Definitions

Beni shichihenge: Japanese Maple tree

Yumimeko: The name Yumimiko is of Japanese origin and means "Bow Child."

Tayû: A courtesan that was a professional mistress, a prostitute of the highest rank who provided her services and companionship to wealthy nobles or rulers

Hinoki: a Japanese black tea that was smoked with wood from hinoki (i.e., Japanese cypress trees) Used for baths to promote relaxation, treat skin and hair.

Onsen: An Onsen is a Japanese hot spring with a water temperature that is anywhere between 104 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Can be indoors or outdoors.

Uguisu: Nightingale or Japanese Warbler. Also known as the Houki bird in ancient times.

Umugi-hime: Japanese goddess of medicine and the patron kami of hamaguri clams. She is also known as Umuka-hime.

Hokki Village: Presently known as Matsue. The area was also the stronghold of the Amago clan during the Sengoku period. Capital city of Shimane Prefecture, Japan, located in the Chūgoku region of Honshu.

Feng shui bells: Said to protect your home from negative energy and attract good energy. They are often hung near the entrance of a home, which is the entry point of chi energy. The sound of the bell is said to break up stagnant energy and lighten the mood.

~•o•O•o•~

It was slowly and with some struggle that Kikyo finally awoke, noticing an additional pain in her back as she shifted on the ground, not far from a roaring fire. She gazed at the fire sleepily for a time while attempting to recall the events of earlier. Once the image of the wolf demon attacking Kaede entered her mind, she sat up immediately and reached behind her back as if to grab an arrow.

Instead of the familiar texture of the wood, she grunted in pain when her wounds shifted with the motion. Cringing, Kikyo lowered her arm. She glanced around herself to find that she was alone and in a dark place, surrounded by branches. Her heart raced in panic as she realized that Kaede was nowhere in sight. Kikyo walked around the area with some struggle, unable to take long strides without aggravating her wounds.

"Sister Kikyo, Sister Kikyo!" A joyful, familiar voice rang out. She turned quickly to look towards Kaede, her own long hair swaying with the motion.

"Kaede! Thank Kami-Sama you're safe!" Kikyo cried out in relief, happily receiving a hug from the younger Miko. Kaede squeezed her tightly, then released upon feeling Kikyo stiffen from the action. She fell to one knee and attempted to reach for the bandages on her back.

"Don't over-exert yourself, Sister! We just put fresh poultices on your back."

" 'We'? " Kikyo frowned, momentarily recalling her strange encounter with Zenatryx.

"Please don't be angry, Sister… if not for your well-being, I'd have stayed well away." Kaede whispered with a pleading gaze, and Kikyo's frown softened.

"I'm not angry with you, Kaede. I'm proud of you, a poultice is medicinal work I have not instructed you in yet. Besides, I think I can feel it working."

Before the sisters could discuss anything further, a rustling sound alerted Kikyo to the presence of a demon. She had been on high alert since she awoke, and sensed its presence nearby. Now that the yokai came out into the open, Kikyo stood and faced Zenatyx with a stern look, showing that she was unafraid.

Zenatryx came closer until she was across the fire from them, her sulfurous gaze absorbing the glow of the fire and making her strange, cat-like eyes appear to gleam.

"How be you faring, Miko?"

"I am faring well. This poultice… you taught my sister how to make it?"

"Yes. I know the herbs and their uses just as you. In fact, I know them perhaps even intimately because I am one with the plants."

Kikyo's brows rose, and she inclined her head for Zenatryx to go on.

"I am blood of the root and leaf, my kind is borne from the roots of the Beni shichihenge, as little roots. I hear the voices of the plants and they hear me, Miko."

Kikyo took in the yokai's words with a little surprise; she'd known Zenatryx's type, yet not that she could speak to plants.

"Is that so? And this is how you know which plants are not toxic to my body?" She intoned with gentle warning, yet Zenatryx was not threatened in the slightest.

"Your kind are not the only ones who suffer from their ingestion."

Kikyo considered Zenatryx's words while looking towards Kaede, who was smiling happily. She reached over to tenderly wipe a smudge of dirt from Kaede's cheek.

"And what about you, Kaede? Are you injured?"

"I'm fine!" Kaede assured. She had suffered no injuries besides having the wind knocked out of her when the wolf demon pounced on her.

"Then I have no qualms. Your health is the most important to me."

Kaede hugged Kikyo with relief, being careful of her bandages this time. Kikyo held her sister, then glanced at Zenatryx suspiciously. She wanted to believe that the demon meant no harm, however, her convenient appearance was certainly strange.

"Kaede, would you please pick some herbs from the nearby clearing to make a healing tea?"

The little miko in training nodded eagerly; this was a skill Kikyo had taught her early on. She took off toward the clearing where Kikyo could still keep an eye on her even from afar.

"So, Zenatryx..."

"Yess, Priestess?"

"Tell me everything you know about your Master Naraku, or the 'White Baboon' as you titled him. Why would he insist on my protection?"

Zenatryx nodded, then seemed pensive as she considered the question.

"I can certainly tell you about my master. But, I do not know his motives entirely. Only that he has instructed me to protect you with my life."

Kikyo inclined her head to let the other go on. Zenatryx may not know why Naraku had a soft spot for this miko, but it was no hard guess for one with her feminine wiles. A smirk played on her lips as she wrapped a raven curl around her finger then let it loose, the hair springing back into its kinky coil reminiscent of a vine.

"First, you tell me something! Do you have a special man you wish to protect?"

Kikyo's gaze glimmered as she looked into the fire with a sad, whimsical sigh.

To… Protect…?

"Heh…I knew of one. Or…Two, rather."

This made Zenatryx light up and scooch closer to capture Kikyo's small smile with her captivated stare.

"Only two? A fair maiden like you can handle at least five men, dangling by strings!"

Kikyo gave a husky chuckle at this and shook her head with an embarrassed blush.

"Don't be silly. Besides, I should take no husband while I remain in my station." Kikyo affirmed while tying her hair back up into her usual ponytail. Zenatryx looked slightly crestfallen, but proceeded onward.

"I see… He did call you, 'Miko,' afterall. Well, that's too bad. You'll be deprived of the pleasure of intima–"

Kikyo tensed and one index finger flew to her mouth to silence the overly curious yokai. Kaede was running back after all, and Kikyo wished to change the subject.

Good timing…

~•o•O•o•~

The ground quaked as if the very foundations of the earth were crumbling with each blast from Sesshomaru's light whip. It sliced through the air with a lasting glow, snapping against the wind and felling trees in its wake. InuYasha lept back from the whip, blocking his eyes from the dust clouds being thrown up by the youki lasso.

"Have you seen the error in your ways now? Submit!" Sesshomaru seethed, then let the whip go slack as he noticed a flickering blue light on the fringe of his vision. He attempted to ignore the distraction as the whip wrapped around InuYasha and pinned his arms to his sides. The half demon's skin burned in the areas not protected by his robe of the fire rat, and he grunted in discomfort.

"I won't submit until you tell me where the Tessaiga is!" InuYasha shouted back, then began struggling against his confines. Yellow bolts of light began to spark from the whip as he grew more enraged by his entrapment, blood oozing through his garments and gradually awakening the demon inside. A dangerous snarl made Jaken flinch away from InuYasha, but a sudden boot in his back shoved him closer. Now that Sesshomaru had InuYasha captured, they could unlock the connection of their father's tomb to the presence of InuYasha.

"Tell me where our father's tomb is, or die!"

"How should I know?" InuYasha snarled back, bearing sharpened fangs.

Sesshomaru startled InuYasha by placing his palm atop his head and grasping it firmly as he looked at his brother inquisitively, searching his eyes for any sign of knowledge.

"M'lord? Is it time now?" The imp whimpered, gazing up at the half-demon who had surges of red youki flashing around himself angrily. His once golden eyes had taken on a teal-red contrast, and the growls that came from him made Jaken's skin crawl. With trembling arms, he held up his staff, and the old man began to cackle once again.

Sesshomaru's eyes widened as he saw a glimpse of a blue sky in InuYasha's gaze. His right pupil glimmered, a portal within revealing itself.

"There!" He announced with a profound shout. InuYasha gasped, frozen in place as Sesshomaru's claws stopped just before puncturing his pupil, and instead a blue marble of light exited his pupil and was captured between his brother's slender fingers. Golden electricity crackled between them, then Sesshomaru pulled back to reveal the Black Pearl. Once it was removed, Sesshomaru finally understood the cunning in hiding the tomb in such a place, where even its own host could not find it.

"Seeing, but never seen, even by its own host." As Sesshomaru mused on the riddle he had solved, a blue aura surrounded himself and InuYasha before he could decide how to proceed.

"Tōga's Tomb belongs to neither of you! It should've been entrusted to ME!" A shrill voice announced around them, then Sesshomaru fisted his hand around the pearl protectively as his predictions made themselves reality.

InuYasha fell to his knees in the dirt once the light whip dissipated, bloodied and nearly feral; his gold eyes continually flashing to blue-red as his humanity and his demonic ancestry battled within his soul. Though weakened, he still sensed the powerful auras around himself and was keenly aware of a familiar demonic presence.

The source of energy appeared before them as the small, levitating amulet that now had large cracks in it, and seemed ready to burst. Sesshomaru tightened his grip on the pearl as the amulet shattered, and there a familiar, fox-like face appeared. It was a visage he remembered well– having seen it on a daily basis as a child.

"Yumimeko-Tayû?"

The demoness turned towards Sesshomaru and smirked while looking him up and down.

"Do my eyes deceive me? Is this little Sesshomaru now a man?"

"It is I, Sesshomaru. I have come to take my rightful inheritance. You have no business being present here."

Sesshomaru's brow furrowed and he lowered his arm to rest on the hilt of Tokijin. He recalled Yumimeko's tendency to attempt to attend royal business meetings and cling to Tōga's arm as if she were his wife, even going as far as to attempt to rear him as a defiant pup in InuKimi's absence. Tōga's fascination with a human woman soon took precedence over his dalliances with Yumimeko– and instead of her, Izayoi would give him his son InuYasha shortly before his passing.

Yumimeko giggled and dispelled her blue aura, revealing herself to the two sons who resembled their handsome father. She was unlike them both in that she lacked the silvery hair of a dog demon– and instead, pointed ears flocked with black and tan fur. Long black pigtails with white tips matched the bushy tail coming from beneath her flowing kimono decorated with the African violets of her homeland. As a Jackal, she was compatible with Tōga as a mate, yet lacked the dignity and royal standing required to be his lady.

Her golden brown eyes ringed by black markings that resembled kohl eyeliner held within them an air of mischief and deceit much like that of a Kitsune, and immediately the two brothers raised their hackles and prepared themselves for battle.

"I see you still hold a grudge against me. No matter, I've not come to reacquaint myself with the Inu No Taisho family; I've only come to take my blade….As Tõga's most beloved courtesan."

Sesshomaru scoffed in disgust while InuYasha's reaction was a startled gasp, causing him to regain his footing and growl at her outrageous claims. His blood had clotted enough now that he was able to stand without trembling in pain.

"I don't care who you SAY you are, that sword has nothing to do with YOU!"

Yumimeko turned her gaze on him and grinned, her fangs gleaming.

"An ignorant fool ye are. Stay out of this!" She hissed, and extended one arm towards him with black claws poised to kill. InuYasha tensed as she took grasp of his jaw and turned his face to examine the faint marks on his cheeks that had appeared when his full-demon made itself known.

"You are handsome for a hanyou. It's no wonder Izayoi abandoned her humanity..."

InuYasha jerked his face away from her grip with a snarl, and took a defensive stance.

"Keep her name outta your filthy mouth! I'm here to fight Sesshomaru for that sword and you're in MY WAY!"

The cackle of the old man distracted them from their disagreement, and they noticed that Sesshomaru was currently in the process of opening the pearl with the Staff of Two Heads. Black bolts of light sparked from the pearl as its magic barrier was broken down, and a portal opened in the sky. Sesshomaru wasted no time leaping inside, whereas InuYasha was stunned by the portal's sudden appearance.

"To Tōga's grave I must follow!" Yumimeko exclaimed, then began to climb inside. InuYasha hesitated for a moment, before leaping inside just as it closed.

Father… Why did you conceal such a sacred place inside of me, the half-breed son you left behind?

InuYasha pondered this as he was pulled into a flowing vortex, with the grand sight of a blue sky and the towering form of his late father before him.

~•o•O•o•~

Steam clouds the room as Onigumo reclines in a long, wooden onsen bathtub with a deep sigh. The hot water splashes on the floor slightly as the addition of his body forces extra water to flow into the drain on the floor. A servant with a mop captures the stray water and guides it into the drain, before being startled by the clap of a hand against water, causing a few droplets to fly towards her.

The royal servant is about as frail and weak looking as Reiko now.

"That's enough. Retire to your quarters. I have no further need for your assistance." The baritone voice of the former lord of this manor demanded with bitter, measured calm as if he had spent ages practicing his articulation.

She nodded gently, then carefully made her way out the door. Onigumo closed his eyes and sighed as the cool air from outside briefly stole away the steamy atmosphere in the outdoor bathhouse, reminding him of where he was. In a place he hadn't stepped in for nearly ten years. His only semblance of home. In a town named Houki Village.

Onigumo lifted one arm from the water and reached for the bottle of plum saké sitting on the edge of the tub, pouring himself a small saucerful. He sipped on it silently as he contemplated the events of the day and past recollections of this very room. Of intimate moments shared with Reika. When he was young and naïve, unblemished by the horrors of war. How he foolishly thought he was untouchable.

Wrong.

Onigumo could be touched. And… Naraku could as well. But only by one woman, and her name was… His hand gripped the bottle and he wrapped his lips around it and gulped rather than savored his saké to quell those intrusive thoughts. Thoughts such filth such as he should not harbor. By gulping down the rice liquor, he hoped to quiet all those thoughts of the past, but it seemed an impossible task to forget.

Kikyo. That name haunted him– the ghost of her presence lingering in his every thought, her sublime face staring at him in every waking moment as if she were silently urging him to act. He even dreamed of her now, nightly. No woman other than Reika had such an effect on the warlord. Onigumo was a ronin, he should only honor the sword. He has no master, and yet it almost seemed that he was honoring Kikyo as his Daimyo.

How could her influence linger on for so long? The mere memory of her touch brought warmth into his loins. Onigumo suddenly threw the empty liquor vessel into the neighboring wall, causing it to shatter upon impact. Drinking only temporarily numbed these feelings. His only solace was silence. In silence, he had all the time in the world to recall the past in full vibrance, a time when he remained impervious to the clutches of Kikyo.

A pained expression crossed his face as he brought his knees up to his chest and rested his face against them. Long, wavy black hair slicked down his wide back and parted to reveal the spider tattooed on his back in a permanent scar. Perhaps the mark of the spider is what caused him this suffering. The catalyst of this curse. He would tear it from his flesh if he could, but with luck it would reappear and mar him forever.

It was then, now that the liquor mingled with his blood and the heat of the onsen allowed him to slip into slumber, breathing in the woodsy cypress aroma with hints of sweet maple from the hinoki tea steeping into his bathwater. He slipped into a deep relaxation akin to the meditative state that Buddhist priests could only hope to pray for.

In this altered state he saw something, a scene that was familiar and yet… Strange.

A town engulfed in flames. The crackling of fire and falling beams failed to overwhelm the agonized howls of a woman late in the stages of childbirth. Shortly after, came the mewls of a newborn child.

"Izayoi!" The deep voice of Inu-Taishō echoed throughout the burning village. He dashed between falling buildings and embers untouched, following the helpless cries of his progeny.

A splash of blood landed on the curtain of the birthing tent, the shrill cry of a woman signaling her injured state— Not that the Great General needed such notification, he had already smelled the dark blood that coursed from her belly still swollen with the results of the coupling of demon and human.

"Izayoi, hold ON!"

Yet, the weak mortal woman could no longer cling to the fragile vestiges of life. Her blood hemorrhages while the infant still mewls for his mother's milk. As Tōga cradles the silver haired child, he draws Tenseiga out with a metallic chime.

Though still in deep meditation, Onigumo's brow raises slightly in response to this vision.

What am I…Witnessing here? He pondered, then became entranced by the vision once again. Unfortunately, his moment of confusion had caused him to miss a vital part of the story. Somehow, the human woman was alive and well, clinging to her dog demon mate's mane as he took to the sky with a great roar of agony, his own blood eking out in rivers that put out flames below.

He flew himself to a river bank, where he collapsed, then languished by his human mate's side as his blood ran into the water. Tōga had used some kind of hidden power to bring the woman to life– One that Onigumo could not even begin to ponder.

Then, the vision was fading and his mind slowly regained consciousness upon hearing the gentle clanging of the Feng Shui bell located at the entrance of the manor. Onigumo stood abruptly from the now cold bathwater and growled his distaste for the interruption.

"InuYasha. That is his name."

The last words of Tōga echoed in his mind and imprinted themselves there permanently.

InuYasha.

Reika.

Perhaps he was not so different from Tōga in this vision. It was conceivable that history repeated itself somehow by attempting the impure act of Human-Yokai copulation, yet… It always ended in tragedy somehow. Whether it be the mother, father or the child. Death had touched all with its skeletal fingers in each instance. Perchance, this was divine punishment or simply coincidence, but the gods had chosen him to be the vessel of the stolen memory on this day.

It matters not how events in my past coincide with that of InuYasha's. He is still half-demon, and in my mind he is an abomination. So, do not send me these visions in some attempt to bring me to the other side. I will not honor Buddha's wishes nor will I be fooled by your trickery. A demon is a demon. The Gods are no more real than the myths that make them.

Onigumo stepped out of the bath still dripping wet, his pale, lean body marbled with muscle and veins that cast shadows beneath the soft glow of paper lamps. He donned a heavy kimono with ornate designs that was hanging on the wall to dry himself. His wet hair was wrung of its dampness in one stroke as he gathered it in his palms, then squeezed the water out of its lengths. A long braid would keep his luxurious mane neat and perfectly waved, so he did this daily routine as well while slipping on a pair of geta sandals.

The vision slowly began to dissipate from his mind as Onigumo stepped out of the warmth of the bathhouse, and into the dark of night. Small lanterns lit the path to the manor, then another path led to the pond. Onigumo chose the latter, allowing the cool air of night to slip within his garments and whisk away the moisture. His skin would remain heavy with the sweet scent of pine nuts and balsam until perspiration washed it away. It had been so long since he was allowed such luxurious accommodations that Onigumo almost forgot that he was being watched.

He turned his face upon hearing the clink of armor, noticing a guard standing nearby in wait. Onigumo sighed with resignation.

I must not be allowed one waking moment of solitude. Kami forbids me to be alone at a time like this. A time when…

The thought trickled away as soon as he began to allow it to take form, as even the luxury of thought was not allowed for one such as he. The one thing he hated most about being married into the Amago family was that he was never alone – Not even in his thoughts. Perhaps that's why he'd abandoned this life in favor of a Ronin's – A life where no-one could tell him what to do or what to think.

"Leave me be at once." He demanded with a cold glare, making the guard tense in his heavy armor.

"My Lord, I've been ordered to watch over you and protect you at all cost by Lady Reiko! I cannot leave my station."

Onigumo turned on him so quickly and with such speed that the guard wasn't even given the time needed to gather a breath large enough to gasp in surprise. A cold hand clenched around his throat and red eyes– inhumanly red eyes glared through him with such intensity that the guard soiled his under-armor with the pungent scent of urine. Onigumo shoved the guard away from himself and scowled in disgust.

"Go clean yourself up and don't return unless you hear trouble. Until then, you're relieved of your duties for the night."

The guard nodded eagerly without a word, taking off as soon as Onigumo let him go.

"Finally." He sighed, returning to the edge of the pool. Moonlight reflected on the water, the koi fish breaking apart the glimmering picture of the moon as they swam up to the surface and mouthed the air in search for food.

Onigumo knelt beside the water and reached into a metal container where dried fish flakes were kept. He tossed them out onto the water and smirked as the fish eagerly ate up his offering. They would eat poison just as eagerly without a moment's hesitation.

As he sat in silence, he listened to the bubbling water, the trickling fountain nearby, and the chiming of wind chimes in the nearby garden. This small oasis was one that he once took pleasure in creating with Reika in the hopes that their child would have their own part of the world where they could escape from the duties of royal life, and simply be in the safety and comfort of the garden. It had been kept after well by the groundskeeper and still remained as lovely today as it was then. A slow, steady creaking revealed a swinging chair hanging from the massive willow tree at the center of the garden, where Onigumo and Reika would delight in playing like children during their courting days.

It was so long ago now that he had difficulty picturing himself in such a scene of innocence and joy. Her joyous laughter seemed to reveal itself once again in the trembling leaves, and Onigumo stood up at once in response. He watched as the swingset swung on its own, then dropped in mid air as if someone had gripped the rope.

All the sounds around him seemed to quell with the echoing laugh of the nightingale, which sounded much like Reika's voice if not for its mocking tone. Onigumo clenched his fists and walked across the pond by way of a small, curving bridge, his eyes set on the swingset which was still moving erratically in an effort to slow itself down. For a moment, the moonlight casting itself through the swaying tendrils of the willow almost seemed like glowing eyes, and Onigumo cursed himself inwardly for allowing Reiko to take his katana to be sharpened by the local blacksmith.

He was alone and unarmed, but that did not mean he was powerless.

"Show yourself, fiend. Be you demon or human-kind, you will not make a mockery of the dead!"

The nightingale perched atop the branch holding the swing pecked at the rope, then looked up at Onigumo with a tilt of its smooth, brown head as if asking: What will you do now?

"A uguisu bird… at night?" Onigumo questioned, then gripped the rope of the swing to stop its infernal racket at once.

"You teased me before, at the door. And now you mock Reika again. What's so funny, little bird?"

The warbler looked at him with a semblance of a smile, then flew across the garden, to where a plum tree grew. Onigumo followed along with the bird, until reaching the base of the tree, and touching its bark.

"This tree. Reika planted it. She knew my favorite saké."

The warbler chirped, then knocked plums from the branches playfully. Onigumo scowled and looked up to reprimand the bird, but became distracted upon seeing a tattered, browned piece of paper hanging from a branch. He reached up and untied the string that kept it attached, taking a deep breath as he carefully unfolded the delicate paper.

Once opened, Onigumo could make out the faint lettering on the paper, and recognized it as Reika's handwriting.

"I've made a terrible mistake. Please Goddess, take this accursed child away before Onigumo returns… If he ever comes back. I have loved only him."

He read it again and again to confirm what he had actually read was real, then crumpled it up in one hand.

"So, that's what you wanted me to see. Heh. Little difference it makes now, seeing as the goddess failed to grant her wish."

Onigumo bent down, and began gathering the fallen plums into his robe before they became worm food. As he reached toward a plum, he was startled to see the bare foot of a woman crushing the fruit. He looked up quickly in surprise, only to witness something he couldn't believe was true.

A woman stood there, scantily clad in garments made from the feathers of warblers and branches. Her chest was concealed by two wings attached by sticks, and below her waist was covered by the tail of a warbler and more nest-like material. She clearly was not human, as the glowing of her porcelain skin suggested. Onigumo lifted his gaze back to her face, and swallowed hard.

As he looked upon her, he recognized her as the little warbler. Something in her eyes, and the mischievous smile gave it away. Long, brown hair trickled down the sides of her face and landed on her shoulders and lower back in silky tresses. The pointed, elf-like ears and black irises she had were certainly not human. If a goddess could take mortal form, he assumed that this would be it.

"You!" Onigumo seethed, stepping back and dropping a few plums in the process.

"uguisu..!" She answered in a musical tone, then bowed her head and grasped his hand. Onigumo resisted at first, then the burning influence of her grasp made it nearly impossible.

"I want to show you something."

"Who are you?"

The goddess made a low whistle and ran her hands along her garments as if to remind him of the feathers she donned.

"I was named Umugi-hime."

"So the legends are true! You...became a bird!"

She quickly shushed him, then before he had the chance to question her further, she transformed into a bird once again, and perched on his shoulder, pulling the fabric with her beak to guide him along. Onigumo took a calming breath and accepted this strange reality, hoping that perhaps it could shine a light on the past that tormented him still to this day.

~•o•O•o•~