten, before the spell had been broken prematurely by Myoga pointing out its weakness.)
Inuyasha took advantage of the diversion Shippo had created and clenched his left fist tightly, digging his claws directly into his palms, drawing blood. Then he let fly with "BLADES OF BLOOD!" and sent several uma-youkai and a couple of their horses to the ground in pain.
As if on cue, Kirara launched up off the ground with Sango aboard. Sango carried the frightened Mimiko cradled in her left arm, while she hoisted Hiraikotsu into position with her right hand. Miroku fired off a fan-pattern of sutras that pushed the youkai near him away.
Kagome had to admit that the timing of these actions couldn't have been better had they practiced them and choreographed it all. We make quite a team. I just wish I could do something to help them! I feel like a fifth wheel here!
Opaaru managed to struggle free of his captor's grasp and he tumbled off to the side, rolling up onto his feet. His blue-black eyes burned red with hatred and fury.
"What the hell do you bastards want anyway?" He demanded, his voice unexpectedly forceful with his anger and grief.
"We're just going to purge this forest of the shameful stains it has acquired," the leader said.
"How could you betray Hiuchimaru like this, Hekigyoku? My father trusted you!"
"Your father was blinded by his affections for his weakling sire, and he allowed-- nay, encouraged--his mate to breed with a human and create a creature that should not be allowed to live, a creature that does not deserve to live! For this, we must execute the aberration itself, as well as the foolish mare who would protect it. And you, you have sealed your own death with your resistence."
"I don't fucking think so, asshole!" Inuyasha snarled. "SOUL SCATTERING IRON CLAWS!"
The youkai just managed to sidestep it and turned his hateful eyes on the inu-hanyou. He raised a hand and pointed at Inuyasha; "You're next, you freak of nature. After the other freak and its protectors, you're next."
"I won't let you," Opaaru fumed. "You killed my mama, and for that... I'LL KILL YOU!" As he spoke those last three words, a geyser of air spouted up around him.
"What the..." Kagome squeezed Inuyasha's shoulders. "What's he doing?"
"I dunno," Inuyasha said, landing nearby Miroku and Ashita, "but I have a suspicion he's changing form."
"Maybe he's like his father but too young to control the transformations," Miroku said. "Kiniromaru couldn't control when her transformations happened. Maybe he's the same way."
As if to accentuate the monk's words, a burst of rainbow light flared from where Opaaru stood, and the young uma-youkai shapeshifted into a giant spirit-horse. Not anywhere near as large as his father, aunt or grandfather's forms had been, but large enough to be formidable, even though his appearance was more proportionate to a yearling than an adult horse.
Out of the corner of her eye, Kagome spied a white figure, almost apparition-like, moving along the boundaries of the clearing, just behind the attack leader, Hekigyoku. It disappeared a moment after she focused on it. Long white hair and white clothing...
It... can't be Sesshomaru!
"Inuyasha," she said urgently. "Look! Over there!"
"I don't see anything."
"Do you smell your brother?"
"Huh? No. Just fucking horse demons everywhere and their goddamn stinking horses. They must've been lying in wait, ready to ambush the moment Hiuchimaru left the area unattended."
Suddenly a pair of youkai fell over as a black whip struck them around the neck and pulled them to the ground. The whip then coiled up and out of sight into the underbrush. Kagome felt a swell of youkai presence. This was a very powerful being, whatever it was. And she was certain it was a youkai. Another flash of white and the whip coiled out again, knocking the bow out of the hands of an archer who was aiming his arrow at Opaaru.
That can't be Sesshomaru, he doesn't skulk around like that. He'd make himself known immediately. But who's doing that attacking with a whip? Kagome leaned over, straining to see who their benefactor was.
"Hold still, would you? I need my balance to fight these bastards!"
Kagome obediently situated herself in the center of his back, keeping her arms hooked around his shoulders so that she didn't accidentally choke him. She resolved to watch for the white demon, though.
Several of the uma-youkai had pulled back when Opaaru abruptly transformed. However, it was clear that the transformation was not intentional, as the colt looked flabberghasted and very awkward in his new form.
Hekigyuki ordered the archers to grab arrows and aim at the spirit-horse.
"Damn," Miroku said wearily, "I really don't think the kid's got the same resistance to flint that his father does. If they corner him, they could kill him, even in that form."
"We have to do something!" Sango said from aboard Kirara, who was trying to avoid the attackers' blades, while still distracting the archers. "We can't let them kill Opaaru too! DO SOMETHING!" She shifted Hiraikotsu to shield the frightened Mimiko from a thrown knife. The toddler clung to her protector, and her supernatural hearing enabled Sango to predict the direction from which each weapon was coming -- Mimiko could hear the attacker releasing the weapon, and her ears focused in that direction.
"Give me a minute to think, Sango," the monk snapped peevishly. "What we need is Hiuchimaru. If they waited until he left to attack, that must mean they're afraid of him. We need to find a way to call him back. Sango, maybe you should take Mimiko and Kirara and go get him. I imagine if you ask her, Mimiko can show you which direction they went in; her hearing is probably good enough to pick them up."
Opaaru had a better idea, apparently. The spirit-colt braced all four feet, threw his head back, and trumpeted a distress call that echoed through the forest. The message was jaw-grindingly clear. The frenzied activity of the attackers reached fever pitch. Clearly they didn't want to deal with the forest guardian himself.
Inuyasha set Kagome down next to Miroku, nudging her close to the monk as he drew Tetsusaiga. "Stay here," he said. "Don't move a bit. I've had it with this idiots." He situated himself so that everyone except Opaaru was behind him and raised the blade. Kagome bit her lip in apprehension. Please, Opaaru, get out of the way if he throws the Wind Scar! You won't be able to withstand it!
"I've had a very long and trying couple of days," the inu-hanyou growled angrily. "You fucking horse-bastards ain't making it any easier on me!"
"I don't know who you think you are," Hekigyoku said haughtily, "but a half-breed is no match for a pure demon."
"Oh, fuck off and tell that to someone who cares!"
Inuyasha raised Tetsusaiga to execute a Wind Scar, but the black whip darted out from the bushes and lashed around the blade, disrupting his momentum.
"What the fuck -- "
"You cannot be so foolhardy, hanyou." A voice said from the trees behind where the whip originated from. Kagome just barely sighted the apparition-like demon before it melted back into the shadows. "Do not go diving headfirst into battle against so many foes, when your attack could harm your companions and your surroundings. Besides, help is on the way."
A shadow passed over the clearing as the monstrous form of an angry spirit-horse loomed overhead.
Hiuchimaru had returned, and he was pissed.
He wasn't the only one who was angry, either, by the looks of things.
Koe launched herself from his shoulders, straight at a clump of uma-youkai, who cowered in fear. With a savage roar of feral wrath, she slashed at them with her claws and decapitated five of them in one multi-swing pass, showering their blood over the clearing. Her eyes burned white-hot with rage. Huichimaru opened his great maw and breathed out a swath of blue demonfire, scorching another group of them and searing them alive. Then, in a motion that stunned Kagome and confused the others, the big spirit-horse delivered what looked like an annoyed cow-kick at Opaaru, hitting the colt in the chest and throwing him against a line of trees. The impact broke his concentration and reversed the transformation.
Kagome couldn't tear her eyes off of Koe, as the female youkai froze her victims in place with her hypnotic voice and calmly slashed them to death. The ones that weren't burnt alive by Hiuchimaru's demonfire were executed in the most coldblooded, nonchalant manner imaginable. Kagome couldn't even imagine Sesshomaru being so methodical about killing something...
Koe paused before Hekigyoku, eyeing him despondently. "You are a threat to my family," she said blandly, and then slashed his head from his shoulders in a single swipe. With a disgusted shake of her hands, she flicked the blood away and turned to where the group stood.
Damn, no wonder she wears no visible weapons. She doesn't NEED any!
Abruptly, the big spirit-horse transformed down to his usual form. Hiuchimaru approached what remained of Hekigyoku with the most incredulous expression on his face.
"I..." he said softly, gazing at the bloodied remains. "I trusted you, Hekigyoku. It's just as well that your blood isn't on my claws."
Koe approached where Ashita lay motionless, her eyes misting over with grief. "How did this happen? How could you not foresee this, Nee-chan?"
Hiuchimaru also approached, somewhat hesitantly, his eyes darkening with sadness. "More now than ever, I wish Father still lived, or that I knew what had happened to my sister Midoriko." He knelt beside his mate, gingerly touching the arrow wound. "It was nearly a direct hit. A hair's-breath more to the left and she would have died instantly. This..." his voice caught with grief. "...this is worse. She's still alive, but she won't last another hour."
"That arrow's barbed," Koe said, her voice low but angry. "I can tell by the fletching, and I can see some other ones laying around. If you pull that thing out, it'll rip her chest open and kill her."
"Don't!" Kagome wailed desperately when she saw Hiuchimaru's hand move to do precisely that.
"Why not? She's dying, priestess. I can't let her suffer. That is a cruelty I am not capable of."
"I might be able to save her! You've got to let me try! Please!"
Hiuchimaru's muscles froze entirely. "You... what?" His eyes narrowed at her. "Are you sure about that? There's probably a lot of damage to her heart muscle."
"My mom's a nurse, and she taught me all kinds of techniques, and I've studied really hard. I can't guarantee anything, but I have to try and save her. She didn't deserve this, and if I can help her, I have to do it. It's a calling, if you will." The words tumbled out of her mouth almost incoherently. She couldn't bear the thought of Ashita dying before she'd had a chance to try and save her. And besides, if I can just get that arrow out, her own youkai healing with take care of repairing the damage. Please, let me try."
The hogosha-youkai bowed his head toward the ground, and Kagome could have sworn she saw a tear fall into the dust. Then he stood up. "Very well. I leave her in your hands. Do not let her suffer. Opaaru?" He looked over at his son, who sat dejectedly against a tree. "Come with me, kouma."
The colt stood up and approached his father, but then threw himself prostrate a few steps away. "It's all my fault, Father! I couldn't protect her!"
"You couldn't have stopped something like that, kouma, don't be ridiculous. Not even I could have stopped an arrow like that. Where's your sister?"
"She's safe," Sango said as she dismounted Kirara and set Hiraikotsu down. "They were after her. I think she's the whole reason for this attack."
"I know," Hiuchimaru said dejectedly. Mimiko started struggling, reaching for him, and he abruptly plucked her from Sango's arms, holding the toddler close and closing his eyes with regret. "I should have known it would come to this. Uma-youkai hate humans, and therefore hate hanyou even more."
"You're not like the others, obviously."
"I'm not an uma-youkai, you'll notice. But what about you? Why did you protect her?"
"What do you mean?"
"You're a taijiya. Why did you protect this hanyou child? Aren't hanyou viewed as abominations by the exterminators?"
Sango gave him a curious look and thought on that one a bit, before answering. "You're right, the taijiya do view a hanyou that way. But I've learned otherwise. I've met others besides Inuyasha, and I can say truthfully that they are amazing creatures. They are more resilient than either parent, if you ask me. To watch Inuyasha, you'd never guess he's only half-blooded."
Hiuchimaru looked over at where Kagome was rummaging through her pack for her medical supplies. "Is she competent enough for that task?"
"Kagome? I'd trust her with my life," Sango said without missing a beat. "But don't just take my word for it. See for yourself. Anyway, as to why I protected Mimiko, aside from that fact, I just couldn't bear the thought of a tiny child being slaughtered. Call it a maternal instinct, I guess. I just couldn't let them kill a baby."
"Well, taijiya -- "
"My name is Sango."
"Very well, then, Sango, it appears I am in your debt."
"That," a menacing voice said from behind them, "is what I feared you'd say, Hai'iro."
Author's afterword note: Ah yes. Another cliffhanger (can you see smug grin?). Now, this chapter had some weird twists I didn't anticipate. I did NOT expect Opaaru to force his own transformation. I was all set to have Koga make a brief appearance in this chapter too. He must have gotten lost on the way or something, because he never made it in time. And I didn't exactly expect Koe to become so coldblooded and nonchalant about killing. oO Man. Well, she's gotta be good for something, I guess. I deleted a brief scene in which she and Hiuchimaru hear Opaaru's distress call, just because it was too awkward, the shift in scenes. I may flash-back to it in a later chapter, because there is some significant character development. Why am I saying this in an end-note? Who the hell knows. XD I'm looney toons today on lack of sleep.
One more thing: that demon with the white hair? Yeah. Will appear next chapter. If you've been paying attention to the hints I've dropped, you'll already have a hunch who it is. Ciao! Until next time, minna-san! X3