A Twist in the Myth

BY : Dunkelgelb
Category: InuYasha Crossovers > General
Dragon prints: 7812
Disclaimer: See full disclaimer in Chapter 1

A Twist in the Myth

Chapter 12 – Resurrection of the Wind – pt. 3

 

Chapter summary: June, 1549: Naraku brutally murders Kagura while InuYasha, Sesshomaru, and their packs fight with Moryomaru, the demonic golem that houses the Infant, Naraku’s heart given humanoid form.

 

(Continued from pt. 2)

            Kagura turned away from InuYasha and the others, pulling one of her magic feathers out of her hair and preparing to depart upon it.  “Kagura,” InuYasha called to her.  The soft, yet stern and legitimately concerned tone in his voice caused her to pause and listen.  “To the list of things we’re going to do, we’ll add bringing back your heart.  So until then, stay alive.  Got me?”

            A small smile graced Kagura’s ruby lips, but she did not turn around.  “Fine,” she replied nonchalantly, transforming her feather and riding it into the sky.  As she left InuYasha and his pack behind, she promised herself: I’ll just keep running…as far as I have to.

~~~~

(The following is transcribed from the InuYasha manga’s Volume 38, Scrolls Three through Six:  “Kagura’s Heart,” “Pain Without End,” “Siblings,” and “The Wind.”)

(Soundtrack: Blind Guardian – Fly)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6oNE2lT8R4

June, 1549

            Kagura flew west, away from the misty mountain on which Hakudoshi died as fast as she felt her giant, flimsy feather was able to withstand, no particular destination in mind.  Flying at treetop level above Japanese alpine forest, she projected an aerodynamically-shaped bubble of her youki around her to act as an invisible fairing and windshield, to prevent the oncoming air from whipping against her face and body by her high airspeed.  Right then, her main thought was to put a ridiculous distance between herself and anything or anyone that might attract Naraku’s attention.  A secondary thought for her was what she would actually do with herself when she finally reached wherever she was going.

            Kagura figured that the whole of Japan was probably off-limits to her from that moment onward.  As an incarnation of Naraku, she had inherited some of Naraku’s knowledge upon her ‘birth’ and that knowledge included some general geographic awareness.  She knew that a vast ocean lay to Japan’s east, one so large that she wasn’t certain she could cross it on her own.  The longest distance she had ever flown continuously was only a few dozen miles, and the eastern ocean was measured in thousands.  A set of much smaller, more easily traversed seas lay to Japan’s west and beyond that, a great landmass associated with names such as ‘China,’ ‘Korea,’ and 'Russia.'  Therefore, Kagura flew west in hope of finding refuge in such places.

            As it happened, escaping Japan to begin with was wishful thinking for Kagura.  She had put only a few short miles between herself and InuYasha’s pack when Naraku conjured himself into existence mid-air directly in her path, just a few yards in front of her.  Kagura sneered and called upon her winds to decelerate herself and her feather as rapidly as she could, subjecting herself to almost a dozen ‘Gs’ to avoid crashing headlong into Naraku’s demonic energy barrier.

            Kagura’s throat went dry and a cold, hard terror gripped her as she sighted Naraku.  “It’s you…” she spoke aloud, certain that Naraku could hear her, hushed as she was.  She greeted her creator with only his name, speaking flatly: “Naraku.”

            Surrounded by a magenta youki barrier, Naraku floated before Kagura in all of his darkly resplendent glory, clad in fine, collared robes and gleaming armor.  “Kagura,” he greeted back, his lips curling into a knowing smile.  “It seems Hakudoshi has died.  And you helped it happen.”

            Kagura’s ruby eyes narrowed viciously, fully aware that Naraku was toying with her.  She remained still, as Naraku could easily catch her if she decided to flee.  Her top flight speed was limited to how hard she could get the winds to blow, whereas Naraku could convert his youki directly into thrust, his speed limited only by his barrier’s ability to cope with the heat buildup of atmospheric drag.  And he wouldn’t even need to chase her in the first place – if he really wanted to kill her quickly, he could simply crush her heart.  Naraku continued with a short, caustic eulogy of the late Hakudoshi: “He was such a dreamer.  It seems he thought he could take my place.”

            ‘Of course,” Kagura thought.  Naraku knew about everything that Hakudoshi and the Infant/Moryomaru had been up to, to include everything she had done, as well. ‘He saw through the whole thing.  Which means…I’m next.

            “Kagura,” Naraku spoke, savoring the wind witch’s lovely name and its meaning.  “How would you like your freedom?”

~~~~

            Some miles away from Naraku and Kagura, Sesshomaru, accompanied by an early-adolescent Rin, a customarily toad-like Jaken, and an ever double-headed Ah-Un, sought the lair where Moryomaru had taken refuge after he and InuYasha had given the monstrous demonic golem a good thrashing with their equally-demonic swords.  Right then, Jaken led the group, holding a small bundle of the youki-sensing crystals that Kagura had given to Sesshomaru.  Sesshomaru had entrusted the crystals to Jaken, ostensibly because at that moment, Sesshomaru had only one arm and needed it free for his swords at all times.  Being so short and short-legged, Jaken jogged as quickly as he could while still able to consult the crystals, so that ‘his’ Lord Sesshomaru would not be unnecessarily delayed from ending Moryomaru’s wretched life.

            Walking behind Jaken and beside Rin as she rode Ah-Un, Sesshomaru stopped abruptly, turning his silver-maned head to sniff the air and search the forested mountain horizon with focused golden eyes.  ‘Naraku’s scent…’ he thought privately.  Of course, with his discerning dog demon nose, he smelled not only Naraku, but Kagura, as well.  That the two of them were suddenly so close together, after all the subterfuge Kagura had committed against Naraku, was troubling to him.  Summoning an invisible current of his youki beneath him, Sesshomaru turned away from his small ‘pack’ and ascended into the sky in the direction that he smelled Naraku and Kagura.

            Jaken noticed that Sesshomaru was suddenly leaving Rin, Ah-Un, and himself behind, but did not follow.  A ‘standing order’ from Sesshomaru to him and the others stated that if the daiyoukai ever departed from them without explanation, they were not to follow unless explicitly told.  In all the years that Jaken had known Sesshomaru, whenever the demon lord excused himself, it was invariably for a good reason.  Still, the diminutive imp demon felt compelled to ask:  “Uh…my Lord?  Wh-where are you going?  That’s not the direction the crystal is indicating!”

~~~~

            InuYasha and Sesshomaru, along with their respective groups, had taken pursuit of Moryomaru independent of each other but at around the same time, covering around the same amount of ground.  Therefore, they were relatively close to each other, separated by a few miles at most, searching the same mountain range for Moryomaru’s hideout.  Having split off from InuYasha and the others temporarily, Sango flew atop Kirara, searching for Kohaku on her own after Kagura had sent him flying away from herself and the now-dead Hakudoshi on one of her magic feathers.  “Kohaku!” she called out for her brother, her voice echoing off through the mountain valleys below her.  She thought to herself: ‘Where did he go?’

            By this point, Kohaku had leapt off of Kagura’s feather once he felt it had descended low enough to the mountain slopes below.  Hearing Sango’s call, he crouched behind a rocky outcropping to hide himself from her, not answering her or otherwise trying to get her attention.  ‘Sister…’ Kohaku begged Sango silently as she passed by in the distance, turning away from her and beginning to bound and leap over mountainside’s jagged, uneven terrain, resuming his own search for Moryomaru.  ‘Please.  Just leave.  I’ll take Naraku down by myself.  Even if it costs me my life.’

            Seeing no trace of Kohaku or the feather that Kagura had sent him flying on, Sango muttered to herself in defeat.  “I suppose there’s no point in just…!” The demon slayer silenced herself abruptly as Kirara gave a chilling feline growl that she could both hear and feel through her thighs.  “Kirara?  What is it?”

            Kirara hissed viciously at the mouth of a nearby cave, one that did not appear to have formed naturally, but appeared intentionally melted, bored into solid mountain granite.  The stalactites and stalagmites protruding from the cave’s top and bottom, respectively, made it look as if the cave mouth had fangs.  “A cave…” Sango spoke ominously to herself and Kirara.  “There’s…something in there.”

            A spear-like tendril of demonic flesh burst out from the inside the mountain face beside the cave mouth, piercing solid stone and crossing several yards of empty air to wrap around one of Kirara’s flame-shrouded front paws.  Moryomaru was the source of that tendril and the demonic golem smashed his way out of his cave lair to bear down on Sango and Kirara from above.  “Moryomaru!” Sango shouted, trying to maneuver herself and Kirara away from the Infant’s living armor but unable to do so by the grip he had on Kirara’s paw.

            “Exterminator,” Moryomaru greeted Sango coldly.  “You’re by yourself?”  The monstrous demon tightened his tentacle around Kirara’s flaming paw, his tentacle’s flesh beginning to bond with the fire-cat’s.

            ‘No!  He’s going to absorb Kirara!’ Sango realized, gripping her Hiraikotsu tightly and swinging it down upon Moryomaru’s tentacle as an axe, aiming carefully to avoid hitting Kirara’s paw.  The enchanted boomerang bone cut through Moryomaru’s flesh with ease, freeing Kirara from him with a sudden jolt of severed tension.  With a firm tug on her puffy mane, Sango then urged Kirara to pull away from Moryomaru rapidly as she cocked Hiraikotsu back and cast it forward, releasing it with a mighty cry.

            Moryomaru laughed as he caught Hiraikotsu with ease, intentionally throwing it down the mountain slope below him so as to deny Sango its use.  He then sprouted two twenty-foot-long, bat-like wings from his shoulders.  A single flap of them gave him a great surge of thrust, and he lunged forward through the air at Sango and Kirara, forming one of his massive, misshapen arms into a giant spear and aiming to run the taijiya and her neko mount through.  Of course, the size of his arm meant that it would not pierce so much as pulverize them into bloody mush.  Sango and Kirara dodged Moryomaru’s spear arm narrowly and Sango searched the ground frantically for her lost Hiraikotsu.

            Inadvertently, as Sango and Kirara flew to avoid Moryomaru’s attacks, they flew almost directly over Kohaku’s head as he ran, taking the younger taijiya by surprise.  Kagura had destroyed Kohaku’s youki-sensing crystal so that he couldn’t find Moryomaru directly, leaving him running effectively blind so that he blundered into his sister, her fire-cat friend, and Moryomaru himself by sheer accident.  Moryomaru followed immediately behind Sango and Kirara, lashing out at them with his tentacle spears with little regard for collateral damage, smashing through heavy rock formations with ease.  Kohaku leapt and somersaulted to avoid the broken rocks and boulders raining down on him, planning not to escape, but to attack.  This was basically what he had wanted all along: a direct confrontation with Moryomaru and the Infant inside!

            InuYasha, Kagome, Miroku, and Shippo made their way to the scene as quickly as they could, moving to catch up with Sango after she’d gone off after Kohaku.  InuYasha carried Kagome on his back while Miroku ran beside them, with Shippo clinging to one of Miroku’s shoulders.  Between InuYasha and Miroku, Miroku was the slower runner, and so without Kirara there for him to ride on, InuYasha had to limit his own speed so that he and the houshi didn’t become separated.

            “Hurry, InuYasha!” Kagome urged from her place on InuYasha’s back.  “I’m sensing two separate Shikon shards approaching each other fast!

            “It must be Kohaku and Moryomaru!” Miroku concluded.  With Naraku in possession of the majority of the Shikon jewel, the only shards of it left in play were the single shards held by Moryomaru and Kohaku and the pair held by the wolf prince Koga.  Neither Miroku nor any of the others in InuYasha’s pack had seen Koga in a while, and the fact that the two shards ahead of them were moving independent of each other, rather than as a united pair, clearly identified their owners as Kohaku and Moryomaru.

            InuYasha and his friends were all acutely aware that Moryomaru sought Kohaku’s Shikon shard for himself.  “Okay, I’m speeding up!” InuYasha declared, seeking to come to Kohaku’s aid as quickly as possible.

            Right then, two of Moryomaru’s tentacles seized Kirara by her hind legs and slammed her down into the mountain below her with a sickening crunch of buckling stone, taking Sango along for the ride and knocking both of them unconscious.  “Sister!” Kohaku cried out, rushing to aid Sango and Kirara as they lay defenseless on the rocky ground.

            Moryomaru descended upon Kohaku from above and landed just a few yards from him with a thunderous thoom of great kinetic energy transmitting into solid stone.  Kohaku drew his kusarigama from his belt and braced himself to defend not only himself, but Sango and Kirara from Moryomaru’s attack.  For his own part, Moryomaru relished in the wild look in Kohaku’s chocolate brown eyes and flashed him an evil smile.  “Hello, Kohaku,” he said.

~~~~

            Kagura cocked her head at Naraku’s question to her.  “My freedom?” she asked.  Adrenaline began to flow through her blood and Naraku made no attempt to conceal the sadistic pleasure in his voice or the devilish gleam in his eyes.

            “Of course, Kagura,” Naraku confirmed.  “Don’t you want to be free from me?  Isn’t that why you searched for my heart?  So you could kill me?”

            Kagura tensed as Naraku cut to the metaphorical center of all her scheming against him.  With his possession of her heart and her disloyalty to him fully exposed, she was completely at his mercy.  “If…if that’s what you think…why set me free?”

            Inside his barrier, Naraku extended a hand toward Kagura and turned his palm upward, splaying his fingers out for her to see.  ‘My heart!’ Kagura screamed mentally, watching her dark master’s hand in total captivation as her heart materialized within it, beating rapidly, visibly, and audibly.  The sound of her own heartbeat dominated Kagura’s mind: ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump.  Very real demon blood pumped through its pulsing chambers, its aorta, vena cava, and assorted other disconnected blood vessels capped with tiny portals that received blood from and transported blood to Kagura’s body, as if it was housed inside her chest as normal. 

            As Kagura looked upon her heart, it began to beat faster and faster in Naraku’s hand, and the oni lord smoothed his fingertips over its smooth, lubricated surface, feeling the wind witch’s very life flowing through it.  “Your heart is so beautiful, Kagura,” Naraku praised with mounting, decidedly evil pleasure.  “I’m going to return it to you.”

            “What?” Kagura asked in disbelief.

            Kagura’s heart began to really pound in Naraku’s palm, matching its true owner’s rising emotions.  “Once I return this heart to your body, nothing will bind you to me any longer,” Naraku explained.  “You will be free.”

            In the same instant, Kagura saw her heart vanish from Naraku’s palm and felt it come back into existence…inside her chest.  The first beat of it in its new home between her lungs stole her breath, a triumphant ba-BUMP­ that utterly rocked her world.  Reflexively, she clutched a hand to her breast, finally feeling the subtle, life-giving movements of the stolen organ she had sought to reclaim her entire life.  ‘My heart…I have my heart back!’

            Then, a blinding, ripping pain shattered Kagura’s brief euphoria as Naraku formed his right arm into a hydra-like set of three, fish-hooked tentacles, each like a living, undulating spear, and ran her through.  The three tentacles passed through his barrier unimpeded and leapt forward several feet to impale Kagura in three places, forming a lethal, blood-soaked triangle in her upper body.  Two of them punched their way through her ribcage, battering her ribs apart and skewering each of her lungs to explode out her back.  The third tentacle spear slipped under her ribs and ripped through her liver, narrowly missing her spine on its way out her back.

            Naraku’s tentacles caught Kagura at the bottom of an exhale.  Her next breath in came as a strangled, drowning gurgle, and when she tried to breathe it back out, what had to be at least a cup of pure, oxygen-rich arterial blood came rushing up her throat and out her mouth.  “Don’t worry,” Naraku comforted to Kagura in the most cold-blooded manner.  “I avoided your precious heart.”

            “Wh-what,” Kagura struggled, continuing to vomit blood.  “What is this?”  The wind sorceress snapped her magic fan open and cast a desperate Dance of Blades at Naraku.  Her wind blades impacted harmlessly against his barrier, eliciting only a smile and a chuckle from him.  In return, he pumped distilled liquid miasma through his tentacles directly into her chest cavity, as if impregnating her body with the seed of her death.

            The miasma entered Kagura’s body with a ‘gush’ that she could both hear and feel.  Naraku yanked his tentacles out of her chest and their long, tapered fish-hooks ripped her wounds open even more widely to maximize the damage done.  The wind witch’s red-and-white kimono began to turn all red by the sheer amount of blood flowing out of her, plumes of violet smoke pouring out of her wounds as the liquid miasma that Naraku injected into her began to consume her from the inside out.  Total agony consumed her and in her debilitated state, she lost control of both her magic feather and the winds it rode upon, the winds picking up and beginning to carry her away from Naraku.

            “Now go,” Naraku bid to Kagura, both aloud and directly into her mind for maximum psychological damage as she sailed away from him.  “Wherever you please.  And I hope you enjoy it…for the short time you have left.  Although I’m afraid all you’ll feel…is despair and pain.  And that, Kagura, is the freedom you so desperately sought.”

~~~~

            “Hello, Kohaku,” Moryomaru addressed with undisguised pleasure.  “Thank you for coming.”

            Kohaku looked Moryomaru over, sizing him up.  The young taijiya didn’t have quite the same level of training and spiritual awareness that his sister did, but even he could feel the terrible aura flowing off of the demonic golem before him. ‘So this is Moryomaru…’ he thought.  ‘Inside him is the Infant, Naraku’s heart!’  He glanced over a shoulder at Sango, seeing that she was still unconscious from her collision with the hard ground.  ‘I have to get Moryomaru away from my sister!

            Kohaku began to spin the weighted end of his kusarigama’s chain in a hand, casting it forward so that it wrapped around the wrist of Moryomaru massive, hideous left arm.  Moryomaru only laughed.  “You plan to fight me, with those puny weapons?” the golem asked in rhetoric as he drew his chain-wrapped arm backward.

            By Moryomaru’s pull, the chain of Kohaku’s sickle weapon suddenly went taut and yanked Kohaku off his feet.  Kohaku fully expected this and with his Shikon-enhanced strength, he tugged on his chain to accelerate toward Moryomaru.  He sailed through the air, angling his sickle to slash Moryomaru across his face, using one of the demon’s broad shoulders as a stepping stone to redirect his flight and land at Moryomaru’s back.  “I dare you, Moryomaru!” the taijiya taunted to Moryomaru and the Infant inside him.  “Just try to take my Shikon shard!”

            Amused as the gash that Kohaku left in his face knit itself closed, Moryomaru turned ponderously to face Kohaku again and form one of his arms into a terrifying bouquet of gigantic, wriggling tentacles, brandishing them to the surprisingly-powerful taijiya before him.  “It’s so odd, Kohaku,” he noted with venomous thoughtfulness. “It’s odd that you, who are supposed to be Naraku’s little marionette, seem to be acting fully of your own will.”

            Indeed, Kohaku had once been under Naraku’s telepathic control, but he had broken free of it without the oni lord’s knowledge.  Since then, he pretended to still be Naraku’s puppet, using it as a ruse so as to be able to thwart his plans from the inside out.  Now, it appeared to him that his ruse had finally come undone.  Moryomaru lashed out with his tentacles and Kohaku leapt out of their way as they punched into the stone where he had been standing.  Kohaku began to run, keeping Moryomaru squarely in his view, and Moryomaru pursued.  “You will not get away,” the Infant’s sentient armor sneered.

            Sango began to rouse from her fall-induced state of unconsciousness, finding herself laying with Kirara in a crater of shattered rock.  Kirara gave a weak yowl and reverted to her housecat form.  “What…?” Sango asked herself as she sighted Kirara next to her.  ‘That’s right…we were being chased by Moryomaru.

            Then, Sango spotted Kohaku fighting with Moryomaru some yards away.  Moryomaru launched his tentacles at Kohaku along two different vectors, attacking from above and below.  Kohaku used his kusarigama to slice through the tentacles coming at him from above, but the ones coming at him from below were too fast for him.  One of them snagged one of his booted feet while another split into two halves and pinched onto his right forearm, the arm he used to wield his kusarigama.  Together, the tentacles lifted Kohaku off his feet and brought him to Moryomaru so that they were face-to-face.

            One of the Infant’s child-like arms sprouted from the tentacle of Moryomaru’s that held Kohaku’s leg, its tiny palm pressing to Kohaku’s slim, toned thigh.  Even though Kohaku’s body was mostly sheathed inside a form-fitting bodysuit like Sango’s, the closeness of the young male taijiya’s flesh to the Infant’s hand allowed Moryomaru and the Infant to read his thoughts, as they had done with Kagura.  “I see it clearly now, Kohaku,” Moryomaru said.  “Your memory has returned.”

            The Infant’s fingers squeezed Kohaku’s thigh in a disturbing, lecherous manner as Moryomaru probed deeper into Kohaku’s mind.  “I can read it, you know.  Your soul,” the demonic golem boasted, an evil smile spreading over his oversized, yet handsome face.  “You’ve been prepared to throw your life away from the start.  Oppressed by guilt for killing your father and fellow villagers, you thought you would atone for them with your own death.  Very nice.”

            Moryomaru spoke of the way Naraku used Kohaku to kill the clan of professional demon hunters that Kohaku and Sango belonged to.  Kohaku and Sango’s father had been the leader of that clan and Naraku, posing as the son of a human daimyo, lured him, Kohaku, Sango, and rest of the clan to the daimyo’s castle, where Naraku possessed Kohaku and used him to kill his fellow taijiya.  While Kohaku knew that Naraku had been controlling him, he felt guilt nonetheless and right then, Moryomaru savored every bit of that guilt for himself.

            “Kohaku!” Sango cried out to her brother as she ran toward him and Moryomaru, clutching an unconscious Kirara to her chest.  Both Kohaku and Moryomaru heard her cry but Moryomaru seemed unconcerned, hardly perceiving Sango as a threat.  “You should die for your sister, too,” Moryomaru suggested to Kohaku with insidious pleasure.  “You know she will never forget that her own brother murdered their father.  So long as you remain alive, her pain will never cease.”

            Sango called out again and Kohaku glanced at her as she approached in the distance.  “No!” he shouted to his sister.  “Don’t come closer!”  Sango stopped as he instructed and Kohaku glared up at Moryomaru, sneering viciously at him.  “I will not die in vain!”

            Moryomaru’s tentacles held only one of Kohaku’s arms, the one he used to hold the sickle end of his kusarigama.  Swiftly, Kohaku reached over to his trapped arm with his free one and took his sickle into his free hand, casting it forward to decapitate Moryomaru in one, clean swipe.  A feeling of triumph overcame Kohaku as his sickle hit its mark, but that triumph was dashed immediately as Moryomaru’s severed, floating head laughed at him.  “Feel better?” Moryomaru asked of Kohaku as his head reconnected to his body.

            Another of Moryomaru’s tentacles slithered its way up Kohaku’s back and the tip of it pressed to the base of his neck, the place where Naraku had implanted the shard of the Shikon no Tama that sustained his life.  Kohaku’s body stiffened involuntarily, a pulse of terrible pain ripping through him as Moryomaru disturbed his shard.  Sango saw this and began to run forward again to intervene when suddenly, InuYasha dropped in on Moryomaru and Kohaku from above, using Tetsuseiga to cleave through Moryomaru’s hideous tentacles and cut Kohaku free.

            “InuYasha,” Moryomaru greeted as the hanyou warrior placed himself directly between him and Kohaku.  Moryomaru backed away from InuYasha and Kohaku slightly, for whereas the demonic golem could ignore Sango, he could not ignore Sesshomaru’s half-brother or the powerful sword he carried.

            While InuYasha distracted Moryomaru, Sango rushed in to take Kohaku into her arms, tearing Moryomaru’s severed tentacles away from him.  Kohaku gave up a weak groan as Sango removed the tentacle that had sought to remove his Shikon shard and Sango felt relief overcome her by the knowledge that he still lived.

            Kagome, Miroku, and Shippo arrived on the scene shortly behind InuYasha.  InuYasha had let Kagome off of his back some distance before so that he could move against Moryomaru without fear of exposing her to danger, and so Kagome moved on foot, miko bow and magic arrows drawn.  Along the way, they had found Sango’s Hiraikotsu laying on the mountain valley floor and Miroku carried it slung over a shoulder.  Though the houshi wanted to return Sango’s weapon to her, a much more immediate thought was her safety after her encounter with Moryomaru.  “Sango!  You’re unhurt!” he shouted to her, relieved to see that Moryomaru hadn’t done any serious damage.

            InuYasha shouted over a shoulder at his friends as they moved to come to Sango’s aid.  “Stay back, all of you!”  The hanyou warrior didn’t want any of them getting too close to Moryomaru for any reason, and he clenched his hands on Tetsuseiga’s hilt to square off with the demonic golem.  “Moryomaru, or rather…Naraku’s Infant!”

            “So, Kagura’s been talking, eh?” Moryomaru thought aloud.  InuYasha and his friends now knew his true nature, which put him in a dangerous position.

            “Now that I know what you really are, I can’t leave you alive!” InuYasha growled.  “Prepare yourself!  Kongosoha!”

            InuYasha slashed Tetsuseiga through the air and unleashed his Diamond Spear Blast directly at Moryomaru at close range.  Despite the close range, Moryomaru’s speed and ability to fly allowed him to leap out of the way and take to the sky.  “Trying to run away?” InuYasha taunted to Moryomaru and the Infant within him.

            “Oh, I’ll be back, eventually,” Moryomaru promised to InuYasha in retort.  “When I return, I’ll devour your blade’s demon power!”

            Moryomaru then turned mid-air and flapped his giant bat-wings to leave InuYasha and his friends far behind.  “He ran off?” Kagome asked in disbelief.

            “Why?” Shippo added as he clung to Miroku’s shoulder.  “I thought he could, you know, absorb his opponent’s power.  Why would he run away without fighting?”

            Miroku squinted as Moryomaru’s giant form grew smaller and smaller in the distance, eventually disappearing completely.  “Perhaps he still lacks the strength to absorb the power of InuYasha’s Diamond Spears,” he suggested.

            “You’re probably right,” Kagome agreed.  “Which is why he was trying to take Kohaku’s Shikon shard.  To increase his strength.”

            Kohaku stirred in Sango’s arms, opening his eyes to see misty sky above him.  He jolted awake and tore himself away from Sango, leaping back away from her as if to escape her.  “Wait!” Sango called.  “Don’t go, Kohaku!  You…remember everything, don’t you?”

            InuYasha, Kagome, Miroku, and Shippo gathered around Sango and Kohaku, immediately grasping the significance of Sango’s claim.  Kohaku had regained his memory, which meant he remembered all of the terrible things Naraku had made him do and at the same time, he was finally free from the evil oni’s control.

            “Just now, you were trying to protect me from Moryomaru,” Sango said to Kohaku.

            Kohaku swallowed thickly, casting his eyes downward to the ground to escape Sango’s gaze.  “Sango…Sister,” he said.

            “Kohaku!” Sango burst.  Kohaku recognized her.  She rushed forward and gripped Kohaku by his upper arms, looking him in his eyes to make sure that what she saw there was, in fact, the brother that Naraku had estranged her from.  “You know who I am!  You remember!

            Kagome sidled up to InuYasha, grasping one of the sleeves of his red Fire-Rat haori as she watched the exchange between Sango and Kohaku unfold.  “Then…Naraku’s spell did wear off…”        she said.

            “I remember,” Kohaku confirmed grimly to Sango.  “I remember everything.  Even that day…”  Bloody images of his kusarigama slicing through the necks of his friends, family, and father, taking their heads clean off, flashed through Kohaku’s mind, turning his stomach.  “That’s why I can’t stay with you, Sango.”

            “Oh, Kohaku…” Kagome tried to comfort to Kohaku, but another voice echoed in Kohaku’s mind with more authority: Moryomaru’s.  The Infant’s armor said of Sango:  “She will never forget that her little brother murdered their father.”

            “But you just got back together!” Shippo interjected from Miroku’s shoulder while Miroku himself remained silent.

            “What are you planning to do?” Sango asked to Kohaku.

            “Naraku still hasn’t realized that I’ve regained my memory,” Kohaku explained.

            “No!  You can’t fight him alone!” Sango snapped, knowing full well that for Kohaku to try and kill Naraku entirely on his own was basically suicide.

            “But…!” Kohaku attempted to speak further, but Kagome interrupted him. “Will you abandon your sister?” she asked, stepping up to stand before him, next to Sango.  “She needs you, Kohaku.  No one can take your place.”

            Kohaku shifted uncomfortably as Kagome spoke pure truth.  Sardonically, Shippo noted of Kagome’s words to Kohaku, speaking to Miroku: “I guess that includes you, monk.”

            Miroku closed his eyes and shoved his hands into his sleeves as if to meditate.  “Hey.  No one can take my place either.”

            Then, InuYasha’s furry dog ears and sensitive nose twitched.  “Can you guys wrap it up?” he asked bluntly as he stood nearby.

            “InuYasha?” Kagome might have scolded her hanyou love, but the look on his face caused her to immediately think otherwise.

            “There’s a bad wind rising,” InuYasha continued, listening to the sound of the wind flowing over the mountain he and his friends stood on.  It carried a scent with it, one that caused him great concern.  “This scent, it’s faint, but I smell Naraku’s miasma…and Kagura’s blood.”

            Everyone present knew exactly what the scent of Kagura’s blood implied.  “We’ve got to go to her!” Kagome said.

            “Yeah,” InuYasha agreed.  “I’m not crazy about that woman, but this time…”

            “If Naraku’s discovered her betrayal, she’s in danger!” Miroku concluded.

            Having recovered enough from her fight with Moryomaru to fly, Kirara leapt down from Sango’s arms and transformed into her battle cat form, inviting Sango and Miroku to climb on.  “What about me?” Kohaku asked as they and the others made ready to depart for Kagura’s location.

            “Yes!” Kagome said, agreeing whole-heartedly with the idea of allowing Kohaku to travel with her and her friends.  InuYasha voiced similar sentiment.  “Hell yeah!  Come on!”

~~~~

             Mortally wounded, Kagura flew slowly, aimlessly upon her feather, unable to control it except to somewhat guide its descent.  She lost altitude gradually until she landed in a vast meadow of wildflowers, her feather plowing many of them over as it skidded to a halt.  With great strain, she rose to her feet and stumbled out of her feather’s boat-like structure, clutching her hands to her wounds to try and limit the blood loss.  Vision blurring in and out, she managed only a few steps before she collapsed to her knees, thick violet smoke pouring out of the holes in her back as Naraku’s miasma ate her alive.

            InuYasha and his pack made their way to Kagura as fast as possible, with InuYasha carrying Kagome while Miroku, Sango, Kohaku, and Shippo all rode Kirara.  For his own part, Kohaku thought of how Kagura saved him from Hakudoshi.  “Run, Kohaku!” she had ordered to him, sending him flying off on one of her magic feathers.  He knew that had Kagura not been there, he would have been easy prey for Hakudoshi.  ‘Because of me, Kagura is…she’s…

            Sango and Kagome held Kagura in their thoughts, as well.  ‘So we were right.  Kagura *did* save Kohaku‘s life back there!’ Sango thought to herself.  Similarly, Kagome thought: ‘I should have stopped her more forcibly.  I shouldn’t have left her alone!”

            InuYasha clenched his teeth as he ran faster and faster, so fast that Kirara had trouble keeping up by her passenger load.  ‘Damn it,’ he thought of Kagura helplessly, imagining what kind of miserable death Naraku was putting her to at that very moment.  ‘Kagura, don’t you *dare* die!’

            As her death approached, Kagura took some small comfort in the sound of her own heartbeat.  Ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump was all she could hear, most all other sounds drowned out for her by the pain wracking her.  She still managed to form lucid thoughts, thinking: ‘It’s beating, my heart…’  She looked up to the tops of the trees before her, seeing a flock of birds taking flight from their branches and imagining herself as one of them.  ‘Where should I go?  I can go anywhere.  I’m *free!*’

            Kagura tried to stand once more, but her body refused to obey her.  ‘I…can’t move,’ she realized, clutching at a handful of grass.  The plumes of miasma coming out of her back grew in size and density as Naraku’s poison ate away at her insides faster and faster.  Even as her insides turned to useless mush, she stayed incredibly calm, if morose.  She looked down at her lap, watching her blood leak out from her chest and drip onto her thighs.  ‘It’s so quiet.  There’s no one else here.  I guess this is where it’s going to end…all alone.  This is…the freedom I sought.’

            Then, the sound of wildflowers compressing softly between two heavy, booted feet caught Kagura’s attention.  She looked up to see none other than Sesshomaru standing just a few feet before her.  Her ruby eyes widened and she spoke the daiyoukai’s name in a breathless hush, her voice strained by her punctured lungs.  “Sessho…maru!

            Sesshomaru looked upon Kagura with sympathy plainly visible in his gorgeous golden eyes, even if he didn’t speak such sympathy right away.  “I was following the scent of Naraku’s miasma,” he said.

            Kagura gave a weak smile and a laugh that came as little more than a simple exhalation.  She looked back down at the flower-covered ground, feeling her consciousness beginning to wane, as if she was about to fall asleep.  “Disappointed?  That it was…just me?” she asked.

            “I knew it was you.”

            Kagura jolted back awake.  She looked up at Sesshomaru again, seeing the unflappable stoicism on his face, and knew that he meant what he said.  “You knew…and still you came.”

            Sesshomaru reached across his armored waist and took Tenseiga in hand.  Kagura watched him with undivided attention, knowing what the sword that he had received from his father was potentially capable of.  A few moments passed and Sesshomaru did not feel Tenseiga respond to him.  No servants of the underworld appeared before him.  Evidently, the so-called ‘healing sword’ either would not or could not save Kagura.  Dropping his hand to his side again, Sesshomaru felt Kagura’s spirit sink back down, able to do nothing but watch as her body dissolved into the wind.  “Is this it, then?” he asked softly to her, to try and comfort her in some small way.

            “Yes, but…it’s all right now,” Kagura answered.  Her heart gave its last few beats and stopped as Naraku’s miasma consumed it.  “I was able to see you, one last time.”

            Kagura closed her eyes and breathed outward in a sigh, leaning backward as death took her at last.  Her body and even her clothes turned to mist to flow away on the wind she so loved.  InuYasha and his pack arrived just in time to witness her last moments, watching as one of her magic feathers slipped out of her hair and rose into the sky.  A sudden gust of wind rushed past them and Sesshomaru at once, a farewell.  ‘Wind…’ Kagome pondered.  Was Kagura free at last?

            The others lamented on arriving too late.  Kohaku grappled with how Kagura had basically exchanged her own life for his.  For InuYasha, Kagura was yet another woman he failed to protect from Naraku.  Naraku had won again.  Sesshomaru began to walk away without so much as acknowledging the presence of InuYasha or his pack and InuYasha called after him.  “Hold it, Sesshomaru!”

            Kagome grasped one of InuYasha’s arms with both hands, hoping that InuYasha wasn’t about to start a fight.  To her relief, he made no move to draw Tetsuseiga.  “Tell me, Sesshomaru,” InuYasha continued, more softly this time.  “Did she suffer?”

            Sesshomaru stopped briefly and turned to regard InuYasha with his peripheral vision, answering enigmatically.  “She was…smiling.”

            I am the Wind.  Free to fly wherever I wish.

            Or so Kagura thought.

 

-To be continued-



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