Hope in the Darkness
Sesshomaru grew more callous with every breath that left his body. He transformed, running toward the north, not bothering to give the command, knowing that his men would follow. Nor did he look toward the west where combat had already begun. He had only one objective at the moment and that was to annihilate Kidotta’s allies and return to where the real war was being waged. There would be no games, no diplomacy, and no mercy anymore for those that would try and take from him. The western lord raged and it roused terror even in the bravest of men and yokai alike as they followed, grateful not to be on the opposite side of this fight.
He halted just outside of the barrier where Katsumi waited for him. “What do you see, Obaasan?” Sesshomaru looked out, able to clearly make out the edge of their forces. They were still a few miles out.
“This one thinks that that dragon is as foolish and as arrogant as his predecessors, without the numbers to save him. They are many, but weak, terribly weak. Ryukotsusei would even feel shame at this sorry army his decedent has thrown together. He is still young and tender” Katsumi told him, smirking. She was still in her human form. “In your mood, this one is certain that this will be over within the hour.”
“Return to the palace, they have a greater need of you now.” Sesshomaru heard the roar of the dragon in the distance, an arch of white flame announcing his intent to challenge. Green mist began to form around his mouth as he fixated on it.
“As you will, lord Sesshomaru.” For the first time in his memory, Katsumi bowed to him, even if it was slightly playful in appearance. The gesture held her faith and pride in him. With a final grin, she slipped back toward his home and the more serious matter of Hisuhebi’s attack.
Sesshomaru charged forward, meeting the dark, snarling figure head on. The warriors of the west did not fail their lord, rushing into mêlée with weapons raised, catching the opposite side unaware in their unexpected proximity to them. Their bellows of conquest filled the battle field as Sesshomaru ripped through the dragon’s thick skin, peeling away a large section of it down its long back. Its eerie shriek shook the air, causing many to stop mid fight and cover their ears. Sesshomaru never halted, striking from underneath as it tried to flee from him. He would not stop until nothing remained of the dragon and its people were nothing but char and ash, nourishing the land they had thought to claim.
The large white inu stood at the tree line, waiting. He was coming. She could smell his taint waft through the air, feel his presence making her fur stand on end. His tall, lanky human form slithered into her sight. “Predictable.” She said, her voice taking on a natural growl in her true form, “perhaps age has stolen your cunning, snake.”
“One has no need for cunning when dealing with ignorant beasts,” he answered, his eyes flashing a sickening yellow in the last of the waning light.
Shikyomi sneered, his opinion meaningless to her. “This is as far as you go on this night, I will not allow you to befoul this land any farther.”
He made no reply as fangs burst from his mouth, his form expanding and lengthening as he took on his reptilian body that was nearly double her size. Shikyomi knew that without the bow, she had little chance of actually taking his life, but her victory would be in keeping him away from her pack. She would fight down to her last breath to keep him injured enough that he feared trying to face the three. Without hesitation, she charged toward him, his enormous body still growing and coiling up on itself.
Feeling a slight change in the air, she dodged to the left, taking to the sky. His tail thumped down on the spot where she had been, shaking the ground around them. In an instant, she disappeared into a bright streak across the darkness, slamming into the large head of the snake yokai before she danced away again.
Hisuhebi was momentarily stunned at the impact, pain lacing down his spine as he was knocked backwards from the impact. Normally a single dog would have been no match for one such as he was. They were a pack animal and thus, stronger in groups. He had failed to consider in his arrogance, the inu he faced had fought many battles alone, being nearly packless for many centuries.
She struck again and again, always aiming for his head or the back of his long neck. With every strike, she watched with intent, waiting for the opportunity to rip his throat out. Even he would have to have time to heal from such a wound. A grim smile played in her mind, thinking that it would be something to see if he really could heal from having his head torn off.
He hissed, the sound like water pouring over molten stone, as he struck blindly toward her aura. Seeing a chance, Shikyomi held still until the last moments, ducking under his attack. She dug her fangs deeply into his thick skin, just below where his head and neck met. Ignoring the acrid taste of his blood, she tried to use all of her weight to pull him down. His muscles bunched beneath her as he began to thrash about. Growling, she used her claws to help her cling, making more bloody trails down his pale belly.
After several bouts of rapidly shaking, he managed to fling her off of him. She sailed through the air, taking a large chunk of his flesh with her. Shikyomi crashed into the large timbers, soldiers of both sides fleeing fallen and uprooted trees as she slid to a stop. She stood, wincing from several broken limbs that had pierced her side. Giving herself a good shake, Shi managed to dislodge a few of them, the rest broken off too deeply and would have to be pulled out, preferably before she changed back. Scanning her enemy, she was extremely annoyed to see the deep hole she had left behind was starting to heal on the edges, the torrent of blood already slowing to a trickle. Hunching back, she leapt back into the sky, prepared to take him down bite by bite if she must.
Shi rushed him again, only marginally slowed by the injuries to her side. She struck again, but this time was not quite swift enough to avoid him. Even as her blow vibrated through him, a thick rope of muscle and scale looped around her, rapidly followed by two more. She bit down on where ever she could, injecting as much acid as she could, even though she knew that even her poison would have little effect on the venomous creature. Another and another surrounded her until she was mostly enveloped by his spiraling frame. Constricting with every breath that she took, the extreme pressure soon caused several of her bones to snap, digging the wood farther into her body.
When she was certain that it was over, a warm light began to glow at her chest. Touga’s last gift to her shone brightly, the beam shining through the snake’s coils. Suddenly, she was flung away, the smell of brunt flesh reaching her where she landed several yards from the thrashing Hisuhebi. His strange multi-toned voice sounded other worldly as he screeched in a pricing scream. The noise brought a grin to her, despite her labored breathing and the agony that flooded her body. Leave it to her love to fight from beyond the grave. However, the sound did not last nearly long enough to suit her.
Shikyomi tried to stand, wanting to at least meet her end on her feet, but there was just simply too much torn and broken to make it possible. Panting, she watched as the severe burns began to fade, new, glossy scales almost clicking together as they covered his healing skin. The creature fixated on her, a low hiss coming from his mouth as he slowly approached. She looked back at him, nonchalantly, unafraid of what was to come.
Miroku headed in the direction where he had last seen Tsuyoi and Sango, certain that they would be in the wood. Behind him followed part of the western army, swarming into the forest like a tsunami breaking on the shore. Shi was already transformed, most of those fighting rushed to avoid the titans who now faced each other. Amidst the pandemonium, he saw them.
They had formed a unit, Sango giving support from the sky as Tsuyoi danced through the overwhelming numbers. She led the guards who had been on patrol when the enemy had revealed itself. He allowed himself just a moment to be relieved that they were alright, then went to join them in their struggle. Steadily, he and the men he had brought cut a path toward them, stemming the swarm of Hisuhebi’s kinsmen.
Sango landed, Kirara tired from the near constant use of her flame. She would never admit how relieved she was to see him, the chiming sound of his staff a familiar and cherished sound as he fought his way to them. She avoided another blade, stepping to the side, then countering, her sword cutting up through the abdominal wall and chest cavity of her opponent. Before the body fell, a familiar warmth was pressed against her back, taking out another enemy aiming for her head. “What kept you, monk?” She asked.
“Ah, you missed me!” He exclaimed even as he moved again, the clang of his staff never ceasing. The seriousness of his features belied his playful tone.
“Ha,” she snickered, “I just missed my favorite target.”
Tsuyoi drew close, trying to keep a tight line so the opposing forces did not surround them again. Miroku and the help he had brought made it now possible to clear the filth from the land. She admired the light hearted banner between them, knowing it came from many long battles they had fought together. It raised the spirit of those who fought with them, spurring them on.
“So you finally admit that I am your favorite,” he teased. A large crash drew their attention skyward as Shikyomi’s enormous form collided with the canopy of trees not too far from where they stood. Chaos reigned as massive projectiles of wood, dirt, and stone bombarded them. Miroku covered Sango, a heavy blow to his back knocking the breath from him.
When the mayhem died down, he rose, ignoring the sharp pain in his side. Helping Sango to her feet, he took stock of those around him. Friend and foe alike had taken a hard hit, but he was proud to see that those of the west were not thrown by the unexpected calamity, but instead used it to finish off their stunned adversaries, breaking the foot hold they had gained. There was one, however, that he did not catch sight of. “Sango, do you see Tsuyoi?”
Sango searched the battle ground for her, Kirara at her side. The smoke and the dirt that hung it the air made it difficult to find just one being. The sound of Shikyomi and Hisuhebi still rocked the area as well, adding to the confusion. “No.” On silent agreement, they began to work their way across the field of fallen lumber, slaying any of the enemy they came into contact with.
Inuyasha paced the balcony floor, his eyes glued to the conflict in front of him. His hands literally itched with the want to go and confront the snake himself or to at least help clear out the enemy. He was positive many of the guards below him felt the same need, the scent of their tension matching his own.
He could hear the pups stirring behind him and thought to check on them and Kagome when a strange and horrifying sight came before him. Familiar long, ghost like shapes filled the sky. They carried with them Hisuhebi’s men, flashing brown and green as they dropped them on the actual palace and the courtyard around it. Anger burned within him, along with a sense of betrayal as he drew Tetsusaiga. With one swing of its blade, he cleared the air of them, along with many of their falling cargo. Inuyasha searched for the only one who could summon and control those particular yokai.
He could see Kogirei, flashes of her green fox fire as she kept them from the main entrance. Many of her charges spilled out into the gardens, fighting with every bit of ferocity that the inuyokai soldiers did. Concentrating on slaying any who came near, he was unexpectedly blindsided by a ball of writhing yokai and sorcery. It pulled him from his post, engulfing him in a prison of what felt like wet quicksand. The terrain came rushing toward him as he struggled to free himself. Frustrated at his lack of mobility, he channeled his yoki into Tetsusaiga’s blade, making the orb explode in a flash of golden light. He landed on his feet, bounding off the ground, leaping back toward where Kagome rested. Her fear blazed down their connection, making him even more resolved to get back to them.
“You are working with Hisuhebi now?” He heard Kagome’s voice, glad that it sounded steady. Inuyasha was almost there, getting delayed a few times when some of the rival soldiers came after him.
“He gave me power.” That woman replied, “Enough to come and take him away from you.” Her laughter rang with the sound of madness. “With you gone, he will come back to me. We will raise his children and be together.”
“Ain’t no way in seven hells,” came a snarl from the balcony. Inuyasha grabbed ahold of the stone guardrail and leapt onto the floor, his sword instantly in hand. The woman before him barely resembled the person he once had known. Her hair hung limply around her face, the inky color matching her eyes. The robes of black and green she wore were messy and ill kept, large stains of red and brown making it appear as if she had clawed her way up out of the grave. It was a haunting picture, but what most caught his attention what the small blanket wrapped bundle in her arms.
Kikyo froze, unable to take her eyes off of him. He had become her obsession in the months he had stopped answering her summons. She had been sought out by Hisuhebi, his brother having gathered information on those remaining of the great houses of the inuyokai. He offered her the chance at a new life, one where she could have all that she had ever desired. Giving her a gift of his energy, he enhanced her own failing capabilities and strengthened the shell that housed her souls. In return, all he had asked was the use of her new and improved soul collectors and their ability to breach most barriers undetected. They had become a force all on their own and they only came to her call.
Too consumed by her wondering thoughts, she almost didn’t notice when the child was snatched from her arms nor the fleeing figure of her nemesis. Striking out in fury, she hit Kagome, sending her crashing into the far wall. Nearly a heartbeat later, Inuyasha slammed into her, knocking her away from his mate and child.
Inuyasha glanced back, relieved to see Kagome moving and holding the pup. “Do not look at her!” The monster in front of him screeched, “Your heart is mine, Inuyasha.”
“My heart belongs to my mates,” he said simply, blocking Kagome from her sight, his sword raised and ready. In truth, he blamed himself a little bit. Had he had the strength and pity for this creature earlier, he could have sent Kikyo’s remnants to rest long ago. It was well past time to fulfill that duty.
She drew a long dagger and faced off with him. “We can be together now.” Kikyo’s voice was warped and confused, “Do you not see that?” She struck out at him, sparks flying as they met blade to blade.
He made no reply, pushing her back, farther away from both Kagome and the bassinets that were covered in a bright purple dome of light. Inuyasha had no time to wonder about it as she threw some kind of energy blast his way, the pale blue orb melting the wall beside him. He had to get her out of the room. He attacked, the golden claw marks cutting through her and the door and wall behind her. To his disbelief, she got up, dusting herself off in the hallway. Before she could retaliate, he hit her again, following her out into the palace corridors. Kikyo fled before him, her laughter echoing through the passageways as her soul collectors protected her. He glared in grim determination, vowing he would destroy her before she could do any more harm.
The sounds of crying pulled Kagome from her healing slumber. A quiet chuckle spread alarm through her, making her heart thud loudly in her chest. Without a thought of the condition of her body, she sat straight up, her eyes instantly on the four bassinets where her children lay. Three were full as they should be, her sons crying from the feel of a cold, dark aura that had come so close to them. The last stood empty, confirming her fears.
“You should be grateful.” A chilling voice said from the far corner of the room, “he ordered me to kill any male children, but they looked so much like Inuyasha that I could not bear to.” Kagome held on to the edge of the bed as she turned to see Kikyo holding her precious daughter, the child crying out. “Of course, I suppose that the western heir should probably die, do you not think so?” her smile was malevolent, as was the gleam in her eyes. One of her soul collectors appeared over the bassinets, its filmy gaze focusing on her eldest son.
Rage filled Kagome as it charged down. Pushing her pain and weariness aside, she reached for the power that usually hummed from within her. A barrier of hot reki formed over them, the purple radiance lit up the room as the wraithlike yokai burst against it.
Glaring, Kikyo tried several more, determined to make Kagome suffer. She was weaker, always weaker than her, so why couldn’t they get through her shield? It was Kagome’s fault all had been taken from her. The impostor had stolen her life, her love, and now the children that would have been hers, minus the yokai taint. She deserved to agonize as much as the former priestess, to grieve as all she loved was stripped away. “Do you not think so?” she whispered aloud to herself. The more her minions failed, the angrier she grew.
“Give me the child.” Kagome said, inching her way closer to them. She flung the bond she shared with Inuyasha and Sesshomaru open wide, screaming inside her head. “This is not like the great priestess Kikyo who healed and protected the weak,” her tone was steady and calming.
“Yes, I did that,” the woman nodded, smiling. “They loved me. I did great things.” Kikyo shushed the baby, rocking her gently as she looked down on her. “I did as I should, even dying as I should have.” The glare returned as her gaze returned to Kagome. “But you stole away my reward! He was supposed to become human, the jewel gone from this world. We were supposed to be happy and have a family and I would have been a simple wife and mother. We were to be happy.” Black crept into her eyes, the darkness taking over the light of them just as it seeped into the fragments of soul she carried within her.
Kagome felt only a twinge of sadness for her, even her words were nonsensical. There was truly nothing there of the Kikyo that had been so great, only the bitterness she could not overcome. She had to get her pup away from her. “You are working with Hisuhebi now?” Kagome asked, creeping ever closer, the power she had placed around the bassinets held strong as it was repeatedly hit, the shattering yokai causing flashes of brilliance behind her. He was the only one she could think of that would do such a thing.
“He gave me power.” Kikyo replied, “Enough to come and take him away from you.” She laughed eerily, the resonance of it sending shivers down her spine. “With you gone, he will come back to me. We will raise his children and be together.”
“Ain’t no way in seven hells,” came a snarl from the balcony. Inuyasha grabbed ahold of the stone guardrail and leapt onto the floor, his sword instantly in hand.
Kagome watched as Kikyo froze, all of her interest on him. Slowly, she took in a deep breath, tensing all of her wobbly limbs. Not even daring to look at her mate, she rushed the still figure, snatching her daughter from her motionless from. She had not completely turned away when she was struck in the side, sending her flying across the room. Curling around the baby, she gasped as her back collided with the wall, little dots dancing on the edge of her vision. Kagome made herself inhale gradually, and exhale the same until it cleared. In her arms, her child watched her quietly, safe and unharmed.
Kagome looked up to see Kikyo and Inuyasha fighting, the priestess having drawn a long dagger to defend against his claws. She knew that Inuyasha would draw the threat away from her and their pups before attempting to use the Tetsusaiga. Words were exchanged between them, but Kagome heard none of it. Her focus turned out toward the west to the sound of something large crashing, clanging like thunder and shaking the floor beneath her.
She saw the giant snake in the distance, saw the smaller inu get up and shake off the blow as if it were nothing. Shikyomi faced the monster fearlessly, her beauty and grace unmatched in that moment, but Kagome knew that she faced certain death. Another large bang, this one from within the room, made her look around her once more. A large, gaping hole took the place of the doorway, Inuyasha and Kikyo both gone. The soul collectors stopped as well, leaving the barrier humming quietly.
Holding the baby to her chest with one arm, Kagome began a sluggish crawl to where it protected her children. The barrier did not waiver, even when she pulled herself up, using the foot of the bed to gain her feet, then walking through it, placing the girl back in her bed. She took just a moment to look over them all before making the seemingly long path back toward the balcony. She failed to notice the small drops of red she left in her wake, gradually growing larger with every measured step.Many battles raged, within the halls of her home and upon its lands. The sounds of war rose up, metal striking upon metal, roars of challenges and cries of the fallen all made the way to where she stood, clinging to the icy stone of the banister. She could see many fires and the auras of yoki as the yokai fought, appearing like fireworks exploding below her. Kagome looked out over to where the reptile towered over everything and saw hope step out into the chaos. Steadying herself, she summoned her weapon, the bow fated to be hers alone. Drawing back, she fed as much as she could into it, the bright arrow soaring like a comet in the darkness, driving ever faster toward its goal.