InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ Ten ( Chapter 10 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Her eyes opened slowly and she woke to take in the gloomy interior of a battered, neglected shack that used to be the home of a friend. Something had stirred her; she sensed it in the air. Kagome lay perfectly still, barely even breathing. From across the hut, she heard Shippou's deep and measured snores. The red haired kitsune was curled on his side a few feet from her, between her and the door in an unconscious protective instinct to be between her and danger.
Kagome stared at his back, one hand still quiet beneath her cheek. She estimated that it was just before dawn; outside she could hear a few birds chirping sleepily at each other. One of Shippou's arms was behind him, the palm open and fingers slightly curled. The sharp claws at the end of his fingers reminded her of something but she pushed the memories back with the same determination that had served her for so long in the places where she had no hope.
Her hips and ribs ached from sleeping on the hard floor of the hut. She was used to beds, damn it. She had forgotten how much she hated sleeping on the floor, on the cold ground outside. When she was fifteen it was an adventure, now more than ten years later, it was no longer fun and exciting. It was uncomfortable and made her feel like she had grown old in the span of a few years time.
She sat up, feeling it again, a presence that woke her senses. It wasn't at all like the jewel, but it was absolutely demonic in essence. Kagome contemplated for a moment that even if the well had closed on her, it seemed her priestess abilities were returning. That was youki she could feel, like a cold touch on the back of her neck, like a sharp claw between her breasts. She knew the feel of it.
"Shippou," she hissed. "Wake up, something's coming."
He was awake in an instant, already on his feet and headed for the door before she could say another word. "Stay here," Shippou ordered. "Don't make a sound until I say it's okay."
Kagome sat quite still; her faded yukata wrapped around her and tried to quiet the pounding of her heart. The essence of a demonic aura still hung in the air, growing steadily stronger. She concentrated, trying to feel the nature of it, the identity. A strong demon, yes, but she sensed no malice. If it knew they were here, it was not coming for destruction. This was like a ghost, like a whisper, it was moving fast and she threw herself flat on the floor and covered her head.
It was overwhelming. Power and great sadness, extreme grief. It was youki and yet it was not, it was demonic and yet it was not. All Kagome wanted to do was bury her face in her arms and -grieve- for whatever it was. So much aching pain it left her breathless and she was devastated without knowing why.
Shippou stepped back into the hut, his face pale. A bit of light was starting to creep over the horizon; the sky was several shades brighter. Kagome didn't realize that she had tears pouring down her face and drew in a quick breath of surprise when she realized that Shippou was crying too.
"What the hell was that?" she whispered.
The kitsune shook his head. "I don't know, I've never felt anything like it." He sank to his knees and leaned against the wall. "I feel like everything horrible that's ever happened to me in my life just happened all over again."
Kagome shivered, her body was cold in a way that had nothing to do with the temperature in the hut. The bitter tang of sadness hung in the air, covering them with a murky blanket of despair. "I thought I sensed a demon," she murmured.
"It wasn't a demon," Shippou answered. "Unless it was a demon's ghost."
"I don't believe in ghosts," Kagome snapped, getting to her feet. She rubbed her arms to dispel the chill that had invaded her soul. This was no time to panic and no time to get soft.
She brushed past Shippou and headed out the door. The sun had just appeared over the treetops and bathed the abandoned village with warmth. Kagome felt better almost instantly, turning her face to the sun. She spread her arms wide, embracing the light like a little girl and reminded herself who she was.
She was Kagome Higurashi and she had survived what should have killed her. Compared to that, this was nothing.
She felt Shippou walk up behind her and his hands rested on her shoulders. "Why do you look so happy?" he wanted to know.
Kagome looked at him. The morning sun was blazing through his hair and making it so bright that his face was in shadow. The despairing feeling that had overwhelmed them both had lifted and she offered him a small smile.
"I was just thinking that I can beat this," she said seriously. "I'm going to find a way home, Shippou."
His eyes lit up in pleasure. "That's the Kagome I know," he said, almost joyfully. "I knew you couldn't have changed that much."
She regarded him soberly. It would have been easier just agree with his sentiment, but Kagome knew better. If nothing else, she knew herself now. She was no innocent anymore, no schoolgirl who was bent on saving everyone. She'd already learned that life doesn't give you second chances and you had to be ready to take your opportunities when they came. It wasn't her old cheerful, positive outlook that defined her anymore.
It was self-preservation. It was a burning will to survive, to succeed, and to not ever let herself be made into nothing again. But Shippou didn't know that, Kagome thought with a bitterness that edged into her heart like a slim stiletto blade. Shippou thought he was with the old Kagome, the one who saw so much good in everyone that she'd never think to look for darkness within herself.
In a way, she had Inuyasha to thank for her confidence, her tenacity. If he hadn't stolen her innocence, so many years ago, it was possible that she'd still be the same happy, optimistic, loving person that she had been the first time she fell into that cursed well.
Kagome put her hand over Shippou's and looked right into those startlingly green eyes. "I'm sorry, Shippou," and her voice held real regret. "I'm not the Kagome you knew, not any more than you're the child that I knew. I have changed. And when I say that, I don't just mean that I've grown older. I had to change or it would have killed me."
"What would have killed you?" Shippou was every bit as serious as she was; his gaze grew dark even as the sunshine lit his hair. Now she could see it, the innocent boy deep inside this young demon. The part of him that had played tricks and pranks wasn't dead; she had just been distracted by his grown appearance. Her heart twisted inside her when she remembered what they'd said to each other in the dead of night.
You were his whore.
And now you want me to be yours?
"Everything," she answered, suddenly angry again. "I couldn't have lived with what happened to me, what...what happened to him. Don't you understand, Shippou? Didn't you have to be tough and take care of yourself?"
"Well, yeah," he said dubiously, not understanding what she was getting at.
Kagome nodded firmly. "So did I."
The kitsune snorted. "Kagome, you said there weren't demons in your world."
She smiled at his innocent comment. Didn't Shippou realize that she carried her own demons everywhere she went?
"Anyway," he said, glancing at the morning sky again with apprehension. "We can't stay here. This territory really isn't safe, you know."
Kagome frowned at him. "What do you mean, not safe?”
Ten Years Ago
As he entered the cave, Sesshomaru detected the scent of old evil and death. His nose twitched slightly, irritating him with such an obvious reaction. He had smelled death many times; even more often he had dealt it with his own hand. Today would be nothing different.
Still, being a fastidious demon, he despised the reek. Whatever had made this hole its home wasn't clean; he could smell the rotting blood. Does he actually drag carcasses in here, he wondered, disgusted by the idea. No, it wasn't the scent of bloated, unburied bodies that he identified. Just old blood, filth, and hatred.
The interior of the narrow cave was dark; its entrance was nearly hidden by long, waving grasses. He had to stoop a bit to get inside, finding that the cave sloped downward. He sensed evil, sour and clinging like spoiled milk. It hung in the air almost like a miasma, the taint of dead or dying dreams. It was beyond him why Inuyasha would choose such a lowly place to make his home.
Have you become an animal, little brother, he asked Inuyasha silently in his mind. Have you made this cave your den, venturing out only at night to murder? Do you hide the sight of your face from those miserable mortals that you used to protect? Do humans run in fear of you and whisper your name in dread?
Sesshomaru didn't give a damn what his brother had been doing, it didn't make any difference to his purposes. He was here to put an end to it. An end to a long, sad and pathetic story. One that hadn't ended well for anyone. If the half-breed were truly, irrevocably, lost to his youkai blood, wouldn't it be appropriate for his pure demon brother to put an end to the shame of being born with such imperfectly weak flesh?
Such was the youkai ideal of mercy.
"You may not be able to live as a youkai, little brother," he whispered to the darkness. "But I will see that you die as one."
The attack came out of nowhere, so fast, so dark that even Sesshomaru was taken by surprise and barely managed to turn aside the assault. He felt the tiniest bit of pain and looked down at his chest in astonishment.
Just above his spiked armor, four long gashes had been torn in his clothing. The faintest of welts were raised on the perfect, pale surface of his skin. From the topmost scratch, a single drop of blood like a ruby glimmered before slipping down to disappear beneath the silk.
He almost took me, Sesshomaru realized. Insufferable.
He felt the faintest shift of the air behind him and whirled around, countering without looking and felt Toukijin blade ring as it connected with something. Four gashes of light appeared in the darkness, glowing claw marks, youki that flared brightly before fading away.
Sesshomaru knew that his eyesight was excellent, even in full darkness he could see quite well. The cave was dim, but not completely dark, light still shone from its entrance. But his sight could not penetrate the darkness at the back of the cave. It was thick and cloying, a poisonous presence.
Grimly, the demon lord realized that his dear little brother was using that blackness to disguise himself. Unseen, he could attack at will, while Sesshomaru could only counter and defend himself. Intolerable.
He didn't hesitate a moment more, sweeping his katana through the air and splitting the darkness with a brilliant flash of power. The youki hung in the air, breaking apart the unnatural darkness that had cloaked his opponent. Sesshomaru held the sword high, waiting. Would he attack once he realized his advantage had been destroyed? Or would he merely slink away like a cur?
"Show yourself," Sesshomaru hissed.
The darkness melted away, revealing a figure that was crouched at the back of the cave. Filthy, matted white hair covered his face; the red robes were shredded and dark with bloodstains. He stood slowly, staggering against the cave wall as if he were too weak to make himself move. Then Inuyasha raised his face and looked at his brother.
Sesshomaru was quite frankly shocked. Gouges and claw marks covered his brother's hands and arms, the exposed flesh of his neck and face. His eyes were blank, glassy and Sesshomaru could feel the heat radiating off Inuyasha's fevered body. He was sweating profusely, filling the air with a diseased reek. Blood caked his fingertips, dark stained claws, and Sesshomaru realized with revulsion that it was his brother's own blood.
"What have you done to yourself?" the youkai lord whispered.
Inuyasha coughed suddenly, spasming in pain and leaned heavily against the wall. Sesshomaru watched, fascinated, as blood began to trickle from his brother's mouth. Was he ill? Had he been attacked, poisoned perhaps? Could that account for the strangely twisted aura, a degraded youki? This didn't make sense.
The voice was hardly more than a rasping whisper, pained and ragged. It sounded nothing like his brother's voice and Sesshomaru grew more perplexed. Still, it annoyed him to be told to leave, as if he'd obey the command of any living creature.
"Whelp," he said softly. "Do not presume to order me."
The glassy yellow eyes met his again; there was nothing behind them, not anger, not hatred. Not even recognition, he realized. His brother seemed to be looking right through him. Sesshomaru fought the urge to look behind him, find what Inuyasha was staring at but he was too well disciplined to simply turn his back.
The diseased hanyou turned full demon swayed on his feet. "I don't know you," he murmured. "But if you don't want me to kill you, you'd better leave now."
Threats? From something in that condition? Sesshomaru's lip curled with contempt. "You are mistaken," he said coldly. The gall. "It is I who have come to slay you."
Inuyasha doubled over, snarling as he clutched his arms to his stomach. He was seemingly in agony, making no move to attack. "I can't control it," he gasped out, falling to his knees. His entire body was shuddering, quaking; he was tearing himself apart from the inside out. Legs kicked helplessly as he fell over on his side, claws digging into the stone floor of the cave, whimpering like a frightened puppy.
Appalled, Sesshomaru withdrew. There would be no honor in fighting his brother in such a condition; it was disgusting to even contemplate. Whatever had happened to Inuyasha, Sesshomaru wanted no part of it. He had heard the rumors that his brother had defeated Naraku, presumably taken possession of the sacred jewel. Was that what was to blame for his downfall?
He turned to leave. Let Inuyasha deal with his misguided transformation, let him reap the rewards of turning to a cursed jewel of power.
He felt the air move around him before he even heard the snarl. Sesshomaru spun around, deflecting his brother's attack even as he leapt into the air. Toukijin blade shone like a dying star and Inuyasha was thrown back against the wall of the cave with a blast of pure youki power. Angry now, Sesshomaru raised the blade for a killing stroke.
"You dare attack me like a coward?" he hissed, his eyes shimmering with red fury.
Inuyasha bared his teeth, his ravaged face unafraid and defenseless. He made no move to get up or try to repel his brother's attack, lying crumpled against the wall.
Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed in suspicion, expecting a trick. "Gladly," he said in a mocking tone. "I didn't expect you to beg for your life, but I never thought you'd just lie down to die either, Inuyasha. Our father would be ashamed."
Inuyasha's head fell forward where he knelt, hiding his expression from his angry brother. Sesshomaru smiled grimly. He should have taken care of this affront to his bloodline years ago. He told himself he'd never felt compassion for the miserable half-breed, only that he hadn't been worth killing. Now Sesshomaru felt no such restrictions, he was glad to be the one to put an end to the obstinate bastard.
He raised his blade, preparing to take his brother's life in one clean stroke, one magnificent blow. It would be easy, Inuyasha wasn't even going to try to resist. Perhaps he was aware somewhat, of how he'd failed, how even a cursed jewel didn't make him his brother's equal. Maybe he'd finally admitted to himself what Sesshomaru had always told him was the truth.
They would never be equals.
They would never be brothers.
It would have been better if he'd never even been born.
The blade split the air, slicing through the darkness like a fatal comet, a portent of pure death and destruction. It was finally...over.
The blade stopped just inches from Inuyasha's throat. Sesshomaru had frozen in mid strike, the tip of Toukijin quivering, alive with desire for Inuyasha's blood. It had a mind of its own, this vicious blade, and it hated to be stopped when it was ready to drink of death and lick at the flesh of another victim.
"What did you say?" Sesshomaru asked. He was sure his ears were playing tricks on him now. His brother's voice had become familiar again, not the aching and tortured croak of a dying demon, but the plea of a grief stricken young hanyou.
Inuyasha lifted his chin and stared at a point in the air just to the left of the blade that had nearly severed his throat. "I'm sorry," he whispered again, his eyes even darker and more glazed. "I never meant to hurt you, Kagome. Please don't leave me."
Kagome? Sesshomaru looked on in utter surprise as Inuyasha stared blankly into space. Was he apologizing to the priestess, the human girl that had been traveling with him for so long? What did she have to do with it? He had assumed that the girl was dead, perhaps even at Inuyasha's hands. What his brother had become would be incapable of discerning friend or foe, victim or ally. It was likely that he had slaughtered all his former companions when he used the jewel and it broke his mind.
Inuyasha reached out, his hand shaking, trying to touch a girl that wasn't there. "It's all my fault," he husked, tears sliding slowly down his face. "Sango, Miroku, please forgive me." Then he fell forward again, his skull hitting the ground hard with a sharp crack. His body went utterly limp and again Sesshomaru was denied the chance to kill a worthy foe.
It was clear that his brother was mad, delirious maybe with the fever that seemed to be wracking his body. Inuyasha didn't know him, didn't even know himself, hallucinating that he was speaking to humans that weren't even there. The scent of death filled the small cave again and Sesshomaru looked away from his brother in annoyance.
It seemed the only merciful thing to do was to kill his brother, to never let him wake from whatever peace he might be granted in unconsciousness. Still, he despised the idea of killing a helpless Inuyasha. It was obvious that his brother was dying of whatever had infected him, grown like a cancer upon his soul perhaps, a sickness that corrupted his heart and destroyed his mind. It would be an act of mercy to kill him now, end his suffering with one clean stroke.
But Sesshomaru wasn't feeling particularly merciful. He wanted to the truth, how his brother had been brought to this lowly state. What had happened to cause such a transformation and what had devoured Inuyasha's mind, leaving behind an agonized and insane wretch that was only capable of indiscriminate slaughter?
Smiling his small, grim smile once again, Sesshomaru slid Toukijin back into his sash.
Then he drew his second sword.
They'd been traveling for a little over a week and Kagome was so tired that she wanted to burst into tears every time she sat down. Shippou had insisted that the territory of Kaede's village wasn't safe and having no other choice, she'd agreed to follow him to Kouga's territory. She was tired and she was cranky and knew that she wasn't the most pleasant traveling companion.
God, had she ever felt so miserable in her life? Yes. Kagome was honest about that, she knew she'd felt worse in her life and resolved to try and bear it. Right now she'd kill for a couple ibuprofen tablets and a hot cup of coffee. Even shitty gas station coffee.
She'd also kill an unspecified person or two for dry clothes. It had rained almost every single day since they'd set out and Kagome knew one thing for sure. If she hated living in the rough and trying to camp in a forest full of unknown threats and dangers, she hated it twice as much when it was raining. Usually by the time they had found some kind of makeshift shelter, she was already drenched to the skin.
No luxuries like umbrellas here, she thought sourly and sat down to twist some water out of her yukata.
"Are you okay?" Shippou looked concerned, this was the third time today that she'd had to stop. Her legs were aching and nothing seemed to warm the chill from her bones. Kagome nodded, absently patted his hand.
"I'm okay, I just need to rest. I'm not used to living like this."
Shippou sat down next to her and put a warm arm around her shoulders. For a moment, she allowed it, leaning into him and sighing. Then, when his arm tightened a bit, his hand rubbed her upper arm, she gently pulled away. He didn't say anything, embarrassed and awkward now when he touched her. It was possible that he'd just meant to offer her comfort and nothing more.
Kagome didn't want to take that chance. For all they'd talked it out that night, put the issue to rest as it were, she still felt him watching her. When she'd stripped off her yukata the night before, making an attempt to hang it to dry in the abandoned hut they'd found to shelter in that evening, she'd glanced over at him and seen that look again.
Of course, he was an obviously healthy young male and her silk nightgown, wet and torn by now, clung to her body. She saw his eyes linger on her breasts before they tore themselves away. It didn't make her feel any more comfortable. She just couldn't stand it, couldn't deal with him looking at her like that. She knew Shippou, he'd never try to hurt her or anything like that, and she'd already proved that she was in control as far as any ridiculous ideas about mating went.
But right now, she couldn't stomach seeing that look in his eyes. It reminded her of the look in every other man's eyes and once she'd reveled in that power. Their desire translated into her power. She didn't want that, did not want it from Shippou. It tore at her; it ripped apart the good memories she had of being with him. She wanted to remember the sweet kitsune boy who had looked at her with trust and love.
She couldn't stand seeing herself reflected in those green eyes when she knew he desired her.
The sky cracked again and the downpour began in earnest, as if there was any part of Kagome's body the earlier drenching could have missed. Damn you, she thought, looking up at the sky. Isn't this hard enough? Haven't I suffered enough? What do you fucking want from me anyway?
"Come on," Shippou said, tugging at her arm. "I know this area, there's an old temple not far from here. We can be there in just a few minutes."
"All right," she said, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice. It was better than sitting in the rain and railing at the gods. Maybe she could even pretend that once she'd been a priestess, sort of, and make some attempt at praying for help. Kagome had abandoned her interest in anything remotely spiritual a long time ago. What good had it done anyone?
If she'd never been born with that cursed jewel in her body. If she'd never been dragged through the well. If she'd never pulled the arrow from his chest, or shattered the jewel with her own arrow, if she'd never tried to make things right. If she'd never fallen in love with a lying, deceitful...
Trying to walk quickly on the sopping wet trail, lost in her own dark thoughts, she stumbled over a branch and felt her weak ankle just give out. She fell hard into the mud, catching herself on her hands that were already scratched and filthy. On her knees in the mud, that's what she got for even thinking about praying.
"Kagome?" Shippou knelt next to her in the mud.
"I'm fine, Shippou," she snarled, not meaning to lash out at him but now her temper was at its boiling point. "I'm not hurt, damn it. I just slipped."
If that was true, why hadn't she gotten up. The rain poured over her, making her hair a wet mess in her eyes, her fingers clenched in mud. I hate this, Kagome thought angrily. I fucking hate this, I want to go home. This world isn't supposed to exist!
"Are you sure you aren't hurt?" Shippou slipped his arm under hers and tried to help her to her feet. "If your ankle hurts I can carry you..."
"No!" She didn't mean to shout, she just meant to raise her voice enough to make him hear her over the sound of the rain. Stubbornly, she pulled her arm away from his and wobbled a bit. "I don't need to be carried."
"I'm strong," he said, misinterpreting her, reaching for her again. "Just get on my back."
"I said no!" She was shouting now and she didn't like the edge of hysteria her voice held. "You don't need to carry me, I can fucking walk, Shippou! Don't touch me!"
The hurt in his face and a twist of pain were lodged deep in her heart like the blade of a knife. He could see it, she was sure. He could see her distrust, her anger. This wasn't about them anymore. This was about something else altogether and she wasn't going to let him carry her, not like that. Not unless she was unconscious or dying. Kagome had resolved a long time ago that no one would ever carry her willingly again.
"I didn't mean it like that," Shippou said quietly, his face going stiff before her eyes. Her distrust was hurting him deeply, she was sure of it. She was sorry for it too, like she was always sorry about a lot of things.
"Shippou," she said, regret filling her for her sharp words.
"You can walk," he answered, turning away. His tail was a sodden lump, hanging weak and defeated despite the firm tone of his voice. "I forgot you don't need any help from me. I'm...sorry...if you thought I had some other reason for wanting to carry you."
Kagome groaned, covering her face with her hands. What a fucking mess.
Nice work, Higurashi, she chided herself. Go ahead and alienate the only person in this godforsaken place that wants to help you. Treat Shippou like dirt because he's a man instead of a cute little fox-boy and you can't handle it. You're good at using people you know; you should let him carry you. Hell, you should just let him fuck you while you're at it.
"I'm sorry!" she yelled at his back, sounding not so much sorry as pained. He turned and looked at her, his hair dark with rain and didn't smile. Slowly, she limped over to him and grabbed his arm with the firm grip that made colleagues pay attention and got them to take her seriously when she didn't want to be thought of as just eye candy.
"I really am sorry," she said quietly, knowing he could hear her though the downpour. "I know you just wanted to help and I'm a bitch. I don't mean to take it out on you. I'm just really tired and really wet and I want to go home."
His gaze softened at her words. "I know that," Shippou answered kindly. "I promise I won't leave you, Kagome. Please trust me."
Kagome closed her eyes and sighed. "I do, I swear I really do, it's just that..."
Shippou suddenly growled and shoved her hard on the ground in front of him. Gasping, Kagome rolled away from him, instinctively trying to protect herself. Shippou was looking around, an angry expression on his face and his nose twitching. She struggled to gain her feet, thinking to flee from him but he bounded over and shoved her down again.
Kagome stared up at him in shock as he suddenly leaped away into the brush, leaving her confused and covered in mud. What the hell?
She sat up, gingerly feeling for bruises and looking around her with frightened eyes. The forest was still but for the falling rain, the light wind that rustled the trees. Kagome could hear her own breathing sounding unnaturally loud against the stillness, sitting up to her hips in mud and water streaming off her nose. What happened? Why did Shippou run off? He just said he wouldn't leave her, why run away?
She dragged herself to her feet at the sound of Shippou's frantic yell, bolting for the cover of the thick brush as a monster burst out of the forest. It was huge and ugly, with a big round head and three bloodshot eyes that were all tracking her. Shippou shouted angrily and threw himself on top of it, digging in with his claws and trying to gouge out the monster's eyes.
Shit. Kagome tried to make herself small and inconspicuous, hiding against the trunk of a fallen tree as Shippou fought the beast. She felt useless, helpless. Kagome hated the feeling; it brought back all the memories of the times her friends had battled for their lives while she stood passive on the sidelines.
She was no priestess anymore; she didn't possess Miroku's spiritual strength or Sango's battle skills. She for damn sure wasn't a demon like Inuyasha had been, able to destroy beasts like this with his bare claws or a sweep of his sword.
She was fifteen again, frightened and running for her life. A twisted centipede demon was tracking her through the forest and she had naively tried to lead it away from the village. In retrospect, that had been a foolish act, brave but stupid. She should have stayed in the village even if the centipede bitch was hunting her. She should have let others skills in fighting for their lives take over that time.
No, instead like an idealistic fool she'd run off, convinced that someone somewhere would save her.
In her mind, she remembered it so clearly. Being crushed against him by the centipede's coils, feeling herself being constricted as she couldn't breathe, couldn't force air into her lungs. That's how she felt right now, breathless with fear, taut with inaction as she watched Shippou fighting alone for both of their lives.
This arrow...can you get it out?
She could almost feel her fist clenching around the shaft. Desperate, hopeless.
Do you want to die here with me?
"I do not want to die," she whispered. Kagome's hand went to the forest floor, searching for something, anything to use as a weapon. A rock, a boulder wouldn't be enough to take out that thing. Shippou was still fighting hard; he had one of the things ears in his teeth. She knew he couldn't use any of his kitsune defenses without giving up his hold. He needed help.
He needed a distraction.
Her fist clenched around a sturdy stick, conveniently pointed on one end where the wood had been broken. It would have to do. With a hysterical scream, she jumped to her feet and ran at the beast, her stick held high to stab. She only had one shot to go for the eyes, after that it would be all too easy for that thing to shake Shippou free and come after her. And she didn't like her chances if that happened.
"Kagome, don't!" the kitsune yelled as he saw her wild approach. Kagome didn't hear him; she was too concentrated on driving her arrow, her stick into the slavering face of the monster. She was so focused on making herself do this that she didn't realize that the tip of her makeshift spear was starting to glow.
Shippou yelped and dropped away from the monster when he saw the shining spear heading for the monster's head. Somehow, he didn't remember Kagome's aim being all that accurate and knew that he didn't want his own youkai hide anywhere near this thing if she was seriously going to try to purify it. He rolled to his feet gracefully when he hit the ground, his mouth open in shock as she attacked.
Kagome wasn't thinking of purification at the moment, she was thinking about killing the big ugly bastard. It's massive head swung back to her, now freed of a kitsune's frantic grasp and Kagome lunged gracelessly and stabbed the monster right through one of his bleary eyes. She felt her stick connect and give and screamed when her fist, still clenched around her spear, went right into the monster's eye all the way up to her elbow.
Dark, stinking blood fountained from the wound, covering her as she tried desperately to free her hand. The monster roared, swatting at her with its thick hands, every bit as anxious as Kagome to have her off his face.
"Kagome, let go of it!" Shippou shouted, trying to catch hold of the monster's arms and give her time to free herself.
"I can't," she wailed. Her hand was trapped in a gory mess of tissue and her legs swung wildly. If she'd ever had purification powers, she wished she had them right now. There was a time when her arrows would have blown something like this to nothing, leaving trails of light and dust in the air instead of a squalling furious brute.
"Please," she prayed, honest to God prayed. "Please help me!"
Her hand started to tingle, something was happening. The monster only screamed louder, finally grasping her around her legs and crushing her with his massive hand. She beat on his head with her free hand, sobbing in terror and chanting her prayer over and over again.
If anyone can hear me, save me!
White light suddenly poured from the wound, bathing both her and monster in an eerie glow. Kagome was entranced by it; she'd never felt such a powerful aura before, not even when she'd held the completed Shikon jewel in her hands. This was stronger than before; this was more than she'd ever been able to do. Was it her?
She couldn't see a thing, the light was blinding her, she could feel the monster weakening, and he was slowing down, letting blood rush back into her legs. He could still kill her, she realized from her dream like state. He might even tear her apart even as he died. She heard Shippou's voice, hysterical, but she couldn't make out what he was saying.
The light filled her, burst within her, everything she'd denied suddenly called to her, welcoming her, even in death, back to her home, her heart. The spiritual center that she had worked so hard to close away and seal, strip away from the person she wanted to be. Ironic that such a denied strength would flood back now, when she was most hopeless.
Some things could never be denied.
Some things were just fate.
She resigned herself to it that the monster was going to tear her apart even with her purification. That was fine, she could die now. She had felt it again, that purity, that light. She knew that her body was going to fail, but her spirit would remain, move on.
Maybe next time she'd get it right.
She was falling suddenly, her hand come free of the monster's skull as its body broke apart. Kagome's eyes were still full of white flames, spiritual aura crackling freely around her as she fell hard to the ground. She lay still in the mud, dazed and unable to move as blood splattered around her, mixing with the unrelenting rain and mud that covered her from head to toe.
Shippou was screaming her name. Couldn't he see she was fine? She was still alive, she just needed a moment. There were other voices roaring in her ears but Kagome paid them no mind, she often thought she heard things that didn't exist anymore. She closed her eyes. She just needed to rest and they would all go away.
Hard hands grabbed her by her shoulders and hauled her roughly to her feet. Kagome's head lolled back on her neck, unable to keep itself straight. She was so tired, so very tired. She felt as drained as if she'd swam across the ocean, it felt like that, her knees were so watery she could believe it. The rain splashed her face and someone shook her hard, insistently, determined that she not lapse back into dreams.
"Were you trying to get yourself killed, stupid?" a sarcastic voice asked. She heard a snort of disgust that sounded hauntingly familiar. "A weak human like you had no chance against a thing like that."
Really? How interesting. Kagome's eyelids fluttered up as she hung weakly in someone's arms, her palms automatically pressing against a firm chest until her feet felt secure on the ground and her knees declared they could hold her weight.
Blinking, she tried to focus on him, his face swimming out of focus. Until she caught the gold of his eyes, almost bright against the gloom of an overcast, rain soaked day. Behind him, she could see Shippou fighting, struggling against two strong looking men who were trying to hold him back. His eyes were nothing less than desperate, agonized as he again shouted her name.
"Kagome! Leave her alone, you bastard! Don't you fucking touch her!"
Time stopped. Her heart stopped. It had been broken long ago, used and tossed aside like a child's wind up toy. Still it had beat on, heedless of damage and despair, the fragile human soul that cried out in pain. Hearts are sometimes stupid like that, to keep beating after life is gone, love is destroyed. Foolish, but they do keep going.
And hers just skipped a beat.
The face so close to hers was from a nightmare, a beautiful long awaited fairy tale. Slowly, not knowing what came next and God help her, not caring either, she forced her lips to wrap around the syllables of his name, pronounce it, say it.
He stared at her, annoyance mixed with confusion in his eyes as he carefully released her when it seemed she might stand on her own. "Yeah," he said in a guarded tone.
"Do I know you?"