~*~ Chapter 10 ~*~
The long, dark hallway split into two before the separate images lazily rejoined in the center of her vision. Taking a few hard blinks to clear her head, Kagome grabbed clumsily at the doorknob behind her. She finally took hold and used the gravity of her falling body to pull her bedroom door shut, sealing the unconscious Hojo inside. The thud of her limp body making contact with the floor reached her ears, but other than a twinge of pain from her most severe injuries, her body felt relatively little. She panted, trying to adjust to the quick change in her activity level after being under the effects of the sedative for so long. Her only grace was that the coldness of the polished floorboards had quelled her nauseous stomach a great degree, and so she found the strength to twist her body up onto her knees. Kagome leaned against the wall and, taking another deep breath, used the flat surface to support herself as she shakily stood, her ankles and wrists still bound with thick rope.
She started to hop, eyes fixed desperately ahead, not looking back at that door. She didn’t want to see him standing there, standing with that knife in his hand. She didn’t want to know if her time was up or not. If she was going to die, it was going to be trying to save her baby.
Her face smashed into the wooden floor yet again, and she immediately righted herself with the help of the wall she had been leaning against whenever she got tired. A deep purple bruise began to bloom on the cheek and shoulder that took the brunt of her falls. Sweat trickled down her brow as she rounded the corner to Shippo’s hallway. After being on the move for a while, the drowsiness in her limbs had already begun to fade. Now she ran on adrenaline alone, the hope of Shippo ahead and the fear of Hojo behind pushing her onward.
In the last, dying rays of sunlight her anxious blue eyes sought out the crayon dinosaur drawings that marked his bedroom door, only to find the entrance blocked by a heavy mahogany bookshelf that usually sat near the staircase in a small alcove. Kagome hopped quickly, stumbling occasionally, and crumpled against the wall near Shippo’s door, whispering his name in a frightened tremble. She waited, pressing her ear to the wall to see if there was a reply. After an agonizing few seconds, she heard a mumble and then rustling, followed by a few short thumps on the wall right where she sat. Kagome broke out into unbidden tears, closing her eyes and thanking whatever guardian was watching out for her. Then she set her sights on the bookcase looming in her path.
Inside, Shippo gave a start as he heard the loud bangs and screeches coming from just beyond his door. The small boy shivered visibly. ‘What if… Mr. Hojo…? No…’ He shook his head frantically, and broke out into muffled sobs, trying to erase the terrible image from his mind. His mother was alive, and she was coming to get him, and they would get out. He could still smell her just outside the door, and no sign of Hojo yet. He latched on to the comforting scent as he took a stand. The auburn-haired boy rushed back toward his window and away from the offending noise, looking around until his eyes caught the edge of the small painted table he used as his desk for homework and drawing. Though his feet remained free, his arms remained shackled behind his back, and so the kit dropped to his knees and rubbed his cheek against the pointed corner of the table in an effort to dislodge the tape that muzzled him.
As soon as his mouth was halfway free, he cried out for his mother, who he could hear grunting with the bumps and thuds outside. Kagome launched her body repeatedly at the heavy bookcase, stopping occasionally to wedge her body between the case and the door and push with her feet with all her might. She panted heavily, her body drenched in sweat and traces of her own blood as she shakily stood in front of the barely cleared door.
“I’m coming, Shippo…” she puffed.
The woman turned her back to the door and found the doorknob, opening it and letting herself fall into the room while a bawling Shippo ran over to check on her condition. He dropped to his knees beside her, his small body wracked with uncontrollable sobs, and nuzzled her cheek to offer and receive some measure of comfort.
“Shh… it’s okay, baby. Don’t cry. Shh… we have to be quiet, okay?” she whispered. Tiny, sharp fangs clamped down on his bottom lip as he nodded with muffled whimpers.
“Good. You’re doing a really good job, sweetie,” the mother reassured her child. “I need you to cut my ropes, okay?”
The woman struggled a bit before managing to turn onto her side, displaying the tightly knotted restraints Hojo had put in place. She heard Shippo gasp at the ugly sight of her wrists and arms, but assured him to pay it no mind. The boy nodded and turned his own back to her, using his sharp claws to carefully saw through the thick tangle of ropes. He apologized profusely each time he accidentally cut her skin, but she only urged him to continue. After her arms were free, Kagome worked quickly on freeing her legs. Unfortunately, it had appeared that Hojo’s experience in the company of youkai had given him enough knowledge not to bind Shippo in rope. Instead the boy’s wrists were held with rough metal shackles. Kagome’s heart twisted at the sight of her baby in chains.
“We can get those off of you later, right now I need to get us out,” she said.
“H-he’s gonna get us… H-he told me he would k-kill us if we tried to leave!” the green-eyed boy panicked. Kagome grabbed his shoulders swiftly.
“No he won’t, Shippo!” she whispered harshly. He withered under her terrified gaze.
“H-he came in my room last night while you were sleeping and gave me a shot when I tried to call for you! I heard him follow you when you went downstairs, but I couldn’t move… I-I couldn’t…”
Kagome paled and remembered watching her son sleep soundly the night before. Her bottom lip quivered. ‘That monster was there… the whole time…’ She could see him in her mind, placing Shippo into his bed in a staged slumber and standing not two or three feet away from her as she stood at the door and checked on him. Bile rose in her throat, and she tried to suppress the sensation. She forced herself to meet Shippo’s emerald eyes again.
“Don’t worry about any of that stuff now, okay? We’re gonna get out. That’s all that matters right now. Now I’m going to check the hall, and if it’s clear we’re going to make a run for the door. I want you to get down the stairs first, okay? Do not wait for me, Shippo,” she said sternly.
“When I tell you to run, you go. No matter what happens.”
The boy nodded shakily and crept behind her as she made her way to the door, peeking around the corner tentatively. No sooner than the warning scent hit his nose was Kagome’s body forcefully yanked out into the yawning darkness and thrown hard against the wall, another syringe plunging into her as she raised her arms weakly to defend herself. Shippo’s screams rang out into the dark house as Hojo kicked him back into his bedroom, slamming the door and sliding the large bookcase back into place in front of it. He turned, wiping the crusted blood from his forehead as he grabbed Kagome’s limp wrist and dragged her body down the long hallway to the tune of Shippo’s shrieks for his mother’s safe return.
“Daddy? Don’t you think it is a little bit strange?” she inquired, resting her cheek against the head of her stuffed pink lamb as she watched her father write at his desk.
“Shippo has been absent from school before, Rin. Perhaps he had some other appointment that you were not aware of,” he intoned, focusing on the documents before him.
“But Shippo would tell me something like that… and besides, when I went to see if they wanted to come to school together this morning, no one answered. Miss Kagome’s car was there… so how come?” the girl asked with worry etched onto her innocent face. Sesshoumaru’s pen stalled. He did not have a sufficient answer.
“That is a bit… unusual, I will admit. But what do you suppose I do about that, Rin?” the daiyoukai prompted, lifting his gaze from the neat text to meet his pup’s concerned gaze.
“Can’t we just… I don’t know… go check on them or something?” she asked as she fidgeted before him.
“Please, Daddy…? I’m really worried for some reason…” She studied his face as he closed his golden eyes, then rose from the plush office chair.
Sesshoumaru walked with Rin hand in hand up to the blue Higurashi house, noting the woman’s vehicle still parked outside as the girl had stated. He hated to be interrupted from his work, but hated to see his daughter distressed even more so. So if it meant he had to indulge her little request, then he supposed it was not too much of an inconvenience. As they approached the front door, however, Sesshoumaru quickly paused, squeezing Rin’s hand gently in a signal for her to stop. He could already see her discomfort growing, and he knew now the answer for why her visit this morning had gotten her so upset, even though she didn’t.
The air around the Higurashi house was thick with fear and malice, and it held traces of a somewhat familiar male scent that was definitely not supposed to be there, spiked with arousal. Rin, who was not yet intuitive enough to determine the nature of the scents, only knew that it made her uncomfortable for some reason and had not had the ability to properly communicate the true nature of what she felt there. Just as he was about to speak, a thin, delicate wisp of a very familiar scent danced directly under his nose. It was blood.
“Rin. You need to go home this instant. Lock the door and let no one inside,” he ordered. Rin was startled by the urgency in his voice.
“Is something wrong? They’re okay, right – ”
“Go, now!” he growled.
The smell of blood was beginning to agitate him more by the second, but he could not investigate the situation until he was sure Rin was safe. She scampered away and he watched her every step until she entered their home, listening for the click of the lock. The silver-haired man turned his attention to the house yet again, flaring his youki to alert any other youkai in the vicinity to his presence. Though the unnamed scent was human, he could not be too careful. Sesshoumaru waited for a moment, then turned his head quickly to a sudden clamor coming from a second story window of the large house.
Shippo banged his head against the window and yelled wildly, jumping up instantly after feeling the familiar youki wash over him. He had been crumpled up on the floor, sobbing violently at his inability to help his mother, when he sensed the one person he had been praying desperately to come and rescue them. Now he screamed his lungs raw to get the man’s attention as Sesshoumaru’s amber eyes snapped to his in acknowledgement. Shippo saw the daiyoukai disappear under the lower ledge as he went to enter the house. The boy slid to the floor and cried with relief.
The metal of the handle, along with much of the rest of the area around it, slowly liquefied under the eerie green glow of Sesshoumaru’s claws, providing him little resistance. He pushed through into the house unhindered, surveying the disheveled living space and sniffing out the nearest occupant: Shippo. Sesshoumaru stepped over dropped food and foreign clothing until he reached the boy’s bedroom, clearly marked by his crudely drawn name in blue and green letters. With one fluid motion the daiyoukai pushed the large bookcase aside with ease and entered, immediately being seized about the legs by the sniveling child.
“What happened?” he asked calmly, turning Shippo to carefully melt the metal restraints on his wrists. The boy attempted to calm his hyperventilating, doing his best to ignore the quiet sizzling behind him.
“Mr. Hojo came and stuck us with needles that put us to sleep… He has my mom, Lord Sesshoumaru! You have to get her!” the boy demanded tearfully as he was freed.
Shippo turned and saw the man kneeling motionlessly before him. His nostrils flared, and suddenly took in a deep breath of air before clenching his jaw tightly. The boy moved closer but stepped quickly back as he felt the air grow charged with immense power around them, raising the hair on the back of his neck as he watched. Sesshoumaru’s eyes darkened significantly before fading into bloody red, his fangs elongating as he spoke.
“I will,” he answered with a hint of a snarl on his lips.
Shippo stayed close behind as instructed, almost running to keep up with Sesshoumaru’s quick stride. ‘Just hold on… just hold on…’ he silently urged. ‘Lord Sesshoumaru’s here… She’s gonna be alright… It’s gonna be alright…’ the small boy reassured himself as they rounded the corner. Sesshoumaru did not slow his gait, instead ripping the door from its hinges as the metal joints gave a painful shriek. The human man jumped up from his position over Kagome’s prone form, and the daiyoukai roared with fury as he charged the schoolteacher.
Hojo’s knife clattered to the ground as he gasped for intake of precious air, Sesshoumaru’s clawed hand tightening dangerously around his windpipe. The man’s feet dangled helplessly as the daiyoukai fought himself not to close his grip completely, only restraining himself for the sake of not exposing Shippo’s young eyes to a decapitation. Instead he glared maliciously into Hojo’s petrified eyes with his full ferocity written on his face, for once completely unhindered.
“You came into this place… attacked a defenseless female and pup… you have no shame, filth,” he spat. Hojo could only gasp and gurgle in response.
“You bound them? Took away the mobility of their arms and legs?” he questioned, narrowing his eyes treacherously.
Sesshoumaru reached with his free hand to gently wrap his fingers around Hojo’s upper arm. The daiyoukai gave a quick squeeze and shattered Hojo’s humerus in several places. He repeated the process on the opposite arm as the human shrieked in blood curdling agony. Sesshoumaru’s grimace only deepened, and he dipped his arm lower to grab Hojo by each leg and splinter both femurs. He returned his attention to the man’s terrified brown eyes.
“You silenced their ability to speak?” he said, slowly lifting his hand to Hojo’s face. With a swift jerk his jaw was crushed.
Just as he was about to black out from the pain, Sesshoumaru dropped the man’s broken body like a discarded toy and knelt before him. He grabbed Hojo by the hair and brought the man nose to nose with him, oozing hatred from every pore as the human coughed blood onto his pristine face.
“Your only gift from me, filth, is that I do not put you to sleep as you did them… only permanently,” Sesshoumaru ground out with malice dripping from his voice.
He gave a quick nod to Shippo, signaling that it was safe to enter, and the boy ran quickly to his mother’s side. Sesshoumaru let Hojo’s head drop to the floor and walked slowly over to collect the woman and child, gently lifting her wilted body and cradling them both in his arms as he turned and exited the broken blue house.