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Stormy Night Lullabies by Aesop

Chapter 1

A faint patter of footsteps rushes through the forest as a cool wind begins to grow. Misty fog rolls over the forest floor blanketing the frigid earth in thick vaporous wefts. Just out of sight a roaring mewl can be heard rising up to meet the tree line, as Kirara appears against the dampened sky line carrying a battle ready slayer, and Miroku the lecherous monk straddling close behind.

“Those clouds don’t look good... It’s gotten much darker since we left the village.” Sango’s concerned voice fell on Inuyasha’s focused ears as he leapt between distant treetops, as if they were nothing more than cracks of a wood floor.

“And cold too!” Shippo appeared from the long white tresses that raged over the hanyou’s neck and back. The kit’s fur was standing on end, as if he’d been shocked by the static that filled the air.

“I know he’s out there- I can smell his foul stench!” He snarled back at Shippo and pressed forward stubbornly.

After a hefty battle just the day before, Inuyasha was already searching out the wounded Demon he’d nearly cut down. Evidently he wanted to finish the job, catching the scent on the wind assured him he was close enough to drive him on. His latest battle with the daiyokai he desperately loathed, had been fruitful, more so than ever before, and he was certain that their next battle would be their last. All that was left was to catch him before he could slink away to lick his wounds.

“Kagome!” Shippo cried out, leaping onto her shoulder to snuggle close to her for protection. She had been clinging tightly to Inuyasha’s red clad shoulders, being buffeted by the assault of wind breaking around him. Her hands were numb, and her body was sore from the journey. He’d been pulling them further and further from civilization for what felt like an eternity, never slowing or even slightly losing interest in the chase that only he was aware of.

“Inuyasha! Why is this so important to you? Isn’t it about time we give up on this already?!” Her voice was strained against the wind, but his ears flicked back when she called out.

“What- give up!? How could I give up when we’re so close?! This weather ain’t nothing to the likes of me!” He lunged forward breaking through the stray branches that hung in his way, somehow seeming like a strange attempt at displaying power.

“Well, you’re not the only one exposed to the elements you big idiot!” She Yanked on a handful of his hair and gritted her teeth resisting the urge to s-i-t him right there. She knew if she did, Shippo or herself might be injured.

Just as she did out of the corner of her eye she saw a familiar checkered yukata. A small girl clinging to a two headed beast, barely visible in the fog. Rin! She was equal parts relieved, and worried to see her. She must be so cold and tired by now. Kagome’s heart cried in concern for the tiny girl below, but sank when she realized the position she was in. If she told Inuyasha he’d never give up this chase, probably even pressuring her for her guardian’s whereabouts. Even if he didn’t, he’d tail the child until the daiyokai would have no choice but to reveal himself. Just as she thought this, a heavy wetness crashed against her cheek. The clouds above too heavy to bear the weight any longer, released a torrential downpour with little to no warning shots, or light showers to ease the transition. The thick droplets crashed against her skin like bullets as she tried to shelter herself against the hanyou’s back, to little avail. Through the pounding rain she could barely make out a mountainous expanse, the base of which opened to a rocky maw.

“Inuyasha! Look there- at least let us get shelter until the storm passes!” Her voice was barely legible over the sound of piercing winds and drowning rain.

Before he could reply, a loud crack split through the air as he narrowly avoided a bolt of lightning igniting the tree ahead of them. In an instant he was changing course and alerting Sango of the cave before it could disappear in the growing storm. Noticing the shift, Kagome let slip a brief sigh of relief, before scouring the landscape for the small girl. Her fear started to grow into panic as she could no longer see the ground below save for broken tree limbs being crashed down into a murky abyss. Determined and worried for Rin she focused all of her energy on finding the child. Not too far below she felt a fading warmth, almost as if what her eye’s couldn’t see, was made up for by something deep inside of her guiding her mind. There! She knew it was Rin, it had to be. Growing further from the girls location, and closer to the cave’s mouth she felt an urgent need to touch the ground again.

Reaching the cave entrance she was let down, immediately dropping her supplies and setting Shippo beside it. Kirara shook water from her mane splattering her riders who didn’t seem too surprised by the action.

“Stay here for now if you have to, but I’ve got somethin’ needs doing!” He barked in a strange aggressive tone before full force crashing back against the howling wind and pouring rain.

“Inuyasha, don’t go! You cannot continue in this weather!” The monks attempt at calming the raging beast fell on deaf ears as he was disappearing into the storm.

“Kagome, you and Shippo stay here. We’ll make sure Inuyasha comes back safely.” Sango’s voice was serious, yet calming as she shared an understanding nod with the girl.

As her group disappeared beyond a wall of falling water she turned to face a shivering fox boy. His eyes were soggy and he looked scared of the booming crash of thunder outside.

“Shippo listen to me. I need you to be brave for me now can you do that?” She knelt and held his cold hands firmly. He nodded and put on the bravest face he could muster before she started again. “I need you to search the cave for anything dry that we can use to build a fire. Don’t go far from the cave’s mouth, if you see or hear anything strange hide yourself until I return.” She reached into her bag and withdrew a thankfully dry match box.

“R-Return?! Where are you going?!” His brave face wavered as tears peaked at the corner of his eyes again.

“Listen to me Shippo, I’m going to show you how to use these matches. You can use them to start a fire if you strike the red tip against the course side of the box, like this.” She lit a match briefly illuminating the cave before it burned out leaving the darkness in its wake.

“I’ve seen you use them before, I know I can do that much! But-“ before he could protest Kagome was on her feet and heading into the rain with a stern look.

“Stay put Shippo, I know you can be a brave boy for me!” Her voice faded into the white noise outside.

“Kagome!” Shippo sniveled before stiffening his lip and clenching his tiny fist. “I can do this!” He quickly set to work in search of sticks and kindling.

Outside a tired girl pushed against the raging storm with sore legs, and her entire body shivering in the intense cold. She called out for Rin without hesitation, attempting to locate the child again. A barrage from the sky felt as though it was tearing through her being as she pressed on. I know you’re out there Rin! I can feel it! She could sense something very faint ahead, but just as quickly as she noticed it, she lost it again. It was difficult to concentrate in these conditions, and she knew if she was shaken by the elements like this, Rin was surely doomed if she didn’t find her, and fast.

“Rin! Where are you!” She cried out in a panic as she spun around in circles trying to locate the girl.

Suddenly she turned to her right to feel a strong heavy pulse from within. There! Without thinking she leaped forward in hopes of finding an orange, and yellow yukata holding a small child. But as she raced forward she felt the pulse leading her further. Rin! She felt new strength as she ran on, chasing the pulse and never losing it for a second. It was strong and unwavering, nothing like the faded aura she’d sensed before. This was powerful, pulling her in, and directing her every movement. Although some part of her knew it may not be Rin’s aura, another part of her felt as though this was without a doubt the way to her. Her feet pounded against the rising water that rushed over the forest floor, creating slick streams of mud as it carved its own path through the clay.

“Rin!” There she was, only a few feet ahead lifelessly laid over the stone cold reptile she called Ah-Un. As she reached out to her she felt a faint pulse, which lit the fire in her belly anew. She had to do something, and fast.

Grabbing the reigns of the beastly demon she tried to force it to its feet again. Ah-Un was not built for cold climates and had simply fallen to the cold ground in hopes of conserving energy. She tugged hard, feeling the soreness in her muscles more than before as they stretched, and tore trying to move the creature. Ah-Un please! I need a little help here! Just as she’d thought this she felt a great pulse, something terrible and foreboding, like a dangerous warning. Almost as though Ah-Un felt it too, they let out an awful noise, and leapt onto scaley feet, swaying towards their new guide. Thank goodness! She pulled again shocked at how easily the beast now obeyed her.

“Oh no.. Now that I’ve found her I ended up losing the way back!” She turned around feeling panic as every direction appeared identical to the last. Just as her hope was waning into despair and panic she felt it again. The pulse that had shown her the way before, was now leading her again. There! I can sense it! She gave a hard tug of the reigns, and ran in hopes that she could lead the beast without being trampled into the earth. It ran behind her in perfect time, making a sound akin to a donkey but much more hair raising, and gravelly. As she ran for dear life to keep up with the pulse she checked on Rin, still loosely draped over the worn saddle. When she turned to face its source again she could have sworn, for just a moment that she’d seen white heaps of fur bounding ahead just out of sight through the increasing tempest. She wasn’t sure if it was real or a delusional vision of an utterly exhausted mind, but she thought she’d seen a great white tail of some unseen guide. A forest spirit? She shook her head and blinked away the blinding water that assaulted her. Up ahead only meters away she saw it, a dim light casting through a heavy waterfall. Without a second thought she burst through it yanking A-Un to a full stop just beyond.

“Kagome!!” A frightened Shippo cried as he leapt backwards to defend himself from whatever monster was bursting into the small cavern. When he saw her there drenched, and shivering his fear melted into relief as he bounded towards her. “Ka-go-me~!” He called out, tears running down his face. “I was so scared!”

“Shippo.. You were very brave.” Her voice was raspy as her knees wobbled, threatening to give way beneath her.
Before she could relax she turned to Rin, and lifted the girl into her arms. The small child could not have weighed much but after what she’d been through tonight, lifting her frail body felt like the hardest thing the young lady had ever done. She carried her closer to the fire Shippo had prepared, with Ah-Un following close behind. She settled beside her yellow bag as she felt her legs crumple under her weight. Pressing the damp hair away from the child’s pail skin she felt her forehead in an attempt to assess her condition. She was cold and clammy to the touch, and her breath barely rolled from her body in shallow dying puffs.

“Shippo, look away. I need to get her out of these damp clothes.” She gave him a serious look, and tried her hardest not to seem as exhausted as she was.

“R-Right!” He spun on his heels, and covered his ears as if to be extra safe.

Kagome got to work searching her bag to find some towels, and the priestess garb Kaede had given her. She carefully padded Rin’s damp hair with a towel before replacing her soaked robe with the undershirt of her miko attire. Finally breathing a slow sigh she felt tension leave her body, that she hadn’t even noticed before. Too tired to stand she simply laid the child by the fire, and covered her in a soft fleece from the seemingly endless bag. Before she could fully relax, she reasoned with herself that she needed to care for herself now if she was going to be well enough to tend to Rin further. She begrudgingly pulled the soaking cloth away from her body, before tossing her now see through shirt aside with a displeasing flop noise as it smacked against the ground. Kicking off her socks and shoes she flicked the clasp of her skirt free to shimmy loose of its grip. Sighing an agonizing sigh as she stood to discard her undergarments, and slip into her clean white top. Draping a fresh towel over her shoulders to prevent the slick wetness of her inky hair, from soaking her fresh clothes she pulled up the strangely comfortable hakama and began to fasten off the fabric around her waist.

Just as her waistband had been synched off she heard a sizable splash from behind, not unlike the sound of a body breaking the surface of a pond from a considerable height. As she turned in response to the sound, her blood went cold, and a new worry began to whittle away at her. Shippo had jumped to alert to see what the noise was as well, all of the rosy pink bleeding out of his features when he witnessed the demon before them. Tall and slender, his pale hair fell down around him like silk threads, and his deadly claws grasped at a motionless body, no bigger than the fox child’s own. His brow was stern, and furrowed, and his sharp golden eyes fixed on Kagome as she froze in her place. The air was still and silent, save for the sound of his trailing furs dragging across the cold stone floor. His eyes shifted to Rin’s unmoving body as he closed the distance, stopping uncomfortably close to the young woman’s left side. She noticed something in his gaze that flickered only for a moment, before it was replaced with an unreadable stoic stare. She knew the painful light that briefly danced in his eyes to be concern for his ward. A pang in her chest overpowered the fear that froze her to the spot. Rin was like his child, and even Sesshomaru must feel some shred of paternal worry for her now.

“She’s very cold.. And the elements had a grip on her for a while there.. But I think she’ll recover with some warmth, and much needed care.” Although she expected her voice to waver, aside from the slight hesitation, it came across cool and soothing as it broke the silence.
She wasn’t sure if he’d not heard her, or simply wasn’t interested in whatever she had to say, as he remained silently staring at Rin’s tiny pale face. He looked almost as though he’d wanted to reach out and touch her, but did not.

“Miko.” His eyes flicked to stare at her own, far too close for comfort, with a cold sharp feel to them. His features were unreadable yet still dangerous and intimidating.

“Ah- Yes?” She stammered shocked at his sudden vocalization.

“You will be held personally responsible if this one should die.” His voice was hollow, and threatened a low rasping growl throughout. It shook her to the bone, more chilling than her escapades in the rain had been. Without thinking she swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat, and mustered a response.

“I understand.” After this reply she held the gaze he had locked onto her eyes for some time before something told her to look away. The frightening gaze felt as though she was a prey animal caught in the path of a much larger predator.

As she looked away from his eyes, his gaze slipped away and he stood again to toss his unconscious minion Jaken aside. He’d carried him in from the rain, and some part of Kagome wondered why he was not with Rin. Shippo bounded to hide in her lap, and shiver in fear, unfazed by this she began to sooth his puffed out tail and comfort him. As his bristling hackles began to settle down into a somewhat less frightened fox kit, she nestled him closer to Rin, and the large sleeping Ah-Un that curled around her right side to absorb the fires heat. Not wasting much time she scrambled to her feet again to collect the discarded fabric that had been mounded against the freezing ground. Shuffling across the floor in her long hakama, she spread the damp clothes beside the fire to dry. Her hands rose up to grasp at her towel, and attempt to dry her waterlogged hair. Her scalp throbbed from the cold dead weight of it all, and the gentle massaging of her fingers through the towel was incredibly stimulating, as it soothed away her growing migraine. She let out a long slow sigh nearly forgetting the deadly killer still somewhere in the room.

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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