Chapter 1: Awakening
Inuyasha, hanyou son of the great Dog Lord of the Western Lands, bearer of the fabled blade Tetsusaiga, hesitated. Surprisingly, that action caused nothing momentous to occur. No seas rose or fell. No stars plummeted from the heavens. Like most startlingly uncharacteristic moments in history, it only yielded surprised looks from his companions.Oblivious, the boy studied the limp form before him uncertainly.
‘If you free her, you will be bound to her for all time.’
Kaede’s words echoed in his mind relentlessly as a delicate wind stirred the silent clearing in which he stood. His long, silver hair lifted and flowed around his red-clad form in gentle waves. The half-youkai remained frozen.
Bound for all time. Just what did that entail? Obviously, an attachment from which he would never, could never break free. But, what sort of attachment? Would he merely be compelled to aid her when she required it? That was definitely the most preferable of the choices flitting about his mind. But, what if it compelled him to stay at her side? Or granted her control over him?
A low growl boiled up from his chest at that last thought. He was no one’s lapdog.
“Stop grumbling about it and do it, Inuyasha!”
The growl deepened into a half-hearted snarl as the hanyou turned his attention to the red-haired, bushy-tailed child perched on his right shoulder.
“Shut up, runt!” he snapped, cursing himself inwardly for falling for the little kitsune’s pleas to bring him along. The child wasn’t going to make this any easier.
The kitsune growled in response, his eyes darting to the nearest of Inuyasha’s pointed, dog-like ears.
“Don’t even think about chewing on me again!” Inuyasha snapped quickly, catching the none-too-subtle glances at his ears and knowing the kitsune’s favorite targets all too well.
The fox child tensed, his bushy tail bristling. A sharp retort bubbled in his throat and then suddenly died with a whimper.
“Please, Inuyasha,” he whispered. “I want my Okaa and Otou back.”
Something inside Inuyasha clenched. An old pain throbbed anew.
“I know, kid,” he responded quietly. “Just gimme a minute, okay?”
The child nodded wordlessly and settled back, his soft baby claws digging harmlessly into the tight weave of Inuyasha’s kariginu. He glanced around Inuyasha’s silver mane to find the tiny feline that was curled up on the hanyou’s opposite shoulder. Both of the little creature’s two, black-tipped tails were wrapped securely around Inuyasha’s neck.
“Guess we have to be patient, Kirara,” the kitsune whispered to his shoulder-riding companion. His tone became conspiratory. “You know how long it takes Inuyasha to make a decision. Even when it’s his only choice.”
The cat peered at him with ruby eyes before uttering a faint mewl in response.
Above their “conversation,” one white-furred ear twitched. Stilling the appendage with conscious effort, Inuyasha wondered if the little fox kit honestly thought he couldn’t hear his whispers or if he was meant to hear these presumably private conversations between fox and cat. He suspected the latter and, knowing that, chose not to respond. He’d bop the little brat later.
The silver-haired youth focused his attention back on the object of his earlier attention almost reluctantly.
It was a girl. Her long, raven hair blew gently in the wind, trailing across her smooth face. Her eyes were closed, as they had been for the last fifty years if the stories had it right. Her placid face, slack with sleep, held a lingering sadness. Delicate brows drew together ever so slightly in a frozen expression of concern. Full, pink lips curved downward in a gentle frown. And, just below that frown, protruding obscenely from her chest, was an arrow. Its shaft was weathered. The tatters that had once been the fletching fluttered faintly in the gentle breeze.
Dimly, Inuyasha mused that she didn’t look like someone who deserved to have been punished so. Her clothing was scandalous to be sure. A curious white and green kimono that covered her arms properly enough, if rather more tightly than usual, but left an obscene length of leg exposed. Still…
It wasn’t right at all. And, to just leave her there like that…
Almost of its own accord, his right hand reached for the arrow embedded in her chest. The arrow that held the girl fast to the base of an ancient tree. Rose-tinged energy immediately began to crackle around his outstretched hand.
With a yelp, Inuyasha withdrew the hand and cradled it to his chest, watching the faint burns the miko power had created slowly fade away.
“Maybe it would be better if you went on and got it over with,” a voice whispered in his ear.
It took incredible force of will not to send the fox flying into the nearest tree.
Would you like to do it, Shippou?!” the hanyou snapped. Before the child could reply, Inuyasha swatted him off his shoulder.
The kitsune thumped onto the grassy ground with a squeak of surprise. He looked up at his companion with wide, hurt green eyes. Inuyasha’s next words halted the flood of tears he’d been about to unleash.
“Stand back.” The silver-haired boy glanced at the feline youkai on his other shoulder. “You too, Kirara. Neither of you would survive this kind of power.”
With an encouraging trill, Kirara nudged his cheek gently and then complied, leaping to the ground beside Shippou.
Inuyasha tossed them a quick, confident smirk. Then, he faced the trapped girl resolutely. This was it then. The smirk slipped away after a moment as the ramifications of what he was about to do again flitted through his mind.
“Inuyasha,” Shippou’s hesitant voice came from behind him, “Are you sure you can stand it?”
“Keh,” the hanyou snorted, regaining himself. “I’m the only one who can. For once, my human half is gonna come in handy.” He stretched his hand out toward the protruding arrow once more. “But, it’s gonna hurt.” He grimaced. “A lot.”
Sitting with his hands fisted before him, the kitsune watched his friend fearfully. Images of Inuyasha vanishing in a shower of pink light and purified ash played before his eyes relentlessly. Tears welled at the corners of his verdant pools. No. He couldn’t lose Inuyasha too.
“Be careful, Inuyasha,” the child whispered to himself.
Overhearing, Kirara butted his shoulder reassuringly.
The hanyou heard as well, but he blocked the two from his mind, focusing on the girl. He could feel the hot tingle as the miko power that kept her sealed began to sear his flesh, seeking its natural enemy, the youkai blood that flowed in his veins. But, he wasn’t afraid of being burned to ashes. He was half human after all. Miko power normally protected humans. Though this particular spell was meant to ward off human and youkai alike. Too strong for a human to endure. Too pure for a youkai to withstand. But, he was neither. He was youkai and human in one. The only sort of being that could get past the spell.
Too many hopes and dreams hinged on it.
But, that was not his deepest fear. Somehow, he was confident he would succeed in freeing her. What scared him was the price of doing so. He was afraid of the bargain he was about to strike. A bargain made not with words but with his actions. The minute he pulled that arrow from her chest he would be hers. Somehow, someway, he would be at her command.
The thought brought a tremble to his extended limb. He, Inuyasha, son of the Lord of the Western Lands, servant to a human girl. His face twisted in a silent snarl.
But, he needed this girl. He needed her power, no matter the cost. Shippou needed her. Kirara needed her. They had all suffered loss. And, only this girl, consigned to deathless sleep fifty years ago for the sake of the very power he sought, could help them.
His hand touched the arrow. Immediately, fiery energy tore through his arm. Inuyasha screamed as it flowed into him, burning him alive from the inside out.
“Inuyasha!” Shippou stared in horror as the pink light surrounded the hanyou, sending his body into violent spasms. As he watched, the color began to leech out of Inuyasha’s hair, dulling his silver mane to gray.
Realizing what was happening, the kitsune began to scream anew. “Pull it out now, Inuyasha! Before you turn into a human completely!”
He watched with huge eyes as the hanyou’s canine ears began to shrink, sliding through his darkening hair to become rounded human ears.
With a final scream of agony, Inuyasha wrenched the arrow from the girl’s chest and collapsed into the grass at her feet, his hair now black as pitch. The arrow in his clenched fist disappeared in a final burst of rosy light.
His heart pounding, Shippou made to run to his friend’s side. He stopped when the girl stirred. The hole in her chest that had, just instants before, held an arrow had sealed as though it had never been. A hazy, roseate corona still glittered in the air around her, giving her an unearthly quality as her eyes slid open slowly. Shippou stared as she opened eyes the brightest shade of blue he’d ever seen and looked directly at him.
“What…?” she whispered to herself softly. Her eyes became hazy as she slowly looked around, taking in the full scene before her. They finally lighted on the gasping boy at her feet.
“Oh!” Concern creased her features as she made her first move away from the tree on which she’d spent the last half century. Her numbed legs failed her and she fell to join him, just catching herself on hastily outstretched hands. She seemed oblivious to her own state, focused only on the boy.
“Are you alright?” she asked, reaching out a pale hand to pull a lock of the boy’s now sable mane away from his face.
Their eyes met. Violet eyes stared back into her own for a moment, burning with an intensity that caused her to draw back. At the action, incomprehensible words, slurred across thick lips, tumbled from him.
“What?” Again, she reached for the boy, reached out to touch his sweat-drenched face.
Inuyasha met the girl’s gaze again. “You can do it?” he demanded, forcing the stutter from his voice. Getting a blank stare in response, he clarified, “You can see the shards?”
The girl’s face hardened. “Yes.” She jerked her hand away from him, suddenly refusing to look at him.
“Good.” Forcing his pride and the bitter bile the very thought of what he was about to do brought to his throat down, Inuyasha reached out to take the girl’s hands into his own. He ignored her startled cry and forced himself to his feet, pulling her with him and cursing his temporary human form with every agonizing muscle spasm. Then, catching her gaze once more, he assured himself she was steady and suddenly dropped to the ground again. There, he knelt before the slight figure of the girl who might be the only being on earth that could help him. It took all his strength not to simply collapse.
“I will…” The words caught in his throat. His face burned with humiliation. “I will….” Staring at the grass now clenched in his hands, he forced himself to go on. “I will do whatever you ask of me in return for your help.”
Silence greeted him.
Hesitantly, Inuyasha looked up. The girl was staring at him with the strangest expression. A mixture of bitter sadness and fear welled in her azure eyes.
“You have to marry me,” she murmured. She shivered. “If you don’t agree, I’ll be… trapped there… again…”
The words were a dull, fading echo in his ears. Her face contorted before him, blurring into nothing but a bright spot against the dark foliage behind her.
“Is that all?” Inuyasha whispered. It seemed all the blood in his body was roaring through his head now, drowning the sounds of the outside world.
“Yes,” he heard the girl reply somewhere in the distance.
“Okay.” His own voice sounded just as distant. He felt oddly detached from the world around him. “I can do that.”
Then, everything went black as he collapsed into a heap at the feet of his new fiancée.
To Be Continued….