Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 12 of 60

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"My "fear" is my substance, and probably the best part of me."
- Franz Kafka

InuYasha slid to a stop and stared at the imposing gate of Naraku's castle. He waited impatiently for his friends to catch up before drawing Tessaiga. The large wooden gate was closed, and obviously present a problem for any human enemy trying to gain admittance to the castle nestled against the mountain. The walls were fitted with watch posts every few hundred feet, the walls themselves reaching over twenty feet high.

InuYasha snorted as he glared at the gate. One swing of his sword would bring down any part of the gate, wall and castle. Kirara landed next to him as he raised his sword, ready to unleash the Kaze no Kizu.

Miroku grabbed his arm forcefully before he could finish his downward stroke.

"Wait, we need to be sure that Kagome is not anywhere near the entrance. It would be just like Naraku to position her directly in the path of most harm. We need a plan before we go in there."

InuYasha lowered Tessaiga, not wanting to admit the Houshi was right. Turning to his companions, he looked first at Sango, then back at Miroku.

"We don't need a plan! All we need to do is get inside, find Naraku, and kill him. Then Kagome will be safe."

Miroku sighed and closed his eyes. 'Will he ever learn… ?'

Sango added, determination shining from her brown eyes, "The longer we stand here arguing, the greater the chance that Naraku will get away with Kagome."

Just as they turned their attention back toward the castle, the wind rose violently, whipping through the trees.

As quickly as it came, it settled and in its wake stood Kagura and Sesshomaru.

The brothers stared at each other for a tense moment. InuYasha was the first to react as he turned his back on his brother and faced the gate once again before grumbling, "What are you doing here Sesshomaru?"

"I do not explain myself to anyone, least of all miserable hanyou," Sesshomaru replied in his usual air of bored superiority.

Kagura took the opportunity to make her escape. "Well, you've gotten what you want from me, I'm outta here." With that she drew a feather from her hair and took to the sky.

InuYasha didn't acknowledge her departure, instead he glanced at his companions. "Okay everyone, let's go."

A snort sounded from behind just as a flash of white streaked above their heads and over the gate.

"I don't know what that bastard thinks he's doing here but I'll be damned if he kills Naraku before I do!" InuYasha said through gritted teeth before following Sesshomaru.

Miroku and Sango glanced at each other for a moment before Shippo voiced what they were all thinking.

"Why can't they work together for once! They both want the same thing. What does it matter who kills Naraku, as long as someone does?!" Shippo hopped up onto Kirara soon followed by Miroku and Sango and they flew over the wall, landing a few feet from InuYasha. The courtyard was empty and there was no sign of Sesshomaru. The doors leading to the main building were open but the eerie silence unnerved the group.

"Miroku, you and the others look for Kagome in the castle. I'm gonna find Naraku". Before anyone could answer, InuYasha shot off towards the entrance to the main building.

"Well Sango, let's go and find our friend," Miroku spoke softly as his hand crept slowly towards Sango.

She caught the motion out of the corner of her eye and moved out of his reach swiftly before answering in a cheerful voice. "Yes Miroku, no sense standing here any longer since Kagome is so obviously not here."

Miroku blinked at her rapid retreat but followed with a lecherous grin. His beautiful little warrior finally figured out his game. And this was one game he intended to win.

In the depths of the castle, Kagome stared at her captors wondering what they wanted from her now. She knew that InuYasha had come for her and that the impending battle was going to change everything. Her anxiety rocketed into the stratosphere every time she thought about what could happen when facing InuYasha again. With Katsuro still controlling the Crown, she had only the slightest ability to command her own spiritual powers. Powers that he could easily use to kill InuYasha.

Her friends in the Sengoku Jidai had become more important to her than she had ever realized and though they had faced many dangers together, Kagome had never really thought about her own mortality or that of her friends. She had taken for granted all of the injuries and the many times that InuYasha had almost died to keep her safe. Even though she was an active participant in their battles, she had always done so on the fringes of the danger instead of from the heart of it. Since there was always someone between her and the enemy, her fear had never been for herself. Everyone around her had always taken the brunt of the aggression and in turn shielded her from the fear and pain of battle. That protection was never truly breached until Katsuro had taken her. Now the icy fingers of fear had invaded her mind with the knowledge that this time there would be no protection. This time it would be Kagome who would have to face the danger of battle head on. Being Naraku's weapon in this battle was overwhelmingly ironic in that her friends had spent these last four years protecting the woman who would bring about the destruction of them all.

Kagome scrambled to her feet as Naraku moved from the doorway of the cell to stand in front of her followed closely by Katsuro.

"It's time for you to make yourself useful wench," Naraku's ominous words cut through the air. With one last look of disgust, he turned and walked back out the door.

Kagome's legs began to buckle as the full weight of her dread settled along her shoulders like a lead boulder. If Katsuro had not grabbed her arm and began pulling her toward the door, Kagome was sure she would have ended up as a pile of flesh and tears on the cold stone floor.

Katsuro dragged Kagome through a narrow passage and up a long and winding stairway. Moisture dripped from the walls and reminded Kagome just how deep underground she was being kept. The gloomy stairwell opened up into a barren room that had no windows and only one door.

Katsuro didn't pause and Kagome was only briefly able to take in her surroundings as he propelled her briskly along to an unknown destination. A moment later, Kagome was blinded by the late afternoon sun. She closed her eyes tightly to block out the offensive light as Katsuro continued pulling her along without pause. She stretched out her senses and could feel only the demonic presence of Katsuro and Naraku.

'Thank God,' Kagome thought for a moment only to have Katsuro answer next to her in a low, hissing murmur.

"Your friends are coming Miko. You'll face them in battle whether you wish it or not."

Kagome kept her silence but her mind screamed in protest. She felt more than heard Kikyo's anger at the youkai's words. Kikyo had remained hidden from the youkai's prying mind but they all knew that he was aware of her presence. They were also aware of how uneasy the older miko's presence made him. With her added to the equation, there were far too many variables that he could no longer control and this made Katsuro decidedly less confident than Naraku.

Katsuro silently reminded himself of the bargain he had struck with Naraku only a few days ago. He would destroy InuYasha and his companions as well as obtain the shard from Kagome so that Naraku could complete the Jewel. In return, Naraku would allow Katsuro to take Kagome with him when he left.

Katsuro was surprised that Naraku agreed so readily considering Kagome's powers and ability to destroy youkai. 'Naraku must be aware of this information,' Katsuro pondered as he continued to pull Kagome along the hallways of the castle.

A moment later Kagome felt the sun on her skin and breathed in fresh air as the space around her opened up. She dropped her face toward the ground and opened her eyes slightly. Lumpy grass filled her vision as she blinked rapidly. Her eyes adjusted after a few moments and she raised her face to look at her new surroundings. Naraku had led them to a large garden that had obviously not been tended to for quite some time. A massive tree with gnarled roots stood to her right while a winding Koi pond began about fifty feet to her left. The garden was rimmed with an eight foot stone wall that circled all the way around. There seemed to be no door or opening in the wall and the only way in or out was through the castle doorway that they just came through. Beyond the wall at the far side of the garden, the mountain rose steeply up toward the sky casting a shadow that slowly crept toward them as the sun fell closer to the horizon. 'It will be dark soon', Kagome thought mournfully.

Katsuro led her to the base of the large tree and abruptly let go of her arm. She stumbled forward and leaned against the nearest root. Kagome eyed Naraku warily as he passed along some orders to his Saimyosho. They flew off and he turned back to Kagome. The look in his eyes sent a chill straight to Kagome's marrow.

"Soon you'll see everything clearly. InuYasha only wishes to take the Jewel for himself. He didn't come here for you and when he learns that he cannot have it, he will simply walk away, leaving you here with me. Perhaps you should consider what you will do once InuYasha discards you. After all, he no longer needs you to track down the jewel shards".

Kagome stared defiantly back at the half-demon a moment before her eyes dropped to the ground in front of her feet. She knew that Naraku was trying to poison the shard in her chest. She knew that he was exploiting her greatest weakness, which was her insecurities regarding InuYasha. Kagome would often catch herself thinking about what would happen once the Jewel was found. Would InuYasha want her to stay or would he send her back to her own time with no further thought? Had her role in his life really changed from shard hunter to friend? Did he understand what happened between Kikyo and her that day in the woods? Did he know that Kikyo sacrificed herself to keep the Jewel pure and Kagome didn't actually kill her? Would he understand and not hold it against her? He always seemed to take her protection seriously and was deeply affected when she was hurt or in danger. His protection of her may have started only because of her ability to detect the shards, but it couldn't be the only reason any longer. They had moved beyond a business-like partnership of shard hunters and gatherers to being true friends who loved each other. Even though Kagome couldn't explain or even understand the way that InuYasha felt about her, she knew that he cared about her very much. It may not be the way that he loved Kikyo, but it was still real. Kagome would not be influenced so easily into thinking that InuYasha was only concerned about the Jewel.

A swell of similar feelings filled Kagome from the other miko. Kagome took comfort that she was not completely alone in this moment and that Kikyo felt the same confidence in InuYasha's character. Kikyo was the one other person who knew InuYasha the same way, if not better, and Kagome would trust in the older miko's judgment.

Naraku observed the woman in front of him. She looked so much like Kikyo that he sometimes found himself thinking of them as one in the same. He wanted to destroy any trace of Kikyo from this world, which included this woman who looked so much like the Miko who tormented his mind. Kikyo still haunted his dreams and whispered through the soul of the human Onigumo. This is why it was so important for him to become a full-fledged demon and kill the human soul of Onigumo. It was the only way that he could be rid of the twisted feelings that lingered in the corners of his mind and heart for the beautiful Kikyo.

Kagome looked up from the ground and met his eyes defiantly. For a moment Naraku could swear it was Kikyo looking back at him. In an instant he was back in that cave with Kikyo's face hovering over him as she cared for him with tender hands and a soft voice. The traitorous side of him remembered the comfort and pleasant feelings that she had inspired in him while she cared for him. He remembered how much he had enjoyed her care and the comfort her presence wrought.

Naraku snapped back to the present as quickly as he had left it and turned from Kagome with a snarl on his face. Yes. As soon as this battle was finished the miko would die by his hands, if only to extinguish the feelings and memories she dredged up from the past.

Kagome looked at Naraku a moment longer before turning her eyes toward the garden around her. The moment that her and Naraku's eyes met had given her more insight into her enemy than she had ever thought possible. His demonic aura had changed for a moment and was full of conflict. She felt his usual anger and evil, but for a moment she felt the comfort and warmth of love mixed in. She wondered what memories had stirred for those brief moments.

She felt Kikyo's soul spike with impatience for a moment and realized that the miko wanted to tell her something but knew that now was not the time because Katsuro was monitoring her by being partially connected with the Crown. The Mikos were unsure of exactly how much he could detect when he was only partly connected with her mind but they knew better than to take any chances. Therefore Kikyo remained hidden when he was connected or even in the same vicinity. They couldn't chance him figuring out a way to take control of Kikyo too. If that happened, then all hope would be lost.

A few minutes later some of Naraku's saimyosho returned to deliver an update. A few murmured words and they flew off again. Naraku turned back to Kagome and the look on his face made her anxiety spike even higher. Whatever news the flying insects just departed did not bode well for the young Miko.

"We have an additional player to our little game. This is going to be better than I could have hoped for." Naraku's red eyes sparkled with anticipation.

"Katsuro, ready your Miko for battle and make sure that she is prepared. She now has two enemies, and her newest opponent will be decidedly more difficult to defeat than his brother".

Kagome sorted through his words and was suddenly hit with the realization of who she would be facing in battle.

"Sesshomaru…" Kagome whispered under her breath as the full realization hit her like a punch in the chest. Her breathing halted and her mind raced as the nightmare of her current situation did the impossible. It just went from miserably bad to unimaginably worse. She felt the demonic aura of Sesshomaru a moment later as he approached the castle. A moment later the weaker aura of InuYasha, Kirara, and Shippo appeared.

This was it. This was the moment of truth for the young woman who defied time and traveled between two worlds. This was the moment she would either stand and fight for her friends, or fall into the darkness and despair of failure.

One thought clambered to the top of her whirling mind.

'I'm gonna puke.'

Sesshomaru followed Naraku's foul stench to a garden nestled up against the mountain at the back of the castle. The Miko he sought was there as well, which made his job that much easier.

He was slightly surprised at the strength of her powers. She was considerably stronger since the last time they crossed paths and her spiritual powers only grated against his youki as he drew closer.

Sesshomaru launched himself over the wall surrounding the garden and touched down a few feet from Kagome. He looked at her a moment before turning his attention to his surroundings.

Sesshomaru had learned as a young pup to take note of every inch of his surroundings, especially when facing an opponent. It was unacceptable to lose a battle because of a root sticking out of the ground. His father's training had been brutal, unforgiving and at times humiliating. All of these lessons had shaped the powerful Taiyoukai into the perfect killing machine that he was today.

The shadow of his father was large, and to gain respect had required Sesshomaru to abandon mercy and emotion in order to survive. He lived his entire life with only one thought; to become a more powerful ruler than his father.

Had Sesshomaru been able to keep to that lifestyle, he was sure his life would be that much simpler. It was much easier to rule when you only had to watch your own back. It was much more difficult to protect a little human girl that had somehow become much more important than she should. So here he was, about to battle a worthless hanyou all to retrieve another human.

It was very irritating to Sesshomaru that InuYasha would be happy with the outcome of this battle since the human girl in front of him would be saved and Naraku would be destroyed. Sesshomaru did not cater to others and was only interested in pleasing himself. He certainly didn't like to do anything that obliged his weaker half-brother. If Rin's life wasn't hanging in the balance, Sesshomaru would certainly not be here right now.

Sesshomaru faced Naraku and drew Tokijin. The setting sun glinted a deep orange as the mighty blade arched gracefully through the air and came to rest with the tip pointing directly at Naraku.

"I've come for the Miko."

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 12 of 60

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