DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Inu-Yasha - A Feudal Fairytale and all related characters are the creations of Rumiko Takahashi.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is set somewhere between the end of the battle against the Band of Seven and chapter 500 of the manga, however I have been careful to keep it as spoiler free as possible.
The night sky was a blanket of shimmering stars, all looking especially radiant since there was no moon to compare them to. It was the first night of the lunar cycle and though the moon was there, it was but a circle of shadow amid the flickering astral gems surrounding it. So the stars alone lent their light to the shadowy figure making his way on silent feet through the sleeping village.
Off to one side of the road, the flickering light of a fire could be seen in the gap beneath the door to one of the houses. The building looked like all the others in the poor little village and the figure paused in front of it, as if unsure it was the place he sought. A single sniff of the air was all he needed, but the voice that challenged him from inside would have confirmed it anyway.
"What are you doing here?"
The growled question sent a pulse of revulsion through his body, but not solely because he despised hearing that voice. He could barely believe that he was there, planning on doing something he had previously refused to even consider doing.
But that had been before...
"We need to talk."
He was proud of how calm he sounded. How unconcerned. As if the words had not been forced out through gritted teeth. Why was he doing this again?
Oh yes. Because of her.
"We... what?" The door was flung open and for a moment he could not believe his eyes. He stared in shock at the figure standing in the door, the firelight behind that one casting a reddish-gold glow around his body, revealing the lack of the two things that had always irritated him the most.
Now he was irritated more by their not being there, and what that meant.
"You fool! Do you want everyone to see you like that?" He snarled the words but managed to keep his voice down. He had been careful, but he could not afford to make a mistake and it was still far too soon to relax his guard. Glancing around he quickly sniffed the air. Satisfied that the nuisance insects were not around, he moved forward.
For a moment, the other refused to stand aside. They stood toe to toe, glaring at each other. Then with a soft growl that sounded strange coming from him as he was, the other finally moved out of the way. He stalked past him into the house and received his second shock of the night.
They were not alone.
The monk sat against one wall, his staff cradled in the crook of one arm in a way that suggested he was well used to sleeping like that. But he was not asleep and from the calm, yet wary, look in his eyes, the visitor had no doubt that he had not even closed his eyes all night.
He was only mildly surprised to realise the monk was not the only one on guard.
The demon slayer lay on a pellet on the floor, but the blanket that covered her did nothing to hide the armour she wore. She was dressed for battle, not for sleep. Even her cat demon companion was awake. They regarded him curiously as he moved further inside the house. Ignoring them, he glanced around at the rest of the room.
It was a simple house, but clean and well tended. An old woman slept on a pallet at the far end of the room but he could tell by sight and smell that she was more than she seemed to be. For one thing... there were powerful wards of protection placed around her bed. Also... silence? He caught the scent of two magics intertwined in the spells. One was the monk's but the other was unfamiliar to him. Could the old one be the village priestess?
"If you're here to talk, then do it already." The growl came from behind him. "Don't worry about waking the old hag up. That's what the spells are for. We keep her up all night, otherwise."
A muffled choking sort of sound came from the monk and the demon slayer groaned. "Do not get the wrong idea by that. He means we keep Lady Kaede awake with our talking." She sat up and glared at the monk, then scowled at the one behind their visitor.
"That is why I have come. To talk." He really hated saying the words. Almost as much as he hated acknowledging the existence of a human. Still... he had seen this human in battle and he had to admit that she did have some skill. As did the monk.
"Yeah. So you said. I don't believe it. Since when have you ever wanted to talk to me?"
As usual, even the sound of that voice annoyed him. Before he could speak the words that sprang to his lips, though, the female lying on the pallet on the opposite side of the fire to the demon slayer spoke up.
A single word. No, not even that... It was nothing more than the other's name and so soft it was little more than a whisper. Yet it silenced that one in a way that he had never seen before. He turned to regard the girl as she sat up. She looked back at him and he had the sudden realisation that she was not afraid of him.
None of them were. Not the monk, not the demon slayer, not that girl and certainly not his worthless half-brother.
They had no fear of him at all.
He didn't realise he had spoken the child's name aloud until he saw the humans staring at him. Mentally berating himself for his slip, he forced himself to speak again.
"Earlier today, Rin asked Jaken why you are fighting Naraku. He had no answer."
"So you came all this way because a human girl is curious about that?"
As much as he wished to, he could not blame the other for sounding so disbelieving. His being here because a child... a human at that... had asked a question... It was a ridiculous notion. Her question had merely caused him to realise something he had not previously considered. That was all.
"No." He steeled himself and turned to face his half-brother. The sight of the dark hair made him feel faintly nauseous, but he refused to look away. "I have never had any interest in your reasons. However... I was reminded that to know one's enemy is also to know how to defeat them."
He was uncomfortable enough in admitting that he had not thought of that before. He did not feel the need to tell the entire truth. Rin had asked the question, but it had also been Jaken's impatient reply that had made him consider whether the answer might have more importance than he had ever credited it with.
'Master Jaken... why do InuYasha and the others fight against Naraku?'
'Foolish girl, how would I know something like that? Naraku could have done anything to them. We barely know anything about him, other than he likes to use you as bait! Not that it takes much to set them off. Such violent humans... and that InuYasha... Ow! Forgive me my lord! I did not mean to speak that worthless one's name in your magnificent presence!'
Their words had rung in his head for hours afterwards. They had only quietened when he made his decision and set out, shortly after dusk, to locate his half-brother.
Now he had found him and his question burned in his mind, pushing him to put aside his pride and lower himself to seek the information from the last one he had ever thought to speak with like this.
He looked into the other's eyes and forced himself not to show how shocked he was at the change. When had he become so used to his half-brother's golden eyes that the human eyes looking back at him struck him as being unnatural? He ruthlessly pushed the thought out of his mind and focused on his reason for being there.
The sooner he asked his question and received his answer, the sooner he could leave.
"Tell me everything you know about Naraku."
He expected refusal. He expected a short reply that they knew nothing. He expected a slightly longer reply because they only knew a little.
What he got... was a sharp bark of laughter and a gleam of amusement in his half-brother's eyes.
"You'd better sit down, then. This will take a while."
"Do not toy with me." He knew his anger was out of place. Perhaps even a little irrational. But how could this pathetic excuse for a half-demon possibly know as much as he was implying he did?
The other shrugged and walked past him, then sat on the mat in front of the fire, beside the human girl's pallet. "Hey, you were the one who came here asking such a thing. Do you want to hear what we know, or not?" Human eyes stared into the fire and the voice was oddly quiet. "It's no strip off our hides if you've changed your mind. You think we want to dredge up those memories?"
That gave him pause. Was his half-brother saying what he thought he was? Did the humans gathered here also know things about Naraku? It was true that they fought the evil half-demon as fiercely as he himself did. He believed they fought that one because they always fought alongside of his half-brother. Could it be the other way around?
Were they with his half-brother because they too wished to destroy Naraku?
Glancing around, he cursed himself for not noticing it before. It was so obvious. Their hatred for Naraku was written in the glare of their eyes and the scowls on their faces.
Suddenly, Rin's question did not seem so ridiculous a reason for his being there.
Only the softest sound came as he seated himself on a vacant spot on the mat around the fire. He gave his half-brother a curt nod. "Tell me."
They told him everything.
One by one, they told their stories.
They spoke of Naraku and his evil manipulations of people and events that had caused them and others grief, pain and sometimes even death.
They spoke of events in the order in which they had occurred, covering a period of fifty years.
Each one told their own story, but by the time they reached the present events it was impossible to tell where the individual stories ended and their united story began.
As they spoke, he listened. He learned. He remembered.
When the last word was spoken, they all sat in silence.
During their story, they had included his part. The dealings he had made with Naraku were told from their side, but it was obvious to him there was nothing more he could add about the half-demon's nature that they were not already aware of through their own experiences.
There was only one thing they did not know.
He knew he did not have to say anything. They would not ask. He could leave and they would not stop him. He had asked his question, yes. But they had chosen to answer him. They had not set a price. They had asked him for nothing. He did not owe them anything.
Except, perhaps, a little respect.
Without a word, he stood and headed for the door, hearing the other behind him but not turning back until he was outside once more.
He stood as he had upon his arrival; a few feet from the door with his half-brother's human form framed by flickering firelight. It was as if nothing had changed... yet the knowledge he had acquired that night filled his mind and he knew that was not true. The scene struck him as being wrong. As if there should be some sign of what had passed that night. He wished to leave... yet the feeling that he should not go just yet remained with him. What was he waiting for?
The first rays of dawn broke over the mountains, the pale golden light bringing his answer.
His half-brother's blood almost visibly pulsed as the demon power flowed back into it.
Black hair turned to silver-white.
Brown eyes became golden.
Nails became claws.
Teeth became fangs.
Small round ears became furry proof of the boy's half-breed birth.
InuYasha crossed his arms and scowled at his brother. "Well? Are you done staring yet?"
Ignoring the silent challenge in the younger boy's stance, the full demon leaned forward a little, his eyes locking with the half demon's. "Naraku made a mistake. He believed he could use what was mine to manipulate me to do as he wished. I will see him dead for that." His voice was soft; his words more promise than threat.
He watched his younger brother's eyes widen and knew his words had been understood for what they were. A gift in return for the information they had given him.
It was the one thing they had not known. His reason for pursuing Naraku.
Turning, he started down the road. His senses were alert for the slightest buzz or scent of Naraku's poisonous bees, but he spared a glance back at the figure watching him go.
"InuYasha. If you should happen to slay Naraku before I do... I will not kill you over it."
With those words lingering on the air, Sesshoumaru continued walking down the road towards the forest, where Jaken and Rin were waiting for his return.