Chapter Two: The Hanyou
Unmistakable and sharply sardonic, the tireless laugh of the hanyou split the quiet, morning air like a well-ground axe. Eyes dulling in his dispassion, Sesshoumaru remained unmoved by the uninhibited snickers that grew effortlessly into chortles and then further into gut-twisting guffaws. Each evolution of mocking enjoyment cemented his feet firmer in their place. The tai youkai knew the deplorable scene that played out at his back without having to lay his sight upon it and while he did not fear it, he felt no urgency to acknowledge it. With patience and collectedness as fortes, the youkai lord only needed to pause a moment before striking an appropriately pointed retort to restore his dignity. After all, with wit as its blade and timing as the technique, verbal reprisals were combative styles in it of themselves. One only had to have the patience to wait for the inevitable opportunity.
Pivoting slightly to unperturbedly eye his half-brother, Sesshoumaru observed Inuyasha with indiscernible disdain. His laughs waning to a beaming, fanged grin, the now thoroughly, if not overly amused hanyou stood casually in the tall grass with a clawed hand cradled against the red, fire-rat fur of his aching stomach. Like a curving blade of unfinished ivory, the Tetsusaiga sat brashly on his shoulder, its broad fang hanging over his thick and matted mane of white hair.
“Why didn’t you accept his proposal?” he managed to ask between wheezing breaths if only to fan his forever enduring elation and the unfortunate, dull pain in his side that it wrought. “He was even gonna take you without a dowry.”
“H-How dare you ask that of Sesshoumaru-sama,” Jaken stuttered in flustered outrage on behalf of his impassive and still wordless master. The wooden staff he persistently held glided through the slips of concealing grass to confront the insolent source of the offense. “Retract your statement at once, half-breed!”
“Feh,” the hanyou replied flippantly into the air, closing his eyes in his dismissal of the tiny youkai’s insult before adding his own. “I don’t take orders from sticks.”
“I’m not a stick!” he insisted adamantly and with a soft clap, Jaken touched the weapon’s tip to the firm soil. Jaw dropping open at the command, the carved head of the old man that crowned it spewed a wave of churning fire at the unimpressed half-demon. The ill-intended flame however missed its wiser mark as Inuyasha deftly stepped away from its path and dipped to the side to grip the handle from a far more benign angle.
“What do we have here?” he announced in his inflated astonishment, lifting the staff high into the air to spy the sputtering, toad-like demon that still clung below in his tenacity. With the anchor of soil gone, the formerly threatening blaze squelched into a gasp of harmless embers and the old man became serene yet again. “You seem like more than a stick. Maybe, I’m more than a half-breed, huh? You should be careful of what you call people.”
“You insulted Sesshoumaru-sama!” Jaken blurted out his explanation while he dangled, desperately jerking the staff from time to time in a hopeless attempt to wrangle it away from the self-assured hanyou. “I, as his esteemed retainer could not allow that to go unaddressed. How could I be expected to do less?!”
“Listen, I’m not the one who called him a woman. I only have a few questions to run by him. Personally, I think he could do a whole lot better than a farmer if he just tried a little harder.”
“Your disrespect knows no bounds! For Sesshoumaru-sama’s honor, I will finish you off, cur, and gift him your sword as compensation for your impertinent tongue.”
“O’ really?” the half-demon replied disbelievingly, a dark brow rising at the impressive declaration. With deep amber eyes following the animated gesturing of the small youkai, Inuyasha frowned at the logistics of the bold plan and shook the staff with a gentle abruptness to drive his point. “And how do you plan to do that? With this?”
“Yes,” Jaken grunted his agreement, reaching for the hanyou’s tightly gripped pinky with his petite, three-fingered hand. Stubbornly, the straining demon attempted to ineffectively peel away the rooted appendage to its owner’s budding astonishment.
“Inuyasha,” a young, feminine voice scolded soundly from deep within the verdant inlet growing closest to the distant village. Rustling the papery blades as they waded, a small group of travelers cautiously approached the two brothers with their sight prudently lingering on the elder, full demon. Conspicuous in her brilliantly white, sailor top, Kagome crossed her arms against her chest in her disapproval. “Put him down, Inuyasha.”
“I ain’t hurtin’ him,” Inuyasha persuaded the scowling school girl and gave the elaborately crafted staff a good shake as proof. A squeak of surprise escaped Jaken’s narrow beak, but his hold remained steadfast against the turbulent assault. “See, he’s gotta good grip. Besides, he needs to learn to respect those bigger than him. This world doesn’t cater to the weak.”
“Ha,” the small, green demon scoffed softly under his breath, pausing a moment in his brazen mission to stare at his tormentor with the large, pale yellow orbs of his eyes. “Then you should respect Sesshoumaru-sama. He’s bigger than you.”
“What was that?” the half demon demanded, jostling the wooden weapon about with a more purposeful intent. Hurling curses of hate and squawks of terror, the two flustered combatants bickered, one waving the stick erratically through the air and the other clinging doggedly for fear of flying off in any and all undesirable directions.
“Inuyasha, don’t make me say it!” the young woman warned again in her most threatening tone, abruptly ending the comedic battle with the irked hanyou carelessly tossing the staff and its bearer into the grass as he walked away to join her and their shrewdly silent companions.
“I was just havin’ fun, Kagome. You’re overreactin’.”
“I am not,” she insisted, her ire rising with the obvious rolling of his eyes at her dispute.
“So, you’re sayin’ that Sesshoumaru bein’ mistaken for a beautiful maiden and then bein’ proposed to by some farmer is not funny?”
“Well, no,” she confessed hesitantly. “That’s actually really funny.”
“But, I don’t think you need to tease him about it. It’s funny enough without you making it worse by laughing in his face and giving bad advice.”
“Feh, what’s wrong with my advice? Sesshoumaru has been single for hundreds of years and it seems like it’s finally time for him to settle down and have some puppies. Now, I’m just helpin’ out so that he can find someone better than a farmer. With his looks, he could easily get a blacksmith or the head of a village if he works it right.”
“Hn,” the youkai lord snorted with mild indignation.
“What? You finally got somethin’ to say, milady?”
“Inuyasha,” he replied in his deep baritone, summoning every shred of his elitist contempt into the dark tone of his voice. Motionless except for the cool eye he leveled upon his half-brother and still biding his time, he remained unwilling to formally acknowledge the rapt attention and uncomfortable silence he now drew. “While I admit I have never been in want of prospects, I see no reason for my bachelordom to be discussed by you.”
“And why is that?”
“What other reason could there be than that your misguided and flawed input has been less than advantageous with regard to yourself? Contrarily, I believe I should be counseling you on your lack of tolerable prospects.”
“What?!” Kagome exclaimed furiously at the thinly veiled insult, addressing the unaffected tai youkai before his half-demon brother could open his mouth to answer.
“Kagome, calm down,” Inuyasha quietly, but pointedly reproved, warily eyeing the incensed school girl in case she decided to take her complaint directly to the source. “He’s just tryin’ to get back at me for pickin’ on him ‘bout his near betrothal. He’s not even talkin’ to you, so don’t worry ‘bout it.”
“He insulted you by insulting me! And I was trying to defend him!”
“Yeah, but there’s no point in gettin’ mad over somethin’ stupid like that.”
“You don’t think him calling me an intolerable prospect is worth getting mad over?!” she raged at the hanyou, who swiftly met her fire with his own.
“No, I don’t. And what makes you think you’re a prospect, anyway?!”
“I’m not a prospect?”
“Osuwari!” she shouted impetuously, reason snaring her tongue too late. With a brief flash of magical radiance, the rosary glowed brilliantly around Inuyasha’s neck as the inescapable gravity of her command widened his richly golden eyes. Gripping him with nearly instant justice, the uttered spell subdued the half-demon with a sudden and earth-shaking meeting with the ground at his feet. Only the hanyou-shaped blemish remained in his place, marring the once smooth field of rippling grass with a dark stain.
“Kagome,” he called out with a low and rumbling growl, spitting bits of grass and dirt from his mouth as he gathered himself up from the shallow crater her command had pounded him into.
“You share your affections with an undead miko who seeks to condemn you to hell in her revenge and another who is as unparalleled in her obscenity of appearance as she is in her lack of respect for you as a male. What poor choices. Then again, perhaps that is what a half-breed of your uncouth caliber deserves.”
“Sesshoumaru,” he snarled next, his angry astonishment surmounting the miko’s under the latest wave of verbal assault.
“Hn,” the tai youkai scoffed with a supercilious air, his victory nearly complete and his pride virtually restored. Running his clawed hand through his silvery locks, he looked snidely down on his now muddy and disheveled half-brother, his tongue ready and poised to deliver the finishing blow. “If you possess any wisdom, then I suspect that you should ask this gracious Sesshoumaru to introduce you to the farmer. For a modest dowry, I imagine he may settle for a bride of lesser magnificence.”
“Kaze-no-Kizu!” Inuyasha yelled viciously, the broad blade of his sword swinging down sharply from its comfortable spot over his shoulder. A chaotic horde of swirling youki erupted from the sharpened fang, carving trenches into the earth as it barreled toward the motionless demon lord. Seemingly caught in the blast, the winds overtook the indifferent inu youkai and greedily devoured him within their ravenous torrents.
Knowing that even a well-placed Kaze-no-Kizu would be unlikely to even singe the fur of his brother’s pelt, Inuyasha shadowed his attack with the tattered hilt of his sword firmly in hand and at the ready. The surge of demon aura dissipated into the cool air with no remnants of Sesshoumaru staining its trail. The peculiarly heartening realization that the tai youkai was unscathed was brief as his well-honed, warrior’s instinct knew well that only misfortune would swiftly follow this find.
Anticipating it before it could even strike, Inuyasha wisely dodged to the side, narrowly escaping a fury of churning flame and electricity streaking from the cerulean sky overhead.
“You are improving, Inuyasha,” the youkai lord complimented the hanyou with a patronizing air. High above, he stood in his befitting vanity, stepping upon the heavens as if their purpose was to be at his feet. “Unfortunately, your talent will only allow you to reach so far.”
“Feh,” the half-demon scoffed at the taunt and bolted across the deep field with rustling blades of grass whipping and snapping at the crimson blur of his passing. Then through the air he leapt, his bare feet leaving sodden tangle of roots and slivered leaves to find the dry, rough relief of an outlying boulder. Using his coiled momentum, he pivoted away, launching himself at his mildly, but pleasantly smirking brother. “You ain’t so high that I can’t come and join you.”
“Indeed,” the youkai lord acknowledged with a raised brow. “Shall we see how long you can stay?”
A resonating boom shuddered the countryside like rolling thunder tearing a black sky asunder. Arms still crossed tightly against her chest in her annoyance, Kagome looked on the two warriors with grumbles inundating her breath. However her glance soon left them for the young woman in tight, black satin garb at her side and whose wise discretion involving silence earlier had until then served her well. Magenta accenting her huntress uniform and an enormous, bone boomerang slung at her back, Sango did her best to return the sour look with a reassuring smile.
“It’s nothing to worry about, Kagome-chan,” she soothed, gently touching the school girl’s arm with her hand as the distant and muffled curses of the dueling brothers overlapped with her kind words.
“Sango-chan,” Kagome began, her gaze softening at the heartening comfort of her closest friend. Despite the soft, genuine support the usually reserved taijiya gave at the moment, the doubting miko couldn’t rid herself of the barbs of truth that the tai youkai had inadvertently pierced her with. “Can you be honest with me, Sango-chan?”
“You don’t think that I’m obscene, do you? And I don’t disrespect Inuyasha as a man, do I?”
“Uh…” the huntress fumbled at the unexpected and equally difficult to answer question. “You’re Kagome. You’re not obscene or disrespectful. Your ways are just different from ours and Sesshoumaru is making assumptions, because he doesn’t know you. You shouldn’t pay him any mind.”
“I’m different? Different? That’s not a yes or a no, Sango.”
“Well…” she stalled weakly, casting about for the navy and purple robed monk whose sage insight might salvage the quickly sinking wreck she had unintentionally worsened. She spied Miroku a few steps away with the auburn-haired kitsune pup happily perched upon his shoulder. Each holding similarly odd poses, the two were stock still with a blocking hand raised towards the raging battle and one eye opened in a squint. Baffled by their unwavering and strangely-granted interest, the taijiya momentarily forgot the school girl’s rather pressing dilemma of self-doubt. “What are you doing, houshi-sama? Houshi-sama? Houshi-sama?!”
“Hm, what? Did you say something, Sango?” the distracted monk murmured absently while the delicately balanced Shippou managed only a weak nod in her general direction. Perturbed at the flagrant inattention to her reasonable question, the huntress stepped in front of them much to their abrupt consternation as the blade of her weapon effectively blocked their gawking stares.
“Now, what are both of you looking at?”
“We were just trying to see what the farmer saw in Sesshoumaru, that’s all,” Shippou confessed, his cheeks blushing brightly at his shameful admission.
“Our apologies, Sango. We meant you no disrespect,” Miroku apologized magnanimously as he slowly sidled to the side. “It is just quite difficult to stop once you begin.”
“Yeah,” Shippou agreed, shifting about as well in his almost desperate search to regain the view that had been lost to the taijiya’s intrusion. “If you ignore his body and just stare at his face, you’ll never want to look anywhere else ever again.”
“He’s still a man, Shippou-chan,” she remarked crossly, surprised by the bubbling insecurities that unexpectedly brimmed before their budding fascination.
“Yes, but I do doubt that I have ever seen a woman that could rival him,” the monk admitted thoughtlessly and then he wistfully sighed as his searching, violet eyes found their intent, now fiercely gripping their hanyou comrade by the throat.
“What?” Sango blurted out, the bitter taste of venom trickling into her voice.
“If he had been born a lady, I must say that I would find it difficult to ask another to bear my child.”
“I can’t believe you,” she declared in disbelief with arms akimbo and her tone severe. “You have a hard time not asking an eight year old to bear your children. Now you’re saying that if Sesshoumaru, the cruel and murderous youkai lord who has nearly killed any one of us, had been born a woman, you would give up chasing anyone else?”
“Oh, that reminds me,” he smoothly deflected, placing the visually inebriated pup onto the huntress’ shoulder before gently spinning her around to face the distant fight. “I will return in a moment, but until then, get a good look before you chastise my reasoning any further.”
Slipping away through the tall grass, the judicious monk left the two vexed women to their potentially violent anxiety as another more urgent demand summoned his presence. Sango’s rebuke had reminded him of an overlooked opportunity and now his devious sight poured over the lush field, tenaciously seeking it. He knew she was nearby somewhere and his fairly unsavory reputation was not an element of himself that he took lightly.
“How dare he call me obscene,” Kagome objected sullenly in the renewed quiet. “This is my school uniform. It’s not meant to be obscene. It’s just different, right, Sango-chan? Right? Sango?”
“He’s not that pretty,” the taijiya groused under her breath, ignoring her friend as she stared grumpily at the tai youkai beyond, her figure mimicking the school girl with crossed arms and a dour look. “No man should be allowed to be that pretty. It’s not fair.”
Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Rumiko Takahashi and other associated companies.