Kagome shivered as she drew water from a gently flowing creek. A restlessness grew within her daily. It had been nearly a week since they had begun the hunt for Hisuhebi and any of his remain followers. Though there had been no sign of either, she constantly felt as though his eyes were upon her, tracking her as they searched for him. Shaking off the notion, she finished her task and rose from the rocky bank.
Warm hands covered her shoulders. “What is it, Kagome?” Inuyasha asked, having been watching over her from a nearby tree. He drew her close to him, both taking and giving comfort.
“I am not sure.” She lay her head against his chest. “It is almost as if the Danketsu is vibrating. I do not know if it senses him, even though we don’t, or if my own impatience is reflecting through it.”
“Perhaps it is a bit of both.” Lady Shikyomi commented, out of sight as she stood downstream from them.
“What do you mean, lady?” Inuyasha looked toward her as she appeared from their right. Kagome remained in his embrace, already certain of what she had to say.
“I have his scent.” She smiled maliciously as she met her youngest sons gaze.
His own lips curled into a half grin as he sent the news to their mate. Finally, they were close. They found the others packing up camp, the agitation they had felt the past few days replaced with energetic determination.
The sky was dark, no moon or stars reflected on its inky curtain. A rhythmic pulse brought Kagome quietly out of slumber, but not really bringing her wakefulness. There was a strangeness that overcame her, making her gently slip out of Inuyasha’s embrace. Visions and memories that were not her own crossed her sight. The forest floor before her was lit with fires that had long ago died out. Ghosts walked alongside her as the present and the past mixed together once more.
“Kagome,” Sesshomaru followed behind her, his voice not seeming to reach her at all. He was soon joined by Inuyasha, both men worried about her trance like state. At one point, she turned and smiled softly at them, but the expression was not one of her own. “Hasumi?” he questioned, but she just turned away, leading them deeper into the wood.
She stopped just on the edge of a clearing. Flames rose up before them, but gave no heat. Kagome stood facing the fire, her hands open to her sides as though she were beckoning them to take them. With one shared looked, they stepped forward, connecting flesh to flesh.
The instant they touched her, the scenery before them changed. Hasumi was before them, two inu by her side, standing just as they stood. To her right, Sesshomaru faced a tall male who was nearly identical to him, the only differences being in their height and hair color. The man managed to be even taller than his decedent and his hair was long and white. To her left, Inuyasha faced a female with bright silver eyes and hair. Behind them was a scene from some hellish dream. Bodies of woman and children of all types, both human and yokai burned in a mound, their eyes opened and soulless as they reflected the flames.
Tears fell in trails down Kagome’s cheeks. She had been here before when Hasumi had saved her life by joining with her, but that had been the aftermath. This was far worse. From the growling beside her, Inuyasha also was having trouble controlling his emotions. Sesshomaru’s face was grim, oddly echoed by Hasumi’s mate across from him.
“I am sorry, my children,” came her voice, wispy and multi toned as though it were trying to be drowned out, “but you must see.” She tried to move beyond the fire, only to step back in frustration. Hasumi looked between them, seeming to come to an understanding. She held her hand out to them, her mates following suit.
Taking a calming breath, knowing that she would probably not like where this would lead, Kagome took Hasumi’s nearly transparent hand into her own. Sesshomaru grasped his ancestors hand, unwilling to let her go alone again. After only the briefest of hesitation, Inuyasha also touched the ghostlike figure in front of him. The world shifted.
Suddenly, they were laying on the ground, the grass cool beneath them. The time had changed as well. The evening sun still dipped below the horizon, giving off shades of red. The fire still burned, but now they were to the right of the horrific bonfire and the flames were real. They could feel the warmth of the blaze and smell the nauseatingly pungent stench that blanketed the area.
Kagome looked to her left, shocked to see the sliver haired inu, rather than Inuyasha. However, the angry look in the light eyes was definitely his. “We are here,” she said, quietly in awe.
“We must find what she wants to show us before this vison fades.” The voice was Sesshomaru’s, calming her and giving strength.
“Right,” Kagome nodded. Thinking back on her time in Hasumi’s past and the tales that Shikyomi told, she tried to discern what and where they would need to see. It would have to be something that affected their fight in the future as well as theirs of the past. Some important detail that would help them defeat Hisuhebi for good. “I do not think she would leave us in this place without reason. It hurts her to be here.” Kagome pondered. Looking around, she came to a realization, “Wait. She is not here yet…” taking in the time of the day and the blaze, she continued, “Hasumi was dumped by the mound, but the fire was smoldering, not in flames. She wants us to see something to do with the fire.” They turned toward it, unable to make out anything other than the horror of it.
“We should circle it,” Inuyasha growled, “maybe they could not get us closer than this.”
“Stay low,” Sesshomaru agreed with him, “there is no telling if these images can cause harm or not.”
They silently made their way around the blaze, getting no closer to its source, but studying everything around it. Kagome could see the castle off in the distance, its high red walls like a cut through the land, standing out obscenely. Then she noted some flickering figures making their way closer to them. “Sesshomaru, Inuyasha,” she whispered to them, nodding in the direction of the dark forms moving steadily closer.
Sesshomaru looked at the images, his sight better than his two mates. “Dark priests.” His eyes flashed red. They backed away, watching as the line of black robed men came closer to the fire, carrying with them more lifeless bodies.
There were makes on the woman, brandings that Kagome instantly knew were perversions of healing signs. What had they been doing to them? Her heart beat painfully in her chest, sorrow for those poor souls that were trapped by such travesty.
With no warning, they were returned. Before the three was an empty clearing, the earth still corrupted and black even after nearly a thousand years since the flames had scorched it. “He has been watching us,” Kagome said with certainty. She looked in the direction of where the keep once was. Still, the foundations stood, some of its faded red reminding her of an old wound.
“The bastard. You think he would just save us the damn trouble and show up to die already.” Inuyasha muttered, eyes red tinted with rage at what he had seen. No yokai were saint like, but that was damn sick.
Sesshomaru said nothing. It made no difference if he knew they were coming, nor that he would pick the battle ground. Either way, he would die, preferably in agonizing pain. The priests did not really concern him, but he added them into the equation in his head. He would leave no room for mistakes and leave none of the snake’s people alive.
“I need Miroku,” Kagome looked around at the dark stain, “this is still a place of power for them. I will not leave it as it is, heavens only know how much damage it has already caused. This will also serve to weaken them, but I have a feeling this is not the only place they used like this,” her voice was full of disgust, pity, and grief.
“We will find them, Kagome,” Inuyasha held her comfortingly, realizing that the place hurt her just as it had Hasumi, “After I take that damn snake’s head.” She nodded, taking in his warmth, feeling like she had none of her own. Sesshomaru ran his fingers through her hair as he pressed against her back, giving her the moment she needed. Then he went to retrieve the monk and give the rest of his pack the new information on the enemy. They must prepare.
Two angry humans and one passive inu looked over the sight. Sango and Miroku did not have the details, but the land screamed in remembered horror. Sesshomaru and his mother were in conference in the tree line, while Inuyasha watched over the group from a high perch. From above, the ground looked even worse, the center of the black mass almost appearing red, like old blood.
“Are you up to this, Miroku?” Kagome asked while the two stood together, looking over the damage.
“I am.” She could hear the fury in his voice.
“Let’s begin then.” Taking several blessed items, they began to circle the clearing. Facing the north across the stain, she took a vial of scared water. “I call upon the healing water to wash this impurity away,” praying, she emptied the bottle onto the ground, just before the blight. A blue light began to creep across clearing from the point in which she had poured the liquid.
Miroku faced her, directly across from where she stood, facing south. Taking several stones of sliver and jade, brown markings standing out on their smooth surface, he held them out. “I call upon the earth to rid itself of this impurity.” Also praying, he placed the stones down. A green light began to crawl across the ground, in line to meet with the blue.
Walking slowly and steadily they stayed in time with each other. Inuyasha perked up as faded symbols seemed to be appearing over the spot. Kagome halted, facing the east. In her hands were several healing herbs. “I call upon the wind to blow, banishing this impurity from our sight.” She sprinkled the ground herbs as the wind caught them, though it were answering her prayer. A white light formed, moving faster across the taint.
Miroku had a bundle of tied herbs, lighting them with some matches left over from Kagome’s last trip home. “I call upon fire, to burn away this impurity so that not even the ashes remain.” Praying, he began to place the smoldering bundle down.
A shriek came from the trees. A black robed man ran from the wood, dagger poised to strike Miroku’s unguarded back. Tsuyoi was there in an instant, taking his head from his shoulders in one swift motion, the man’s eyes still opened and crazed. Sensing more movement in the forest, Shykiomi and Tsuyoi gave chase, lady deaths laughter lingering behind.
Miroku, never ceasing the ceremony, placed the brand down, a red light moving across the clearing. The bright streaks met, crashing together as four symbols appeared above. The ground shook as they penetrated into it, forcing the ominous blackness from its longtime bed. The dark stain melted away slowly, as though fighting for every inch it was forced to relinquish. Finally, the light cleared, leaving behind it rich new earth, the taint gone and their power point broken.