InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Possession ❯ Eighteen ( Chapter 18 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Shippou moaned, rolling over on his belly and clutching his head with both hands. He felt like absolute shit, like every muscle in his body has been torn free and remolded in some pain-filled form. The healing of his injuries left him a little feverish and weak, but like it or not, he couldn't sleep any longer. He wished again that he were home, his true home with the wolf tribe. It had never occurred to him how much he'd miss them once he was alone and at the mercy of inuyoukai.
Stifling another moan, he sat up and rubbed his eyes. It didn't matter if he was hurt, Kouga wouldn't expect him to just lie down and let them win. Kouga would expect him to do everything in his power to protect Kagome, if not for love, then for honor. She'd protected them both and saved their lives on countless occasions. He wouldn't abandon her now, not even after Inuyasha's guards had worked him over to the point he felt sick at the idea of moving around.
He would protect her from him. Or die in the attempt.
He started when he heard a light tap at his door and when he didn't answer, it slid open and a young woman's face peered inside. “Are you awake, kitsune?” she asked.
Shippou snorted in derision and immediately wished he hadn't. It made his temples throb and he closed his eyes in response. “Don't you mean alive?” he asked bitterly. “And I'm not kitsune, my name is Shippou.”
She grinned at his sullen tone and came into his room without his permission. “I know your name,” Rin said, her eyes twinkling mischievously. “I remember you from years ago when you traveled with Inuyasha-sama. You've gotten bigger since then, but not much smarter or you wouldn't have been stupid enough to provoke Shiou and Haru into beating you to a bloody mess.”
He glared at her. “I didn't provoke them,” he snapped, irritated. “They had orders to beat me up, I just gave them an excuse to start.”
Rin rolled her eyes. “Don't think that you're important enough to get special treatment, nobody told them to hurt you. They were just supposed to keep you in your room instead of letting you wander around.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Shippou muttered. He didn't want to talk about it with Rin. The spoiled brat couldn't possibly understand what he'd been through and he was still pissed at her for striking Kagome. Rin didn't understand a damned thing; she didn't know her precious Inuyasha-sama was really a monster. She didn't care that the son of a bitch had betrayed them, hurt them so much more than just physically.
Rin quirked an eyebrow and planted her hands on her hips. “So, are you hungry? I heard that you didn't eat at all last night.”
“I don't need anything from you.”
She rolled her eyes again and Shippou decided he was growing to hate that expression. “Come on,” she said, grinning at him. “You don't have to be scared. I won't poison you.”
Shippou glowered at her. “I'm not scared!” He got up with a grimace and approached her. “I'm not scared of you, Inuyasha, or even Sesshomaru. Got it?”
Her smile widened even more.
His nose was twitching involuntarily at the savory smells. Some kind of meat stew, hot rice, and some plump looking dumplings. Mouth watering, he suddenly realized that he was ravenously hungry and if it was part of these dogs' plan to poison him, he really didn't care anymore.
Shippou slurped down half the stew in a single gulp and packed three dumplings into his mouth. Rin stared at him as he ignored the civility of utensils to dig up a mouthful of rice with his bare fingers. Annoyed, she grabbed up a set of chopsticks and used them to give him a hard rap on his wrist to make him slow down.
“Don't you have any manners?” she scolded when he glared at her. “I know you were raised by wolf youkai but that's no excuse to act like a savage.”
He ignored her, continuing to eat as fast as he could. “I haven't got time to be nice,” he grunted, reaching across the table to spear the remaining dumplings on the tips of his sharp claws. “I'm getting the hell out of here, I have to protect Kagome.”
The girl scowled back at him, folding her arms over her chest. “I'm sure she's just fine,” Rin muttered, looking past his shoulder and focusing on the bare wall as the source of her irritation. “Everyone is so worried about that stupid woman being here. If I'd had my way, Sesshomaru-sama would have thrown the both of you back out into the wilderness where you belong.”
Shippou wiped his mouth on the back of his wrist, ignoring Rin's disgusted expression. “You have no reason to hate her,” the kitsune said angrily. “She never did anything to you, Rin. Quit acting like such a brat.”
“I'm not,” the girl said stubbornly. “I don't hate her because of anything she did or didn't do to me. I hate her for trying to killing Inuyasha. I know all about it, she used that jewel on him and he almost died from it.”
Shippou stared at her for a moment, not believing that she was serious. When he realized that she was, he couldn't hold back. A loud, sarcastic laugh burst from him, tinged with bitterness and real disgust. “Is that what you think happened? You're fucking stupid if you believe that. You don't know what really happened. I wish she had cursed him, I wish that Kagome had actually had it inside her to give that bastard what he deserves.”
“And what would that be?” Rin asked sarcastically. She leaned over the table, staring down at him. “What could be worse that what she did to him already? He almost died…”
“I wish he had!” Shippou's shout caught Rin by surprise and she suddenly found herself facing a very angry kitsune. The young fox glared at her, his eyes burning with bright green fire as he spat out the words with every ounce of hatred he could muster.
“He used the jewel on himself. He'd already defeated Naraku with Kagome's help and at the sacrifice of both Sango and Miroku's lives. They were our friends, understand? He didn't care about them, about her or me. He just cared about stealing the jewel for himself.”
“I don't believe that,” Rin growled, sounding very much like a demon herself. “He was sick and dying when Sesshomaru-sama brought him here, he couldn't have hurt anyone! He couldn't even defend himself, he was that weak. She used that cursed jewel on him like he was something to experiment on. It wasn't his fault!”
Shippou's eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why are you defending him?” he demanded, backing the girl into a corner. Far from looking scared, Rin leaned against the wall, completely at her ease as she folded her arms over her chest. He noticed for the first time that her anger made her cheeks flush very prettily and her dark eyes almost sparkled when she glowered at him.
“I defend him because I am his friend,” the girl said loftily. “I would never abandon him the way you did!”
Rin's eyebrows lifted in surprise when Shippou's face fell, going from annoyance and anger to a quickly hidden pain. Just for a moment, she thought, he'd looked like he was grieving, like he was remembering something so awful that he couldn't bear it.
“What's the matter?” she asked, wondering if her words had meant something else to Shippou. She felt driven to defend Inuyasha, he was her friend and she wanted for them to be much closer someday. Shippou shook his head, moving away from her and leaning heavily against the wall himself. She was alarmed at the sudden paleness of his face against his bruises.
“Should I call the healer, Shippou? You look sick.”
He smiled but his eyes held no humor in them. “Nah, just leave me alone. I can't… I don't want to talk about this anymore.”
Embarrassed, she shifted from one foot to the other, a habit that she'd picked up in childhood. Jaken had often scolded her about it, telling her that it made her seem graceless and indecisive. The kitsune just looked at the floor, his dark red hair hanging in his eyes and his breathing rough with suppressed emotion.
Rin reached out to him slowly until the tips of her fingers brushed his arm. Shippou glanced up and then away. Stupid little brat, what did she know anyway? He'd been Inuyasha's friend once. He'd counted on the hanyou, believed him. He'd seen him as both a protector and an older brother. Someone he could rely on, someone he could always trust.
If he hadn't loved him, hadn't trusted him, it wouldn't have hurt so much when Inuyasha abandoned himself to the evil of the jewel. Shippou wouldn't have had to cry himself to sleep those long, terrible nights before Kagome escaped, he wouldn't have spent the last ten years harboring pure bitterness in his heart. He wouldn't have to give a damn about Inuyasha except for the fact that…
They had once been friends.
But Rin couldn't know that, couldn't possibly understand. Her hand touched his lightly, almost like a feather before it retreated. He glanced up in spite of himself and met her eyes.
“I'm sorry,” she whispered.
He didn't want her sympathy, not for all the wrong reasons. Gruffly, he pulled his arm away and turned his back on her. “Heh, you're his friend,” he sneered, letting his contempt wash over her like a shroud of hatred. “I feel sorry for you, Rin.”
At her startled glance, Shippou found his mouth twisting into a bitter smile. Rin should learn to understand what kind of demon Inuyasha really was. He didn't deserve her friendship or her protection. It was all just a lie.
Angry now, he leaned forward until he did see a flicker of concern cross her face. “I heard what you said to him in the forest,” he whispered, watching her eyes carefully. “You think you're in love with him. You think you know him, but you don't.”
Her chin came up defiantly. “I do know him,” she began.
Shippou grabbed her shoulders. “No, you don't,” he growled. “You're an idiot to love him, he doesn't deserve it. He never did, not ten years ago, and not even now!”
Rin shoved him violently, hitting him across the face in a wild slap. “Let me go!” she cried as she tore herself out of his hands. “Don't touch me!”
He caught her as she ran, grabbed her around her waist with her arms clamped at her sides. She fought to break his hold, but Shippou was careful not to hurt her, just keep her from leaving.
“The truth is that he won't ever love you,” he hissed angrily. “It's not your fault, I don't think he can care about anyone. The last person I'd have thought he'd hurt would have been her and still he did it.”
Shippou pushed Rin at the door. “Get out of here,” he muttered bitterly. “You aren't going to listen to me anyway. Believe whatever you want.”
He glanced up and felt awful when he saw the tears in her eyes. Suddenly he realized that she'd been trying to be kind to him, both in nagging him out of his room to eat and in staying to talk with him. He was positive that the lone human resident of this fortress and Sesshomaru's ward didn't have to do either. And he recalled the sympathy in her voice when she'd realized he was remembering something painful.
“Rin,” he said softly, hating himself. He'd acted just like Inuyasha, lashing out in his own self-pity. It shouldn't have made him so angry that she was in love with the youkai who had once been his friend. Only…Kagome had loved him too and Inuyasha hadn't deserved her feelings anymore than he deserved Rin's.
“I'm sorry,” he said, his voice quiet with shame and apology. The girl just spun around and marched out the door without so much as a glance back at him. Wearily, the kitsune sank to his knees and rubbed his sore temples.
He felt worse than ever.
Ten Years Earlier
She was going to pay for making him this angry.
Inuyasha stalked after Kagome, following the girl's trail in the forest. It wasn't like he didn't know where she was heading, but he was deliberately just following her from behind instead of capturing her. He needed to give himself time to get under control.
He knew that she'd been planning on leaving him, running away and going back to that world of hers. Didn't the stupid bitch have any brains at all? Did she really take him for such a fool that he wouldn't know when she was planning something, smell the deceit all over her body? He'd thought about confronting her over it, shaking the truth out of her any way that he could. Then he'd listen to her cry and beg him to forgive her.
He wouldn't forgive her for anything.
How can she leave me!
“I won't let you go,” he muttered, running faster as the urgency seemed to drive inside his body. “You promised you'd always stay by my side!”
Inside his mind, the voices whispered about the faithlessness of a human woman's promises. The voices were getting stronger, always getting stronger. They hated his weakness; the love for her that still clung to the shreds of what had been his heart. They laughed at him for holding back, not murdering her and sating them with her blood.
In time, they promised him. In time, the priestess will at last be ours!
He was desperate to save her from them and the desperation made him wild. Madness seethed like burning snakes in his mind, tormenting him. When it overwhelmed him, when he could clearly see himself devouring her like his prey, Inuyasha ran away from her. He ran away from the voices that echoed in his mind and slaughtered animals, youkai, humans, anything that crossed his path.
When there was enough death and enough blood on his hands, the voices would quiet, satisfied at last by his blood and rage.
And he always returned to her.
“You stupid bitch,” he breathed, watching her from the brush. Kagome was kneeling beside the well, murmuring and placing pieces of paper on the battered wood. His lips curled with contempt. Did she really think her silly spells would keep him away? The bond between them was too strong, too desperate to be broken that way. Time itself wouldn't keep him from her, wouldn't keep him away from her family.
He would punish her for this. He would first punish her body and then, by the unholy gods themselves, he would drag her down that well and punish her again while her family watched.
He licked his lips just thinking about all the things he could do to her in front of them. Then maybe she'd understand how much he loved her, needed her, and she'd never again be this stupid…he'd teach her.
He didn't have to hold back, not anymore. Kagome would accept him; this was what she'd wanted all along. Her body told him how she felt about him, the way she never refused him, the way she rutted him back just as hard and desperate as if the sex was the only thing keeping insanity at bay. His claws would tangle in her hair, lifting her to him in the night, making them become as one flesh, one soul.
One dark and cursed soul, when the purity of her had been crushed, defiled until it became something beautiful.
“Kagome,” he whispered, his eyes taking a strange light as he left the concealment of the forest to rush at her. “You'll never get away, you'll never leave me. Just like I promised, I will always come for you!”
Grimacing, she managed to part the tangles that had formed in her hair. Did no one in this damned fortress of doom understand the concept of a comb? Kagome sighed with annoyance, gathering her hair in a messy twist at the back of her neck and cursing softly to herself as she paced the room.
She felt awful, like she'd barely slept anyway, but now her neck and shoulders were just aching from tension. She rubbed her neck and hissed when she let her hand drop onto a painful bruise. Kagome slipped the white fabric off her shoulder to stare at her skin.
Yes, there they were, just as she'd expected. Four dark imprints of a demon's manic rage, light scratches from where his claws had torn through her sleeve and pierced her skin.
“You son of a bitch,” she muttered, feeling uncharacteristic tears prick in her eyes. She had sworn he'd never hurt her again and now look at this. Just her weak human body that could be bruised and cut and torn apart so easily.
She turned at the soft voice, frowning suspiciously at the young demon girl who was hesitating in the doorway. Kagome planted her hands on her hips and glared at the youkai.
“What?” she demanded, her tone so full of acid that it could have burned through Sesshomaru's stone floors.
The girl turned pale and held out a shaking hand, brandishing, of all things, a comb. “Ma…Makiko said…your hair…priestess.”
Kagome snatched the comb from her and stared as the girl dropped to the ground and covered her head. “Please don't purify me!” she wailed.
“Oh, shut up,” Kagome muttered, turning away to yank the comb through the gnarled mess that was her hair. She wasn't a priestess and she wasn't about to purify anybody. Unless it was Inuyasha, who deserved it more than anyone else.
She felt a twinge of guilt as the girl scuttled out of the room, looking back at her anxiously as if she thought Kagome might produce a sacred arrow out of thin air to attack her. Then again, with the rumors about her that had to be flying hot and heavy, she couldn't blame the girl for being frightened.
She was the terrible priestess, the one that had attacked their precious Inuyasha-sama and driven him to insanity, almost to death. Kagome sighed and threw the comb across the room with an angry clatter. The sun was rising slowly in the sky and she wished to be the hell and away from this awful place and the awful memories of her past.
Would she even be able to get home? What if the well rejected Inuyasha, trapping her forever in this era of no electricity or decent shampoo? Then where would she go, for damn sure wouldn't be back here. She supposed she could try to make some kind of life for herself, assuming the mantle and duties of a priestess even if her heart no longer felt anything sacred. One way or another, she was determined to survive and not be left at anyone's mercy ever again.
She turned to see the youkai who called herself Makiko standing in the doorway, arms folded and a disapproving frown planted on her face. “I will thank you to not terrify any more of my staff before you leave this place,” the woman said coldly.
Kagome sniffed imperiously and turned away. “I didn't do anything to her,” she said, her voice as neutral as she could manage. “It's not my problem if you fools believe nothing but rumors and lies.”
Makiko's eyebrows arched gracefully. “Perhaps you are correct about that,” she murmured, catching Kagome by surprise. “Ignorance and distrust are always hard to contain, but she was just a child, Kagome-sama. A kindler expression from you would have done much to ease her fear.”
What about my fear, Kagome wanted to ask, holding Makiko's eyes with her own. “It doesn't matter,” she muttered, running her fingers through the loose and now untangled dark waves over her shoulders. “I suppose you'll be glad when you have me out of here, almost as glad as I will to be gone.”
She was surprised to see a ghost of a smile cross the woman's face and Makiko nodded politely. “As you say, we will be relieved. I have to confess, you aren't at all what I had expected.”
Angry again, Kagome tossed her head and leveled Makiko with a stare that had left colleagues and underlings alike shaking in their shoes. “And what exactly did you expect?” she asked wrathfully. “Did you think I'm such an idiot that I would have burned the place down or attacked the serving girls? I'm just a human woman, Makiko. Not a monster, not a priestess, but I'm for damn sure not a fool.”
Quietly, the woman crossed the room and made a show of folding Kagome's crumpled and discarded sleeping yukata. “I've never met a priestess before, I'm not sure what I expected. Perhaps someone with more tact and grace, manners enough to appreciate that Sesshomaru-sama is truly going out of his way to help you. It would have been easier to simply have you killed.”
Easier for whom, Kagome wondered. But the youkai woman wasn't exactly wrong when it came to her behavior. “I must apologize if I've been any trouble,” she began in a sickly sweet and mocking tone.
Makiko laughed, startling her. “At least you do have a sense of humor,” she said, smiling openly at her now. “Please come with me, the sun is nearly over the mountains now and it's time for you to leave.”
“Fine with me,” Kagome murmured.
She followed Makiko from the room and down the quiet stone corridors. Kagome felt a touch of nervousness, realizing that while she was happy to get getting out of here, it meant that she would be spending the next few days in Inuyasha's company. The thought made her pensive and without realizing it, she started to twist her fingers in the soft fabric of her sleeves.
You can do this, she told herself firmly. Just a few days, the well will open for us this time.
She refused to entertain any other thought.
“Speaking of rumors,” Makiko said quietly as they walked through the silent and listening fortress. “There is one that I've wanted to ask you about. But I hesitate, it is truly none of my business.”
Kagome felt her mouth twist in a wry grin, shaking her head slightly as she followed the graceful woman. “Go ahead,” she said, throwing fate to the wind. “Right now I can't think of anything that would make a difference to what has already happened.”
“Very well.” Makiko turned and gave her a solemn look. “I wish to know the truth of the rumors.”
“And?” Kagome folded her arms and looked expectantly at Makiko. “You want to know if I deliberately used the sacred jewel in an attempt to kill Inuyasha?”
“I wish to know if it is true that you were in love with him.”
Kagome stopped, staring wide-eyed at Makiko until the woman turned away with a demure smile.
“And if so…perhaps you still are.”
Grumbling to himself, Inuyasha already knew that today was going to be a bad day. The start of a series of bad days, a journey he did not want to make with companions that he really wished he'd had enough sense to leave behind in the forest where he'd found them. The hell he was going to have to help that obnoxious woman!
He sighed, realizing that he had no choice in it. His brother had been very clear that it wasn't a request, it was an order and he had better damned well say nothing more about it. What he couldn't understand was why she needed his help rather than his brother's. Sesshomaru was widely known as the most powerful daiyoukai in the land. What could he, a half-breed turned full demon by some unknown mystical force, do that a pureblood youkai like Sesshomaru could not?
“Damn it all,” he muttered and stopped at the door to pick up the kitsune. At his request and no one else's, Rin had gone to wake the ungrateful fox and see if he was fit to travel. And damn Shiou and Haru anyway for beating the crap out of him like that. Bastards probably thought it was funny.
A vindictive grin crossed his face as Inuyasha realized that the pair of guards were probably regretting their lack of judgment after all. He'd left instructions with Jano that Shiou and Haru were going to be on intimate terms with the fortress' sewer. It was due for a cleaning anyway.
He found Shippou sitting in a wardroom, the remains of a meal before him. Inuyasha paused in the doorway, not sure why it bothered him that the kitsune hated him so much. It was no secret that Kouga despised inuyoukai in general, him in particular. Shrugging, he decided that it must just be something that the wolf demon had instilled in the young fox, passed to him like a tradition or a grudge.
After all, he'd never done anything to Shippou, hell; he'd never even seen him before the day they'd met in the forest.
“Hey, brat,” he said, his voice gruff but not unkind. “You fit to walk out of here or am I gonna have to carry you?”
He saw the kid jump at the sound of his voice and realized that Shippou must have been deep in thought to have not sensed his presence. Not only did he jump like he'd just about been startled out of his skin, Shippou scrambled away from him like he'd entered the room shouting for his blood. The boy's eyes were wide, dark with remembered fear and Inuyasha didn't miss the way his hands shook before he snatched them behind his back.
“Hey,” he said, his voice much gentler. “Didn't meant to sneak up on you, what's the matter?”
“I'm fine,” the kitsune muttered, refusing to look at him. “Don't think you can sneak up on me, Kouga trained me better than that.”
“Yeah, right,” Inuyasha grinned. His smile faded when he caught sight of the extensive bruising that still graced Shippou's face. “Are you sure you're fit to travel?” he asked uncertainly.
The fox glowered at him and jumped to his feet. “I said I was fine,” he snarled, advancing on Inuyasha with an angry expression. “You're not leaving me behind, asshole. Wherever Kagome goes, I go. You understand?”
“Like I'd want to be alone with that witch,” Inuyasha snapped.
“She's not a witch!”
Obviously Shippou hadn't heard about what had happened between himself and the priestess. And Inuyasha hoped it would stay that way. “Whatever, brat,” he said, sneering as he headed back out the door. “As long as you don't slow me down. I want to get this journey over and done with as quickly as possible. The less time I have to spend with you and that woman, the better.”
Shippou raced after him. “I'm not slowing anyone down,” he said sullenly. “You thank those guards of yours for doing such a good job if I do.”
Inuyasha glanced over at the fox and nodded slowly. “Yeah, sorry about that, kid. They will be punished for beating on you, I've seen to it.”
Shippou stopped in his tracks. Did Inuyasha just apologize to me for what those guard did to me, he wondered. It had to be an act, some kind of vicious trick to gain his confidence or put him off his guard.
“Bullshit,” he snapped, glaring death at the demon. “You expect me to believe anything you say? They were waiting for me to try to escape, don't tell me it wasn't all part of your plan.”
Inuyasha snorted. Unbelievable. “If I wanted someone to kick the shit out of a punk like you, I would have done it myself. Your mouth got you into that beating, it wasn't anything I told them to do. In fact, I told them not to put a finger on you, damn morons.”
The kitsune looked like he was still chewing on his anger as if it was bitter to him. “And why would you tell them that?” he asked sarcastically.
With a grunt, the inuyoukai turned away. “Because,” he said quietly, “I brought you here, didn't I? That means you're under my protection.”
“Your what?” Shippou exploded. “I don't need your fucking protection, I can handle myself. I don't need a bastard like you to…”
Inuyasha turned back to him and grabbed his shoulder with one hand, claws flexing as he stared into the angry young demon's eyes. “Kid,” he said coldly, “I don't know you, I don't know what your grievance with me is. And I don't give a damn either. Like it or not, I promised Sesshomaru that I would help that woman with whatever it is she wants me to do and that includes keeping the both of you alive. So don't fucking push me.”
Shippou stared at him, trying to sense the truth or falsehood behind his words. The idea that Inuyasha intended to protect both him and Kagome was repugnant to him. But here in this place where he had no power, Shippou couldn't deny that anything he could do to help Kagome get home was worth both the risk.
As long as Kagome was safe, Shippou thought, he could stand it.
“You really don't remember anything, do you?” Shippou murmured, watching Inuyasha's face carefully. “You mean it? You're really going to try to help her get home?”
Inuyasha released his shoulder, meeting his gaze directly. “I mean it,” he answered, baffled by the strange attitude and Shippou's accusing glare. “I got no reason to hurt her or try to keep her here. If you play straight with me, you have nothing to worry about. Now if this is some kind of game cooked up between that priestess and Kouga to catch Sessh off his guard…”
“It's not,” Shippou snarled, his claws clenching into fists. “Kouga doesn't even know we're here! He'd never try to pull some kind of trick like that. Unlike you dogs, wolves have honor!”
Smirking a little, Inuyasha gave Shippou a condescending pat on the head. Just for a moment, it felt familiar. A strange sensation flowed over his nerves, making him shiver slightly. He didn't know this kid, but it felt…right, somehow, to be arguing with him and also to protect him in spite of his angry, bitter demeanor.
“I'm not your enemy, Shippou. Not Kouga's either. Sesshomaru made an alliance with him, not me. Until he tells me otherwise, I'm going to follow his orders and treat you as an ally even if you hate my guts.”
Shippou grinned nastily. “Believe me, hate doesn't begin to cover it.”
Her foot tapping against the stone paving with impatience, Kagome fought the urge to pace. She was restless, anxious, strained and tired. Rubbing a hand over her eyes, she squinted up at the slowly lightening sky. She wanted to go home so badly that she ached. Kagome promised herself that once she was back where she belonged, she was going to treat herself to a long vacation, a real vacation.
Someplace that had no unpleasant memories, somewhere she could forget who she was and what had happened.
It would take time to remake herself. Kagome loathed admitting to defeat but it seemed like all the weakness and pain she'd thought she'd banished so very long ago just came pouring back into her life. For ten years she'd convinced herself that the past was the past and no longer mattered. Surviving what Inuyasha had done to her had only made her stronger.
Hadn't she achieved everything that she'd set out to do since then? Her career, her success, and the power she'd learned to wield with ease and confidence, why did it mean nothing when her life was really on the line?
Maybe it wasn't just her life that was in danger.
I wish to know if it is true that you were in love with him. And if so…perhaps, you still are.
Kagome's hands curled into fists, fresh outrage and panic flooding her.
“Are you insane?” she'd all but screamed in Makiko's face. “In love with that monster?”
Makiko had cocked her head to the side, looking at the outraged human with a placid expression. “So the rumor is untrue? You did not love him?”
Kagome's mouth worked soundlessly, choking, overwhelmed by the emotions that surged through her body. She couldn't know the truth; Makiko didn't know what Inuyasha had done to her. She'd given him everything, her love, her body, and most of all her trust. And he'd nearly killed her, destroyed everything she cared for and demanded more.
I loved him, he only used me…I would have died for him and it wasn't enough. I wasn't…enough. I wasn't good enough; he only took what he wanted.
I carried his child.
I loved him so much that it nearly killed me.
“No,” she snarled, letting the rage that lived inside her heart pour out of her body. “I never loved him, you're mistaken. I would never love something like him! He only used me to get to the jewel. You understand that? I'm glad that he doesn't remember me or anything that happened between us. The Inuyasha I knew doesn't exist, he might as well be dead!”
The woman had smiled faintly as if Kagome had just confirmed everything she'd wanted to know. “Perhaps it will be easier this way,” she said, her tone as enigmatic as her words. “I wish you luck, priestess. I hope that fate gives you everything that you desire.”
Everything that I desire? Kagome pondered Makiko's parting words, wondering what she'd meant by that and that it would be easier this way. She had a feeling that the woman knew more than she was letting on. Damn her anyway.
She heard her name being shouted and breathed a sigh of relief. Shippou, thank God. They could get out of here now; get back to where she belonged.
Her relief quickly turned to horror as Shippou emerged from a dark entrance, waving at her as he ran out into the deserted courtyard. The handsome young kitsune was almost unrecognizable, his face still swollen and bruised. Her heart quailed at the site of his injuries; he looked like someone had used his face to break down doors. He'd been a little battered when they'd arrived, but nothing like this.
“What happened to you?” she cried.
Shippou grinned as she embraced him, forgetting to keep him at a distance in her concern. Her body was light and delicate against him, her fragrance as sweet as ever. For a moment, he was grateful to the guards who'd worked him over so effectively, grateful if this was the reaction it would get from Kagome. His arms curved around her and he hugged her tightly against his chest.
“It's nothing,” he murmured. “I know it looks bad, but it doesn't even hurt at all.” That was far from the truth but Shippou didn't feel anything but happiness with Kagome's arms around him. The curve of her body against him was worth a hundred beatings; her sympathy and concern were like precious jewels, rare treasures.
She did love him; he knew it in his heart. If only he could convince her that it was all they needed, that he could make her happy, happy the way she should have been from the beginning. He pressed his sore cheek against her hair and sighed in contentment.
That contentment quickly shattered when he felt Kagome push away from him. Judging by the flush to her cheeks, she knew exactly what he'd been feeling and Shippou felt his heart drop to his knees.
“I'm…” he began.
“No,” she said, patting him gently on the cheek. Her fingers felt cool and soft and kindness shone in her eyes. For a moment, she looked like the Kagome he remembered so well. Kind, loving and forgiving, so sweet that he wanted to build a wall around her to protect her from anything that could ever hurt her. She was the one who'd always protected him, cared for him. She had given him love and reassurance and Shippou knew that he'd never forgive himself for not being able to do the same for her.
Kagome saw the look in his eyes and flinched inwardly, not letting him see how uncomfortable it made her. It wasn't affection or friendship she saw there, it was love…it was worship and how could Shippou know that she deserved neither? She was tired of the way everyone around her viewed her with their own preconceptions.
To Shippou, she was an unattainable fantasy. In spite of everything he'd seen, of what he knew to be the truth of what had really happened between her and Inuyasha, he still placed her upon a pedestal that was so high she couldn't even see the ground. It wasn't fair, but the years had changed his view of her to something like a noble martyr, changed her into more than just the ordinary woman she was born to be.
And to the residents of this fortress, she was a mystic, a priestess of power and unknowable intent. Something to be feared and reviled, hated and feared. Kagome was sick to death of them all. From Makiko who'd asked questions that had no concept of the truth, to the servants and guards of the fortress who eyed her with suspicion and anger.
Even Sesshomaru seemed to have some kind of preconceived idea of what she was. He might see her as a threat or a mystery, but never as innocent. She was no longer the girl she had been; naively thinking that she could right all the wrongs in their world with her understanding and compassion. That Kagome had been lost so long ago, banished by betrayal and branded with cynicism.
Only Inuyasha seemed to see her without any of those filters and expectations. He'd treated her callously, rudely as if nothing she said or did made a difference to him. Kagome swallowed hard, remembering again the feel of his arms around her waist and his lips taking over her own.
Her hatred didn't touch him, her disgust hadn't turned him. When she'd rebuffed him, trying desperately to save herself before she drowned and died from his touch, he'd attacked her viciously.
Like the monster he was, but at least he didn't have any expectations. The only thing he wanted from her was what he could take.
Nothing had changed after all.
And so, when she turned away from Shippou at the sound of someone approaching from behind her, it was her heart that stopped, nearly twisted out of her body when she saw him. Unprepared, vulnerable from her confused and heartsick memories, it was too much when she saw him again.
He was wearing red.
The same fire rat fur clothing that she'd first seen him in, the same thing that she'd seen him wear every day of her life in this world. When she'd met him in the forest, he'd been dressed differently enough that the pang of memory had dulled, buffered by her anger and her hate. Now he could have stepped out of the past, like a ghost with long white hair flowing freely over shoulders straight and proud, arrogant and full of bluster.
Something inside her snapped and she was running for her life. He was chasing her down, throwing her against the hard forest floor and laughing at her misery. Then she was moving against him, her fisted hands clenched in the sleeves of that red haori, the fire rat fur rubbing against her bare skin as she screamed his name again and again.
Demons don't age, he looked exactly the same as he had the first time she'd seen him and the last time. Inuyasha stepped out of her memories and all the horrible pain; the grief and the love came flooding back to her in a tidal wave of emotion.
She tore her eyes away from the demon to look at Shippou, her Shippou who had suffered so much. She could see him as a child, riding on Inuyasha's shoulder, squabbling over candy and ramen, bantering like siblings. Shippou's bright eyes were concerned, obviously sensing her distress but not understanding the cause. He couldn't tell why she was suddenly breathless, lost and drowning, despair covering her like a thick black shroud.
And as suddenly as it had begun, the panic faded and was replaced by fury. She remembered the Inuyasha who tormented her, beat Shippou almost to death in when the kitsune had tried to protect her. Kagome drew in one shaky breath after another, trying to control herself, keep herself from doing something suicidal.
Inuyasha had been enraged…the way his eyes glowed and the hard feel of his hands as he forced her against the cold wall, tearing at her clothing like an animal…
Again, he'd found a way to get to her, to hurt something she cared for, the only person in this whole cursed fortress that she gave a damn about. He'd taken out his frustration on Shippou again, when she'd spat his worthless lies and false apologies back in his face, he'd gone right to the one thing he knew he could use to hurt her, punish her.
Nothing had changed…nothing would ever change…it was all going to happen again, just as soon as they left his fortress.
The hell it would!
She swallowed her fear; she gathered her anger into a tight little knot inside her heart and faced him like she had never known the possibility of defeat or loss. Striding over to him like a woman hell bent on revenge, her jaw locked like a vice and her lips curling back from her teeth in a feral expression, she confronted Inuyasha.
“What did you do to him?” she demanded.
Inuyasha folded his arms over his chest and stared at her. “Nothing,” he sneered. “I didn't touch your precious brat, bitch.”
She didn't think about it and immediately slapped him across the face. The sound of her flesh meeting his echoed ominously in the quiet of the courtyard.
“Liar,” she spat.
His eyes flashed and the air around them went deathly still. “I'm getting tired of this,” he whispered. “If you want my help, bitch, you'd better start acting like it.”
Her eyes were cold, too cold, she felt like nothing could touch her. The power was welling inside her, this time she could sense it growing, crackling beyond her fingertips with all of her outrage and ten years worth of suppressed pain. She saw that he could sense it too, noticed the way his eyes dragged across her when she raised her hands.
To hell with going home. To hell with survival. She was going to purify him right out of existence. Raising her hands, power shimmering from her skin, Kagome's mouth curved in a smile that was half insane and half deadly intent.
“I don't want your help,” she hissed, she could hardly hear her own voice over the pounding of her blood in her ears. “I'm going to kill you right where you stand.”
Inuyasha didn't look away from her; the aura crackling from her was so intense that it made his hair stand on end. He felt fatally calm; he knew the priestess could very well kill him. Over the years, he'd felt strong youki, terrible demonic energy deep inside him. The beast that lived inside him was screaming at him to attack, murder her before she could touch him with that deadly pure power.
Not this time. He refused to lose control to the voices and the madness behind them. It was even possible that he deserved his fate; a sense of weariness filled him at the idea of death. His memories might be blank but a woman didn't look at you with that kind of hatred unless you deserved it. He didn't want to remember, he didn't want to know what he'd done.
Better that he should die in ignorance, without guilt or regret. This priestess could give that to him, just as Kikyou had tried to give it to him.
A pure and dreamless death.
“Go ahead,” he muttered. “What are you waiting for?”