InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Fireside Chats ❯ Part Twenty-Nine: Sons and Daughters ( Chapter 29 )
Author's Note: For anyone who doesn't know what an event horizon is, it is defined (quoting from wikipedia here) as: "a boundary in spacetime at which the escape velocity for a given mass reaches and then exceeds the speed of light, making escape impossible." Typically, it is used to describe the outermost boundary of a black hole or supernova. Keep this in mind as you read the part about Ashita's dream.
Disclaimer: According to my research, the zanbatou never really existed in Sengoku Jidai, despite claims in Rurouni Kenshin that it did exist then. However, I figured it would make a good reference for Ashita. I know that Banryuu is in fact (supposedly; referred to as) a halberd, but Ashita wouldn't know what that is. For more information, go to wikipedia and type in "zanbatou" into the search box.
Soundtrack: (aka the stuff I listened to while writing this chapter) "Beyond the Pale" by Laura Powers inspired the first portion (Ashita's dream)
Part Twenty-Nine: Sons and Daughters
She wasn't dead.
Ashita knew that much. She didn't know where -- or even what -- exactly she was, but she wasn't dead. Not yet, anyway.
She couldn't remember how she got here or what it was that had happened. All she knew was that her chest throbbed with an acute pain just over her heart. She struggled to remember what had happened. The last she could recall, Hiuchimaru had gotten up and left her side again, citing his usual duties. Koe had been reluctant to leave her as well, but there had been a reason... The excruciating pain in her chest flowed like ocean waves, crashing against her ribcage with thunderous force and slowly ebbing away, only to crash back at full force again.
How had she come by this bizarre injury? And how did she get here, wherever "here" was? It had something to do with an arrow...
An unfamiliar but entrancing voice floated briefly toward her. It was a smooth masculine voice, soft and seductive, yet coated in evil-feeling oil. It was oddly reminiscent of venomous spiders; for some reason, she was reminded of the malevolent youkai spider that had bitten her the day she'd given birth to Opaaru. Its extremely potent venom would have killed her had her mate's sister not been there. Midoriko was a skilled youkai healer (though not as talented as their reputed father) and had visited them to offer her assistance in the birth of their son. The green-eyed horse demon's specialized talents for drawing out toxins and poisons had proven to be Ashita's saving grace. It wasn't the first time someone had saved her life, and it wasn't the last. It had been shortly after that incident with the youkai spider that Midoriko had stopped visiting them. A few years later, rumors had begun circulating that Midoriko had died. Ashita had wondered ever since if somehow that spider incident had contributed to her rumored death. Had the spider's venom been too much for even Midoriko, who was strangely immune to nearly all youkai venoms, to handle? Had it tainted her and slowly killed her?
Ashita shivered at the unwanted memory recall. Hiuchimaru had never voiced any suspicions about his sister's disappearance, and she did wonder if he'd forgotten about the spider incident. He hadn't been there when it happened -- he had been on the other side of the forest, driving out invaders, as was his obligation. He'd only heard about it afterwards when he'd returned to find his sister performing a leeching ritual on his mate.
Occasionally, a certain sense of guilt nagged at Ashita. If it was the spider that had caused Midoriko's death -- if Midoriko was indeed dead -- then to some degree, Ashita felt responsible. After all, she'd been careless and had inadvertently cornered the arachnid. If she hadn't been so careless, if she'd taken Koe's warnings about increased spider activity in the area more seriously...
The hypnotic voice spoke again, a longer pronouncement. She felt suddenly unclean, as though the voice had seen into her and seen such horrific things that it found amusing, that even her mate would be disgusted by... and yet, she could think of nothing about her that Hiuchimaru would find overtly repulsive. Even if she blamed herself for what had happened to Midoriko, it was unlikely that he would see it that way. He was irritatingly philosophical in that way... Still, the longer she listened to this invasive voice, more debased she felt.
Curiously, she couldn't understand what the owner of the voice said. It was like he spoke in another language. Yet she was certain that wasn't true. Perhaps she wasn't meant to understand what was said. She heard someone say a name she recognized -- but couldn't remember why she recognized it.
She felt a cold, icy fog crawl past her, stinging her skin wherever it encountered, and she drew her arms in tightly around herself. Who was speaking, and where was she? She needed to answer those questions.
Her stomach lurched a heartbeat after the questions formed in her mind. A mild case of vertigo shook her senses. Briefly, she glimpsed a sight through the mists of the world around her. This was unlike any other Sighting she'd ever had. It was almost as if they stood before her and yet ignored her, for all that they were semi-transparent. She saw a beautiful man with incredibly long flowing black hair and reddish eyes, whose countenance of abject antipathy and malice made her blood run cold with fear. She saw only a peculiar animal pelt where his body should be. And yet it didn't seem to disrupt the appearance. He was a vision of terrible beauty, the kind that would kill you if it knew you looked upon it.
In front of him, listening to what he said as though he were taking orders was another man, this one what she imagined Opaaru would look like as an adult. Except for the peculiar tattoo on his forehead, his face seemed like an older mirror of Opaaru. His blue-black hair was even pulled into a long braid down his back, in the same manner that Opaaru's was. But the look of sheer blood thirst and cruelty in his dark blue eyes was nothing like her son. And to accentuate his aura of cruelty, the outline of a giant weapon framed him. The weapon looked like a zanbatou -- a horse-slayer's weapon. Cold apprehension washed through her at the realization that this was a man who used such a weapon. The weapon itself wasn't there, but its aura clung to its master here in this half-world.
Then the pelted man turned his beautiful, deadly gaze upon her, and she knew she'd been allowed to see this exchange, yet not understand what was said. The vision then faded as the encroaching mists swirled in. Like a great cat playing with its prey, this pernicious creature had deliberately revealed himself to her, without revealing any details as to why.
The question dogged her. Why had she been made to see these men? Who were they? And what were they doing here, in this half-world land between life and death. Or was that even what this world was? Where exactly was she? She still didn't have an answer that basic question.
She looked around herself, trying to see if she could find any clues as to what was going on. Where she stood was unlike any place she'd ever seen, even in dreams. It was a world of cold, hostile gray mists that formed unusual patterns, resembling the threads of countless spider webs. And just a few steps beyond the misty threads around her was a terrifying event horizon. If she strayed too close to the edge, the gaping maw of the emptiness would swallow her entirely. She had to escape this hellhole, and yet everywhere she turned was framed with absolute emptiness. There was no escape, except through the void around her.
She just wanted to go home!
"My child, have you come to join me?"
A form began to take shape in front of her. A tall, dark-eyed male with black hair pulled back into the traditional queue, clothed in modest attire. A very familiar form. Someone she loved almost as dearly as her mate and children.
"Moriko, is it time for you to join me already?" The voice of her father Kuroshima, a voice she hadn't heard in twenty years or more, very nearly broke her poise. "You are ready to leave them all behind?"
It wasn't until Kuroshima stopped speaking that Ashita realized there was another voice, very soft and rhythmic, permeating the gray fog around them. It had been present all along, but now it was more prominent. She strained her ears, and caught her sister's distinctive inflection. There were no discernable words, but it was Koe's voice nonetheless. She knew that voice like she knew her own. Was it Koe's voice that held her rooted to this spot, keeping her from slipping into the land of death?
"Father, where are we?"
"Come to me, Moriko. I cannot bear to see you suffer in limbo. Come forward!"
The command went through to her core, and she tried to move forward, but her body wouldn't obey. It was more than fear, more than Koe's voice that held her in place. Some outside force restrained her as well.
"Moriko, why do you hesitate?"
"Do not force her, Kuroshima." Another voice spoke, this one not as deep, more brassy and tenor than Kuroshima's bass timbre. It struck a wrong chord in its own way, and yet she was not alarmed by this voice. "She must decide for herself."
"Or rather," Kuroshima said angrily, "she should decide what you dictate she should decide, is that it? Let go of her. Let her come to me or not, but give her freedom!"
Ashita realized that what held her back was a prismatic ring around her body, a ribbon of iridescent light across her aching chest. It was almost invisible, it was so faint, and yet it was there, holding her firmly in place. It seemed to wax and wane in visibility in time with the waves of pain in her chest. As the pain ebbed, the circlet of rainbows seemed to brighten. Then the crashing of pain made the ring nearly invisible.
"Decide for yourself, Ashita," the other voice said. "I can help you; I can lead you back, but only if you help me."
"Help you? How?"
"I can guide you back, but you must provide the propulsion. I cannot take you there; you must take yourself. But I can guide you. However, you must decide on your own. Do you wish to return to your living family, to face all the challenges and hardships that lay unmapped down the road? Or do you wish to end it all here and go into the painless afterlife with your sire?"
"Who are you? Why do you care about me?"
The voice coalesced before her into a human-like shape of a man with a mane of chestnut hair. His facial features reminded her starkly of Hiuchimaru and made her heart instantly ache to be with her mate. But his eyes... his eyes were like a pair of crystal scrying-spheres, the kind Kuroshima had once used for divination... only, these crystals refracted the entire rainbow. It was very much like the iridescent tendencies of Opaaru's eyes when he was particularly serious. Even Hiuchimaru's eyes occasionally grew multi-hued, but not like this...
With a start, she remembered something Hiuchimaru had once told her, about a particular, unusual feature someone in his family had. His father had had rainbow eyes.
"I am Nijimaru, sire of your mate. I care about you because I care about my son, and I know that he will not be able to cope emotionally with losing you right now."
"You meddler, Nijimaru," Kuroshima snarled from where he stood, just this side of the event horizon.
"How now, Kuroshima? Do you mean to tell me that that you would not interfere if your children fought as mine do right now?" Nijimaru turned and glowered at Kuroshima. "Be honest with yourself. Would you have her give up now, when there is still much for her to do? I do not delight in the prospect of my son being driven mad with grief, nor of my daughters all following me into the Afterlife."
"You have a daughter with you in the Afterlife. I have no one! My loneliness is -- "
"Your loneliness is selfish, if you desire your daughter to forsake everything because you're tired of being alone! She has two underaged foals, one of which very much still needs a mother. Your daughter will join you eventually. But there are many who still need her."
Kuroshima turned away deliberately. "I was never as glib or as strong as you, cousin. Do as you will. I could hardly stop you, even now."
Ashita hesitated as she watched her father's image fade. Nijimaru faded as well, melding into the rainbow ring that encircled her. She wanted to call out to her father, but feared that doing so would take the decision she tried to make out of her hands. She wanted to be with her father again, and yet...
"Ashita, choose quickly. The longer you tarry here, the harder it will be. What do you want to do? If you wait too long, the decision will be made for you."
"I... I want to see Flint and Mimiko and Opaaru and Koe... I want to go back to them. I'm not ready to leave them. Lead me to them, please!"
Complete silence met her words. There was no change whatsoever. Apprehension sank its claws into her spine. "Please, Nijimaru! Take me home to my family!" she begged.
"Start walking, Ashita. I cannot take you there. You must do this yourself, but I will guide your steps. Please trust me. You're running out of time."
"But there is nowhere to walk!"
"Walk forward. You cannot stand there for much longer, or else I will not be able to help you."
Ashita reached out tentatively. The mist-threads stung her hands, like a thousand fleas or tiny spiders biting her skin. She pulled her hands back again. "Which direction do I go? Everything looks like an event horizon, and it hurts to touch these webs!"
"Coming back from the brink of death is not easy, Ashita. You must walk into that event horizon that you see. I will guide you home, but you must take the steps."
"Do you know what you're doing?"
"I've done it before. Your sister's voice will help guide me. Now come forward. Trust me as you would my son, or else let go and let death take you."
Ashita closed her eyes and took one step forward, into the crisscrossing web of mist-threads. Her skin burned with irritation, but she did her best to ignore it. She mentally reached out and grasped onto Koe's wordless voice, clinging to it like a lifeline. Then she took a deep breath and stepped forward into the gaping abyss of the event horizon.
Hiuchimaru belatedly remembered how much he hated battle-whips, and why.
They left nasty little welts all over the skin, welts that stung and complained, impeding movement in tiny ways. It was easy to ignore a big long cut along one limb, but a hundred tiny welts all complaining in unison made it much more difficult to outmaneuver someone like Himawari.
Plus, he was employing an ability he hated to use when he wasn't in his full spirit-horse form. Self-levitation took great focus and concentration, and pretty much negated any offensive strikes he might have made. But he was determined to keep the fight off the ground, away from those who had already seen combat today, and whose safety could be used against him by Himawari or Shunme.
He raised his arms to deflect another blow from Himawari's whips, silently cursing his reduced speed. He should have been able to dodge that; she was deliberately slowing her motions just enough, testing him. His side ached acutely. That damned youba had kicked him hard in the trunk. Most likely a few ribs were broken now, which would explain why it was getting difficult to breathe properly.
Shunme had a savage bite and a painful kick, but it was Himawari herself that Hiuchimaru was more concerned about. Clever and hot-tempered as she was, she could have killed him by now if that was her objective.
She was clearly not trying to kill him. From the way she was deliberately tagging him and goading him, she was trying to drive him into a killing rage.
And dammit, it was starting to work, no thanks to Kiribitou's interest. He could feel the spirit of the fire elemental waking up and taking notice of what was going on. It worried him that Kiribitou was so aware. The last thing he needed was something else to focus his attention on. If Kiribitou got excited enough, it would demand to be drawn. And if that happened, it would then become a battle of wills between him and the fire elemental. A battle of wills he could not afford to lose.
His "bond" (if it could be called such) with Kiribitou was based primarily on his supremacy over the fire elemental's prison, which was the flint from which the sword's blade had been carved. As a general rule, he was in control of it insomuch as he didn't let it take control of him. That wasn't to say it hadn't tried and on occasion succeeded. But so far, the only way the sword had been able to possess or overpower him had been by ambush tactics, such as seizing control when Hiuchimaru himself was physically, emotionally or mentally exhausted.
If Kiribitou were to rouse now and demand to be drawn, and he were to succumb to its demands despite active resistance, the tenuous relation between the two of them would be sundered. There was no telling what Kiribitou would do once it figured out that it could overpower him. If that happened, it was likely that Himawari would have to kill him, to prevent Kiribitou from using him to go on a flaming warpath and set all of Japan ablaze in its fervor.
Himawari paused, glaring at him critically; "Good grief, Hai'iro. Is that all you've got? What happened to the fighter you used to be? What happened to all that training Mother gave you?"
A flame of irritation swelled in his soul. "Stop calling me Hai'iro."
"That's the name Mother gave you."
"Be that as it may, that is not my name anymore. Father recognized my name change."
"Whatever, Grey-eyes. You're just an immature colt in my viewing. You can't even handle a couple of standard battle-whips without getting severely fatigued? What kind of uma-youkai are you anyway?"
"In case you didn't notice, I'm not a goddamn uma-youkai," he snarled, alighting in a tree to rest. His forehead ached from the strain of concentration, and Kiribitou was becoming more restive. "I'm a hogosha youkai. Like our father."
"Father was a fool and an idiot," Himawari spat. "And look how he behaved when Mother died. He didn't lift a finger to protect her when those gods-be-damned taijiya attacked her!"
"I won't argue that Father was an idiot at times, but you glorify our mother. She was a fool and an idiot too," Hiuchimaru retorted. "Her pride caused her death. She could have survived if she had retreated to Father's forest when they attacked. She could have reached the forest in time. Father would have been able to protect her if she'd been within his boundaries. She wasn't, and he couldn't protect her. You don't understand a forest guardian's limits, you idiot.. It was her own damned fault she died. She should have known she was no match for a full cadre of taijiya. You glorify her as if she could do no wrong, but in fact our mother was a stupid, prideful mare who didn't know when to back down, and that caused her own death. You can't blame Nijimaru for his mate being a blockhead."
Himawari's countenance had grown steadily dour, but that statement made something in her snap and her expression went from dour conceit to outright hatred. "How dare you..."
"Oh, get off your ego," Hiuchimaru said wearily. "You know damned good and well what she was like. You're just like her, as a matter of fact. Only slightly smarter and a hell of a lot sassier."
Himawari's hands clenched the handles of the whips so tightly that the leather creaked audibly. "Are you trying to make me kill you?"
"No, but I won't fight you if you decide you want to. If you're trying to get me to kill you, you've got the wrong sibling, Hanako."
Himawari started at his use of her birth name, and her anger spiked. She coiled up the whips and raised them into strike position, kneeing Shunme forward. "Enough talk. You'd better keep moving, or else you might find more casualties littering your forest! I've got a hell of a lot of anger to work out, and if you won't play, I'll find someone to vent it on!"
Kagome felt lightheaded when she finished extracting the arrow and all its little barbs. The arrowhead had actually sort of exploded upon impact on her ribcage, creating more barbs. Throughout the whole procedure, she'd felt another presence guiding her hands, tweezing the tiniest pieces of shrapnel out with a practiced dexterity she knew wasn't her own. And then she'd sewn up the wound with tiny, neat stitches that reminded her of her mom. Kagome had never sewn up a wound like that before. She'd bandaged, but not sewn.
What she wanted to know now was, whose skills had she just employed?
Mine, a voice said. I was more than a healer by talent. I also learned to heal injuries the mundane way. My healing talent required me to take the injury or illness into myself, and it was much easier on me to not employ that talent when it wasn't absolutely necessary.
Kagome blinked, and realized that her vision was tinted with a spectrum of colors. She saw the barest, faintest outline of a man crouched immediately to her left.
"Nijimaru?" she whispered.
You remember me, eh? I'm flattered. The tone was sincere. I have done my best to bring Ashita's spirit back to her body. And I've helped you to remove that which would have killed her. Whether she lives or dies now is entirely up to her. And I rather think she will. She seemed plenty eager to return.
"Why did you do this?"
Well, a number of reasons, but mainly because I love my son. I don't wish to see him suffer any more than he already does under the burden he bears. And whatever anyone may think, he adores his mate. And besides, I felt I owed it to you and your company to help absolve you of Kiniromaru's demise. I know that you tried to save her, but that she didn't want to be saved. And I know that it has bothered you ever since. I rather hoped that in assisting you to save Ashita, perhaps you could absolve yourself of what happened to Kiniromaru. It was my actions that entangled all of you in what was essentially my own personal business. I guess you could say this is the only way I could think of to make amends.
There was a pause as the rainbow tinting to her vision faded, as did the outline beside her.
Oh, and one more thing. If she does wake up, ask her about the man she saw. I believe that this Naraku that you are pursuing was trying to seize her. And do tell Koe that her voice did reach me. I'm sure she'd be glad to know that her voice has not failed her, even if she has no way of confirming this herself.
I am sorry for all the troubles I and my family have caused you and your group. I hope you can forgive me.
As his words faded in her mind, Kagome felt the earth beneath her begin to move and spin. And then a darkness totally unaffiliated with nighttime overcame her.
"She's all right," Koe said when Miroku lunged for Kagome's slumping body. "She's just exhausted. There's nothing wrong with her."
The monk glared at her. "The hell there's nothing wrong with her. She shouldn't be passing out like that!"
"She just extracted a shattered arrowhead from what amounted to mincemeat, without damaging any vital organs. I didn't know anyone had that kind of fine motor skills," Koe's voice radiated awe. "That takes concentration like you wouldn't believe. Of course she's exhausted. But she'll be fine once she's rested."
Miroku looked askance at the mare, trying to gage her reaction. Koe seemed genuinely astonished, and pleasantly. She cradled Ashita's head in her lap, inspecting the wound with a reverence that bespoke of her attachment to Ashita and her awe at Kagome's ability to save her.
No sooner had the monk heaved a sigh of relief that they had avoided a crisis, than another presented itself.
The battle between Himawari and Hiuchimaru was getting ugly.
"Okay," Inuyasha growled in his throat. "Fuck this. I've had enough. I can see from here that he's wounded, and she's just driving him around the area, just to exhaust him."
Sango quirked an eyebrow at him. "You're going to play the hero?"
"Not for his sake," the hanyou snorted. "But if she succeeds in doing away with him, who do you think her next target will be? You heard what she said about your clan. She'll come for you next. I can't allow that to happen."
Sango looked back up at the two combatants circling in the sky. It was pretty obvious that Hiuchimaru was in pain. He listed awkwardly when he slowed, and his acceleration was becoming more and more strained. He was reaching the point of exhaustion.
Inuyasha drew Tetsusaiga. "Shippo, Kirara, I need your help, both of you. And Sango, if you can heave Hiraikotsu at the right time, that'll help to. This won't be easy."
"What do you need?" Sango asked as Kirara stepped out from her side, with Shippo riding on the cat's head.
"Shippo, can your balloon form bear my weight upwards for a little while?" Inuyasha asked, not looking at the kit at all as he spoke, training his eyes on Himawari and Shunme.
"Of course," Shippo said proudly. "I'm getting better all the time at it."
"Good. I need you to give me a boost up in the air. I need to be on a level with Himawari. Kirara, I want you to tackle Hiuchimaru and get him out of the way. But wait for my signal, because I'm going to throw a Wind Scar at Himawari, and I don't want him caught in the crossfire, but I don't want her to get too much advance warning. Sango, I want you to throw Hiraikotsu right before I throw the Wind Scar. You know the signal, right?"
"I need Himawari distracted. If you can hit that youba with Hiraikotsu and knock it off kilter, that'd be great, but just throw that thing at her and get her attention."
Sango hid a smile. Inuyasha hadn't forgotten her warning earlier in the day that she wasn't sure how accurate she'd be with Hiraikotsu right now, with her body still recovering from Mukotsu's poison.
She was also quite impressed with the intricacy of this plan. It wasn't typical for Inuyasha to think a battle plan out so thoroughly.
"Why are you doing this?" Shippo asked. "Can't you just throw a Wind Scar from the ground?"
"That might hit one of the trees," Inuyasha said coolly. "And I really don't want to kill Himawari, because I don't think that's what Hiuchimaru wants. I just want to incapacitate her. If she's as strong as she looks, getting nicked with the Wind Scar will knock her momentum out from under her, and maybe we can end this fucking stupid sibling spat."
Sango grinned. "Fancy you waxing eloquent about someone's sibling relations."
Inuyasha glowered at her. "There's a difference. I've never liked Sesshomaru, and he's never liked me. These siblings, though, they used to get along, I think. Are we all agreed on the course of action?"
At everyone's nods, Inuyasha signaled them to get a move on already. Kirara launched skyward and started cruising around the copse, keeping Hiuchimaru in range. Sango grabbed onto Hiraikotsu's handgrips and pulled the boomerang into position, her eyes locked on Shunme's chest.
Shippo transformed, and lifted Inuyasha up just above the canopy. The hanyou crouched down with Tetsusaiga at the ready, watching silently.
The combatants had circled the copse about five times before Inuyasha gave the signal to Kirara and Sango. The firecat stooped into a dive and slammed into Hiuchimaru, crashing him into the boughs of a broad tree. Sango hurled Hiraikotsu with a sharp yell, and was pleased to see that she hit her target, striking Shunme in the chest with the tip of the boomerang and knocking the horse out of momentum.
Then the Wind Scar ripped the air apart and struck Himawari almost dead-on.
For a moment, Sango thought that despite the care Inuyasha had taken to not kill Himawari, that it had still happened, but then she saw horse and rider fall to the ground with a great crash. They probably weren't dead. Victims of the Wind Scar were obliterated, turned into dust and ashes.
It was clear almost instantly that Hiuchimaru was not overly grateful for the interference though. Though he said nothing, his furious glance at Inuyasha spoke volumes. Inuyasha received the furious look with complete apathy. He didn't give a fuck what Hiuchimaru thought, clearly.
Sango was the first to arrive on the scene where Himawari and Shunme had crashed. They'd taken out a few large branches on some nearby trees, but no trees had been knocked down.
Himawari had taken a heavy blow from the Wind Scar. Her armor was completely gone, obliterated in the blast, and across her naked torso and chest were four deep bloody grooves carved by the blades of the Wind Scar.
"She's going to be feeling that one in the morning," Shippo murmured as he settled on Sango's shoulder.
"I think she's feeling it now," Inuyasha said dryly. "And she won't be in any shape to fight you for a while Hiuchimaru."
The forest guardian stood up and strode over to stand right in front of the hanyou, who defiantly crossed his arms in blatant indifference.
"I did not ask you to interfere. While I'm glad you didn't kill her, I didn't really want to see her maimed either."
"She'll live," Inuyasha retorted. "And I only interrupted the fight because that bitch poses a threat to a member of my group. I've told you, you harm a hair on any of my friends' heads, and I'll cut you six ways to sunrise. The same goes for that bitch over there. She threatens a friend of mine, she pays the price. If you don't like it, Hiuchimaru, you can just go fuck a tree for all I care. I just saved your ass and you know it."
The blunt crudity of his words seemed to break the angry spell on Hiuchimaru. He chuckled at the irony and shook his head. "While I understand your rancor, I'll ask that you kindly refrain from suggesting such perverted ideas when in the presence of my children."
Inuyasha blinked at him, astonished. "What the fuck! Two seconds ago you were ready to rip my eyes out and now you're joking with me? Talk about fucking mood swings!"
Hiuchimaru gestured weary acceptance. "It's who I am." He then shrugged off his outermost kimono and approached where Himawari lay motionless, draping the fabric around her out of sheer prudence. Despite the fact that she had been trying to drive him into a killing rage, he still cared enough about her to cover her modestly and to treat her wounds.
"I'll never fucking understand you goddamn horse-bastards, I swear." Inuyasha complained.
Author's afterward: One more chapter to go! Oh god I'm looking forward to finishing this thing!
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 (born Hanako): (female) daughter of Nijimaru and Saoirse. Transient uma-taiyoukai. She has an affinity with plants and nature, and often serves as a messenger of sorts.
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) juvenile uma-youkai; son of Hiuchimaru and Ashita. The only offspring of Hiuchimaru.
Ashita (born Moriko): (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 (born Manatsu): (female) younger half-sister of Ashita; 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.
Kuroshima: (male) previous guardian of the Eien no Mori; Ashita's sire. Deceased (cause of death undisclosed).
Meuma (birth name unknown): (female) once-dominant female uma-youkai in the Eien no Mori. Mother of Ashita and Koe. Current whereabouts unknown.
Rengoku: (male) a consort of Meuma. Sire of Koe. Current whereabouts unknown.
Shunme: (male) Himawari's youba partner
Kiribitou: (no gender) Hiuchimaru's demonblade, made of flint and infused with the malevolent soul of a fire elemental
enmaku : smokescreen