Author’s Note: I wrote this story as a get-well-soon prezzie for houses, who managed to injure herself. She’s a fantastic beta and truly remarkable person.
By CinnamonGrrl for houses
Only a little while
And we believed our love
Would last a thousand years
Another year, and in the autumn word reached me of a powerful group of youkai in the South engaged in a vendetta against the miko Midoriko. Her powers had only been increasing, and her protection of the ningen settlements formerly under the reign of youkai terror had nearly destroyed their population in the southern and eastern regions.
A group of youkai had organized to eliminate her. This I learnt from ambassadors of those regions came to enlist my help, as they had heard of how I had battled with her, yet remained undefeated—the only youkai to do so. Jealous of her seeming avoidance of the West, they wished to know my secret of success against her.
Akako did not wish my involvement in this war with the miko. She was by this time carrying what was to be our only child, and her time to deliver was nearing. She said she hoped it would have my ivory hair and golden eyes, but my only concern was that he not bear her sanguine nature. A cold woman was Akako, bloodthirsty and vicious, opportunistic and single-minded in pursuit of a goal: the ideal youkai. Had I met her before Midoriko, my heart might well have been hers. But it would seem there is some failing within me, some weakness that draws me to humanity…
“Perhaps a compromise can be reached,” I told the ambassadors. “The miko is fond of compromise.”
“But how can we compromise,” demanded the envoy of the dragon-youkai of the South, “when to approach her is to be killed?”
“I will approach her on your behalf,” I told them, “for though she is keen to slay me, still she has not been able to.” Yes, I can be an accomplished liar when it suits my purposes. They believed me, and in spite of Akako’s protests, off I went to seek her.
I found her in a cave not far from a village of demon exterminators. I made no sound, but yet she knew of my presence. She stood in the centre of the cave, head tilted back as she studied the damp walls, the stalagmites jutting down like knives.
“This is where I shall meet my end,” she said by way of greeting. Fury bubbled up in me but before I could vent it, she continued, “I hear you are to be a father. I congratulate you.”
I bowed in recognition of her words, but was troubled by her acceptance of my situation. “How can you bear it so easily?” I demanded. “Were you carrying the get of another, I assure you, it would not be my congratulations you would hear—“
Midoriko kissed me, and I poured all my frustration out into her embrace. “I do not bear it easily,” she whispered when we pulled back. “If you knew the number of tears I have shed at the knowledge you are wed to another, of my shameful jealousy that it is not I who will bear your child... ah, Inutaisho, my soul is heavy with loss.”
“You have lost nothing,” I tried to assure her. “For whilst she may have my child, you have my love, and always shall. And the love of this Inutaisho will endure, a thousand years or more.”
She wept then, and if I am honest I will admit that I wept some, too. “What good is love if it is doomed?” she asked. “What good is pain if there is nothing gained by it?” Midoriko lifted her head from my chest and stared up at me. “What can come of such suffering?”
“Not all is suffering,” I told her, my hands stroking over her, reminding her of the sweetness that could be had, as well. Shuddering, she fell into my embrace, pulling at my clothing with an intensity that surprised and pleased me. I took her from behind the first time, glad to let my nature assert itself, delighting in her receptive moans and eager arching back to meet each thrust.
The second time, we took our pleasure of each other with more leisure, exploring each other as we had never had time to do before. Compared to the deep peace I found in Midoriko’s eyes, and the jasmine-scented darkness of her hair, Akako’s flamboyant beauty seemed garish and overblown.
“I would give you a child,” I whispered to her sometime in the night. “I would not be bothered by fathering a hanyou, conceived in love.”
Her trembling fingertips traced lightly over my face. “I would have been honoured to be the mother of your child,” Midoriko whispered back. “But there shall be no children for me.”
I placed a hand possessively on her belly. “What of this time?” I asked. “You are approaching heat in the next day or two, and I am not expected back for weeks. If we—“
She shook her head, glossy hair pooling on my chest. “I shall be dead before the spring,” she said.
I protested, railed and even screamed against this, but she only watched me sadly. “It shall not change,” she told me, and pulled my head to her lap, stroking my hair in the way that soothed me. “No matter how we wish otherwise, the gods will not be dissuaded from this fate of mine.”
“Then I shall at least be here to delay this hated destiny,” I told her, determination flowing like fire in my veins. “You will live as long as I, Inutaisho, have the power to ensure.”
We tarried long in that cave, and learned all there was to learn of each other. Throughout our time together, daily Midoriko partook of a tea that would prevent her from conceiving. “I would not bring our child to meet my fate,” she said sadly as she drank it the first time.
After a week, it was time for me to return to my duties in the West, and she had evil to confront elsewhere. She agreed to the compromise I proposed, that she would cease her slaughter of the southern and eastern demons if they agreed to leave the ningen of those territories alone.
I returned to the West, revealed the new truce between the miko and the South and East, and was amused to hear how Midoriko was telling the tale of the fierce battle she had fought with the Western taiyoukai in the cave, how closely she had come to being conquered...
“But I did conquer you, miko,” I thought. “As often as you conquered me.”
Life settled into something almost pleasant, then. My son was born, and at his mother’s insistence, we named him Sesshoumaru. “Killing Perfection” is somewhat of a steep nomenclature to live up to, I felt, but Akako would not be dissuaded. He was my very image, but for the stripes on his tiny face; where my own were jagged and violet, his were smooth streaks of fuchsia, like those of his mother.
My pride in my son was immense, matched only by my desire to present him to Midoriko, and I was not surprised to receive, one day, a scroll bearing a birth-blessing for him. The seal at the bottom was not one I recognized, but I had only to smell it to know the scent of she who had sent it. Midoriko had poured a huge amount of her power into this blessing, and I knew that my son would be well served by it throughout his lifetime.
The winter was mild, but the approach of spring and Midoriko’s death made me... unpleasant to be around. All bore the brunt of my impotent rage, all except for Sesshoumaru; he alone had the ability to calm me. It was ironic, I felt, that the coolness of temperament that had repelled me in his mother, attracted me to him. His quiet golden gaze, his silent watchfulness, soothed me as only Midoriko had been able.
It was by merest chance that I learnt of her final battle. I had gone hunting that morning, and was entering the house via the forest entrance when I overheard the discussion of two newcomers.
“That miko’s not long for this world,” one said. “She’s been in that cave for five days already, and she can’t defeat them. They’re too strong, they’ve been preparing for a year.” He chuckled, a low and oily sound. “And no more than she deserves, lowly ningen that she is.”
“I wonder,” pondered the second, “if they shall ruin her before they kill her? It is a common happenstance during war, but to mate with a human, even by force…” His words trailed off. “Disgusting.”
I killed them, and did not trouble myself to make it easy for them. Their pleas for me to explain their crime were their last words. I never answered; this Inutaisho need not explain himself. I left without a word to anyone; foolish, I know, but what words could I use to tell my wife I was going to rescue my lover, and might lose my life in the process?
“Even more foolish to go at all,” I thought as I flew to the cave, my heart in my throat. To risk my lands, my son’s inheritance, for a human miko… it was madness. And yet I would have slain any who tried to stop me, without a backward glance, without a pang of remorse.
I arrived at the cave. From within issued horrific sounds of violence, of weapons rending armour. Inhuman screams of pain, and I smiled—she was holding them off nicely. I tried to enter the cave, and was thrown back against the villagers milling about, curiosity and dread plain on their faces as they listened to their saviour do battle.
“Why can I not enter?” I demanded, but none would answer, none but a girl-child.
“Midoriko sealed it,” she offered timidly. “She feared for any to interrupt. She said she would not have any more destroyed than necessary.” The girl peered more closely at me. “She said there was one who would give his life to save hers, and that he must live.”
Fury rose within me, and I turned back to the barrier, pounding on it with my fists and hacking with my sword, my entire might behind it, before falling to my knees. She had known I would come, and thwarted me. How I hated her then, hated her for keeping me from her side, hated her determination to die alone when I would gladly have died with her.
I scoured the mountain in which the cave was situated, desperate for another entrance, but there was none. I tried to dig out a new hole but even the massive strength and sharp claws of my beast-form could not penetrate the rock. Time and again, I returned to the barrier blocking my entrance to the cave, and time and again was repelled.
All the while, the sounds of Midoriko’s struggle with the demons issued forth. Each of her cries of pain or exertion ate at me, making my fists and stomach and eyes clench in despair. Both hoping and dreading the end of those sounds, I could not bear to hear her pain, and yet if it stopped… if her cries came no more… it would mean her death.
Powerless and anguished, I slid down the barrier and buried my face in my hands. There I remained another day and night, and then finally came the moment I feared: all sound from within abruptly ceased. I had leant my back against the barrier; its fading made me fall into the mouth of the cave. Instantly, I was on my feet, running to Midoriko.
Her power was immense, and throbbed like a heartbeat. Leaving the narrow tunnel, I burst into the main chamber to find her clenched in the jaws of an immense, absolutely colossal demon. The tail of a scorpion, legs and claws of an eagle, body of a lion, and head of a wolf—all combined into a monstrous creature that gave even this Inutaisho pause, in awe and fear.
I ran forward with blinding speed, but she knew I was there, somehow, and raised a bloodied hand, stopping me with another barrier. She spoke, and as though through deep water, I heard her.
“I will die for you, my Inutaisho,” she said. “You will live for me.”
And she reached out with that hand, thrusting it deep into the chest of the beast mutilating her. An unearthly howl arose then, for Midoriko was grasping its soul, entrapping it within her own, condemning herself to an eternity of struggle and combat. She withdrew from its protesting body a murky black shadow, and it flowed up her arm, malignant and thick.
She pressed with her hands, forcing it into her own chest, and for a moment she was encompassed by its evil gloom. Then Midoriko shuddered, and her face transformed, not unlike when I pleasured her during our joining.
A burst of light, then, violet and piercing; the murk was dispelled, winking out as suddenly as a blown-out candle. And she was screaming, screaming… to this day, I hear her screams in my head. Again I watched, listened, unable to move as she suffered. Something burst from her chest, something pale and glistening and effulgent, as she gave a single whimper. It floated in the air, but my eyes were locked on Midoriko.
“Beloved,” she mouthed, her gaze gentle on me, making nearly no sound at all, but my soul knew the word she spoke. She seemed to be stiffening, her limp form still clutched by the beast becoming rigid. I as watched, my fists pounding yet again on a wall keeping me from her, grey rock seemed to flow up her body, fusing it forever to the creature she had just destroyed. “Belo-“
And then her lips were frozen forever, bound by merciless stone. The barrier abruptly fell, and I lurched forward, scaling the demon like a tree to reach her. “Midoriko,” I called, shouted, screamed, but she was gone, and only a statue was left. Cold granite, but tears yet welled in the corners of the blank, unseeing eyes that were still turned to me. And in the centre of her chest, where her heart had resided, was a hole, an empty cavern.
How long I remained there, lost in grief, I do not know. Eventually, the villagers crept into the cave. Some tried to speak to me; some wanted to pull me away from her. The first who tried was dead before he could take another breath, and my claws dripped his blood across her battered armour.
I came to my senses eventually, and left the cave. I wandered home, not flying but walking, aware that each step took me farther from Midoriko. When finally I was within my own home again, Akako said not a word, but placed Sesshoumaru in my arms. His calming presence smoothed my ragged soul; not much, not enough to erase the pain of loss, but enough to bear it.
Life went on. Akako died giving birth to our daughter, who also died. I reared Sesshoumaru alone, then, and became aware that he had in fact inherited his mother’s coldness and utter contempt for humanity. Like her, he was entirely too hasty in dealing death instead of life, and I resolved to find a way I could impart some mercy, that most powerful of Midoriko’s traits, in him.
Years passed, and I made the acquaintance of a human woman, Izayoi. She did not look like Midoriko; she was no miko, had no power to speak of. But she was kind, and gentle, and when I put my head in her lap and she stroked my hair, I was able to pretend, though it was wrong of me. We had a boy-child together, and I named him Inuyasha. She is a fine mother, I think, and he is well on his way to being a fine adult. His hanyou blood marks him for derision from both ningen and youkai worlds, and though I try to unearth the disgust I myself used to have for half-breeds, to look at him, all I can see is my son.
He, too, has the look of me, though the eagerness and open affection in his demeanour is all human, and nothing of youkai. This son will not have the blessing of a miko, I fear, and I hope that his life will be a good one, free of sorrow and filled with success. But he is selfish, this latest son of mine, and unable to see others’ needs for his own.
I have commissioned the making of two swords, one for each of my children. Each shall address a lack in their character that I cannot remedy, but which will only change and improve with their own grudging practice of it. Sesshoumaru will be furious with his Tenseiga, I know, and Inuyasha will rage against the futility of his Tetsusaiga. And yet this is what they need, what I know Midoriko would have advised I do to complete the rearing of them, though it be after my own death.
Yes, my death. I know it is coming, even as I strap on my armour for this battle. The dragon of the south has encroached upon my lands until I can no longer ignore him, and the dragon-youkai are notorious for their ruthless ways. This Inutaisho is as a mere pup compared to their ferocity, I assure you.
And I fear that I have not the longing for life I once had. Too late have I learnt that one person cannot replace another; Izayoi is not Midoriko. Midoriko is gone. My death is coming. Is it wrong to rush headlong toward it? Is it futile to hope we shall be reunited after I die? For I do not know where reposes the soul of my miko; there is rumour that it is trapped in the jewel that was borne of her heart, the jewel in which is captured the monster she battled for seven nights and seven days.
I fly to the South, to meet the dragon. We fight, we clash, we strive. I stare into his red eyes and see my doom. But I also see peace, and the end to my longings, and perhaps I am not quick or as steadfast as I should be.
There are his claws, raking across my chest, rending my armour from me. There is his breath, hot and rancid, as he kneels on me, holding me down so he can clamp his jaws around my neck. And there is my end, life fading as he tears out my throat. And yet I manage to mouthe, “Beloved,” hoping that somehow, Midoriko can hear me, and know I call to her in my last moments.
Thus ends the tale of the great inu-youkai, Inutaisho, and the love he bore a human miko.