The youkai hit InuYasha solidly in the chest, sending him flying. Tessaiga dropped out of his grasp, falling to the ground before he did and instantly transformed into an old, ragged looking katana. Blood staining the ground where he lay, InuYasha lifted his head up once, looking towards a small fissure in the rocks and cried out, “Kagome!”and then was still. Too still.
Kagome watched him from behind that fissure, sitting in a small, shallow cave where the hanyou had shoved her and Atae when the youkai attacked. The creature had appeared almost out of nowhere, dropping from the heights above them as they walked down the mountain pass. It was a hybrid monster, with a body that looked part bull, a chest and head that looked human, and was maybe part dragon, scaled everywhere, with a long, whipping tail. It was very, very strong. InuYasha had taken one look, shoved them into the shelter and had begun the battle. Even inside the cave, the creature’s youki pushed at Kagome’s consciousness, making her want to shrink into the earth and hide.
Trembling as she held her son close to her chest, she peered out of the small opening to the cave at the unmoving body of her husband, lying on the red-stained ground, with only the afternoon breeze stirring the ends of his silver hair. She wanted to scream out InuYasha’s name, run out with her bow and take down the monster that was threatening everything that meant anything in her life, but she couldn’t chance it with Atae with her.
“InuYasha,” she whispered. “Don’t you dare leave me.” Her soul felt ripped in half.
“Mama,” Atae whimpered, looking up at her with InuYasha’s amber eyes.
The child, about four years old, whimpered wordlessly to her as she covered him with her body, running her fingers through his silver hair. “Hush, baby,” she said. “We have to stay still just a little longer. That’s what Daddy told us to do.” She couldn’t hide the tension in her voice. “Mama’s gonna get her bow ready. It might sting a little when I charge up the arrow, but it won’t hurt you.” Awkwardly she moved her bow into position in the cramped space.
Kagome could feel the monster’s youkai nearing their little hiding place and there was absolutely no place for her to run to. Her mouth was dry and she tried to swallow, and could feel the fear and anger bubbling up inside of her. A shadow fell over the opening to the little cave. Her aura began to flare as it neared.
Kagome shoved Atae behind her. “Get behind me, baby. Mama’s got to charge her arrow.” The little dog-eared boy crouched behind her. He sobbed once. “Face the wall, Atae,” she said and rose to her knees.
Her elbow scraped the back wall as she pulled the bow back. She flamed an arrow, the pink light filling the small space.
“Hurts,” Atae whimpered.
“I know, baby,” Kagome said. “It’ll be better in a moment.”
A hand reached into the cave, claw-tipped and huge. “Just a little closer,” she said, readying her arrow. “I love you, InuYasha,” she said and let go.
Suddenly there was a huge pulse of youki energy, and the hand paused. The arrow grazed but did not puncture the hand, still wounding the creature. As she grabbed for another arrow, she realized she didn’t give it enough force to purify the monster into ash. Nonetheless, it screamed, and withdrew. Something outside was happening. The monster roared; his bulk blocked her view, but she could feel the youki of the being who captured her attacker’s attention. The ground at the entrance of the cave grew red with blood.
She dropped her bow, and turned to cover Atae with her body to spare him the sight.
“Mama?” Atae asked.
“Just wait, baby,” she said. Her mind raced as she listened to the sounds as she petted her son’s ears to keep him still.
The cries ended, as did the pressure from the monster’s youki. The sounds of rending flesh, though continued for some minutes. The smell of blood and death was like a cloud permeating everything. Kagome was suddenly weak in the knees, trembling all over and afraid of what she might have to do. Atae began squirming in her hold. “Daddy!” he cried. “I want Daddy.”
“No, Atae, we have to wait,” she said, trying to hold onto her son. “O Kami,” she whispered. “What do I do next?”
“Daddy! He needs me!” Atae insisted. Wriggling free of her hold, he bolted through the gore at the front of the cave.
“Atae!” Kagome screamed, running after him.
The scene before her was worse than she expected, as the mangled body of the youkai that had attacked them lay scattered in bits and chunks over the open the trail ran through. Atae had stopped still, looking at the blood soaked form of his father bent over the torso of the youkai. With one final heave of rage, he kicked it.
Kagome grabbed Atae by the shoulders. She looked at the distance between Tessaiga and where they were standing, and wondered if she could make it to the sword before InuYasha, still in the throes of his youkai transformation, spotted them.
Atae stood still, mouth agape, nose wrinkled at the smells of death. His ears focused forward, he watched as InuYasha turned towards them, his eyes angry red with blue centers, cheek marks blazing, a sardonic cold smile touching his lips accented by his extra long fangs.
Atae tilted his head to the side, frightened and unsure. The man in front of them looked like his father should have looked, almost. He had the dog ears of his father, focused at them; he smelled almost like his father should smell, but bloody and somehow, slightly different. His fangs were too big and so were his claws. Atae looked up at Kagome. She was chewing on her bottom lip, nervous about what to do next, but not really afraid.
“Daddy?” Atae said, hesitantly.
“No more youkai,” InuYasha said, his voice deep and rough. He kicked a piece of offal out of his way. “You’re safe.”
The boy broke away from Kagome’s hold.
“Atae!” Kagome cried out, reached after him, but didn’t move as Atae scurried over the bloody ground to stand in front of his father.
InuYasha looked at her for a moment, frowning, eyes narrowed, the turned down to look at the boy who ran up to him. He stared at him with eerie blue in red eyes, took a deep breath, and placed a bloodied hand gently on his shoulder. “Son,” he said. “You smell afraid.”
The little boy looked up. He sucked on his lips, as if considering. He took a deep breath, then hesitantly he lifted up his arms. InuYasha lifted him up. Together, they walked to where Tessaiga lay on the ground.
He looked down at the sword, and back at his wife, who was moving closer to him. “You always bring me back from the edge, no matter how much the darkness takes me over,” he said. “Never forget that.”
Kagome looked him deeply in the eyes, then bent over and picked up his sword, handing it to him. She could feel the energy around him swirl, change, almost like it did on the morning after the new moon. He closed his eyes, and his claws and fangs retracted to their normal selves. When he opened his eyes again, they looked at her, still solemn, but with bright amber.
She threw herself around both of them. “I thought you had died!” she cried.
“I would have, if you hadn’t needed me,” he said.
Kagome reached up, touched his cheek with her hand. “I’ll always need you,” she breathed, kissing him lightly.
“You killed the monster, Daddy?” Atae asked. “Is that what made your eyes go red?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “Just for you and Mama.”
“Let’s get out of here,” Kagome said. “You need a bath.”
InuYasha looked down at himself, and at his free hand. “I guess I do. There’s a hot spring not far from here, if I remember right.”
Picking up their travel gear, they headed down the road in bright sunshine.