Chapter 2: Extinction Event
Sesshomaru watched the miko closely, noting each time she touched Rin to assess her condition or administer some medicine, for several hours. Jaken came and went in that time, building a small fire and leading Ah-Un away to forage for food. She’d spoken only once, to order Inuyasha to take some of her strange devices to the village. There was a heated argument, only the low volume of their voices kept him from interrupting them. Finally, she had pressed a bound tome into the hanyou’s hand and threatened to subjugate him if he did not take the things to the monk and assist him. Sesshomaru understood that his half-brother was reluctant to leave the miko alone with him. Foolish. As if the hanyou’s presence would be more than a minor inconvenience if he decided to harm the woman.
Once Inuyasha was out of her hearing range, but still well within the capacity of the daiyoukai’s senses, she spoke to him. “I have given her something to ease her pain and make her breathing less difficult, however…” She held Rin’s hand gently, careful not to disturb the blood and pus filled lesions that heavily coated his ward’s palms.
Sesshomaru wondered why the human did not have any concern for catching the disease herself. She seemed aware of the life-threatening nature of the illness, but he did not scent any fear or anxiety for her own well-being. Her actions were almost…maternal. How odd that one would have such deep feelings for a child that was only briefly familiar to her. Such sentimentality was far beyond that of any other human he had encountered; the species seemed far more self-absorbed and cowardly than the miko.
She interrupted his thoughts, “I have a medicine that can keep a few from getting sick, and it can make those already sick less severe. But-“
“You will treat Rin.” Something tightened in his chest. The miko would not refuse to heal his ward, he would not allow it. Rin would live.
“I already said I would, Sesshomaru.” In her exasperation, she forgot his honorific, and he let it go, too focused on her promise of help. “The medicine has to be administered in the first three days of symptoms to be effective, and it looks like-“
“She has been ill for seven nights.” He refused to believe that there was no other recourse. If the miko had something which would help Rin, she would use it. If the medicine needed to be made stronger, they would find a way.
“I thought so.” She muttered to herself, frowning and arguing with no one. Her voice was so low even he could catch no more than a few incoherent sounds. After a time, she seemed to come to a decision. She squared her shoulders and faced him. “With your permission, I would like to try to heal Rin with my reiki.” Before he could answer she rudely waved him off, “Of course, you must understand that I have not tried this before with something so…I have only ever healed cuts and bruises – only things for practice. I am not certain it will work.”
“Proceed.” He did not have to smell her to know her surprise and determination. The miko was, as always, ridiculously expressive. Much like Rin.
“You should step back, Sesshomaru-sama. I am still poorly trained. I burned Inuyasha only a few weeks ago when I lost control.”
“This one is no mere hanyou. Proceed.” He remained in his position less than ten feet from Rin’s nest. The miko looked like she wanted to argue, but wisely snapped her mouth shut and turned back to her patient. Her hands settled on either side of Rin’s head and she closed her eyes.
Within a few moments, he detected the faint aura of her holy power. Her hands began to glow softly, the pink light washing over his ward’s features and painting her with warmth. The power continued to grow steadily, until both the miko and Rin were limned in rosy hues.
His youki tingled from the proximity of her strength, familiar and yet unfamiliar. This was not the destructive, purifying force she infused in her arrows. It was a power of growth and new life, of healing and renewal. Reiki and youki were opposites, and he was intrigued to find that his own nature, although roused by her display, was not disturbed by it. Rather, he felt as though he was standing near a warm fire – aware of the potential for danger but appreciative of the light and heat.
Rin seemed to appreciate the flow of energy as well. The stiffness in her limbs relaxed, her breathing eased. Sesshomaru listened closely to her heart and lungs. Her pulse grew stronger and steadier, the wet sound of her breath decreased to something much closer to normal. Minutes passed, then hours, and still the miko knelt quietly by the girl. The sky was beginning to lighten, just a relaxation of the absolute darkness that signaled eventual dawn, when a shout rang out from the path to the village.
The miko opened her eyes and made a surprised, squeaking sound. Simultaneously, her aura flared. An explosion of reiki licked along his skin and fluttered the leaves in the trees. Sesshomaru tensed for the uncomfortable hot sensation of purification, but it did not come. Instead, he was washed in a gentle, warm embrace. Like a summer wind on the ocean, the smell of fresh air and salt tickled his nose. Power lifted his hair, tugged at his clothes, and brushed across his skin. The sensation of soft petals on his face and the scent of magnolia disappeared as quickly as it came, followed by another shout.
“Fuck! Ow! Kagome!” The hanyou appeared, jogging toward them and slapping at faint tendrils of smoke that rose from his reddened skin. He snarled at the miko, and Sesshomaru had to fight the urge to growl back. The miko did not belong to Sesshomaru – but she was working at his behest, on his ward. His half-brother would do well not to interfere. Although, perhaps the instruction was not necessary. The ozone and singed hair scent of purification was thick around the idiot. He must have learned something from the pain, as he stopped twenty feet away from the priestess.
“Oh, sorry Inuyasha! I was…I…” She blinked heavily and Sesshomaru noted that her power had winked out, as if it had never been. She was swaying slightly, and her eyes were unfocused. “I told you not to surprise me when I’m using my power,” she finished weakly.
“How the fuck was I supposed to know you-”
“Language. Not…not in front of…of Rin, okay?”
Sesshomaru sniffed delicately. Her scent was exhausted, and her heartbeat was slowing down. He stood and walked to her side, ignoring the protests of his half-brother to catch the miko as she fell unconscious. He lowered her to the ground beside Rin. Finding his ward’s fever had lessened significantly, he rearranged his mokomoko to cover both humans. He chose not to examine the motives behind ensuring her comfort.
“What the fuck did you do to her, you bastard?” The furious whisper would not be heard by the sleeping females, but it easily reached Sesshomaru’s ears.
He stiffened. Only one as ignorant as the hanyou would call his honor into question by implying that he would harm one under his protection. The miko had agreed to help him. He would, regrettably, owe her much before she was finished. He would care for her as part of his pack until her task was complete.
“Mind your tone, foolish one. She has exhausted herself. This Sesshomaru has done nothing to the miko.” He raised a brow and pointedly took in Inuyasha’s disheveled and smoking appearance. “She appears to have done something to you, however.”
The comment drew an immediate frown and a sound of extreme displeasure. “Just how the hell did you manage not to get caught in that shit? Her reiki stings like a motherfucker if she isn’t concentrating on not hurting me.”
“You assume This Sesshomaru ran from that one?” He allowed the barest smile to grace his lips. Rin was healing, and with the miko at his side he would be able to ensure that she was returned to health and stayed that way. His foremost concern alleviated, he was able to take some small pleasure in antagonizing the hanyou. It was really far too easy. “This Sesshomaru was also affected by her power. It was most…soothing.”
He leaned back against the God Tree, fully aware it was the hanyou’s favorite perch and that he would be unable to use it while Sesshomaru was there, and listened to the quiet curses of Inuyasha. His eyes slid partway closed as the first streaks of dawn appeared in the sky.
The miko would be a valuable asset. Once Rin was well he would bring both humans back to the castle. He was confident that he would successfully convince the woman to heal the demons as well. One such as he had never had anything to fear from the strange priestess, but since he had been exposed to her power and felt not even the slightest pain of purification, he was even more confident that he could manipulate her as he saw fit. It might even be amusing if she attempted to truly purify him. Her ire would be humorous, and he would not mind repeating the sensation either.
“Ugh,” Kagome moaned softly. She felt as though she had run 10K and then let someone pour sand in her eyes. Her stomach was painfully empty, her muscles sore, and she wanted nothing so badly as to go back to sleep. Right after she found a secluded tree and took care of personal business. She attempted to sit up, but found her arms and legs helplessly bound in the softest, furriest- Kagome’s eyes shot open and she was met with the piercing golden gaze of Sesshomaru, surrounded by white fur. “What in the…”
“Sleep, Miko. You are not yet replete.
“Replete?” She blinked, confused. She could not understand why Sesshomaru staring at her, and what was she using as a blanket.
“I know what it means,” she interrupted, and then blushed. The unfortunate rudeness was forgotten as her memory came back to her. Swiftly, she pushed out of the fur – it seemed much larger up close than she remembered it looking draped around Sesshomaru – and turned to Rin.
Her patient was breathing much easier. Her color was better, and the welts on her face were reduced in color and number. She folded back the covering. To her satisfaction, she noted that the girl’s hands were also less spotty, and her chest was completely clear. She let out a pleased hum and dug in her bag for her stethoscope. She listened to Rin’s heart and lungs and took her pulse. Her improvement was much more rapid than Kagome had hoped for.
She stood and stretched, determined to find a nice tree and a place to wash up before she had breakfast and examined Rin more closely. She didn’t manage more than a step away from the makeshift bed before she found a solid wall of daiyoukai in her way. Only his hands on her shoulders kept her from running directly into his spiked armor. Who designed this thing right at eye-height? Well, I suppose it is supposed to be danger–
Sesshomaru interrupted her thoughts. “You will not leave, Miko.”
“Actually, I will leave, Daiyoukai,” she said with a raised brow. She was in a wonderful mood. Her reiki had worked – really well – and in a way she had never tried before. She had only singed Inuyasha a little, and Rin was getting better. She would not let stuffy Sesshomaru ruin it. Plus she really had to pee. “I have to take care of a few things, then I will be back to see to Rin.”
“There is nothing that cannot wait.” His haughty tone irritated her and made her forget herself.
“Relieving myself cannot wait, so get out of the way. Please.” She could feel the blush working up her cheeks, but she tilted her head back, far back, and met his gaze. His face was impassive, as always, but there was something about his eyes. The dark honey color was the same, but there, at the corners… His skin was pinched, causing tiny worry wrinkles that marred the smooth skin of his face.
Kagome felt her traitorous heart melt a little. Sesshomaru was a frightening killer, and he was often really mean to her best friend, and if he didn’t let her go soon, she was going to irreparably embarrass herself. However, he cared for Rin, maybe even loved her. His concern for her health was so great he allowed it to cause imperfections in his perfect self. “I will be right back, Sesshomaru-sama. I promise,” she said softly.
His hands dropped from her arms and he turned abruptly. “Jaken, tend the fire.” She walked away listening to the subdued complaints of the toad followed by the sound of a boot connecting with soft flesh and silence. She washed her hands in the tiny stream that flowed through the woods and nearly fell in when Inuyasha dropped out of a tree behind her.
“Keep it down, wench. That asshole’s hearing is even better than mine.” He scowled and crouched next to her.
“If you don’t want to startle people, you shouldn’t sneak up on them.” He hrumphed and she straightened herself out. Her ponytail was probably crazy, and her shirt was terribly wrinkled, but her leggings and hiking shoes were clean enough. She longed for a bath, but her supplies were back at the well and she doubted Sesshomaru would appreciate it if she was gone that long. Not that there was enough water in the stream for a proper bath anyhow. She finger combed her hair and watched Inuyasha fidget. “Did Miroku get a hang of the needle?”
“Yeah. He gave the shot to Sango and Kaede.” An evil grin split his face, “I showed him how on himself.”
“I hope you didn’t dig the needle around, Inuyasha,” she said reproachfully. “Miroku might deserve a little pain every now and then, but needles can really hurt, and I only have a few replacements with me – so don’t break it.”
“Keh, he’s fine.” They lapsed into silence for a little while and Kagome was content to sit and admire the crisp morning while Inuyasha worked up to what he wanted to say. It took less time than she expected. “How’s the kid?”
“I think Rin is going to be fine. I need to examine her again, and, remember, I have never actually seen anyone with smallpox before, so I won’t feel really comfortable until she is completely healthy.” Her happiness with herself dimmed a bit as she considered the work still ahead of her, but she was still optimistic. “When she gets scabs, I’ll save some to make an inoculation for the villagers. Although…” she frowned, “if Sesshomaru is right about demons getting sick, you and Shippo should get a shot too. I don’t know how it will react to youkai…”
“You can try it out on me first, and if it goes okay, give it to the brat.” Inuyasha stood and offered her a hand. “Be careful with that asshole, Kagome. He needs you right now for the kid, but if he decides you aren’t doing a good job-”
“I’ll be fine, Inuyasha.” She smiled warmly at him. It was nice to have someone worry over her, even if it wasn’t necessary. “Besides, I can always zap him if he gets too pushy.” She made an exploding motion with her hands and Inuyasha gave her a strange look.
“I don’t think he-” Branches rustled and cracked and Inuyasha stepped protectively in front of her. He sniffed, and relaxed, “It’s only the toad.” Jaken appeared moments later, out of breath and covered in a thin sheen of mucus that Kagome assumed was his version of sweat. Gross.
“Come, filthy human,” he gurgled. Inuyasha stiffened and Kagome rolled her eyes. She understood why Sesshomaru always seemed to have a pebble handy to bean the self-important little retainer.
“Don’t you call Kagome-”
“Silence, half-breed!” It was Kagome’s turn to narrow her eyes. That pompous little– “Rin is awake. Sesshomaru-sama orders-” She didn’t wait to hear whatever drivel he had to say, but took off back towards the God Tree. There was a thump and a squawk of pain, and then Inuyasha was scooping her up and bounding through the trees. He stopped a short distance from the mound of blankets and fur and let her down under Sesshomaru’s watchful gaze.
“Remember what I said, Kagome. I’ll be right here.”
She waved him off absently and he withdrew into the clearing. Rin was, indeed, awake and sitting up against a tree root. The white fur that Sesshomaru usually wore had been rearranged to provide both blanket and pillow. It created a cozy nest that would protect her from the rough bark of the Goshinboku and keep her warm. Pleasant, nice feelings towards the stoic daiyoukai returned at the thought of him providing such comfort for his ward.
“How are you feeling, Rin?” She asked softly. The girl’s eyes turned to her. The brown color was still a bit glassy, but her skin was no longer the deathly pale it had been the night before. The rash appeared to still be receding as well.
“Kagome-san! Rin is very happy to see you! Sesshomaru-sama said-” There was a low, disembodied rumble and the raspy chatter cut off abruptly. “Rin is feeling much better. Thank you, Kagome-san.” Kagome shook her head at the strange image of the Killing Perfection reproving a child and sank down onto the fur. She lay one hand on Rin’s forehead, and happy with the low fever, she reached into her bag to find her stethoscope.
“Does your throat hurt, Rin-chan?” The girl shook her head and watched with wide eyes as Kagome put the ends in her ears. She loosened the fur and blew on the metal diaphragm to warm it before sliding it inside Rin’s kimono over her chest. “Take a deep breath, Rin.” She had the girl repeat the exercise, and then listened to her heart.
Rin was avidly curious, and Kagome could practically feel the daiyoukai’s eyes on her back. She smiled. Inuyasha and the others were used to her new medical instruments, she had forgotten how strange they would seem to someone else. “Would you like to hear your heart?” The girl nodded and she adjusted the stethoscope into her ears.
“It is so loud, Sesshomaru-sama! Almost as loud as your heart!” That telling sentence was enough to keep Kagome’s mind reeling with contrasting images of Sesshomaru shredding his enemies into unrecognizable gore, and the same youkai cuddling a small child. She continued her exam, finally sitting back and noticing that Jaken had started fish over the fire while she was working. Her stomach rumbled, reminding her that supper was long past, and she guessed that it had been even longer since Rin had eaten.
“Inuyasha, would you see if Sango has some plain broth for Rin-chan, please?” He scowled, but she knew he would help. He disappeared over the hill and she urged Rin to drink water while she scarfed down a fish as quickly as possible without looking like a half-starved animal.
Once Inuyasha returned and Rin was settled under Jaken’s watchful eye with a bowl of soup, she motioned Sesshomaru over to Inuyasha and settled onto the ground. After a brief pause, he did the same, albeit more gracefully than she had.
“I think I should use my reiki again when she’s done eating, just to be safe. Would that be permissible, Sesshomaru-sama?”
“Good. Why don’t you tell us about the demons who are sick.” She probably should have made it a question.
“This one sees no reason for the hanyou to hear of such things.”
“Hey! Wait a sec, you-”
“Inuyasha,” she warned. Her friend shut his mouth, but he sulked as he handed over the medical pouch and book she had sent to the village the night before. “Anything you want to tell me, you may as well tell Inuyasha. I will certainly tell him anyhow.” She smiled sweetly and punched the hanyou’s arm to get rid of the satisfied grin that had no doubt erupted on his face.
She did not look at him, but kept her gaze on the daiyoukai while Inuyasha grunted in exaggerated pain. She readied her syringe while she waited. Inuyasha calmly removed his haori, although she knew he must be dying to rub his superior knowledge of her medicine into Sesshomaru’s face – he really has matured – and rolled up his sleeve.
Again, the daiyoukai’s curiosity was almost tangible, pushing against her senses and demanding answers. “In exchange, I could tell you about this.” She held up the vial of vaccine.
“This Sesshomaru shall-” he paused, and his nostrils flared. He breathed deeply again, almost, but not quite, sniffing. “It has no scent.” It was spoken as a statement, but Kagome heard the question and smiled.
“You were saying about the demons?” She listened to his deep, even voice attentively while she prepared Inuyasha and gave him the injection. She sterilized the bifurcated needle while he named the human villages that had reported the illness. She put away her supplies while he described how the first demons in his household fell to the sickness. She held still, heart in her throat, when he flatly stated that one had died.
“The demons do not progress as quickly as Rin. However, This Sesshomaru estimates that within the week another ten will succumb. All are lesser youkai in villages or in this one’s service.” Kagome had to force herself out of her shocked silence. Inuyasha never got sick – never. He was a hanyou; she couldn’t imagine how virulent a disease would have to be to infect full-youkai. Sesshomaru spoke again, as though the words were forced from him. “Such a thing is not known in the history of youkai.”
She could believe it. A curl of dread unfurled in her belly. She glanced at Inuyasha and the serious look on his face fueled that terror. “Do you think…” She couldn’t finish the thought.
“Maybe, it – hell, fuck if I know, Kagome.” Inuyasha pulled his haori on with jerky movements. “Just cause I never smelled ‘em, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I told you-”
“Never, Inuyasha. In nineteen years, I have never sensed one. If this disease-”
“You will explain your fear to This Sesshomaru.” She froze. For a moment she had forgotten he was even there. Sharp thorns of worry pricked her and she debated silently. If she told him, there was no going back. If he believed her, there would be one more person who could upset the flow of time. If he didn’t… Sesshomaru wasn’t in a patient mood. “Miko,” he growled threateningly. It was the third time in less than twenty-four hours that he had lost his cool with her. She decided that was a sign that he needed to know.
“The well doesn’t take me to a place. It takes me to a time.”
“Kagome?” Inuyasha questioned, but she continued, not breaking eye contact with Sesshomaru.
“I am from five hundred years in the future. In my time, there are no demons.”
Sesshomaru could smell her fear. Finally. She had suffered his claws, still bore bruises from where he had gripped her and held her against the tree, and lived through his poison without even a wiff of unease. Here in the autumn sunlight, hearing of the death of a youkai she did not know, she smelled of fear. Dry mace and sour melon flesh almost overpowered the mildly sweet cherry wood and magnolia of her.
“You will explain your fear to This Sesshomaru,” he demanded. She did not respond, but instead the fear grew stronger. The urge to eliminate the combination of pungent and bitter was almost undeniable. “Miko,” he growled.
“The well doesn’t take me to a place. It takes me to a time.”
Sesshomaru fell completely still and considered her words. The power of the well was immense. That supported her claim. So did her strange clothes and manner of speech. She was unusually well educated, but seemed to lack basic knowledge that he would expect any human woman to know. And she was not lying. Her fear was still present, but there was no putrid scent of deception around her. The miko was from the future. The future miko.
He turned that over in his mind a few times. She was untrained, but still an incredibly powerful priestess. She had proven many times her ability to destroy youkai, but she apparently posed no such threat to him. For those reasons she had value as an ally. She had saved Rin and had the skills and instinct to protect and care for his ward in ways he could not. For that reason he would bring her to the castle; it would be worth much to him to convince her to stay. Knowledge of the future, of events that would come to pass were invaluable.
He determined then, between beats of her heart, that he would keep her. Such power, prophecy, and utility were clear advantages to the West. Her heart and soul were of advantage to Rin. Advantage to This Sesshomaru.
“Kagome,” Inuyasha interrupted, but her eyes stayed on the daiyoukai, as if trying to force him to listen and understand by sheer willpower.
“I am from five hundred years in the future. In my time, there are no demons.” She paused for a long moment. “Sess-”
“You are mistaken.” The hanyou and the miko stared at him and Sesshomaru held back a sigh. It pained him to explain the obvious. “This Sesshomaru is far superior to other youkai. It is not possible that this one would not survive such a measly number of years.”
“Measly?” The human echoed faintly.
“I know,” she cut him off and he had the uncommon urge to growl at her disrespect. He seemed to have such inclinations often around the miko. The future miko. “I had thought that perhaps youkai went into hiding,” Sesshomaru raised one brow, as if one such as him would hide, “or had learned to conceal their youki and markings to blend in better with humans.”
“Demons have no need for such deception. Humans pose no threat to any but weak and foolish youkai…or hanyou.”
“Fuck you, asshole!” Sesshomaru almost smirked. Inuyasha was too easy to rile. “You think you can overcome anything? There is a big difference between a village armed with pitchforks and a samurai army.”
The daiyoukai remained passive. If Inuyasha thought to frighten him, it would not work. “This Sesshomaru has destroyed such armies before.”
“Keh. You think that is the worst they can come up with? You-”
“How many humans are in the West, Sesshomaru-sama?” The miko cut in, silencing his half-brother’s rant. He named a figure that was more estimate than fact. Humans died and gave birth too quickly to keep accurate numbers. “The village where I am from, the Edo of the future, has more than 40,000 people living in it. It is part of a larger city called Tokyo. Tokyo is home for more than 13 million human beings, Sesshomaru. That is more than all of the people in Japan today, in the feudal era – your time. You think that there will never be a day when strong youkai, when you, have to fear humans? In my time, we are not one army of samurai. There are 7 billion humans in the world, and we are still adding more.” She spoke quietly, but every word was the truth.
He could not understand it. There was no possible way they could reproduce so quickly in a mere 500 years. Where would they all live? As though he had spoken aloud, Inuyasha answered him.
“They have built houses of metal and glass that rise higher than trees – higher than even you could jump, Sesshomaru.” For once, the hanyou was serious and calm. Sesshomaru tested his scent. There was no trace of lies in him either, but something else – a sadness, and a hint of fear as well. “There are no open spaces for miles and miles. It stinks of the machines they use to build and run their cities. Everywhere there are humans, and they have forgotten us.”
A fire burned in Inuyasha’s eyes and his next words were a dagger to Sesshomaru’s pride. “They do not believe we exist. They,” the half-demon swallowed convulsively, “Kagome’s brother showed me a story book about the Great Dog General.” Golden eyes, so reminiscent of his father’s, met Sesshomaru and twisted the blade. If he had believed he had a heart, he would have thought his was broken. “They call it a fairy-tale. You think you cannot be defeated. Everything is defeated with time, big brother.” Inuyasha made one last dig with his endearment, stood and stepped away.
Sesshomaru, even in his shock, did not draw attention to the smell of salt that trailed his half-brother. “I-” He began, then he shook himself to regain his formal manner and started again. “This cannot be.” It was not possible. So many great youkai, and himself at the pinnacle, they could not have been conquered by humans. And yet these two spoke the truth.
“I don’t think there was a war or outright killing of youkai, Sesshomaru.” The miko spoke quietly, but it was her hand on his sleeve that drew his attention out of his own thoughts. It was strangely comforting. “It would be in the history books, however disguised. I think…I think now that this disease might be the answer to what happened to demons between the feudal era and my time.”
“You are changing the future.” She drew back at his observation, and he was acutely aware of the loss of heat from her small hand.
“Always,” she agreed, “but not in ways that have ever affected my time in a noticeable way, although that is a matter of debate given the physics of-” she shook her head, “never mind. I wondered why the well allowed me to continue to travel, after the Shikon was completed. I think, maybe, I still have something to do here.”
He stared into her blue eyes, so unusual for a human – for a human from this time – and was surprised by her again. A miko. A human of divine power. A killer of youkai. Sent back in time to defeat Naraku and save the demon races. It was ridiculous. It was unbelievable. In a convoluted way, it was exactly what he had come to expect from the strange, clumsy girl who always seemed to be in exactly the wrong place, at exactly the right time. The girl who always needed saving, who had saved them all. It deserved further thought.
“Hn.” She stared at him for a moment, then laughed. The clear, silvery sound should have pained his ears. Instead it lightened something in him. He wasn’t sure he liked the feeling.