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A self called nowhere by Noacat by Natalia

Chapter 2

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Chapter 2: I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die

Sometimes I feel like being wispy

And once in a while, I feel like being dry

But we're doomed and we're drowned by this feeling we surround

So I hope that I get old before I die

-They Might Be Giants

The next morning, the village woke to an almost deafening silence. There had been a great discussion as to how to proceed. With no relatives, a traditional funeral almost seemed inappropriate, yet they couldn't disrespect the dead lest they upset the little girl's spirit. It was decided that a small wake would be held in the afternoon and then the funeral proper would take place. Since there were no relatives to receive her ashes after all was decided upon and done, a special alter would be set up in the temple proper for the child. This would honor the spirit of the young girl so that her soul could be at peace.

While the preparations were being made, Kagome helped Kaede tend to Sesshoumaru. The daiyoukai's wounds were small and quite numerous, and in normal circumstances would have caused him little actual pain. In fact, such minor injuries should have already healed. It turned out to be a bit of mystery that was quickly solved.

If Kaede had to pinpoint the first of his injuries, it would be the dart she'd found embedded in his back. Upon examination, the dart was laced with Kindoku, a poison that was made by demons to use against their own kind. The poison was made from the rare Kusui mushroom, which only grew in a few forests that were still largely demon enchanted. For a youkai or even a hanyou, obtaining such a mushroom would be easy.

Kindoku was an age-old weapon that was primarily used by youkai assassins, though weaker demons were known to use it when facing a daiyoukai as an enemy, as the poison gave them a distinct advantage. Sesshoumaru was in one of the late stages of Kindoku poisoning and it wouldn't have taken much effort to kill him. He was very weak, and in this state, even a human could kill him with little trouble. This was the power of Kindoku. It inhibited a demon's natural ability to heal, siphoning off the demon's own aura to aide in this suppression.

The larger the demonic aura, the more effective the poison was becoming. This cycle continued until the demon's own black blood raised to its defense, rendering the host weakened and out of control. At that point, the infected demon would be caught in a perpetual state of bloodlust. It would be too blinded by instinct to understand what was happening to it as it continued to feed the poison infecting its blood. The eventual outcome would be death, but it would be slow and tortuous. It would turn a powerful and calculating enemy like Sesshoumaru into nothing better than a wild animal. The daiyoukai was on death's door, and it would only take a small push to send him over but someone had obviously made a mistake… or perhaps they arrogantly assumed that there would be no one willing to help the injured Lord of the West.

Fate had been kind to Sesshoumaru. Inuyasha was away, and though she didn't like the idea of helping someone who wanted her friend dead, she couldn't turn a blind eye to someone in pain. Kaede and Miroku felt differently about this, but they'd help him because of her. Why they helped didn't matter. That they helped did. Perhaps it was foolish. Sesshoumaru hated humans, or so he said, but the sorrow she saw in his eyes as he held his ward in his arm was unmistakable. Sesshoumaru had cared for that child. It showed a change on his part, or perhaps a layer in his character that no one had seen before. Maybe it was something he, himself, didn't even see. Whatever it was, Kagome could see that Sesshoumaru might not be that bad. He was an enemy of Naraku, which made him, in a way, an ally. And they could use all the allies they could get.

The real trouble was getting him back on his feet. There was an antidote for Kindoku, but it wasn't any easier to obtain for humans than the poison itself. The cure was known as Gyosei, it was an herbal tea brewed from the root of a rare mountain flower. Kaede and Kagome had talked about it at length and their only hope was that perhaps Jinenji possessed either the root itself or the prepared tea. At the very least he could direct them to where to get it. The only snag in that plan was they'd have to wait another two days for Sango to return with Kilala, as Jinenji's farm was too far away for them to walk to it. Until then, they'd have to allow Sesshoumaru to rest. Keeping him quiet and contained was a problem, as in he was practically feral and resisting every attempt to heal him. They'd been constantly burning some of Sango's special incense to keep him unconscious. It would work for the time being, but not in the long term. The village bell had rung interrupting her thoughts. It had signaled the start of the wake. Kaede had stayed with Sesshoumaru while Kagome attended with Shippou.

Kagome didn't much like to think on that part of the day. Attending a funeral was bad, but a funeral for a child, one that she knew, was worse. It was as nice as it could be, considering the circumstances. Both Miroku and Kagome thought it'd be a small affair, as none of the other villagers knew the girl.

But in a small village, word gets around. Most of the village knew about the little girl and how she'd come to their village. They knew of Sesshoumaru's reputation as well, and knowing he brought this small human child to their village for help was seen as some kind of uncommon blessing. His feelings about humans were well known and this incident was seen as a wonderful if tragic reversal. It was a rare thing to find a demon that tried to help a human. Especially a daiyoukai like Sesshoumaru, because they viewed humans as mere ants. Yet this one cared about a little girl and had come to their village for help. An atypical occurrence like this could not be ignored; this was a sign from the gods themselves. What they did now would determine the future of their town.

It was a gamble, but if they did well the youkai lord could well become the village's patron protector. Already, they had his notorious younger brother's name attached to the village. It kept the smaller youkai away but it did not deter the more determined, larger demons from attacking. If Sesshoumaru's name was also associated with the village, only the most foolhardy would dare attack them.

The entire village turned out to show their respect for the little girl who had captured a youkai's heart. At the time, she didn't quite understand what a precarious position the village had put itself in allowing Sesshoumaru to stay. In the state he was in, it was hard for him to recognize friend from foe. There was nothing but instinct. The village people knew this, and so they honored the memory of the little girl. Because once the youkai was conscious again, he would need to know that they'd meant the little girl no harm. It was one of many precautionary measures.

After the wake, Kagome had decided to go home to the modern era for the night. She'd spend some time with her family and gather some supplies. They were nearly out of bandages and antiseptic and if she were to get Sesshoumaru better, they'd need a lot more than they had right now. Plus, she was planning on picking up some tranquilizers to help keep him calm. It was kind of wrong but she was planning on using some old Diazepam their vet had given them for Buyo when he broke his leg a while back. There was a voice in the back of her head that told her that wasn't a bright idea. It wasn't, but it was really all she could think of. She could get her hands on some over the counter- sleeping pills, but they have to find a way to force Sesshoumaru to swallow them. No one liked that idea in the least. The Diazepam had to be injected, so in the end, it'd be easier. He was already sort of quiet thanks to the incense, this would make him quieter. And the quieter he was, the better… because he had to get better in two weeks or less. If he took longer because he fought too much, Inuyasha would return with him still there and then all hell would break loose.

Why? Why did she have to be so bloody awful helpful? Miroku had taken her aside again that evening just before she left for home. Why hadn't she listened to him? Her eyes dulled, drifting along the endless stream of memory. She was lost, pulled farther down the river by the current, losing track of time as she remembered the chilly afternoon and the quiet talk she had with the monk. As she sat in the waiting room, she could almost see him right there, looking just as he had been that day. The image was out of place in the very modern room and she blinked, not sure if it was real or just another hallucination. She'd almost pulled back from the remembrance, but it quickly drew her back in. When she blinked this time, it seemed as if the world redrew itself around her memory. There was no more waiting room. There were only the forest and the well she and her friend leaned up against as they enjoyed the companionable silence.

Miroku broke the quiet, intoning in his most serious voice, "Kagome, there are things we need to discuss." He paused and she waited and waited and waited, while he gathered his thoughts, "You have a kind heart...and it does you great service..."

"...But?..."

"I am concerned by our current course of action. The condition the daiyoukai is in right now makes him a danger to himself and others."

"What are you saying, exactly?"

He looked at her then, his dark eyes searching her out. Measuring her as he spoke softly, but commandingly, "What I'm saying is...as badly as I feel over what happened to him and his ward, I don't think it's wise to continue to allow him to stay in the village. No matter his condition, Sesshoumaru is and will always be dangerous."

She gave him a curt, tight-lipped reply, "Then what do you suggest?"

He looked away from her, staring at the sun rather than in her eyes. It wasn't easy for him to say those things, much less think them, but it had to be done. They had to think of the village first but still, it felt so wrong. So callous. He knew he wouldn't win this argument, not with Kagome. She was the champion of lost causes, and no doubt would fight tooth and nail to keep the daiyoukai right where he was. And yet...

"We can't just leave him..."

The sharp, pointed reply tore into his heart and he took a deep breath before speaking again.

"I'm not suggesting we abandon him." Miroku paused and closed his eyes before forging ahead, "I am suggesting… that we do the merciful thing."

She stared at him, long and hard. Part of her knew exactly what he meant and the other half couldn't believe what she heard. Both of sides were outraged and wanted nothing more than to wring the monk's neck breathlessly.

"...And what would that be?"

Gathering his courage, he turned and looked at her levelly, "We are dealing with a demon in great pain, a full demon not in control of his own blood which makes him very, very dangerous. Even if we're able to heal him, this poison will have long-lasting effects. He'll likely spend the rest of his life weakened and in suffering. It would be better for him and the village if we put him out of his misery while we can."

Her eyes narrowed and flared, never in her life had she been so angry and when she spoke it was in a dangerously controlled whisper, "That… isn't mercy. That's cold-blooded murder." He opened his mouth to object, but she silenced it with a glare as her voice rose in volume, "I won't kill an unarmed man who can't even defend himself… You know, I might not be a real priestess, but even I know that's wrong. We're supposed to be the good guys. We're supposed to help people… not hurt them..."

"Sesshoumaru is not a person. He's youkai… he'd kill you without blinking twice."

"He is a person..." She insisted, "And I know he'd kill me, he tried before, I remember… but I won't turn my back on someone just because they're born differently."

"He's dangerous, Kagome. This is no game we're playing." He replied, his argument becoming more heated as he tried to instill some sense of reason into the girl, "He could destroy this whole village and there'd be nothing either of us could do to stop him. I'm sorry for him… but one life isn't more important than the lives of everyone in that village. Have you thought of that? And once he destroys this village, what will stop him from destroying the next one and the one after that? You heard Kaede, he's in a state of permanent blood lust… he will destroy until he dies. In the end, he's just one more demon that needs to be exterminated..."

"Having compassion for your enemies is what separates us from Naraku… I haven't forgotten that. I won't. I can't. Killing anyone, demon or human, when they're weak is despicable. It's wrong and you know it." She answered back calmly, amazed that her voice managed to sound what she didn't feel, "The fact is, we don't know what he'll do. You… you just assume he'll wake up and kill everyone… and a few months ago, I'd agree with you. But not after last night. You didn't look into his eyes, Miroku. You didn't see what I saw. Besides, we have that incense to keep him quiet..."

"And we're running out of it and even if we weren't… He's daiyoukai. The incense won't work for much longer, even injured, he's too strong..." Miroku sighed and shook his head. He was torn and for the first time in a very long time, he wasn't sure what to do.

Kagome saw this and set a hand lightly on his arm, giving him an encouraging smile, "I know. That's why I'm going home. We already discussed this part, remember?"

"Yes… this medicine… You're sure it'll work?" He inquired, looking at her with measured apprehension.

"...It'll work, don't worry so much."

Miroku fidgeted for a bit as he thought, before questioning the girl again, "...How sure? Because if there's even a cha-"

She quickly interrupted him, "I'm sure."

"How sure?"

"One thousand. I'm sure in the amount of one thousand. This crap could knock an elephant out."

He gave her a strange look. The way she spoke and the things she talked about sometimes were beyond a mystery. Had this discussion not been so important, he might have asked her what she meant but this time he didn't. He got the gist of what she said, even if it were a rather odd way to phrase things, though he did file the word elephant away for future explanation.

"What about Inuyasha?" He asked, crossing his arms over his chest as he turned his gaze back at the deepening sunset.

"What about him?"

"You know what will happen if he finds his half brother here. He won't care about the reasons… it'll be chaos."

"We have over a week and a half to get Sesshoumaru on his feet. Once we get the antidote, Kaede said his natural healing abilities will take over." She paused before speaking again, with a deliberately languid tone, "If he doesn't heal before then… I'll handle Inuyasha."

Miroku almost wanted to take a step away from the tiny priestess. She was so young and her appearance was so innocent, but she was truly a force to be reckoned with when angry. Thankfully, he hadn't been on the wrong side of her ire for quite some time. Sango made a much more amusing and less terrifying target for his brand of teasing than Kagome. Perhaps she was right. There was a warning in his heart, that this could all go horribly awry, but he trusted Kagome. The girl had spirit; it was an unquenchable fire that burned brightly from within. She feared nothing. Not Naraku, not Sesshoumaru. Even when both had sought her life, she stood defiant against them, daring to take action when warriors more experienced than she cowered. It was obvious to him that things in her era were quite different and that she never faced such danger before. Yet still, she never turned to run. She always faced forward and he wondered where such strength came from. Looking down at her, he smiled as he contemplated the mystery that was Kagome, maybe he'd never know. Maybe it was better that way.

With another head shake, he set a hand on her head and ruffled her hair, "You're a braver person than I am, Kagome."

She batted his hand away, grinned resolutely, "Am not… I just have less common sense."

Her smile widened as he laughed lightly at her joke. It was the truth after all. For a moment, the world went quiet as the tenor of the conversation sunk in. Worries melted away and before long they were just two friends enjoying their time together. After a long moment of quiet, Kagome felt an indistinct kind of frustration that nagged at her from every corner in her mind. She felt antsy, the anticipation of some vague and distant something that loomed over the horizon. Kagome didn't like strange, unknowable emotions, she loved mysteries even less. She was a logical girl in an illogical era with highly illogical powers and even more illogical beings. When all else failed, she just accepted blindly but this time, she just couldn't follow without some thought. The pieces had to be fitted together and try as she might, they just didn't. She was just shy of turning over the entire puzzle in exasperation.

Narrowing her eyes, she quietly spoke up, "Miroku, what do you think happened?"

It was obviously something he couldn't answer. The only two people who could be were Sesshoumaru, who was currently indisposed, and Rin. Her lip quivered as her mind formed the name and the haunting realization hit her that Rin would never answer another question again. She had to cover her mouth with a hand to avoid the sob that threatened to lose itself, the time for tears had passed.

The monk watched her carefully before he answered. He was no mind reader but he knew why the question was asked. Kagome's sometimes uncanny wisdom was misleading and belied her true age. She was an interesting mix of contradictions. Innocent and young, yet oddly wise and intelligent beyond her years, it was no wonder she was so often mistaken for a demon. She was too much of an enigma to be human. The gods had given her quite a gift but it was also a burden. It could fool you into believing she was so much older than her nineteen years. Her true age would reveal itself in these moments when she tried to understand the world's cruelty, which she fought so hard against. He often wondered what her time was like. Was the world a better place five hundred years into the future? Free of the cruelty he'd come to accept? Probably not, as he could sometimes see the shadowed remains of some unspoken sorrow in her eyes. She never talked much about herself, or if she did, it was in the most superficial way possible. She'd chat on endlessly about her mother, grandfather, her brother, her cat, her friends and that odd school of hers. But never would she go into any real depth about it. Her father had died, she'd mentioned that almost in passing but she never spoke more of it.

The girl knew something of loss, perhaps not in the same way people of this era did. But she knew all the same. In her time, losing someone you love seemed to be a traumatic event. Not to say it wasn't in this time, but… it was something that was expected. These were violent times. People died every day and you mourned, and then you moved on. Life seemed easier where she was from and to some extent he sensed that Kagome had been a bit sheltered. He surmised that perhaps death wasn't expected around every corner in her time and from what he'd gleaned from what little she said this was true. She spoke of things called antibiotics and other medical cures for ailments that could quickly kill you in the feudal era. In her era, people evidently didn't have to fight to survive. Death wasn't around every corner in her time. Life - was and he could see it in the young priestess's eyes. She saw sorrow so clearly and she did not accept it for what it was, she fought against it. It was Kagome's way.

Miroku had often thought that if Kagome could, she'd stop death itself. Her tender heart really did do her credit but it was bound to get broken sooner or later. She gave so much without expecting anything in return. A kind heart was all well and good when tempered with wisdom. Kagome was wise, in her own unique way, but not when it came to matters of the heart. She gave everything she had, giving more freely than she should. Giving when she should hold back. She'd keep giving until there wasn't anything left for herself. Even now, she was giving. Miroku exhaled in frustration. He'd warned her against this, but here she was again, putting herself on the line for someone who she barely knew. Someone who probably wouldn't even appreciate all that she'd done, despite this, she'd work herself to death for the daiyoukai. There was a fine line between those touched by the divine and madmen and sometimes, Kagome skirted the edge. He'd been worried for her before but he knew she'd come out alright in the end. This time, he wasn't so sure and his brow furrowed in frustration.

"I don't know. But the attack was sudden and quite brutal. I expect that it was planned. Sesshoumaru is a formidable enemy and Kindoku takes months to prepare. It is likely this attack has been in the works for some time. The presence of his ward was an added bonus it seems, I don't think killing her was intentional… but she was his one weakness. She was used as a means of distracting him from their true goal."

Kagome nodded heavily, her heart weighted by the knowledge that Rin had, indeed, been caught in the crossfire. A target by default because of whom she was associated with. The pieces fit neatly into place. Too neatly. Kagome fought the useless tears that hovered at the edge of her vision. The attack was sudden and unexpected. They'd managed to catch the daiyoukai unawares. Fatally injured his ward and shot him with a tiny nugget of liquid death that was guaranteed to kill him.

She paused before inhaling deeply, asking the dreaded but necessary question, "Do you think Naraku's behind it?"

It was an unspoken question but all of them suspected who would use such a poison on the daiyoukai. On the surface, it seemed foolish for Naraku to so directly threaten someone like Sesshoumaru. It would have made better sense to try and get the Lord of the West to side with him. The only problem with that was the fact that Sesshoumaru was not so easily manipulated, and unfortunately, Naraku only dealt in manipulation. He had tried once and failed, and rather than try again, Naraku sought to eliminate him as a potential enemy prematurely. And it would have worked. Kagome narrowed her eyes in thought. Yes, that made sense. Naraku probably left Sesshoumaru alive to wander the countryside weakened by the poison. He probably allowed him to get away. Perhaps hoping a human would kill him, or maybe even Inuyasha himself because that kind of sick irony would amuse Naraku to no end. Kagome shook her head, steering herself away from thoughts that would only serve to upset her. Miroku hadn't said much in the last few minutes and it was clear to her he was pondering the same thing.

He took a short breath before answering slowly, "We have no direct evidence, but this does fit his pattern. And I wouldn't put it past him."

Kagome's eyes steeled as she stared at the sinking sun. She'd thought then of all the suffering Naraku had caused and why this most recent act effected her so much. It was like her heart was being twisted and torn from within. She hadn't felt this way since she was a kid, when her father died. Maybe it was because she knew Rin. True, she didn't know the girl intimately, but she felt like she did. Was that weird? She wasn't sure. Rin seemed like such a sweet kid, at least from the one or two times she'd met the girl. In her mind's eye, she could still see Rin happily skipping after her lord with the blind loyalty of a saint, singing to herself quietly. An image of a similar little girl, skipping merrily behind her own father while she sang came to mind. She saw herself in Rin. It was as simple as that. What really had happened? She was tired of wild conjecture, she wanted the truth and she'd asked that one question over and over again. Still did. But in the end, she wasn't so sure she wanted the answer. She had imagined a hundred thousand scenarios, each one more horrible than the one before it. They ran through her mind like an endlessly looping nightmare, an unblinking film reel filled with nothing but horror and pain.

What were Rin's last thoughts before she died? It had to have happened soon after he arrived in the village. Her death hadn't been quick. She'd been in a lot of pain but she was in her Lord's arms. Did that fact mitigate the agony she'd felt before slipping into the quiet black of death? Her little hands had tightly gripped the front of his haori. She could remember grimacing as she pulled them off forcibly. The girl had a look of utter contentment and peace on her face as if this was the only place in the world she'd ever wanted to be. She'd been happy. In his arms, she was happy and she'd died in peace, finding nirvana in that one simple moment. Kagome could feel it. She'd been so happy. How could she be happy? How? How could she feel safe with him? He hated humans. He killed without mercy. Human, youkai, Sesshoumaru had never cared if anyone else lived or died. Yet the girl was happy with him. Why? It was the latest in the mountain of evidence that suggested there was more to Inuyasha's seemingly cold-hearted brother than met the eye.

Did he care for her?

She remembered the first time she'd come upon the little girl. The air about him changed as Rin danced up to him. It wasn't perceivable, it was a gut feeling. His outward appearance never shifted but something seemed… different… when he looked at her. His eyes almost softened. The aura that surrounded him that normally radiated cold impatience shifted. He seemed at ease with her, in his own way. His aura seemed to come to life when the girl was near. It wasn't cold or uncomfortable, it was… brighter somehow.

He'd nearly killed Kohaku when the boy threatened Rin's life. The only thing that saved the boy from an untimely death was Sesshoumaru's knowledge that killing Kohaku was exactly what Naraku wanted. From that day forward, Sesshoumaru seemed focused on finding and ripping Naraku to shreds. Kagome wasn't arrogant enough as to assume it was only for threatening the girl but still, he was willing to kill for the child. That was saying something. And every time she'd seen the girl after that, the same thoughts floated up to her. Sesshoumaru seemed different. Changed. It was an odd relationship but she was silently glad. He'd changed and the girl had somehow been a part of that. It gave her an odd sense of hope. She'd never liked the gaping rift between Inuyasha and his brother. It was wrong for siblings to fight like that… over a damned old, rusty sword of all things. This change might help… well… something. She wasn't quite sure what but she had noted the changes in Sesshoumaru even before they'd seen Rin. They all had… except for Inuyasha, who was notoriously dense when it came to simple observations like that. Even though it was painfully obvious.

Sesshoumaru didn't try so hard anymore when fighting Inuyasha. His death threats sounded more like he was reciting a speech by rote. There was no feeling in them. He didn't really mean it. The fights were more for pride, both his and Inuyasha's. They were for show, nothing more. There were several times when he could have gone for the kill but he didn't. He held back and everyone had noticed, except Inuyasha. His attempts to take Tessaiga had ceased altogether. It was like he wasn't interested anymore or if he was; it was a passing interest, one that he could easily wait for.

He cared for the girl and she had cared for him, though it was probably all unacknowledged. Kagome knew this, felt it in her heart. The first honest evidence of his true feelings was the night she died. When he howled his sorrow to the stars and how sad it was that it took her death for him to acknowledge that. How sad indeed.

Her eyes darkened with her thoughts and she let a few tears slip. She quickly wiped them away, taking several, small calming breaths. Miroku saw this and gave her a friendly hug, which she returned. Thankfully, no more tears came. Instead, she felt a strengthening resolve to make Naraku pay dearly. She'd get Sesshoumaru on his feet. Make him well enough to take his bloody revenge out on the evil hanyou. A relieved sigh left her lips after making that silent promise to herself, not realizing there'd come a day when she'd regret that foolish vow.

Miroku held her a little tighter, she felt better and in the moment, she was glad to receive such comfort… from Miroku of all people. He hadn't even tried to grope her yet. The operative word being yet, because within the next few seconds she felt his hand snake down and grab her bottom. She scowled, kicking herself for speaking too soon and thinking too highly of the lecherous monk. Damned law of averages. She quickly broke the embrace simultaneously hauling an arm back to sock him in the shoulder as hard as she could.

"Pervert!"

He grinned at her, rubbing the spot she'd just hit with a look on his face that practically screamed, "I couldn't help myself!" She almost punched him again, just for good measure. Kagome stuck her tongue out at him as she prepared to enter the well. They said their goodbyes and just as she jumped into the well, she called out playfully behind her.

"I'M TELLING SANGO WHEN SHE GETS BACK!"

Miroku paled for a moment, imagining the beautiful slayer's angry face and the possible painful repercussions of his thoughtless grope. He sighed deeply, his shoulders slumping a bit before regaining his composure. The well behind him activated and he watched the pale blue light as it glowed brightly before winking out. He smiled then. Yes, he was going to get a rather nasty knot in the head from Sango for groping Kagome. But it was worth it for so many reasons.

"Ah, sweet agony." He said, to no one in particular.

As he left the clearing, he couldn't help but smile just a bit wider in anticipation.

Kindoku-It is, IN FACT, a mushroom poison.

Gyosei-The Morning Star (ie-Venus)

 

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