Chapter 5: Under Water

He needed some time to think. The children's appearance complicated things, and the last thing they needed was a complication. All it meant was there were two more people looking for the jewel, two more people with an arsenal of innocents at their disposal. Now there could only be more blood, sweat, and tears shed over the Shikon jewel. The battle would last even longer.

Sighing heavily, Miroku closed his eyes. Children. How were they supposed to fight children? What kind of low-life sent ten-year-olds to do their bidding. Too many times he'd seen the darkest facets of humanity, too many times he'd born witness to greed inconceivable, to narcissism unfathomable, to violence unspeakable, but again he found himself disbelieving as he was forced to face another crime of the human spirit. The worst part of it was, although he and the others would struggle with the ethical implications of fighting children who were only fighting themselves to defend their friends and families, Naraku would have no such qualms when it came to fending off the very same adversaries. No, he would strike them down without a second thought, reduce them to smoldering mounds of flesh, or something even more appalling. The possibilities were nauseating.

Looking up, he watched Shippou and Mikan chase each other over the bridge, Azuki on the girl's shoulder. Natsume was a more sober child, sitting in the same tree Inuyasha often favored. They were just kids, and yet in both of their eyes he could see the way the adults in their lives had hurt them. Did they know any they could trust, or had they too betrayed the innocence those eyes no longer radiated? Either way, they…

Miroku was suddenly up on his feet as the water erupted around the bridge, and the children, who were leaning over the edge, were engulfed by the sudden burst.

"Mikan!"

"Inuyasha! Sango!" Miroku called, then looked up just in time to see Natsume leap from the tree. "No!" He shouted, dashing forward, arms outstretched. He crashed into Natsume, breaking his fall.

"Get off of me you stupid… Sakura!" In a moment, the fire Alice was up on his feet and running toward the river.

Miroku groaned, pushing himself up with his staff. It was a vision of horror he should have been used to. A great serpentine dragon rose from the water—No, it was a dragon formed of water that was only slightly darker than the rest of the river. The bed was almost dry, the water seeming to have been sucked up into the enormous creature. It would have been a beautiful sight, its body an intricately fluid design of scales, but sliding down its throat were Shippou and Mikan, her hands clutched to their throats as they drowned.

"What is that?" Kagome demanded behind him. Inuyasha bounded past, followed by Kirara and Sango. Spurred forward by his comrade's presence, he charged forward with him.

"I don't know but it has Shippou and Sakura-chan." Miroku replied, reaching into his robes, flinging a trio of sutra scrolls at the beast as Inuyasha drew Tetsusaiga. He hoped the sword would be more useful than his sutras, which were simply melted away by the water. "We need to be careful, but we need to be quick. They're drowning."

"Sakura!"

Suddenly, the great serpent hissed as a cloud of steam rose from its side. It cleared to reveal a chunk had been evaporated away by Natsume's fire, but it quickly glossed over and disappeared. Immediately, the fire Alice tore more chunks out of the dragon, but it was no use; so long as there was water in the river, it would continue regenerating. They had to find the source.

"Hiraikotsu!" Sango's cry sounded as she launched the demonic weapon at the dragon. It did little more than slice through the water, however.

"Damn it!" Inuyasha's attack proved ineffective, too.

Miroku paused, watching as a bubble of air formed around the now still children. Were they alive, or just unconscious? He didn't have time to think about that that. He had to find the… It was then that he spotted it. A giant wasp was flying overhead, its great eyes following the whole scene. No. "Naraku!" He shouted, pointing up. The rest of the gang looked to where he pointed.

But they weren't the only ones to hear him. The water dragon swiveled its head to face him, jaws opening as it hissed again. Then, all of a sudden it began melting back into the water and taking Shippou, Mikan, and Azuki with it.

Natsume ran forward, diving in as the dragon disintegrated with a splash. "No, Hyuuga-san, it's not dead yet!" Miroku shouted, dashing forward, but Inuyasha was faster.

"No, kid, it'll eat you too!" But as it seemed, Inuyasha couldn't take his own advice, and he dived in after the boy. Either way, it was too late. The dragon fled down the river faster than they could ever hope to travel in the water or on land, Naraku's new hostages safe in its belly.

"Sakura! Let me go, I need to go get Sakura!" Natsume protested, struggling and sputtering as Inuyasha dragged him out of the water. Then, before anyone could stop him, Natsume pistoned his heel directly between Inuyasha's legs. He was promptly dropped as the demon swore and sank to his knees, glaring as Kagome rushed to his side.

Miroku stopped him before he could get too far, whacking him on the head with his staff. "Stop, don't be hasty. Your wounds have opened up again."

It was true; Natsume's bandages were a faded red at the shoulder, his dip in the river having spread the blood thin. But the kid didn't give a damn. "I need to save Sakura. Now let me go!"

Miroku was smart enough to dodge the flames that suddenly appeared at his feet. "Don't be so foolish. We'll save her, it has our friend too, but if we go rushing in, you'll collapse before we even find them."

Natsume glared daggers at him, obviously not enthused by the fact that he was being told, by an adult, what to do. "I need to save her."

Suddenly, Kirara landed at the boy's side. Sango extended a hand, offering him a hand up. "And you will. But you can't just charge in. Get on."


Author's Note:

Thank you so much for reading. So I know it's short, and I know it's kinda bleh, but I figured I'd waited long enough to start the plot. xP Sorry for the major procrastination. I just figured I might as well give you guys a double since it's been a long time since I've published anything. Also, my usual editor is busy, so she'll help me check this over later. Until then, there might be some minor stuff going on that I didn't catch. Please tell me what you think! I would love some friendly, constructive critisism. x3

Next time, we meet our first real OC as Naraku tries again to kill Inuyasha and the gang!

xxDusty