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THE RED LAMP BURNING by Elvis

FOREWORD & CHAPTER 1

AUTHOR'S FOREWORD

Normally, I like my readers to get no more than a short summary before a story begins.  The nature of this story, I think, demands more than a handful of words; because events such as I have written in the next few thousand words alone do more than touch on issues the reader may find incredibly sensitive.  I felt it necessary to write this foreword as much to warn as to explain the point of view from which it is written.

Let first be said that famous wisdom from the psychiatric halls, the forensic laboratories, and all those of the behavioral sciences: that no two individuals, when exposed to the exact same environment, will reliably respond in the exact same way.  This is why one person may turn into a serial killer and another a saint when emerging from the same traumatic background.  I say this merely to establish the idea that there is no ‘correct’ or ‘natural’ way to respond to serious trauma, especially in childhood – which is the kind this story focuses on.

Over the years, I’ve studied many cases of extreme child abuse.  Stories range from incestual abuse within families, to institutionalized abuse of the young by the rich, powerful, and influential, to filicide of the cruelest kind.  No two cases are quite the same, even if perpetuated by the same abuser.  Some children close off, hiding their hurt deep within themselves until it eats them from the inside.  Some children weep their pain like an open gash through impulsive and destructive action.  Some repeat the abuse done to them onto others.  Some may attempt to break away from every tether to the event with severe determination and strength, and buckle under the strain.  Some remember every detail of flesh, spot, and taste in their event.  Some force themselves to doubt they had ever been harmed at all.  Some hate their abuser, and some love them.  None of them are wrong.

I say this merely to caution, to prepare; for whatever the reader expects or fears beyond this foreward is, at its heart, and exploration of character.

There will be violence, extreme abuse of physical, sexual, and psychological natures to characters of varying ages and vulnerabilities.  We will begin with the rape of a child.  We will end with an exhausted outpouring of tears.  I leave it to you, Dear Reader, to interpret and discover the rest, should you so choose.

I am merely a writer, after all.

-Elvis

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CHAPTER 1

**Warning for implied sexual abuse of a child, and graphic depictions of violence and injury

--------------

“Sensei?”

The room was dark, save for the glow of a single red lamp.  The boy was uncharacteristically hesitant— eyes wide and looking boyish for once.  Rarely did his mentor intrude at this time of night.  And when he did, it was only to share a friendly sort of chat.  This visit did not seem as friendly.  The air felt wrong, and the young demon’s skin trembled with the heavy aura surrounding the older demon.

Heavy enough to be suffocating.  Again, the boy felt that unfamiliar dread come over him and he suddenly wished his father were there.  “Sensei,” he whispered, for he dared not speak loudly in the heavy dark, “what brings you to my rooms?”

He received no answer, only the weight of his mentor’s hand on his head; ordinarily, a familiar gesture, a comforting ruffle of hair.  This time, the pressure of his hand was oppressive, and entrapping, and he felt as if he couldn’t move lest the demon before him lash out in some strange and terrible way.  The old demon’s claws scraped down his nape, and down beneath the folds of his haori.  Again, he dared not move.

“What are you doing?” Fear crept into his voice.  He felt so small he thought he might disappear.  “Sensei?”

Finally the old demon smiled at him, his hand sliding further down the boy’s back.  “Nothing wrong,” his voice slipped through the dark like a serpent, slithering over the boy’s skin.  “Nothing to be ashamed of, boy.”

It was all the boy could do to shrink back, eyes wide, as the demon descended upon him.

-

It wasn’t the last time it would happen.  And each time, the young demon felt as if he were falling into a dream.  Each time, that lonely red lamp burned in the corner and he watched it intently, eyes so wide they burned for lack of blinking.  He hurt sometimes, after, but his body would heal quickly and he’d wonder if he’d even been hurt at all.  His mentor would whisper in his ear, a string of words he no longer truly understood the meaning of.

In the daylight, his mentor was the same as he’d ever been.  He taught the boy carefully: sword-craft and history, letters and mathematics, the way of the water and the wind.  And he loved his mentor in the daylight, just as he loved his own father, as he had loved him before the darkness.

And beneath that love was a deep fear.  A cold fear that scrabbled to crawl up his throat and scream out.  He feared, too, what his father might do should he ever find out what went on in the dark.  His father was yet to return, and his mother lived far away in the clouds.  And there was no way of knowing when he would see either of them again.

The darkness came, the red lamp burned, and the dreams continued.  His mentor taught him the finer aspects of poison-making, and the boy found it to be an all-consuming practice.

--

Sometimes he awoke from his dreams covered in blood.  It would be dried and cleared by midday, leaving not a mark on his skin.  He wondered what it was he was getting up to in his sleep.

--

His mentor had begun joining him in the bath, which, normally, wouldn’t have seemed strange.  Only he’d never done so beforehand.  The sudden change was concerning.

The days were getting shorter, however, and perhaps he only meant to make better use of the daylight while they had it.  After all, the nights were getting longer and colder.

--

Father was coming to see him, and he felt as though his heart might burst when he heard.  The flea Myoga had come with the news: that the Dog General was three days out and was keen to test his son’s training.  He was determined not to let his father down.

The next morning, he woke to find his arm broken, and it took the whole day to mend.

--

The night before his father’s arrival, he felt fangs in his back and in his legs, and he could see only the red lamp burning in the darkness.

--

His Great Father arrived in a flurry of wind and power, and the boy eagerly rushed to greet him.  His father’s arms, snug around his shoulders, felt both safe and terrible.

They sparred in the field, his mentor looking on.  He’d been distant since the Dog General’s arrival, but, in his joy at seeing his father, the young demon hadn’t quite noticed.

His father praised him for his skill and poisonous lethality, and his heart swelled.

“I see I have chosen well in picking Tanomoshii-sensei as your teacher,” he said, and the boy didn’t know why he felt something cold drop in his stomach.

--

“You have chosen a name?”  His father’s voice drifted to him over the winds.  The young demon turned, eyes like glass, as they had been for the last several decades.

“Yes.”  He said.  “I am Sesshomaru.”

“Killing Perfection.”  His father repeated.  He looked at his son, carefully. “It’s apt, I’ll give you that.”

Yes.  It was all he had to him, now.

--

Sesshomaru didn’t know how he felt about the pup.  Or, rather, why he seemed to feel nothing for him.  He watched the little hanyou chase his ball through the courtyard of his human uncle’s estate.  He was so small, and helpless.  His eyes were wide with wonder at the world, still.  Lively, with a fire Sesshomaru can’t remember ever having felt.  Perhaps there was longing?  He didn’t know.  The ball landed at his feet and the boy approached him, starting at his appearance.  The boy’s nose twitched, and some level of knowing came into his features.

“You’re not a human.”  He growled.

“That’s right.”

“What are you?”

“I am a demon.”

The boy tilted his head to one side, ears twitching atop his head.  “What’s a demon?”

“The half of you that is not human.”

“Is that why they call me half-breed?”

“Yes.”

“Why is it bad?”

“Because you lack purity.”

The boy’s features screwed up in thought.  “What do I do about that?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re not very helpful.”

“I’m not trying to be.”

“Then why’d you come here?”

“I was merely curious.”

“About what?”

“About the half-breed child of my father.”

“Your father?”

“Yes.”

“He’s the same as my father?”

“Yes.”

The boy’s eyes grew wide again.  “Then you are my brother!”

“I suppose I am.”

“But you don’t have ears like mine.”  And he reached up to point to the doglike ears on his head.

“I am a full-demon.  That’s why.”

“Oh.”

A woman’s voice called the boy’s name over the evening light.  The boy jerked towards the voice before turning back, remembering his manners.  He bowed swiftly.  “Nice to meet’cha, big brother!”  And in a flash of red he’d left.

Sesshomaru wondered why he didn’t care to come back or not.

--

--

Kagome wondered where the line past freak out was, because she’d hit it and needed to know what to call it.  Not knowing how to identify the level of panic she was in was almost as bad as the actual situation.  Inu Yasha’s brother was knocked out cold at the bottom of a chasm with only her and a severely injured Sango – who was doing her best to put on a brave face despite the obvious pain she was in.  Her leg was stuck between two boulders, and it was becoming a practice in fight-or-flight adrenaline-fueled crisis management, trying to get her free without making it worse.  And that was without having a daiyoukai, the strongest she knew, completely unconscious with a head injury not five feet away while it happened.

She trusted, on some level, the demon’s ability to recover quickly and bring him to, but it didn’t assuage her panic.  Her  bag, having burst open on landing, scattered her supplies all over the dark, dank cavern floor, and she scuffled around as calmly as she could in the dark to find something to give her light.  Sango’s pained grunting only made her heart beat faster as she searched.  If only she had some kind of beam, a log or staff or something, she could use the leverage to lift the boulders away from each other.  But she wouldn’t know how to do it right without being able to see.

Her hands skimmed over the cold ground until— “A ha!—” her little electric lamp.  It had a hand-crank, so she never had to worry about running out of battery.  She wound it a little and switched it on, it’s glow orange and red in the cool dark.

“It’s gonna be okay, Sango,” Kagome whispered to her friend, who gritted her teeth but nodded to her, “I’m gonna get you free, and get that leg set.  And you’re gonna be okay, you hear me?”

Sango’s eyes were floating and she was shivering from the shock.  She grunted and hissed through her pain, nodding shortly as she gripped the rubble beneath her.

She found a long enough piece of wood – some kind of shrift from the forest above, and carefully started prying the boulders apart.  Sango, a piece of her leather cuirass in her mouth, valiantly bore the pain as she was freed.

Unseen, behind the two, the Killing Perfection’s eyes blurred open, his head swimming but healing.  He was strong enough that he would be fully healed in minutes, he knew.  But his eyes…they began to burn, and all he saw before him was the light of a red lamp.  He couldn’t move.

--

Sango had passed out from pain some time ago, and Kagome was glad for it.  At least she could set the bone as best she could without making her friend scream in pain.  Her foot was crushed as well, but she wasn’t bleeding beyond saving.  A mercy, Kagome thought.  The chances of  Sango keeping that leg if her foot had been gashed was next to zero.

The battle had been a mess, and probably still was if the constant booming above was any indicator.  Naraku had outgunned and outmaneuvered them, having split the ground itself apart to take Kagome out of the fight while Inu Yasha was preoccupied.  Sessomaru took an unlucky blow to the head when the stone cracked above them, just as a bonus.

Sango’s breathing had deepened to a steady moan, and Kagome could hear her own heartbeat, feel it in her chest as she tried to find another task.  She stumbled around the cavern, wincing at each clank or clunk of her possessions being dropped back into her bag.  Worried that the noise would bother Sesshomaru— what with his head injury and all— she’d looked back at him to find he’d been awake, and was very still and silent.  He paid no mind to her, instead seeming transfixed by her electric lamp.  “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised,” she said to herself, “it’s not like he’s ever seen an electric lamp before.  Plus, he really banged his head…”

The dark cove was wet and cold, and Kagome had piled as much material as she could around Sango’s leg to keep it as safe as possible until help could come – or Sesshomaru came to his senses.  She was left with nothing but her current clothes, soaked through with grime and blood, and she shivered like a leaf next to her lamp as she waited.  The light started to dim, and she picked it up to crank the handle for a while.  Despite how tired she was, the steady round-and-round of the hand-crank was soothing.  While she did this, Sesshomaru seemed to slowly blink back to his old self, as his eyes became clear and cold, focused once again.

“Um, Sesshomaru-sama…how’s your head?”

The demon blinked at her, as if only just realizing she’d been there the whole time.  He looked around, sniffing.  He didn’t answer, just seemed to be taking in where he was.

“You hit your head really bad.  I know you’re a daiyoukai and everything, but head injuries are pretty serious…how are you feeling right now?”  She tried very hard to remember the symptoms she knew were bad.  Again, she pushed away the exhaustion in her bones to focus on anything she could fix.  “Any blurry vision?  Do you feel like you need to throw up at all?”

“No.”  His voice was even, and it cut through the silence like a well-oiled blade.  It startled her.

“Okay.”  She said, and like every time she ever really spoke with the demon, her voice was small.  The lamp was charged well enough for fifteen or so minutes.  She set it down again.  Sesshomaru wasn’t looking at it anymore.  He was inspecting the claws on his one remaining hand.

Kagome watched him, her breath hitching every now and again with the damp chill.  She tried to reconcile the image she had of this great and indomitable demon with the new, repeating split second of memory: the sound of his head crunching against stone, the earth splitting wider beneath them as the vacuum wind carried them all down before it all went black.  She remembered, also, seeing the stump of his missing arm raising as if to parry the coming boulders, and her throat tightened with guilt.

Sesshomaru’s face never twitched, like a porcelain mask with a glassy, far-away look in the eyes.  Slowly, he let his fingers curl inward until the tips of his claws pressed back into his palm.  He relaxed his hand again, spreading the fingers wide, looked closely at the indents left in his skin, then clenched his hand again.

It made no sense to her, and she watched with a growing sense of unease.  All at once, she was filled with the urge to grab his wrist and force his hand back open and keep it from clenching like that again.

“Stop that.” Her voice snapped out of her before she could think better of it.  Sesshomaru’s eyes blinked to hers, and it was as if every glimmer in the dark around them had gathered into two points and shot her through.  The air itself seemed to stop moving, and she couldn’t look away.  She didn’t know how long they’d been staring into each other when a sudden clash of noise came from above.

“KAGOME!”  Inu Yasha’s voice rang through the cavern, shaking the walls like a bell around them.  Kagome nearly leapt in relief, her heart racing double-time.

“INU YASHA!”  She cried back.  She could feel her friend approaching from above, hear his claws digging out footholds in the rock.

“Don’t move!  I’m coming to get you!  Just sit tight!”

A flurry of movement, and Sesshomaru was gone, and Inu Yasha was heard cursing as he slipped from the crevice walls and landed hard on the cavern floor.  “Asshole!”  He yipped, snarling at the air where his brother had passed him.

--

It was a nightmare of delicate panic getting Sango out of the chasm without making her leg injury worse.  Kagome watched from below, heart in throat, Inu Yasha’s careful ascent with Sango braced against his chest, strapped there securely with the fire-rat haori as he climbed, a steady pace, hand over hand, foot over foot, until he smoothly could pull them over the lip and onto solid ground.

For the moment when Kagome was alone she felt all the fatigue she’d been fighting, the ache and shock seeping into her bones and when Inu Yasha leaped back down to get her she clung to him, shaking uncontrollably with fat tears rolling in waves down her face.

She got a gruff murmur of reassurance that it was over, that she was okay now, as he let her cry.  Miroku’s voice drifted down asking if everything was alright.  Inu Yasha answered for her, demanding a few minutes until Kagome let him know she was ready to go up.  She mounted his back, and he climbed again, quicker this time, and she joined the others where they’d managed to saddle up Hachi, and back to Edo they went.

Inu Yasha had pulled her sleeping bag from her pack and draped it over her, his calloused hands settling sturdy and stable on her shoulders as he told her to take it easy now, he could handle everyone ‘til they got back.  That they’d given Naraku and his latest spawn a good one this time, and he’d have to take time to recover in one of his hideouts.  Just like a spider, he’d said, to skitter off and hide in a hole.

A small voice in the back of her head wondered about Sesshomaru, and his thousand-yard stare before she drifted off into an exhausted sleep.

 

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