I looked into the cave.
All of my brothers are dead, now. I have no one left in this world.
My final task will be destroying that half-breed, InuYasha, the reason my brothers are dead again.
Once that's done, I'll be allowed to keep my new life, and I'll be free to do whatever I want once more.
I don't know what I'll do with that, but, I won't be hanging around here, that's for sure.
I started into the cave, half-distracted, and feeling heavy.
For what must've been the thousandth time in the last four days, I pictured the face again... The tear-soaked face of that brat when she screamed at me four days ago.
She had the jewel shard I was sent to retrieve last month... I didn't take it. I didn't want to.
After all this time, I never thought it would happen... but, it did. I learned to care about a woman.
She was a good partner in combat, and she showed the potential to be clever.
She quickly learned how to sew, and cook better than anybody in the Shichinintai could.
And then... it was interesting... I thought I'd done well to keep her away from me... and she still...
BANKOTSU NO BAKA! AISHITERU!
Those words echoed through my head slowly.
When I heard this for the first time... I felt like someone'd punched me right in the gut.
My heart was pounding hard, and I couldn't breathe for a moment.
I was sure she hated me. All those names she called me, all the times she tampered with her own cooking or cleaning to watch me get mad, all the times she would start a fight with me, and keep it going for hours... I would never have guessed...
But, then... that time I was injured... she was all worried about me... she gave up her chance at escape to come back, and help me. She worked pretty hard to make sure I wouldn't move that day... no woman, no matter what I threatened her with, would ever work that hard for me...
I heard running on the other side of the left wall, and sighed.
That'll be InuYasha.
With a swing of Banryuu, I broke that wall down, sending rubble and dust flying everywhere.
I scoffed. "Hurry up and die, already." I said, running in.
I came through the dust, poised to swing Banryuu... when I saw her.
Panic almost set in as I jammed Banryuu into the ground to stop me.
Jerking to a stop, I landed, and pulled Banryuu right back out.
"Brat, what're you-"
A wave of youkai jaki came at me.
I grunted in confusion and frustration, and brought Banryuu around to block that attack.
"Brat!" I roared. "Are ya dead?"
"Who're you talking to?"
I looked up as the jaki faded, and saw only InuYasha.
Did I... hallucinate? The brat was nowhere in sight.
"Keep your mind on the battle!" InuYasha yelled, swinging his youkai fang again.
I scoffed, and swung Banryuu to block him.
That stupid hanyou just turned around, and swung again.
As I blocked his attack again, I saw her again.
She kept taking InuYasha's place in the battle... and I realized that this battle was playing out a lot like our sparring practice.
All of a sudden... seeing the brat in this battle wasn't such an awful thing. Because, now, I knew exactly everything he was gonna do!
I played along for a little while, explaining how I knew Naraku while I did so, since this half-breed was gonna die anyway.
But, as we conversed, InuYasha explained something to me, too.
Looking around, I could see a bunch of youkai, blocking every exit. None of them were very powerful, but, in numbers, they weren't anything to sneeze at.
They were all waiting to see who came out with all the jewel shards... which meant that there would be a few hindrances on my way out... and Naraku was going to come after me once I was out.
I scoffed, and ran at the exit with the most youkai in it.
I counted as I destroyed them, making sure I got to the last few youkai I needed... to reach one thousand.
A new power filled my Banryuu, and, though my pattern was now thrown off, I was sure to win, now.
I reared back with Banryuu, smiling as I knew I would be out of here, soon.
"Die! Gojou Tama!" I roared, swinging Banryuu forward, creating a huge sphere of demonic energy.
InuYasha reared back with his youkai fang.
Stupid fool. As though he can do anything now!
"BAKURYUUHA!" He cried, all of a sudden.
Something happened behind my attack.
All of a sudden, it started moving back toward me, and it wasn't stopping, or fading.
No... How? There's no way!
I put Banryuu up to block the attack.
Only a moment fighting the attack and it was shattered.
This... this was it, wasn't it? Death by my own attack.
I began to feel the burn of my attack, and felt fear over take me... and I saw her.
Her face was shadowed, as though she was standing in front of the attack.
She was running at me, absolutely horror-stricken.
"BANKOTSU!" She screamed.
Her voice woke me, and I could feel her fall against me, as she embraced me.
The brat... she was actually here!
The attack enveloped both of us, and we were thrown across the cave.
I felt a stirring under my arms, and blinked my eyes open.
I was still in the cave. The brat was on top of me, and trying to move.
"Oi! Baka! You took the full of the attack, you shouldn't be moving!" I said.
She looked at me, smiling, and I couldn't find it in me to scold her again.
"I'm so glad... I can see you again!" She said. "I've never been so happy to be injured, either..."
She grunted as she crawled up to level her eyes with mine.
"Baka... I left you back at the castle... how did you get here so quickly?" I asked.
The brat grimaced in pain, as she shrugged her shoulders, and sighed as she relaxed them again.
"I told a bird youkai attacking a nearby village that I could find Shikon no kakera for it, if it would bring me here." The brat said. "He almost didn't land, this place became so evil just as I got here, it frightened even that horrible youkai... I guess he won't be getting his reward now..."
She gently brushed her lips against mine.
"I told you to forget about me." I said. "I told you to stay at the castle."
"I tried." She said. "But... I didn't want to... Once I settled things with my father and brother... They tried to stop me from coming for you... there was no reason for me to stay there... Bankotsu... I want to be with you... Anywhere you go, I'll follow... because my life... it didn't mean anything until you came along... so..."
She brought her hands up, and placed them on either side of my face.
"Please... let me stay... I'll go crazy without you, I swear..." The brat whispered, leaning her forehead against mine. "Bankotsu... I love you."
She stroked my face with her thumbs, smiling, though she was in pain.
With difficulty, I pulled one of my arms out from underneath the rocks.
"One thing... before I give an answer..." I said.
She nodded. "Anything." She said.
I sighed, gathering my strength to speak.
"Through all this... though it never mattered before... I never did catch yer name." I said. "I can't stop callin' ya 'brat' until I know yer name."
Her smile faultered, and she closed her eyes in irritation.
After a few rough breaths, she straightened up, and looked me in the eye.
"Fair enough... My name is Mori." She said. "Through all of that... really? You've never once heard my name?"
I shrugged, bringing my hand to her face, brushing away some dirt.
"Like I said, it never mattered before." I said. "Not until a little while ago..."
With difficulty, she slid her arms around beneath me, and rested her head down on my chest.
For a moment, the whole world was silent, and we were the only two beings left in it... All that mattered was the fact that she was with me, at last... But, I couldn't let it be, for too long. We weren't safe here.
"Hey... Mori..." I said.
She looked up at me, surprised I'd used her name, apparently.
"We need to start diggin' ourselves out. Otherwise, Naraku will come for us, both." I said.
Mori nodded, and began helping me dig us out of the rocks.
After a few moments, she shivered, and pulled her hands from the rocks.
"Bankotsu... the rocks are..." Mori stuttered.
All of a sudden, my hand rested on something smooth... and flesh-like.
"Mori, keep digging! Hurry!" I said.
"Suck it up, and dig! Now!" I snapped.
The ground beneath us began to shift, and all the rocks soon became flesh.
Mori began to tremble with fear.
Thinking quickly, I began fighting to rip her out of the flesh first.
We were beginning to rise up toward something.
Mori finally got herself together, and began pulling at the flesh with me.
Just as we were slowing to a stop, I got her free, and she continued tearing at the flesh.
"Get out of here! He'll kill you!" I said.
She shook her head. "I won't leave you!" Mori said. "I've never loved anyone like this before... and... should you die... I will never love anyone like this again! I will save you!"
She tore a really big section out of the flesh, and tossed it away.
"Besides..." Mori said, beginning to tear some more. "We're too high up! I can't get down without your help!"
"Really? You're gonna say that in a situation like this?" I growled.
"I DON'T HEAR YOU COMING UP WITH REASONS FOR YOU TO FIGHT TO STAY WITH ME!" Mori shrieked. "SO SHUT UP, AND LET ME HELP YOU!"
As she ripped the flesh open farther, uncovering my right knee, we came to a stop in front of a face... Naraku's face.
"Ah, what a pleasant surprise! I was afraid she wouldn't make it!" He said.
All of a sudden, youkai tentacles grew up out of the flesh prison I was stuck in, snaking around me and Mori.
Almost immediately, one of the tentacles began digging into my right arm for the first couple of shards.
I grunted in pain, and fought to get my arm loose.
Suddenly, Mori made a gagging noise.
I brought my attention to her.
To my absolute horror, she was struggling to pull a tentacle back out of her neck.
She'd've been screaming if it hadn't gone through her neck.
I reached out to her, and grabbed the tentacle, helping her pull.
Another tentacle shoved itself into my neck.
Mori's eyes widened, and she grabbed hold of that one instead.
"No! No! Work at your's first!" I wheezed.
She didn't have the pain tolerance to speak, but, the look she gave me told me she wasn't letting go.
"Baka!" I wheezed.
We heaved and tugged at the tentacles until, finally, I managed to pull the one out of her throat.
The one in my arm came out, holding the shards.
I would've fought to get them back... if Mori didn't fall over on top of me... dead.
The tentacle I pulled out of her managed to grab her shard before I pulled it out.
Both shard-bearing tentacles pulled away, returning to Naraku, who chuckled darkly.
I still had spare shards... I could give one to Mori if I could keep them first.
I began working to pull the tentacle out of my neck.
Pulling, yanking, jerking with precision, I managed to pull it out.
Before I could get rid of it entirely, another arm came along, and ripped the shards clean out of my neck.
I looked down at Mori.
Her face... I was glad it was the last thing I would see. But, I couldn't help cursing myself. I'd allowed the only woman I'd ever found trustworthy to die. And I never got to tell her...
"Mori... I..." I tried.
No good. My strength went away with the jewel shard. My eyes slid closed, as the creatures from the world of the dead came to claim me once more...
Baka - Stupid / Idiot / Fool / Dummy.
Aishiteru - I love you.
Not done yet! I have one more chapter! I've been dying to do this for ages! Please, review!