Chapter 1 – Fault
“Rin! Stay behind me!” Kagome shouted before turning back to face the serpentine demon, glaring daggers into the endless onyx of its circular beady eyes. She inwardly grimaced at their ill-timed situation. Everything had seemed fine, until it wasn’t, the day unceremoniously interrupted like a bird hitting a tree upon flight. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
She watched with a grimace as the snake slithered and rattled, slick scales roving through the dirt aided by thousands of miniscule ripples. Its gleaming orbs trained on the two delectable preys, encircled from escape by its gargantuan frame. What an easy trap it had been, those foolish humans. It would only need to tighten and shrink the space enclosed before they would succumb, becoming course to a succulent meal. An inky tongue darted out in a forking hiss as it savoured the thought of satisfying an immeasurable appetite.
Eyeing their current predicament, the elder of the two humans clenched fervently at her wooden bow, slanting a gaze at the dropped quiver beyond her reach.
Such a stupid mistake.
If they weren’t about to be devoured, she would have continued kicking herself mentally at her timely clumsiness, that damnable trait. Thankfully, battle-worn reflexivity had prevented immense damage from the surprise attack, even if precautions were not overly considered in such an unforeseen circumstance. Arrows out of reach, she began scraping for ways to get creative.
What if the bow can be a conduit... Returning a steady look towards the enemy, she contemplated the hardened armour of thick impenetrable scales. She was reminded of a childhood fairytale, something about pigs and houses. This house was made of bricks.
A huff escaped frustratingly. Damn it, where is your weak spot?
Kagome was still surveying the scaly fortress when the clutching of small dainty hands at her sleeves told of the younger girl’s rising distress. She shifted to block Rin from view of the towering serpent, never wavering from its voracious stare while studying for possible escape. Like solving a maze, determination followed the endless lines of the enemy, its curling movements surrounding them like a walled column, high enough to interrupt her line of sight into the sun-splattered forest.
Piteously, she thought of beseeching the gods for war tactics on how to scale a wall. If only she had paid more attention throughout history class, there were so many walls! The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the Wal of Babylon…
But none were made of a human-eating youkai with sharp, sharp teeth, came her shuddering thought.
She hardened her stance, swallowing the dryness in her throat as heels dug into the ground below. There was comfort in the solidity, as if rooting herself would enable her immovable against an imposing force. The tenseness in muscles was barely noticedable as her jaw clicked. “Leave us or I’ll purify you!”
Her vociferation didn’t seem to dissuade the rapacity of its hunger glissading through thick coils, sending another chill down Kagome’s spine. It took no heed of the disarmed opponent. In fact, the lilting threat only added more to its mounting excitement, feathering air to a teeming flame. Another darting of tongue hissed as it salivated with thoughts of the impending meal, watering at the thought of sweet, sweet juices of blood and tender flesh. Scales shifted upon scales causing the woman to stiffen at the scratching sound. It was time.
Without further warning, the snake immediately launched with pointed fangs.
Thinking quickly, Kagome swiftly pulled Rin away while pivoting out the path of danger, her other hand channelling as much reiki as she could muster into the clutched bow before stabbing a pointed end into slick green scales in rushed movements. She didn’t have time to see the impact, only hearing an angry screech echoing from the youkai just as muscled jaws snapped the air mere inches away.
That had been a close call, and she knew it was only a distraction before it would charge again.
“Rin, are you okay?” Kagome asked fretfully from her crouched position over the younger girl, heart pounding, voice almost wavering on a see-saw. She checked her quickly for any harm, hands roving, gaze meeting.
After receiving a timid nod that calmed her somewhat, she shot a hesitant glance at the looming head of the serpent before sinking dread roiled through each passing second, growing heavier and heavier. There was a noticeable scorched patch of scales from where the bow had connected; however, the damage was minimal, its armour leaving no point of penetration.
Well, that was a pitiful attempt, she thought sourly, almost laughing at the mockery if it weren’t for the grim situation that called for a level of seriousness. It was unfortunate that most previous trainings had bypassed close-range combat. But now was not the time for hindsight. It was spilt milk.
She could sense growing lividness emanating from its atrocious aura, pressing in like four walls in a shrinking room. Options were running out, and the walls continued pressing. The telltale rattle of scraping scales indicated another incoming attack, ominously grating to the ears.
And suddenly, its massive tail scourged forth.
Panicked eyes widened as Kagome forcefully shoved the girl away in a last-ditched effort, wishing it was enough to get her out the path of the large appendage. There hadn’t been enough time to run, nor room to escape or dodge. A high-pitched cry tore from Rin’s throat as she fell harshly against uneven gravel, tears stinging like shards from the rough impact.
Remorse mirrored on Kagome’s expression in jagged edges as she silently apologized for the rough treatment. But physical pain soon scrunched her distracted features as a forceful blow caught her midsection in a flurry of movement, unexpected and stunned by surprise.
“Ri-n,” Kagome struggled against the vice-like hold of the serpent’s tail, arms trapped as she winced helplessly towards the girl’s tear-stained face. If only she had quicker reflexes, perhaps that of a fox, would have helped instead of these wobbling legs. Willing away the thought of supernatural abilities, concern soon nipped anxiously at all edges as painful breaths drew against the crushing grip around her chest. She needed to save the girl, to get her away. She still had a chance. As long as it was coiled around her, it would prevent movements from going after Rin. With a burning breath, licked by fire, she squeezed out a single command. “-RUN!”
Rin snapped attention at Kagome’s warning from her fallen position, but limbs remained unmoveable from shock, shackled down with the weight of distress. Never had she heard such desperation from the woman. It just struck her how dire of a situation this had really become. An urgent worry wracked her soul for the one who had pushed her from danger, ripping out another cry for her protector’s safety. “Kagome-sama!”
But it was too late – glistening black eyes had turned its focus in Rin’s direction at the shrilling pitch. Perhaps it shall start with the appetizer before the main course, a sample to feed its increasing craving. Its upper body slithered closer with a lockless jaw agape, ready to swallow anything whole like a whale to a school of fish.
Wide brown eyes watched in horror as the massive head leaned back in a slow tilt, and quickly dove forward.
She made to scream, eyes pinching as blood drained from her heart-shaped face.
But just then, a flash of white appeared before the petrified girl, blocking all from view.
She felt the ground suddenly fade away, and within moments, the earth reappeared beneath her now seated position as clenched eyes reopened. She could have sworn she had been eaten, but was instead relieved, seeing the world around instead of the insides of a digestive tract. Peering up, what she found was a very familiar face.
“Sesshomaru-sama!” she exclaimed in tidal relief, sounding slightly hoarse and little bit drained. All will be alright after all.
Strong arms positioned her comfortably on a safe patch of lush green grass, golden eyes quickly scanning for injuries. Noticing the girl’s clutching of her right arm, his inner beast seethed while reining in control of his voice, keeping it sharp and tethered.
“Rin, do not move. Your arm is broken.”
Rin remained still, and once ensuring compliance to his instructions, crimson-tinged pupils turned in direction of the snake as the daiyoukai rose to his full height. This danger should not have come to his ward, and he was livid at the pitiful youkai’s attempt to harm his charge in his absence. It will dearly pay. The only thing it shall feast on is the sting of death upon the burn of his poison.
Acting upon baser instincts, the beast raged at the realization of its stolen meal as it now eyed the newcomer a close distance away. It once again coiled as another rattle sounded its intent to strike.
Staring down the opposing serpent, toxins dripped from sharpened claws as Sesshomaru voiced his distaste. An easy dispatch, but he will still make it suffer.
Before the snake had a chance make its overconfident strike, white and silver had launched forward, slashing silkily through the distended jaw of the giant snake.
Its tortured screech continued ringing out its vile throat, the now gaping hole at the back of its head growing wider as the potency of sizzling acid ate away at melting flesh. Putrid smoke tainted the air, carrying with it the scent of decay and death.
And it was an easy kill, just as expected. No more effort than crushing an insect underneath his solid boots.
Within moments, the snake slackened and fell, tumbling down in a steaming, rubbled mess.
Sesshomaru revelled in its demise as self-satisfied triumph tugged on a growing smirk – until a deafening scream tore through the clearing in stilted pause.
In a rare panic, he instinctively looked behind him to his ward, relief washing over to see that Rin was as he had left her – untouched and not further harmed.
If not her, then where…
A single pulse of power – bright and potent – drew his focus forward before it dissipated in rippled streaks. He was hit with a wave of sudden realization and the acrid scent of blood-mixed poison that stung high in his nose.
Behind the molten chunks of the slain serpent, he saw a lone figure crouched hunched over, surrounded by the coils of withering scales. As one arm kept the figure from falling completely to the ground, the other trembled over a down-cast face, features hidden behind a tumbling veil of raven locks.
A/N: New story! I’m still working through Rediscoveries, but wanted to get this one out before I procrastinate and drop the idea. Reviews, feedback, and constructive criticism welcomed! I’m always looking to improve my writing. Hope you enjoy.