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. Dark and Fluffkin are my own creations.

AUTHOR'S NOTE 1: 'Houshi-sama' means something along the lines of 'Lord Monk'.

AUTHOR'S NOTE 2: Please note that this chapter is a complete story - a one-shot. There will be no further chapters added to it at any time.

 

Visitors to a Feudal Fairytale
By Shadow's Mirror

 

Naraku sneered as he looked around the battlefield. To his left, the female exterminator, Sango, lay in a crumpled heap, the almost lifeless body of the monk lying on top of her. 'That wretched monk almost had me. If the poison had taken just one more minute to work through his system, I would be dead now.' He fumed silently over the worthless monk's luck but as he looked to his right, his thoughts changed path.

"Heh. Still struggling Inu-Yasha? I would have thought you'd be smarter than that. I suppose I gave you entirely too much credit." As Inu-Yasha struggled to his feet, leaning heavily on his rusty sword, he looked up at Naraku. The half-breed's amber eyes seemed to glow as he glared at his enemy. Before he could speak though, Naraku calmly raised one hand. With a flicking motion of his wrist, a massive blast of power tore through Inu-Yasha, knocking him to the ground again. He groaned weakly and Naraku chuckled.

"Now be a good boy and lie down. Uh uh, Sesshoumaru. Bad dog!" He repeated his wrist-flick as the bothersome dog-demon surged forward as fast as he could with most of the bones in his body broken. Sesshoumaru went flying in the air and smashed into Inu-Yasha. Naraku grinned with sadistic pleasure, then turned to the girl who had nearly destroyed him. 'Between her and that damned monk, I nearly lost!' He scowled at the unconscious girl and then blinked as he noticed movement near her.

"Well, well... finally decided to come out of hiding eh?" His eyes glittered as he waved one hand. The two children whimpered and clutched at each other in fear as the air around them lifted them up into plain sight. Naraku smiled at their terror. "Thought you could escape me, did you? Foolish children. None shall escape me now!" His smile widened as he brought them nearer. He wanted to smell the fear he could see on their faces. "I shall rule this land. I shall be the master of all demons. I shall be the master of chaos, evil and darkness itself!"

"Not likely."

Naraku tensed in surprise at the quiet voice coming from behind him. He whirled around, snarling. "Who dares!"

"I do."

Again the voice came from behind him, and again Naraku whirled around. This time though, he found himself facing a stranger. Shocked he studied the small figure standing so calmly only a few feet away. It was a boy of no more than 12, small and slight with black hair that fell down past his shoulders and pointed ears that marked him as a full-blood Youkai. He was dressed completely in black, from his black ankle-height boots up his black breeches to his black tunic. A black cape swirled from his shoulders and even the long sword sheath at his side was black. The hilt of the blade was black as well, but instead of the night-black of the rest of his clothes, it was a deep red-black, as though the ebony wood had been polished with blood. But it was the boy's eyes that caught and held Naraku's attention. Expressionless orbs of black which gradually shifted to a deep midnight-blue at the outermost edge. There was complete calm in those eyes, but there was also something else. As Naraku stared into them, a thin trickle of fear ran down his back.

"Who are you, boy?" His strident tone demanded an answer and hid his fear. Or so he thought.

The boy stepped closer, his eerie eyes remaining locked on Naraku's. "I am the one who shall teach you not to deal with forces beyond your limited understanding."

Naraku sneered, the boy's soft voice easing his irrational fear. "Oh really? And what might those forces be, boy?" He moved forward as well, until he was only a few feet from the boy, so the strange child had to tilt his head back to maintain eye contact. The boy did not flinch.

"You claimed that you would become the master of chaos, evil and darkness. Chaos and Evil have no master. Stronger than you have tried and failed to chain them to do their bidding. You are servant to both, but you will be master to neither."

Naraku's amusement fled. "Why you insolent pup! Who do you think you are to speak so to me?" His hand struck out and he blinked in shock at the sudden pain that shot through his chest. Looking down, he realised that the boy had not only avoided the attack intended to kill him, but had also pushed his fist right through Naraku's own chest in the process!

With a wordless scream of outrage, Naraku slashed out at the boy and sneered in satisfaction when his talons bit into the boy's shoulder. The child's odd eyes widened in shock as the claws sank deep. Then they narrowed again and he looked up at Naraku. Deep in their hearts, the two orbs glittered. Moving faster than Naraku could even follow, the boy reached out and grasped the front of Naraku's tunic. Waves of dark energy began to swirl around him as his eyes began to glow faintly.

"I am the master of Darkness."

He waited just long enough for the truth to sink in and then he sent his dark energy blasting into Naraku! The force of the blast sent the evil one hurtling away through the air, most of his body vaporising in the blast as though it had been struck by one of Kagome's arrows. Before what little remained of him could land, it was plucked out of the air by a shift in the winds. Kagura quickly flew away on her feather, carrying Naraku to safety.

"Damn. He... got away again... You... You should have killed him when you... had the chance..." The boy turned at the weak voice. Inu-Yasha struggled to push his brother off him. Sesshoumaru groaned softly at the pressure against his broken bones, but he too was unwilling to remain still while there was a possible new threat against them. The brothers could do little more than sit up, and even then they were forced to lean slightly against each other for support, but they both managed to glare at the interloper.

"Um... what he means is, thank you very much for saving us from Naraku." The boy turned in surprise at the sound of the soft, gentle voice. Kagome had regained consciousness while Naraku had been taunting Shippo and Rin and she now smiled sweetly.

"Kagome..." Inu-Yasha's voice was so soft it was barely audible, but the fear in it was strong and something the boy could easily sense. He also sensed it coming in waves from both of the young children who sat huddled together only a few feet away. When he glanced at them, they flinched and he frowned slightly. Then he looked up in mild surprise as the younger of the two white-haired warriors struggled to climb to his feet. The warrior was glaring at him. "I suppose that's what you're waiting around for? Thanks?"

The slightest of smiles flickered across the boy's otherwise calm face. "Not really. I neither want, not need, your gratitude. I only did it because he no longer amused me." The smile flickered again at the shock his words caused.

"Oh! Everyone's all hurt..." The soft voice wiped the smile from the boy's face. He glared at the small creature that was bending over the exterminator and monk.

"What are you doing here?"

The small creature's ears twitched slightly at the sharp tone as it looked over its shoulder. "Silly. I came to make sure you were all right, of course." Its eyes widened slightly. "You're not though. You're hurt too..."

The boy turned away abruptly. "I'm fine." Frowning, he started to walk away from the creature, only that meant that he had to pass by the two shivering children. He glanced down at them and paused as he noticed the tears in their eyes. "Why are you two still upset? He's gone now." His tone was harsh, but it still had the effect he'd wanted. The little fox-demon looked up at him out of big watery eyes and sniffled.

"Yeah, but you're still here!"

"Shippo!" Kagome gasped, shocked at the kitsune's rudeness. But the boy just smiled a little.

"Not for long." He started walking again.

"You go on ahead, I'll catch up!" The boy turned at the creature's call, frowning slightly.

"I don't need you to come with me at... what are you doing?"

"What I can." The small creature began to glow. The boy sighed.

"Hey! What's he doing!" The warrior's voice was weak, but anger lent him strength enough to stumble forwards.

"Healing them." There was a resigned note in the boy's voice. It was clearly something he considered as being unnecessary, but that happened often enough for him to expect it.

The boy's words stopped the warrior in his tracks. He blinked in shock as the glow faded from around the creature and Miroku and Sango sat up as though they'd never been injured. The small creature started towards the two children, becoming more recognisable as it hopped swiftly across the scorched ground.

"Huh. It's some kind of rabbit-demon. I never heard of them being able to heal..." Inu-Yasha leaned forward to get a better look and peered at the small rabbit whose fur was so white that it seemed to be glowing with it's own faint light.

"I cannot heal everyone. Only those with kind, gentle or innocent hearts."

"Guess that leaves you and I out, huh Sesshoumaru?" Inu-Yasha grinned, but it quickly became a grimace of pain as his body protested against his half-turned position.

The small rabbit shot the warrior an oddly soft glance as he hopped up to the children and looked at them with gentle eyes. "It's all right now. The evil one will not quickly recover. You are safe."

Rin trembled, her eyes wide and wet with tears. She nodded slightly but did not speak. The rabbit's eyes gentled even more as he looked at her.

Shippo on the other hand flung himself at the white rabbit and hugged it fiercely. The rabbit seemed to glow just a little more brightly. "Thank you for helping Sango-san and Miroku!"

"I will heal the others now also," the rabbit promised softly. Inu-Yasha grunted, his keen hearing picking up the words easily.

The rabbit paused just before reaching Kagome, his eyes widening in surprise and pleasure. He began to glow, his healing power quickly removing the cuts and bruises that marred the girl's delicate skin. Kagome smiled and petted him in thanks. His fur glowed faintly as she did so.

As he approached Inu-Yasha and Sesshoumaru, the rabbit paused to sniff the air. Inu-Yasha grunted. "Don't waste your time. From what you said before, you can't heal demons."

"Demon blood has nothing to do with it. All that matters is what's inside your heart. Even if I cannot heal you completely, I should be able to do something. Besides, perhaps there is more light in you than you realise." The rabbit's large violet eyes twinkled with amusement as he hopped closer to the two injured warriors. He sniffed the air again and then delicately sniffed Inu-Yasha and then Sesshoumaru. He titled his head to one side and studied them both for a moment.

"There is a gentle scent upon you," he said softly to Inu-Yasha, causing the half-breed's eyes to widen in shock. Turning to Sesshoumaru, he added, "The scent you carry is one of... sparkles." He nodded decisively, as though that decided matters. Sesshoumaru blinked but otherwise betrayed no emotion. "Now then, let us see if your hearts hold enough tenderness to allow me to heal you." He closed his eyes.

As the rabbit's fur began to glow, a gentle breeze wound around him and extended to lightly caress Inu-Yasha and Sesshoumaru. The wind carried his scent to them and they were startled when they recognised it. The scent was of both moonlight and sunlight. As the glow became brighter, the two warriors felt a strange warm feeling creeping over them. It felt like the feeling you get right before you doze off to sleep, only with the kind of warmth that comes from knowing that someone cares about you. Then something very strange happened.

As the light washed over Inu-Yasha, he felt Tetsusaiga's heart beating within the scabbard. At the same time, Sesshoumaru was surprised to feel Tenseiga's heart beating within its scabbard. As the light grew brighter, both of them began to hear the heartbeat of the other's sword. The two heartbeats were so perfectly attuned that they seemed to echo each other. As Inu-Yasha and Sesshoumaru listened to the heartbeats, they began to make out something else. The two swords were speaking.

"One forged to protect, but never without reason. One forged to save, but never without feeling. Created by the father to keep safe his beloved. Left to his sons to guide them to their love. Tetsusaiga, the sword that cuts through evil. Tenseiga, the sword that cuts through death."

The voices fell silent, their message ended, and the light began to fade. Inu-Yasha and Sesshoumaru blinked down at the small white rabbit smiling up at them. Inu-Yasha started to speak, bracing himself for the pain speaking had caused him earlier. He was startled when his voice came out strong, sure and unaccompanied by pain. "What was that all about?" He glanced at his brother and blinked in shock when he realised that the bloody gashes Naraku had marked Sesshoumaru's face with early in their battle were no longer there. His brother's eyes were wide with surprise as he looked back at Inu-Yasha. Hesitantly at first, and then with his usual smoothness when the expected agony didn't come, Sesshoumaru stood up. Inu-Yasha looked down at himself and gasped when he realised. He and Sesshoumaru had been completely healed!

"Like I said, there was more light within you than either of you realised." With a soft, childlike giggle, the little white rabbit began to hop after the strange boy.

"Hey! Wait!" Inu-Yasha bounded after the rabbit, easily catching up to him. "Um... thanks."

The rabbit smiled up at him and his fur glowed slightly. "You're welcome!"

By that time, they had reached the boy, who was standing very still with a startled look on his face while Kagome smiled prettily up at him and thanked him for saving them from Naraku.

"That was really impressive, the way you defeated him like that! You made it look so easy! Why Inu-Yasha's never been able to..." Kagome suddenly noticed the glare Inu-Yasha was giving her. "Ah... anyway, thank you for saving us!" She glanced at Inu-Yasha a little nervously.

"I didn't..." Whatever the boy was about to say was lost as the little rabbit suddenly began to speak.

"You're welcome! We're glad we could help! We have to go now. Dark is hurt and I have to find some herbs for him right away." The boy winced and shot a furious glare at the white rabbit.

"I'm fine!"

"No, you're hurt. I saw him claw you."

Inu-Yasha was surprised. "So why don't you just heal him?"

The small rabbit shook his head, looking very sad. "I cannot. My power only works on those whose hearts are filled with light." With a huff, the boy began to walk off towards the trees. The white rabbit watched him go for a moment. "His heart is so surrounded by darkness that my light cannot touch him." The rabbit's voice was a whisper of pure sorrow.

Shaking himself free of the sadness, the white rabbit gave them one last smile before hopping after the strange boy. For a long moment, the group watched them leave in silence.

"I liked the rabbit, but that boy was kind of creepy." Shippo poked his head up over Inu-Yasha's shoulder. For once, Inu-Yasha agreed with him.

"Come. We had best return to the village. With Naraku so greatly weakened, now would be a good time for us to go after the remaining shards. We have plans to make." Miroku started towards the village, fingering the rosary around his arm as he did so.

"Is your arm bothering you, Houshi-sama?" Sango looked worried. During the battle, his air rip had sucked in a lot of the deadly poisonous swarm that followed Naraku.

"Ah... it does feel a little... unusual... yes..." Concerned, Sango leaned over to check for injuries.

Rub rub rub

SMACK!!!

- - -

"How is your head, Miroku?" Kaede probed the monk's head hard enough to make him wince.

"Ow! It's still a little tender."

"Well it was a pretty big rock." Inu-Yasha commented. "Anyway old hag, you were about to tell us about that healing rabbit-demon!"

"So impatient, child! Ah, very well. Yes, I have heard of a creature with the gift of healing that can take on the form of a rabbit, but it isn't quite as you described. The creatures I have in mind are not demons. They are Dream Spirits and they are said to be born from the dreams, wishes and laughter of children. Because of this, they have a special fondness for young ones and will often appear when a child is lonely, upset or endangered. They seem to exist solely to comfort, guide, befriend and protect children who need them. Usually, a Dream Spirit will become a companion to a child and will often stay with that child for as long as they are needed. Or for as long as the child can see them. It is part of their nature that few adults can see them for what they truly are, if they can see them at all! They are also said to have the ability to become any form imaginable, although they usually appear first in the form of a small rabbit. The rabbits are usually silvery-white in colour though. I have never before heard of one being pure white. Also, although they are said to heal children's souls that have been damaged by pain or unhappiness, I have never heard of them being able to heal physical injuries before. It is possible that the creature you encountered was not a Dream Spirit, but something else entirely. But what else it could be, I do not know."

The group gathered around the crackling fire inside Kaede's hut was silent for a long moment before Kaede spoke again. "It is strange though... Dream Spirits are said to have the power to banish the darkness."

Kagome stared into her tea, frowning in confusion. "But... but that boy said that he was Master of Darkness, and the rabbit said that the boy had too much darkness in his heart to be healed."

"Yes, that is what is strange. A Dream Spirit traveling with a child is understandable, but usually darkness withers when in the Spirit's presence. You say they seemed to know each other well?"

"Indeed. The Dream Spirit appeared to be very concerned about the boy, even protective of him," Miroku confirmed quietly.

- - -

"Dark! Look out!" The boy whirled around at the rabbit's warning and froze in shock at the sight of the glowing arrow headed straight for his heart! Before he could move out of the way, a small white figure suddenly leaped into the arrows path. Time seemed to slow. Dark could only watch in growing horror as the rabbit came between himself and the arrow, the arrow piercing the small creature's flesh with an ease that only a very powerful magical object could possibly have. The rabbit jerked as the arrow struck and fell from the air. Even his fall seemed to take forever. He landed hard and lay still. As Dark stared at the small fallen form in shock, time resumed its normal speed.

"N-no... no!" Dark turned his head and glared at the archer. "For that... you will pay!" He stepped forward, snarling with rage, as his dark power began to flow through him. The air around him crackled with energy as his opponent stepped out of the shadows of the forest and into the light. Dark paused in shock. "You?" 'The girl from before? After we helped her, this is the thanks we... wait... no... it's... it's not her!'

Dark blinked as he saw beyond the girl's physical appearance. Although outwardly the girl from earlier and the girl standing before him now were almost identical, they were nothing like each other in spirit. Where the girl from earlier had been pure light, the girl before him... "There is nothing within you but shadows of stolen souls! Who are you? Why do you attack us?" 'She is dressed as a Miko, and her arrows have the power of one, but her soul... something is not right here. I sense... death.'

Kikyo lifted her bow again, smoothly locking another arrow in place. "Dark one, whatever your evil plan, I shall stop you."

Before she could fire, Dark raised his hand in a commanding gesture. "Fool. Do you really think that you have the power to stop me? Whatever it is that you think I am, I am not. I am also not your enemy. I have done nothing to you, yet you attack me. Your arrow has caused pain and for that you will pay. But beyond that, I have no interest in you. Death stalks you and I have no wish to interfere with its game." He waved his hand and Kikyo gasped as a wave of dark energy slammed into her, knocking her off her feet and tossing her aside as though she were nothing more than a leaf in a high wind. She winced as the force of the blast knocked her into a tree. She raised her bow and arrow again, then lowered them, stunned. He was gone. Even the small creature that had intercepted her arrow had vanished!

"Where did they go?"

Dark ignored the question, focusing instead on the small white rabbit lying so still on the hard ground, an arrow in his chest and the fur around the wound tinted red with blood. Not wishing to waste any more time with the strange Miko, he had used his power to cloak them from her senses. Not even her power was strong enough to allow her to see through his illusion. There were only four beings in the universe with that particular gift, and he knew all of them. One of them was lying on the ground in front of him.

"Oh Fluffkin, why did you have to protect me?" His whisper held both resignation and sorrow, but there were also traces of fear and concern. He tentatively reached out, hesitating before lightly touching the rabbit's head. He slowly stroked the soft fur and was dismayed to note that the resulting glow was very faint. "F-fluffkin?" His voice squeaked as fear surged within him. The rabbit slowly opened his eyes and the boy's hand stilled on the creature's fur, shaking with his shock. The normally bright violet eyes were now dulled to a violet-grey.

"I- I'll be... f-fine..." Dark had to lean forward to hear the faint voice.

"D-don't talk... you... you'll just waste your strength. Of course you'll be fine. I'll get you home and..." The rabbit shook his head slightly, wincing with the effort and the boy groaned softly as he remembered. They couldn't go home. Not yet. "You can't die! You just can't! I won't let you!" His eyes began to shine faintly.

"Th-the arrow..."

"Oh!" Dark reached for it eagerly, realising that if he removed it... but the moment he touched it, he drew his hand back in pain. "Ow! It burns! Ah!" He winced at the high-pitched keening sound the rabbit was releasing. "Fluffkin!" The sound quieted to a pained whimper. Dark stared at the rabbit, a wave of fear flooding through him and making him shiver slightly. "I... I can't remove the arrow..."

"Th-the girl... heart of l-light..." The effort to speak was too much for the rabbit's weakened state. He lost consciousness before he could finish. But Dark understood.

"The girl from before! She had some kind of power... and her heart was pure light..." He slipped his hands underneath the rabbit's unconscious form and lifted it until it was cradled gently in his arms. "It will be all right, Fluffkin. I won't let you die."

- - -

"What's all the noise about?" Inu-Yasha poked his head out of the door to Kaede's hut and peered around, frowning at the loud voices he could hear. They were coming closer. He could make out what they were saying now. They were telling someone to 'begone or you'll regret coming here!' "Huh?" He bounded out of the door, determined to find out what was going on.

Landing on the roof of one of the huts, Inu-Yasha looked curiously down at the crowd of villagers. He blinked. 'Huh? It's that boy from before. What's he doing here? Is he looking for us?' He tensed as he noticed the small red and white form the boy was carrying. 'Huh. Looks like the rabbit-demon, or whatever he is, has been hurt.' He blinked as the boy stumbled slightly. 'They've both been hurt. Guess I'd better get them to Kaede.'

"Out of my way!" The crowd quickly parted as Inu-Yasha jumped down in front of the boy. The boy blinked at him. "Looking for me?"

"The girl... Fluffkin needs her help."

'Fluffkin? Guess he means the rabbit-demon... odd name... huh? Wait... that arrow...' Inu-Yasha tensed. "That arrow! Who fired it?"

The boy looked at him thoughtfully. "A Miko."

'Kikyo...'

- - -

The high-pitched keening filled the small hut, making all the nearby villagers tremble with fear. Inside, Inu-Yasha and Shippo huddled on the floor with their hands over their ears, wincing in pain as the rabbit's pained cry rang through their overly sensitive hearing. Kaede released the arrow and the cry died down to a soft whimpering. The boy trembled slightly and looked up at the old woman.

"That's what happened when I touched the arrow too. He was conscious then. He thought the girl might be able to help." He gestured towards Kagome, who was comforting a shivering Shippo. Kaede nodded thoughtfully.

"Well, it's worth a try. Kagome, come here child."

Kagome tentatively touched the arrow. Everyone braced themselves and blinked in disbelief when there was no reaction to her touch. Encouraged, Kagome got a firm grip on the arrow's shaft. She took a deep breath. 'Nice and steady.' The arrow slid free of the small rabbit's body with surprising ease. "Oh!" Kagome blinked in surprise as the arrow began to shine. While she watched, it dissolved into a shower of light. Then that too was gone. "Just like..." Kagome remembered the day she'd pulled the enchanted arrow out of Inu-Yasha. It had dissolved too.

"Well done child!" Kaede leaned over the rabbit and blinked in surprise. "Why... he's healing by himself!" Sure enough, the jagged wound was rapidly closing. Within moments, the only sign that there had been any injury at all was the bloodstained fur on the white rabbit's side.

The boy sighed softly. "Thank you. He'll be all right now. He couldn't heal himself while the arrow was there. He'll sleep until he's fully healed."

- - -

"Kikyo fired the arrow." Inu-Yasha's statement caused Miroku to shake his head.

"We don't know that for sure. It could have been another Miko..."

"Using arrows?" Miroku had to concede that point. Inu-Yasha pressed on. "What did the Miko look like?"

'Here it comes...' Kagome sighed and braced herself for the inevitable comment that the Miko had looked exactly like her.

The boy, who had identified himself simply as 'Dark', never took his eyes off the white rabbit sleeping peacefully on the mat in front of the old woman the others called 'Kaede' as he answered the question distractedly. "She looked like a Miko. She was dead inside and her soul was a patchwork of stolen souls and darkness." His words brought a stunned silence to the room.

'Heh. That's one way to put it.' Kaede smiled slightly, approving of the phrasing. She knew, even if Inu-Yasha didn't, how badly talk of Kikyo as a living copy of her hurt Kagome. Besides, it wasn't true. Kagome was something... more. Glancing up at the others, she sighed. Inu-Yasha was obviously angry and about to say something. Knowing him, it would almost certainly anger Kagome. 'I'd better distract him.'

"That was Kikyo. In life, she was my sister and monkess of this village. That was fifty years ago. She was recently resurrected by an evil demon. She destroyed the demon, but she continues to walk this earth, unable to rest in peace. She has been known to stop evil demons, but it is not like her to destroy without reason... and yet what reason could she have had to hurt this small one?"

"He wasn't her intended target. I was." Dark's hands clenched into fists as he quietly admitted the truth. "The arrow was heading for me. Fluffkin... jumped in front of it to save me."

"I see..." Kaede looked thoughtfully at the boy. Although nowhere near as powerful as her sister, she still had ability enough to see the aura of darkness surrounding him. Oddly though, she couldn't sense any evil... "Do you know why my sister fired at you?"

Dark looked away from the rabbit for the first time since he had entered the hut. A shiver ran up Kaede's back at the sight of his inhuman and expressionless eyes. "I believe she mistook me for someone else. There is a demon in the area who has taken on a form not unlike my own. His powers are also similar to mine. He is the reason I am here."

"Do you want to destroy him, or join him?" Inu-Yasha's eyes bore into the boy.

"Inu-Yasha!" Kagome glared at the half-demon, but Dark shook his head and smiled slightly.

"No. It's a fair question." He turned to Inu-Yasha. "I plan to stop him. The demon has taken on my form and gained powers he should not have been able to gain. He should not even know about me, and yet he does. He even knows that I am searching for him. At the last village he destroyed, he left me a message. He branded it into the skin of the humans he killed. 'There is a new Master of Darkness now. Bow before me or suffer the consequences.' I have no intention of bowing."

He looked back down at the white rabbit, his voice taking on an almost eerie impassiveness. "I have stood on a battle field, watching while ten thousand men died, and all I did was laugh. I have taken the lives of two thousand men in a single moment. I have killed assassins and mercenaries without mercy or hesitation. Men, women, even children have met their end by my hand, or by my blade. But I have never taken an innocent life." He looked up, his eyes shining faintly.

"That side of my power works only on those whose hearts and souls are consumed by evil. It is physically impossible for me to take the life of anyone with even a little light or goodness in them. I am not just the Master of Darkness, I am part of it, as it is part of me. I am bound by its rules, but this demon... is not. He is relentless and heedless of everything except the thrill of the hunt and the pleasure of the kill. He must be stopped."

Inu-Yasha could barely sit still at the thought of facing such a powerful demon. Sango was looking rather excited at the prospect as well, but it was Miroku who spoke. "Do you know where the demon is now?"

"He's been attacking small villages in more or less a straight line. One each night. He's leaving a trail. There are three more villages along that line. He only comes out at night, when his power is strongest, so I have three more nights to stop him. After that, I don't know what he'll do next. I have a feeling though that it would be best if we didn't find out."

"Agreed. That doesn't give us much time though. It's almost dark now," Miroku pointed out. Dark raised an eyebrow at the 'us' but made no objections.

- - -

"Take that, demon!" Sango threw her giant boomerang with all her strength, but the demon merely laughed and caught it.

"Oh, are we playing a game? I like games. Catch!" Grinning evilly, he threw the boomerang back at her. Sango barely managed to duck in time to avoid the powerful weapon.

With a wordless cry of rage, Inu-Yasha charged towards the demon, his sword undergoing its transformation from rusty sword to the powerful fang that was its true form. The demon smiled. "Nice sword. I think I'll take it from your lifeless corpse!" He moved more quickly than Inu-Yasha thought possible, dark blue flames shooting out of his hands towards the half-demon. Suddenly, Inu-Yasha felt something grab the back of his coat. Before he could yell, he found himself being pulled out of the line of fire! The blue flames hit Dark as he pushed Inu-Yasha out of the way.

Everyone stared in horror as the flames enveloped the boy. The demon began to laugh. "So much for that threat! To think that I believed destroying him would be a difficult task!"

Dark's voice, as calm as ever, came from the fire. "You fool. Do you really think that this is enough to destroy me?" The fire began to darken, as though darkness was eating away at the fiery column from the inside out. The darkness grew and within a few moments a column of pure darkness stood where the flames had burned only moments earlier. "Now witness the true power of the Darkness!"

The column stirred as the darkness began to flow out of the column formation and towards the demon. The demon laughed and moved his hand, then frowned and moved his hand again, faster. He did it again and again, each time more frantically than the last. Whatever he was trying to do, it didn't seem to be working. "What? What is this? It... it's not responding to me!" He began to back away, a look of horror on his eerily human face. He really did look exactly like Dark, only his voice was different, deep and grating like stone, rather than Dark's velvet smooth tones.

"Of course not. That is true darkness. It responds only to me." The darkness caught up with the demon and flowed over him, quickly enveloping him until he could no longer be seen. As more and more flowed over him, the column around Dark diminished until finally he could be clearly seen again. There was a black glow surrounding him. Miroku went pale as he sensed the connection between the darkness and the boy.

Dark's eyes flashed and the darkness around the demon pulsed in response. The demon gave one last cry as the darkness began to shrink and fade. Finally, with a soft hiss, the darkness vanished completely, leaving behind nothing except a small silver amulet with a dull black stone embedded into it. Dark crossed to where it lay and picked it up. "So, this is where I left it." He slipped the amulet into his pocket and started to turn, then hesitated as the dark glow around him faded. He looked strangely child-like for a moment as it seemed to take most of his strength with it. He blinked once and then fell silently to the ground as unconsciousness claimed him.

- - -

"We don't know what happened. One minute he was glowing and the next he was unconscious!" Inu-Yasha glared down at the still form of the boy now lying in Kaede's hut.

"The darkness would have lent him strength to face the demon, but once the danger was gone, then his own strength took over again. Except that his own strength was almost gone because of the poison." Fluffkin the white rabbit hopped to Dark's side and looked down at him with a very gentle look in his bright violet eyes.

"Poison? What poison?" Kaede blinked in surprise.

"The poison that was in his system from the earlier battle. The evil one he defeated clawed his shoulder. There was some kind of poison. I was gathering herbs to heal him when the Miko fired her arrow." Everyone was stunned.

"But... but he never said..." Kagome blinked at the boy, noticing for the first time the slight flush of fever on his face.

Fluffkin sighed softly. "No, he never does. I've known him to go up against five trained assassins when he was hurt so badly that he shouldn't have been able to move. He defeated them all. It nearly killed him, but he did it anyway. His will is far stronger than his body."

Kaede frowned slightly as she placed her hand on Dark's forehead. "He's very hot. Where was he injured?"

"His right shoulder." Everyone except Fluffkin gasped in shock when they saw the gaping wound Naraku's poisoned talons had left in the boy's pale flesh. Fluffkin merely sighed again. "Oh good, it's not as bad as I thought." Everyone stared at him, stunned. "He's had worse."

"This is going to take my strongest herbs..." Kaede started to get up, but Fluffkin put his paw on her skirt to stop her.

"It's okay. I can do it."

"But... but I thought you said before that you couldn't heal him?" Kagome was very confused.

Fluffkin suddenly smiled and his eyes twinkled with mischief. "I can't, when he's awake. When he's unconscious is another matter entirely."

The rabbit hopped around to the injured shoulder and lightly placed his paw on the healthy flesh just below the wound. His paw began to glow. He glanced around and, noticing everyone's confusion, explained.

"When Dark's awake, he's protected by a shield of darkness that my healing light cannot penetrate. That's the only reason why I can't heal him. He isn't evil. He's a child with power over darkness, no more, no less. Darkness and evil are not one and the same. Darkness is the stuff that the night is made of. Dark's true powers are those of the night, his power over darkness is only part of what he can do. When he's unconscious, or asleep, or on very rare occasions when he's awake, that shield falls. It's fallen now, which means that I can heal him. I can't heal him completely, his heart doesn't have enough light for that, but I can cure the poison and I can start the wound healing. His powers will do the rest. It's just that they don't work very well on poison for some reason..."

As Fluffkin's paw glowed, the watchers noticed that the redness was going out of the wound, as though it was being healed from the inside. By the time Fluffkin's paw stopped glowing, the wound was looking much better, although there was still a faint flush of fever on Dark's skin. Fluffkin panted slightly. "There was a lot of poison. I don't think I got it all, but that's as much as I can do now. His power's starting to stir. He's waking up."

Kaede nodded slightly. "Will healing herbs be of any use?"

Fluffkin shook his head. "Not really... the poison I couldn't get is already too deep within him for that. I can do it, but only if he were to drop his shield deliberately. There's only one way I know to persuade him to do that..." He looked around. "Does anyone know where there's a quiet hot-spring?"

- - -

"Are you sure this is going to work? He doesn't look very relaxed to me!" Shippo peered at Dark as he struggled weakly against Inu-Yasha and Miroku as they tried to get him into the water.

Fluffkin grinned. "Oh sure! He's just shy, that's all. It came as something of a shock to him too, waking up to find himself being carried by Inu-Yasha and then finding out that he was being taken to a hot-spring so he could relax enough to let down his shield."

Shippo pulled a face. "Yeah, Inu-Yasha needs to learn to think before he speaks."

Fluffkin giggled softly. "I like Inu-Yasha. He has a lot of light in his heart, even if he doesn't know it yet. There, see? Dark's started to relax."

"Um..." Shippo blinked as Dark suddenly moved, reaching up and tugging on Miroku and Inu-Yasha as they held him in the water. With startled cries, the half-demon and monk fell into the water too! "I don't think he's relaxing... but that sure looks like fun!"

"Oh dear..."

Inu-Yasha surged up, spluttering and glaring at Dark, who smiled slightly. "Oh! Think that's funny do you?" He started towards the infuriating boy... and ran smack into Miroku as he came up to the surface.

"Hey! Watch where you're going!"

Dark's smile widened. Unfortunately, Inu-Yasha noticed it. As he headed for the boy again, he was interrupted again. This time, it was by a small voice crying out "Cannonball!" The next moment, something landed in the water right in front of him, sending up a small wave of water that somehow managed to get Inu-Yasha even wetter than he had already been. He glared at Shippo as the happy Kitsune popped up on the surface.

"Having fun?"

Shippo giggled, then gurgled as Inu-Yasha dunked him under the water. He came up spluttering.

"Hey! What was that for?"

"You got me wet!"

"So? What's the big deal? You were already wet!"

"Oh yeah? Well..." Inu-Yasha paused, faced with indisputable logic. Never willing to let that stop him though... "Well who said you could just jump in like that anyway?" He dunked the Kitsune under the water again.

Miroku sighed as he sat down beside Dark. The boy glanced at the monk. "Are they always like this?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

Unfortunately for Miroku, Inu-Yasha heard him.

"Would you like to repeat that monk?" The water in front of Inu-Yasha bubbled wildly.

Shippo peered over Inu-Yasha's shoulder. "Um... I don't think he can hear you under water..."

Inu-Yasha pulled Miroku up again and repeated the question. Miroku glared at him. "I was merely telling the truth!"

"Really? Wow! Wait until I tell Sango! She said that you never told the truth! Although I think she was talking about all the things you say to all those girls..." Shippo looked thoughtful as Miroku and Inu-Yasha blinked at him.

"Sango talks about me?"

While the three continued their discussion, Dark chuckled softly. A soft voice whispered in his ear. "Why not let your shield drop? You know you're safe here."

"What, and let you shine your light into my heart? I don't think so." He said it far more cheerfully than usual.

Fluffkin smiled and stretched out on the bank, his face close to Dark's. One ear flopped in front of his face and he twitched it back again. "You know I'll have to do it sooner or later. We can do it here, where no one will make a big fuss of it, or we could do it at home. It's your choice." He grinned at the look of panic that flickered across Dark's face.

"Okay, you've made your point. I'll do it... on one condition."

"That being?"

Dark smiled. "That you come in here as well."

Fluffkin sighed and shook his head. "You know I hate hot-springs. I always end up smelling like rabbit stew!"

Dark leaned back and closed his eyes, still smiling. "Yes. I know." Fluffkin's next words wiped the smile off his face.

"Still, I do need to wash this blood out of my fur..." He blinked as Dark suddenly whipped around, gazing at him in something as close to fear as Dark ever showed. Fluffkin smiled gently and reached out with one paw to lightly pat the boy's shoulder. "Relax. I mean the blood from the arrow wound earlier. See, it's stained my fur." He showed the boy the patch of red fur over his chest.

Dark turned around, only then releasing his breath. "Oh." He heard Fluffkin moving. "So, when are you..." A wave of water suddenly splashed him as a small form dove into the water. "...coming in..." Dark wiped the water off his face and eyed the small white rabbit paddling through the water in front of him.

The splash had caught Inu-Yasha's attention. "Huh? Why's he in the water?"

Dark smiled slightly. "I said I'd let him heal me if he came in. He hates hot-springs."

Shippo, now on Inu-Yasha's head, sniffed the air, frowning in confusion. "I can smell stew..."

- - -

"Feel better now?" Fluffkin grinned up at Dark as he finished getting dressed.

Dark shook his head, but he was smiling slightly. "You know the answer to that." A wicked gleam flashed through his eyes. "Aren't you coming out?"

Fluffkin sighed a long-suffering sigh. "You know perfectly well what happens when I go hopping through a forest while I'm wringing wet."

Dark grinned as the image of a wet, muddy and thoroughly annoyed Fluffkin popped into his head. "Yes, I know," he agreed cheerfully, for him anyway.

Fluffkin sighed again and scrambled out onto the bank. He eyed Dark thoughtfully and the boy quickly started walking, not wanting to have to carry the waterlogged rabbit back to the village. Fluffkin dry was heavy enough, but all that fur when wet... He'd been tricked into it once, never again.

"Oh well, I suppose I'll just have to..." There was a glow behind him and Inu-Yasha, Miroku and Shippo all gaped in shock at something in the same direction. Dark sighed softly, suddenly knowing what he'd see if he turned around. He turned around anyway.

Fluffkin's cream breeches were tucked neatly into his light brown ankle boots, while his cream tunic was belted with a length of light brown ribbon tied in a tidy bow at the front. His shoulder-length white hair shone faintly in the sunlight and his large violet eyes sparkled as he grinned at Dark. He looked completely human, except for the two large rabbit ears poking out of his hair. He moved forward with the usual light step that he used when in one of his two-legged forms. When he was in front of Dark, he stopped. Since he only came up to Dark's shoulder, he had to tilt his head back. "Well? Aren't we going?"

Dark sighed and turned around. As he walked, he could hear Fluffkin's light step following. He shot an irritated glance at Inu-Yasha, Miroku and Shippo as they joined him. "What are you staring at? It's only Fluffkin."

"Yeah, but he's not a rabbit now..."

Fluffkin grinned. "I'm a shapeshifter. I can be whatever I want to be. I normally keep to my rabbit form when I'm away from home, because it's the best one for traveling, but I like this form better." He skipped a few steps to catch up with Dark's longer strides, then continued. "I don't like changing into forms where my ears have to change. That's why I like this place so much. I can use my human form but keep my rabbit ears and no one will think it's unusual."

Miroku nodded. "They'll just think you're a half-demon, like Inu-Yasha." Inu-Yasha gave Miroku an annoyed look but, for once, didn't comment.

Fluffkin giggled softly and nodded, skipping a few steps to catch up again.

Shippo peered at Dark from the safety of Inu-Yasha's shoulder. "How come he seems so... mad?"

Fluffkin's violet eyes sparkled with mischief. "He hates it when I'm in this form. When I'm a rabbit, he can ignore me or stuff me under his arm. It's hard to hurt me in that form so he can even pick me up by my ears or blast me with his dark energy if he gets mad at me. But in this form..." Fluffkin shrugged. "I'm just as strong and just as safe, he couldn't hurt me even if he tried to, but he says it makes him think of me as a child when I'm in this form."

"That's not the only reason." Dark growled, not bothering to turn around.

"It's not?" Fluffkin blinked and skipped to catch up. "Then what's the other reason?"

Dark frowned as the memories came uncalled into his mind. Fluffkin falling into a raging river and needing Dark to rescue him. Fluffkin being kidnapped by the Black Knight and needing Dark to save him. Fluffkin being offered up as a sacrifice to a Volcano God and needing Dark to save him again. "Because every time you're in that form, you always end up in trouble and I always end up having to rescue you!"

"Not every time!"

Fluffkin drawing his light sword to strike down the Dragon that had almost killed Dark. Fluffkin smiling over his shoulder as he gathered wildflowers in the meadow near the castle. Fluffkin the very first time Dark had ever seen him, when he had been lying near death in the cold, dark loneliness of Castle Fear, and had given way to his tears, unknowingly calling the gentle guardian to his side. Dark sighed softly as the memories ran through his mind. "No. Not every time."

- - -

"Why are you all wet?" Sango peered at Miroku, frowning as she poked his wet sleeve. The walk hadn't dried them off very much.

"We went for an unexpected swim." Miroku gave Dark a wry glance. Dark tried very hard not to smile.

"I knew we should have followed them." Sango's whisper to Kagome wasn't quite soft enough.

"What?!" Inu-Yasha glared at Sango as Kagome blushed.

"Oh, and I suppose you and Houshi-sama have never spied on us while at the hot-springs?!" Sango and Inu-Yasha began to glare at each other.

Kaede sighed and shook her head, turning to Dark. "So, what are your plans now that you've defeated the demon? Will you be staying for a time?"

Before Dark could answer, a villager rushed into the room. "Forgive the intrusion monkess, but a demon is attacking the village!"

Inu-Yasha and the others were heading out of the door before he'd finished speaking. Fluffkin looked at Dark and grinned. "You know, we're not due back for a few days yet..."

Dark sighed and stood up. "Fine. But not until you change out of that form! The last thing I want is to have to rescue you from a hungry demon!"

Fluffkin laughed softly. "Oh don't worry, I'll be extra careful!" He skipped out the door with Dark right behind him.

"Fluffkin! I'm serious! Change form before he sees..." Kaede blinked as a loud roar came from somewhere disturbingly close. It was followed by a soft cry and then by Dark's voice, sounding oddly resigned rather than angry. "I knew it..."

 

The End