InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Purity Zero ❯ Small Truths ( Chapter 11 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~~Chapter Eleven~~
~Sm all Truths~

~o~


Slowly shifting his gaze around the tiny village where they stood, Sesshoumaru caught the slight stirring of the tatami mats that covered the doorways to a few of the huts.  The humans behind those mats were frightened.  The emotion stood, thick in the air, heavy against his skin.  The villagers had lived in fear of the Night Reaper for so long that they refused to emerge, and, in a way, Sesshoumaru figured that he couldn’t rightfully blame them . . .

Jester sighed, staring down at the unconscious child in his arms.  Sesshoumaru could hear the boy’s heart beating, the steady, if not shallow, breathing.  He wasn’t sure exactly why he wouldn’t wake up, but he seemed fine otherwise.

“I have a child here,” Jester said, raising his voice to be heard throughout the silent village.  “The Night Reaper had him, and I want to return him to his people . . .”

At first, there was no response.  There was no lifting of the mats, no one speaking up to claim the boy—just the same very pregnant quiet that seemed to hang over the village like a pall.  Sesshoumaru was starting to wonder if the lad belonged in the village at all, and he opened his mouth to say as much to Jester, but Jester’s voice again cut him off.  “Please, we mean no harm.  The Night Reaper will trouble you no more.  We just want to return the boy so that we can be on our way.”

“Perhaps he doesn’t belong in this village,” Sesshoumaru murmured.

Jester nodded slowly.  “You might be right.  But—"

“Kenichi . . .?”

Sesshoumaru’s head turned to the side, following the direction of the woman’s voice.  She lingered in the doorway of a nearby hut, her anxiety a palpable thing.  On the one hand, she wanted desperately to run out, to claim her child.  On the other?  She was still afraid, and it was that distress that drew his scowl.

Jester, however, started toward her, but he moved with deliberate slowness, likely so that he wouldn’t spook the woman.  When he reached her, he held out the boy for her inspection.  She uttered a hoarse little cry and grabbed him, hugging him tightly to her bosom.  “Kenichi!  Oh, Kenichi!” she rasped out, her voice, thick with emotion, her dark eyes, glittering in the darkness, even as the scent of her tears, the waves of her relief, washed over them.

“We don’t know why he’s unconscious, but he seems to be fine,” Jester explained as he took a step back.

“Thank you so much!  When he darted outside, we tried to stop him, but . . .”

“You’re welcome,” Jester said.

“Did . . .?  Did you really defeat the Night Reaper?”

Sesshoumaru turned to face the older man that had stepped out of the nearest hut.  He was dressed slightly better than most of the other villagers, who were also slowly creeping out of their huts, which Sesshoumaru took to mean that he was the village headman.  “He’s dead,” he replied simply.  “Jester, let’s go.”

Jester offered the woman a quick bow before hurrying back over to Sesshoumaru once more.

He was acutely aware of the looks that they received as they turned to leave the village.  Some of them were merely curious.  Others were laced with unspoken fear, dread.  They were still afraid on some level.  Humans had a habit of despising youkai, after all . . .

“Please, won’t you stay here for the night?” the headman called after them.  “It’s late, but I’m sure we can find food for you and offer you a nice room to bed down.  It’s . . . It’s the least we can do.”

Sesshoumaru opened his mouth to say no, but he caught sight of Jester out of the corner of his eye and stifled a sigh instead.  Jester was trying to hide his very acute interest—and failing.  “You’re hungry, are you not?”

Jester seemed surprised for a minute.  Then, he chuckled.  “We-e-e-ell . . .”

He’d figured as much.  “Then you stay if you like.  I’ll wait for you outside of the village.”

That said, he continued to walk away, leaving Jester and Aoizoku behind to make their own choices if they wished to accept the humans’ show of gratitude or not.

It was a mild night—what was left of it, anyway.  As he headed away from the village, he let out a deep breath, only to stop short when Aoizoku called out behind him.  “Sesshoumaru-sama!  I . . . I’d rather stay with you,” she said as she hurried up behind him.

Narrowing his eyes as he stared at her, he nodded once, but said nothing as he moved off the trail and down a small embankment where he sat upon a large, flat boulder.

“They made me uneasy,” she admitted, even though Sesshoumaru had not asked.  “I guess I was isolated for so long . . .”

He didn’t really respond to that, either.  There really wasn’t anything to say, anyway.

“You . . . You don’t talk much,” she remarked, settling on the grass not far away.  “Can I ask you why you want the Blackened Tears?  I mean, you don’t need them, do you?  I can feel your power.”

“They aren’t for me,” he said, almost as an afterthought.  “I’m collecting the Sacred Ward.”

“The Sacred Ward?” she echoed, slowly shaking her head.  “I’ve not heard that name in . . . in a long, long time.”

Eyes narrowing, gaze slipping to the side to look at her—the silvery-blue creature that captured the stingy moonlight—he stared at her.  “What do you know of the other wards?” he asked.

“Well, not a lot,” she admitted, shaking her head.  She seemed almost disappointed that she didn’t have more information to give him.  “The only thing I know is that the northern ward is held by a hell-youkai named Fumai who dwells deep within Fubukizan . . . As for the east and west wards . . .” She sighed, gave an almost defeated kind of shrug.  “Those, I . . . I don’t really know.”

“They say that the northern ward is held behind a barrier,” he ventured.  “Do you know anything about that?”

Biting her lip, she considered his question for a moment.  “I can’t say for certain, but I remember hearing my parents talking about it.  The hell-youkai were so reviled because of the destruction that they couldn’t control, they chose to isolate themselves, and, from what I understand, they called upon the assistance of a mountain sage who enclosed Fubikizan within a self-perpetuating barrier.”

“Self-perpetuating?  So, it cannot be circumvented?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.  “If you had someone—a human with spiritual powers . . .”

A human with spiritual powers . . .

There is one who might be able to access that barrier . . .

I should go to the east and west first, though.  If the northern ward is going to prove to be the trickiest to obtain, then it’s best to get the others out of the way first.

“If you want to collect the Blackened Tears, you’ll need a special vial,” she said, breaking through his thoughts with her almost lyrical voice.  “It needs to be formed from the lava rocks in the Valley of Fire and baked in the heat of those flames.  Otherwise, the Blackened Tears will corrupt it.”

The Valley of Fire . . .

He said they only grow in the Valley of Fire between the Gale Mountains and the Blue Depths.”

Hibana . . .

There was no answer in the night.


-==========-


Uuuuuh . . .”

Casting Jester a sidelong look, Sesshoumaru said nothing and tried to ignore the fifth yawn in as many minutes as the trio made their way north.

“What’s that?”

Jester held out the persimmon he was about to bite into and eyed it thoughtfully as Aoizoku hurried up to peer around the entity’s arm.  “This?  It’s a dried persimmon.  Surely you’ve had these before.”

She frowned in an entirely consternated kind of way.  “Well, I . . . I might have,” she ventured at length.  “It’s been so long since I ate anything, though . . . I mean, when you’re a tree . . .”

“Oh, right,” Jester replied, carefully tearing the dried fruit in half and handing her one of the pieces.  “You should have stayed in the village last night.  They had fish and some rice and—”

“Mmm!” she half-squealed, half-moaned as she bit off some of the persimmon.  “Oh, this is so good!

“Isn’t it?” Jester agreed.

Sesshoumaru slowly shook his head, not that either of his travel companions noticed.  They didn’t.

He didn’t really care, one way or the other.  After all, he had a specific set of tasks, and he couldn’t help the sense of urgency that lingered deep within him.

However, if you bring me these things, I will return the soul of your wind sorceress—if she has not eaten food of Yomi when you return . . .”

Those words kept echoing through his mind, and with every time they repeated, a steady sense of foreboding grew.

Why . . .?

Why did he feel more uneasy today than he had thus far . . .?

“You’re being quiet, Sesshoumaru—well, quieter than usual, anyway . . .” Jester remarked, hurrying his stride to catch up with him.

He cast the entity a sidelong glance, only to narrow his gaze when he caught Jester yawning yet again.  “What is wrong with you?” he asked instead, ignoring Jester’s commentary entirely.

Jester dropped the hand he had been using to cover his mouth and shrugged.  “I . . . I didn’t get much sleep last night,” he confessed.

Something about the way he’d said it, though . . . Suddenly, though, another thing occurred to him: the unmistakable scent of some strange woman that lingered on the entity, and he veered off the path, heading straight toward the smell of water nearby.

“I don’t need a break,” Jester called after him.  “Sesshoumaru?”

He didn’t stop until he reached the water, and then, he turned on his heel and eyed Jester.  “You reek,” he stated flatly.  “It offends me.”

Jester cocked his head to the side for a full second before breaking into a soft chuckle.  “Caught,” he said, sounding anything but contrite.  “Does it help if I say she was pretty?”

“No,” Sesshoumaru said.  Then, he walked away.

Aoizoku shook her head, frowned thoughtfully as she followed Sesshoumaru as he stalked away.  “Was there something wrong?” she finally asked.

He didn’t respond to that, either.  In truth, he wasn’t exactly sure why it irritated him as much as it did. After all, he didn’t rightfully care, what Jester did, as long as it didn’t interfere with their quest.

Or did it . . .?

“I didn’t notice anything different about the way he smelled,” she went on.

“That’s because you’re not a dog,” Sesshoumaru growled under his breath.  It was true enough.  Inu-youkai tended to have sharper senses of smell than many of the others.

She considered that, crossing her arms over her chest as the length of her pale pink yukata blew around her bare ankles in the breeze.  “But, why would he smell like a woman?”

Grinding his teeth together, Sesshoumaru held his silence, growing more impatient with every passing second.

Is it really such an issue that he dallied with a woman?

Sesshoumaru turned away from Aoizoku, staring off instead over the surrounding trees, trying to discern anything that seemed amiss in the area.  No, that wasn’t it.  That wasn’t it, at all.  The thing that bothered him most was that the quest to find the Sacred Ward, and Jester ought to be focused on that, too . . .

“Sesshoumaru-sama . . .”

He didn’t answer her, but he did shift his gaze to the side to meet hers.  Twisting her hands together, she seemed to be thinking mighty hard about something again.  She didn’t seem nervous, exactly, but . . .

Seeing that she got his attention, however, she gave a slight shrug and let her hands fall to her sides.  “Why are you searching for the Sacred Ward?  I mean, if you’re not looking to increase your power, then . . .?”

“I made a deal with Izanami no Mikoto,” he replied.  “If I gather these things, then she will restore someone . . .”

Aoizoku looked surprised by his answer.  Given that it was the first true answer he’d allowed her, then he supposed he could understand it.  “You . . .?  You’re so revered that you can barter with the queen of Yomi?  I mean, I could tell that you’re powerful—maybe the most powerful youkai I’ve ever seen, but that . . . Surely, you are formidable . . .”

“I simply wish to bring someone back who never should have died,” he stated flatly, letting his gaze sweep over the sparse forest once more.  “Nothing more, nothing less.”

“But to gather all of the Sacred Ward?  They say that it is impossible.  They say that it tests everything about you—that brute strength is not enough . . . Yet you would go this far for someone?”  She trailed off for a moment, walked around him to regain his attention.  “This person is special to you?”

Sesshoumaru frowned.  “Not especially,” he replied.  “It is a debt I must settle.”

She didn’t look like she believed him, and she opened her mouth to speak, only to snap it closed again when Jester rounded the large boulder beside the path that led to the water.  “Give up, Aoizoku.  That’s about the best answer you’re likely to get from him,” he said.

Turning his head far enough to peer over his shoulder at the entity, Sesshoumaru said nothing as he turned instead to walk away.  Jester was dripping wet from head to foot, but at least he no longer bore the stench of the human woman and his obvious indulgence from the night before, and that, he figured, was good enough.


-==========-


Well, well, well . . . Fancy meeting you here . . .”

He didn’t bother to glance at the wind sorceress as she sauntered out of the treeline as he stood on the edge of the cliff, looking out over the lands of Musashi.  Such a picturesque and quaint little scene, wasn’t it?  The village where InuYasha had met the miko so long ago . . . the meadow where the Bone Eater’s Well stood . . . From here, he could even make out Goshinboku—the God Tree where that baka had been sealed away for fifty years . . .

What do you want, Kagura?” he asked, ignoring the pleasantries that he should have at least attempted.

She chuckled.  The sound of it rolled over him like a caress—the warmth of it, the deep and unspoken secrets it contained.  “Nothing, really . . . I was simply in the area and thought that I sensed your presence.  It’s hard to ignore, after all . . .”

A loud and groaning rumble reached him on the breeze, the scent of something foul that smelled entirely like Kagura, and yet, not like her, too . . . “Tell me,” he said, narrowing his gaze as he searched for the cause of the disturbance.  “Has Naraku been up to something fell again?

To his surprise, Kagura sighed softly.  “You must mean Musou,” she concluded.

Musou?

His latest incarnation,” she admitted.  “I’ve been sent to keep an eye on him . . .”

Then should you not be there?” he asked, inclining his head toward the valley below.

I suppose I should be,” she agreed, though she made no move to leave.  “Where are your imp and child?

What business is it of yours?” he countered evenly.

Mine?  I’m just making conversation; that’s all,” she quipped.

Is that right.”  It wasn’t a question.

This time, she sighed.  “Musou . . . He’s different from us—from me,” she ventured, her own gaze, following the direction of Sesshoumaru’s.  “I don’t know why or now, but . . . but he is.  Naraku sent me to watch him . . .”

Sent you to watch him?  Can he not do so for himself?

He could feel her eyes on him, probing, searching.  “I told you.  There’s something different about him.  It’s almost as if . . . as if Naraku has no control over him.

Yet he wields control over you.”

His statement was matter-of-fact, even if his tone wasn’t entirely unfriendly.

She smiled, but there was a certain darkness behind the expression—a darkness that he didn’t fully comprehend.  “Something like that . . .”

Blinking away the lingering whispers of the memory, Sesshoumaru frowned.  He really hadn’t known at that time, had he?  He hadn’t realized it back then.  He hadn’t known that Kagura did not possess her own heart.  He hadn’t figured that out until that fateful day when she’d fallen from the sky with that hole in her chest . . .

And then, he’d understood her anger, her frustration . . . her inability to fight against Naraku.  She couldn’t; not while he held her heart, quite literally, in the palm of his hand . . .

“We’re heading toward the Valley of Fire,” Jester mused.  Stretched out on the ground with his hands behind his head, beside the small fire he’d built for Aoizoku’s benefit when they’d stopped for her to rest, he didn’t look at Sesshoumaru as he made his statement.

Sesshoumaru didn’t respond to that.  As far as he was concerned, there really wasn’t a reason to do so.

Jester sighed.  “A special vial to contain the Blackened Tears, she said,” he went on in an entirely conversational kind of tone.  She’d told him about the need for a special container for the tears as they’d traveled on.  It made no difference to Sesshoumaru, in any case.  “Have you been there before?  The Valley of Fire?  I mean, other than to locate the door to Yomi?”

“I have been,” he replied, but he let it go at that.

Jester chuckled.  “You don’t strike me as the kind who enjoys, walking through flame, Sesshoumaru.”

“It was a long time ago,” he said.

“Even so, they say that boiling geysers explode at your feet if you’re not careful.  They say—”

“I know what they say,” Sesshoumaru cut in rather abruptly.  “There is far worse in that valley than boiling water and steam.”

“Is that so?”

Sesshoumaru didn’t speak again as he turned his attention back to the sky once more.

Yes, there most certainly was, and he knew about that, first hand . . .


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A/N:
I didn’t get my oneshot done I was working on.  It’s hard as a lot of it reminds me of my mama.  I’m still working on it, but here’s this chapter that’s been done a while.  Happy birthday to me.  Feel free to leave me a birthday greeting if you’re so inclined.  It’d cheer me up a lot

Fubukizan: Mountain of Blizzards.
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Final Thought from Sesshoumaru:
The Valley of Fire
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Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Purity Zero):  I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga.  Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al.  I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.

~Sue~

Chapter 10
Chapter 12
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