Title: Queen of Hearts
Author/Artist: tuathafae (tuathafaerie)
Pairing: Sesshoumaru x Kagura
Theme: # 21 : violence; pillage/plunder; extortion
Disclaimer: I just don’t own Inuyasha. (Weeps mournfully)
Note: Sorry for the delay, but my computer had a couple of problems, and I’ve ended up rewriting the beginning of this not once, not twice, but three times as my stupid system has gone down. I’ve written this through a slew of anatomy classes, and I’m afraid it shows. And why I felt this was appropriate for Thanksgiving is beyond me. ;P
The command had been simple: Make an alliance proposition to Sesshoumaru.
Standing in Naraku’s closeted room, Kagura’s eyes had widened slightly, but she made no move to protest. It wouldn’t do her own wellbeing any good to voice concerns about just why a partnership with Sesshoumaru was important enough to garner immediate attention. So she had bowed briefly and with a subdued ironic malice in Naraku’s direction before leaving his presence. And anyway, as she flew above the forests on her feather, she’d probably only been sent because the Taiyoukai had a glacier’s temperament and would imprint his response in blood on her body.
She didn’t let her mind linger too long wondering the extent of Naraku’s knowledge concerning her infrequent visits - without command or permission - to see said Youkai Lord.
Carefully, she had swooped down on his party as he crested a hill, and stood silently waiting for him to acknowledge her.
How could she even have guessed that the moment his golden eyes had turned questioningly to hers, all hell would break loose?
Suddenly spikes had shot out of the ground, earthy, miasma filled ones. Her surprised curse was lost amid the roar of the hill as it sprang to life, tossing them upon it’s back like puppets. And then, just as fast, a sword flashed through the mess, splitting grass and dirt and tree roots in it’s wake, and everything was still for a moment. One blessed moment as she spun her gaze to him, between the falling wood of a doll wrapped with hair, to find his intention just as clearly unmasked as his blade. For one moment, she stood amazed at the depth she could read there.
Then the earth heaved again, and miasma spilled forth as another attack closed in on them, and the expression was gone. The toad had already shooed that girl and the dragon behind a clump of trees, and Sesshoumaru continued shredding calmly through all obstacles, his eyes only narrowing slightly and his movements becoming only a tad more jerky as Naraku’s doll played hydra and sprang forth three tentacles for every one cut off. Kagura jumped and dodged like the very wind she was given command over, her mind racing as she hesitated drawing her own weapon and revealing her true purpose to Naraku at this moment. He still had her heart and she was at a grave disadvantage.
In the end, she wasn’t left with much of a decision as a coil of earth managed to trip her. It flashed again for another second, Sesshoumaru’s strange expression, before he cut everything around her, and the doll saw, and laughed. The evil eyes slid to her own wide ones near the ground, and he actually smiled, an expression almost conveying fatherly pride.
Her hand flew in belated recognition to the fan at her belt, but by then every single tentacle was bearing down on her without remorse, and she knew there was no hope to escape unscathed. Kagura had braced herself, fan drawn up tightly, ready to whirl out, when a hand had unceremoniously pulled her shoulder back and tossed her body to the side.
She had only one more moment to see that fierce tightening of the mouth, the silvery gleam of the sword, and the blood red eyes, before her head hit the ground with a heavy thump and she blacked out.
When she awoke again, it was scarily quiet. Her deep gasps shattered the silence with their rough edge, and she twisted her head about as rapidly as she dared. There were at least five broken golems lying about the place, hair unwinding about their centers. The toad and the girl were nowhere in sight - if they were fighting another puppet, had died, or just fled for the moment, she had no idea. As her eyes spotted a blotch of red spattered white in the distance, she decided she didn’t really care either.
She was up on her feet in seconds, moving to where he lay without much conscious thought. The whisper was broken. “Sess...shoumaru...”
Standing stilly, as if frozen in place, she watched him watching her, his eyes slowly fading back to their normal golden glow. Barely, she took in the amount of damage he had received. The blood, the burnt patches, so much. Too much, she realized, for just puppets, and with a slight hiccup in the next indrawn breath, she found she had been played the fool, a distraction for Naraku to take advantage of as he swatted an annoying wasp in his plans. He’d been here, to deliver the blows to Sesshoumaru himself, and she wondered why he hadn’t taken her back with him, nor stayed to absorb the Taiyoukai.
The corner of her eye caught Sesshoumaru’s tiny smirk, and she followed his arm down to the sword clutched in his hand. Tensaiga. She wasn’t sure what power it possessed, gods knew she had never seen him use it, but if it was anything like Inuyasha’s fearsome weapon, it was bound to have some sort of defenses.
Her eyes quickly riveted themselves back to the bloody patches, her main concern. “You need bandages-”
A hand shot out rapidly and caught one of her own. Kagura’s startled gaze flew up to find a golden glare bearing down on her. He was too proud, she realized, to want assistance. But with a kind of abstract fascination, she watched the lines around his eyes soften and fade, as the glare whispered away. The increased speed of her breath was consciously aware that he was still clutching her hand as he displayed this emotion one more time.
And she watched, with almost no breath at all, as his hand tugged her forward and laid her palm calmly on his chest. For the first time, she watched a myriad of expressions cloud his features, arrogance, sorrow, affection, confidence, and, if she stared hard enough, underlying apology, but she didn’t really pay them much mind. Under her fingers, his body told a different story.
Muscles were trembling, clothes were soaked with sweat and blood, and the pulse was erratic. His hand spasmed over hers as he grimly held her in place, ignoring the sudden panicked awareness that she emitted.
The other hand reached up just as quickly to snatch the kimono fabric at her shoulder, pulling her down to eye level. But his grip slackened as she watched, frozen, at this last display of strength. Barely, she could feel his fingers slide through hers, still pressed against his chest. “Yours...” It came out as a strangled whisper.
She responded in kind. “Sesshou...” His eyes drifted closed as a barely audible sigh left his chest, and the rib cage did not rise again. “...maru?” Kagura clung to those lifeless fingers as if they were her last grip on sanity. This could not be happening! Sesshoumaru, the great Sesshoumaru, who was nigh invincible! Who she was so sure could help free her! Who would never in a million years give up his life! For someone as worthless as her! This wasn’t real, it couldn’t be!
She nearly jumped out of her skin at the whisper in the air around her. But she knew this voice, and it was not Sesshoumaru coming back. Her hands held on to his own limp ones as another voice played her dark conscience.
“Kukuku, Kagura, how are you not repulsed by the inu youkai’s barrier?” She shivered but held on grimly. “Heh, Kagura?”
“Go screw yourself, Naraku,” she ground out in return, refusing to search for him as she stared at the handsome face in front of her, now forever impassive.
“Temper, temper,” came back the chiding remark. “Kagura, I’m not at all pleased that you commissioned Sesshoumaru to fight for you.” This chill that ran down the back of her spine was ignored. She had lost some of her fighting spirit, and a devastated mind wondered if she really wanted to live after this. Naraku continued without paying attention to these clues. “But, I’m willing to overlook it, if,” the half youkai qualified, “you bring me something.” The tone was downright hungry now. “Sesshoumaru’s strength would make a good addition to this body.”
Her own body shut down entirely at the thought, her lungs too frozen to breathe. Sesshoumaru... part of him? A shudder ran slowly down her frame. No... no, it wasn’t right! Her Sesshoumaru- ! Kagura paused again, glancing back down to where her hand remained, clutched to his chest. What was hers...
And without thought her other hand flew to her kimono, pulling out the fan. The fingers at his chest, still entwined with her own, ripped his own coverings clear, tearing off the breast plate and the cloth to reveal the smooth, snowy white flesh. Vainly, Kagura ignored the fact that it was no longer moving in instinctual rhythm. The fan snapped open, her hand pulled his own away, and then four thin ribbons of red appeared on that perfect skin, marring it.
Kagura ignored the desecration. A few more careful slices with her fan and she had her prize, pulling it out past the lungs and covering her arm with the blood that it spewed. This was hers. Her hand clenched his own motionless one as her red eyes grew flinty. Naraku could have the body if he could reach it, she would be unable to stop him if he could get past the barrier, but this would never be part of him. Kagura tucked the item to her own chest, then glanced down at Sesshoumaru one more time. Impulsively, she leant and pressed her lips against his own quickly cooling ones as payment. And, had she known it, her own face displayed all the emotions she had recently ignored on his face. But she didn’t know, and it wasn’t important to her right now.
Standing up quickly, she jostled the fabric she had torn away, now a brilliantly red stained white, letting a single black pearl slip free. It hit Tensaiga as she turned and plucked the feather out of her hair, and it pulsed mysteriously as she quickly alighted and flew upwards. She didn’t feel the sudden shifting of power as the Youkai Lord’s face began to change into something more feral before his entire form disappeared into a dark vortex, and so when she glanced back down from a height, she only assumed regretfully that Naraku had indeed been able to claim the body when she had gone.
Her heart in her mouth and his in her hands, figuratively and literally, she quickly flew off, emptying her sorrowing soul into the sky, mourning the death of her hero.
When she returned to Naraku, following his control over that ever essential organ, she had expected much more than the disgruntled dismissal he gave her. Sesshoumaru’s heart was worthless to him, he’d already discarded his own, and holding the inu youkai’s wouldn’t be a means to control him by as the white haired demon was already dead. Any spark of fatherly acceptance was totally gone from his bearing. She assumed that he was angry at her because he’d had to come claim the body himself, fighting against whatever barrier Sesshoumaru had put into place.
Kneeling on the tatami mat before him, feeling Naraku’s scathing gaze dismiss her incompetence, Kagura inwardly seethed at the man in front of her. Of all people, it was his heart she wanted to rip out, but she sat silently as he mocked her about her failed plans to escape and the death of her hero, then warned her not to try it again unless she wanted death to truly be Naraku’s intent when he attacked her next.
She had retreated soon after that, going back to her room with a temper hot enough to burn the air. Why was she a slave to this monster?! Curses dropped from her mouth like scalding irons as she slammed the paper screened door shut. She didn’t care who saw or heard her, and the idea that Naraku would only take joy in her anger increased the feeling even more. On impulse, the fan came up and whipped down, blasting out the screens that lined the porch side of her room with abandon and ripping it open to the outside. Not satisfied with this petty display, she spun, fan snapping up at the ready again, to send her winds tearing the building apart before her eyes caught a jar, and she paused.
It sat unassumingly on a side table, peacefully unaware of the havoc surrounding it. It was the most beautiful container she could find, white ivory with golden paint decorating the edges. She had killed for that jar. Without a second’s thought, as soon as she had found it, she had calmly sliced through the foreigners traveling with riches to the nearest kingdom, intent on sale or perhaps tribute, she didn’t know and didn’t care. With a single mindedness, she had ignored the silks and gems and gone straight for her prize.
With shaking and reverent hands, she had placed Sesshoumaru’s heart in the ivory jar amongst a sea of death.
Breaking off now from her rage with a catching sob, she flew to it and held it close, much like she had fled when she had first entombed it, intent on keeping it safe from harm from any who would try to take the jar and heart inside away. Her murmurs lilted through the room, the barely heard litany of reassuring promises floating in the stillness. She would never let Naraku take this, nobody
would steal what she had already claimed.
And she sat there, rocking his heart to herself, as the world passed, oblivious as she to her obsession.
It took months and months for her to finally come to grips that this dead and lumpy organ meant more to her than it should. She had to check on it immediately whenever she returned from doing Naraku’s bidding, she frequently touched the jar in reassurance that it still contained her prize, and when the moon was full, she’d pull back the porch screens that had been dutifully repaired and sit silently with the jar in her arms, staring up at that impassive face of the man that hovered in the night sky.
Knowing didn’t stop her irrational passion for it, though. Instead, it only seemed to increase it, and she came to want to know everything about this heart. What made it tick, how did it work? What made this the essential part of the body? Why had it landed in her possession and not Naraku’s?
She became determined to find out.
Without an ounce of regret or empathy, she began digging for her answers. Quite literally. With a bit of practice, it became routine. Cut the hamstrings, severe the nerves in the arms or send a lucky wind slice arching through the spinal cord, then - swish, fwip, slash, snap - with a cool hand and controlled fan, reach out and lift the desired object free. Never once did she look up into those eyes, wild and deep, full of pain and horror, as she quenched her scientific thirst. These weren’t animals, with arguably lower thinking power and of greater use when dead. No, only the anatomically correct were deemed appropriate to this cause. Bandits, merchants, peasants, and lords, any and all would fit the bill, and she selected without deference to rank or wealth.
Over the span of a few months, she could recite what she had learned at will, terminology coming with the aid of a book she had obtained from a physician, when she had rifled through the dead man’s things. There were four main veins flowing into the heart, two on the left, two on the right, and two arteries flowing out. If she punctured the muscle on the upbeat, blood rushed out of the left side, and on the downbeat it rushed out of the right. The size of the muscle varied from subject to subject, but could invariably compare with the size of their hand. But none, not even one, gave even a glimmer of evidence as to what made Sesshoumaru’s stand out.
She’d groan to herself in frustration, absentmindedly follow Naraku’s instructions for the day, and then head for home, muttering about the impossibilities of dog demons.
But the jar would be clutched to her chest throughout the night, and in the morning the investigation would continue.
It was almost six months to the day from the death of her god that the real apocalypse came.
Inuyasha had somehow, finally, become strong enough to challenge Naraku on his level. And with a speed that had amazed her and had carried strong undercurrents of Sesshoumaru’s own talents, the castle had been turned into a wasteland.
She had watched her devil die as well that day, a bit belated, but succumbing to his eventual fate at the hands of a boy with white hair and golden eyes, who could have been, should have been someone else. But she thought, just for a moment, as the eyes flashed with a shimmer of red and lines formed in the barest of imprints on his face, that this brother might just be avenging everything and that in a sense, it was just, and she could accept it. Not her hero, but one who would step honorably up to the plate, as was his duty, and take over the role that was given him, to take care of the unspoken widow in his brother’s stead.
As the final stroke of the sword came down, however, her attention was diverted. Her chest was filled with something she couldn’t explain, but her mind was suffering an intense bout of shock, and her voice was screaming itself unconsciously hoarse, as the building, containing her most precious possession, trembled and suddenly began crumbling and crashing in upon itself.
She couldn’t even remember what happened to Naraku after that. Inuyasha was only a phantasm in her mind. Her whole focus was taken up by Sesshoumaru as she flitted down those perilous hallways and tunnels, dodging beams and plaster, as she snaked as quickly as possible to her quarters.
Red, desperate eyes, barely caught a glimpse of the ivory jar, teetering, before an ominous crash sounded from above and the whole entrance way collapsed. The wail that was let loose at that precise moment could be heard for leagues, and, stumbling away with their hearts heavy and limbs bandaged, the stand in heros of the day left with despairing thoughts to those left behind.
After that incident, the chronicles lost the wind witch, as she disappeared from conflict all together. There were no more random killings on the side of roads, the ones that had left behind gruesome stories and terrified children, who wore charms to protect their hearts. There were no mastermind plans carried out by a distracted woman with little patience and delayed disobedience. There weren’t even romantic tales of a lonely lady that roamed the skies at night, floating upon air as light as a feather.
But, to those who searched long enough, who dug deep enough, as the empathetic miko from the future did, there were rumors, quiet ones, that spoke of a simple young lady, with a blood smeared face and powerful eyes. She walked with a timidness born of loss, but clutched a cracked jar with a determination born of love, and had disappeared somewhere nearby, in the forest.
A few more careful inquiries had uncovered this area to have been the site of a fierce battle, the landscape in ruins, and guarded by a short green imp day and night, but any further efforts to find this guard or the little girl that the miko was certain to be with him went unfulfilled. And attempts to find Kagura ended at the same place.
She had found Jaken the first day she had entered the forest, glaring at her and standing protectively in front of Rin as his hand desperately clutched the two headed staff. He knew he was no match for her, and Kagura knew he was no match for her, but he was determined to keep her from what he deemed his last connection to Sesshoumaru and she wasn’t in the mood to fight. If it hadn’t been for the girl, who ran forward with a curious expression and interrupted the growing tension, they could have stood staring at each other all day.
“Kagura-sama, did you come to see Rin-chan?” The girl ran around the wind demon in a happy circle as Jaken’s hand tightened impossibly on his staff. He didn’t move to recall her, however, as Kagura hadn’t even flinched for her fan yet.
The woman’s voice emerged rough, calloused by overuse from the fight a few days before and disuse from the time hence. “No. J-just Sesshoumaru.”
Jaken’s eyes narrowed. “There’s nothing for you here.” His tone was petulant as a small green hand motioned quickly for Rin to come back. The girl remained glued to the wind witch’s side as she stared up at her dirt stained face.
In contrast, Kagura let out an ironic laugh, coughing slightly near the end of it. “I haven’t come to take anything.” Watching the kappa’s eyes narrow, she unconsciously held the jar closer, drawing strength from the presence her mind had imbued it with. She never noticed how riveted her adversary became on the object. “More like the other way around. I,” and here her voice wavered, no matter how hard she tried to keep it strong, “I would like to see Sesshoumaru.”
“He’s not here,” the green demon said unhelpfully.
Kagura’s temper flared, forgetting the fact that she needed to convince Jaken to let her pass. “I know
he’s not here, you idiot! But he wasn’t part of Naraku! I searched that body, disgusting pile of slime that it was, and Sesshoumaru wasn’t there! Which can only mean one thing! I’m not stupid!” Her emotions were tied together with barely a string now. He had no idea how desperately she had scoured Naraku’s lumps of flesh for any sign of Sesshoumaru, and how desperately at the same time she had wished she wouldn’t find him, disfigured and morphed into a part of her most hated enemy. He couldn’t comprehend those hours she had spent before hand, carefully prying apart her room, going as fast as she dared to retrieve the object that had come to mean more than life itself, suffocating in that collapsed hell. And he couldn’t even fathom the weight of the truth as it occurred to her afterwards, numbly watching the moon that night, damaged jar clutched desperately in her arms.
At her feet, an innocent girl said, simply, “Sesshoumaru-sama knows you’re not stupid. He told Jaken-sama before when he was complaining about Kagura-sama.” And with a toothy smile, Kagura’s composure broke, and one sob escaped before she managed to reign it in and turn a flinty look back at Jaken.
The short demon sighed, giving in. “His body is in another dimension,” he grudgingly admitted.
“I suppose you want to go there.” The stony silence was all he needed for an answer. The kappa sighed. “Women! I can’t bring you back, that’s your problem.” He watched her nod, before sharply calling Rin back to his side, then removing a small black pearl from his robes. Tossing it to the ground, he darted forward and tapped the staff down onto it. The air above the pearl fissioned for a moment, before resolving into a dark portal. Jaken gestured to it. “Either go or get out of here.”
She didn’t need to be told twice. With two swift strides she was at the portal, and with one more she was falling inside.
She found herself falling into a vast, jungle like world. With quick reflexes, she managed to get her feather under her before she hit the ground and instead floated lightly to land at the base of a giant skeleton. It gleamed with a new white, this huge outline that was strongly canine, but she knew immediately who it must be.
“Sesshoumaru...” came her unwilling whisper.
But the youkai remained silent, mocking her with his grinning, sparkling teeth. With a sigh, Kagura abruptly sunk to the ground.
“So, you were here all along,” she mused quietly to herself. All those hours that she clung to this hope, all those days that she despaired of the truth, all of those months wherein she couldn’t build the courage to come see for herself. She could have blamed it on Naraku, that she didn’t want to lead him to where she suspected the body might be, but the cold truth was that she hadn’t suspected it, she’d thought he’d been swallowed whole, and she wasn’t brave enough at all to confirm her fears.
Instead, all she was doing was dishonoring his memory, thinking he wasn’t strong enough, even in death, to resist Naraku, and curses fell heavy from her mouth at the thought, directed at herself. They echoed loudly in the empty glade before she had sense enough to clamp her mouth closed.
Another sigh was released as she stared at the ground. “I’m sorry.” It was very soft, barely an admittance at all, but strangely powerful coming from her. Her hands placed the jar formally in front of her, as if offering it to the remains of her most beloved friend, before she took a deep breath and bowed lowly. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I swear, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way!” The fingers on the ground slowly curled into fists, as she sat up, looking at the great face with an unnameable expression. “Please, it was supposed to be me! I can tell, I wasn’t that important, but they need you! That girl and the frog and...”
A deep pause filled the clearing, as Kagura sank back on her heels, her face losing it’s intensity and instead drifting into sorrowful acknowledgement. “I need you. Sesshoumaru.” And for one moment, she closed her eyes, letting the wind drift through her hair in an unspoken sort of reply. For that moment, she imagined it was her taiyoukai, his fingers running through her hair, the same way she had imagined him embracing her back every time she hugged the jar, or returning the only kiss she had ever stolen every time she let the moonbeams caress her cheek. The breeze almost felt like forgiveness.
But then she opened her eyes, and the spectral was gone, and she had no choice but to continue. “I’m returning it, your heart,” she said, and the words felt rather impersonal, but she felt guilty enough as it was. “If I’d have known...” The comment trailed off as she swallowed, not ready for that line of thought yet.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.” The words changed to mundane topics, safer, buying her some time. “I can go anywhere, I could go see what’s across the sea now if I wished. I don’t know if you know, but I am free now, they - I mean your brother - killed him, Naraku, so you don’t have to worry. I, well, what I mean is that you didn’t die for nothing.” A hand raked through her hair. “Gods, Kagura, like this is any less depressing!
“Anyway,” she continued, with an irrational giggle at the inaneness of this conversation before she managed to stifle it. “Anyway, I’ll look after her. The girl. It’s my fault, really, and I know you would have wanted to see...” The wind demon bit off the sentence uncomfortably. “I’ll check up on her, as long as the toad lets me.”
The silence that ensued after that statement slowly told her that she’d run out of other things to talk about, and so she glanced back at the ivory jar, shining in it’s pristine whiteness, false innocence, before starting up again, speaking very slowly. “Sesshoumaru. I want to return this to you. I am sorry... truly, for stealing your heart. Though,” and here her eyes flashed, “I still believe that turnabout’s only fairplay, and you’d managed to get mine without me even really possessing it myself.” One hand reached out to give a final, lingering stroke to the jar still sitting as stoically as ever.
“But I want you to know, Sesshoumaru,” she said finally, as the hand drew back and she let her voice fill with conviction, “that when I finally manage to find where ever you really
are, that I’m going to try my hardest to steal it away again, for real.” And for the first time in what seemed like a very long time, her face gained the imprint of her classic smirk, faint, but there. It would take a while, but she could bounce back, that was always one of her strengths. “So watch out.”
With one last look up at the imposing skeletal figure, she stood and moved away, flying out on her feather and back into the mortal world. One day, she swore, it would happen, but she could wait. Because this wasn’t fiery obsession anymore, burning it’s way through her soul in a flash, but love, searing her emotions with a stoked and warming blaze, one that could feed a lifetime and more on the devotion she willingly gave and could therefore be patient enough to wait. She would live hard now, so that she’d be able to meet Sesshoumaru on his level, when she finally did die.
And maybe it wouldn’t be quite so one sided then, this strange emotion that tightened determination and softened the eyes.
In the clearing, a gust of wind tipped an ivory jar, revealing nothing inside, because she’d had it long before she physically taken it, and still unknowingly carried it now; but he didn’t worry about the time or the distance that separated them, because in another way, she’d already returned it. His love, his heart.