They also serve.
I don't own Inuyasha, Kagome, Naraku or any of Takahashi Rumiko's miraculous creations. Noi and his world are kinda' mine, though.
REQUEST FROM THE FANAUTHOR:
A few years ago, I found a hilarious document called "Anime Cool Guy Test." It was hysterical. He can cook +4 points. He's feared by gods -20 points. But not because he's ridiculously over-powered, regain 25 points... The other day, I tried to find it again. Google, altavista, it was of no avail.
I long ago saved a copy of "115 Rules for Evil Overlords." If anyone has similarly saved a copy of the Cool Guy Test, then I would greatly appreciate an email.
Kagome's grip went tight on Inuyasha's arm. The four machines were moving toward them like lionesses bearing down on a kill, and there was no mistaking that evil ringing in her heart. Naraku had crafted shells of steel for his new children. "What do we do now?" she breathed.
Noi looked back at her. "In this case, tradition dictates that we run."
"Come on..." sneered Inuyasha, shifting one foot so that he was just a little closer to them than she was. "I can beat these things."
"No you can't," Noi answered smoothly. "They attack in groups. That one must have been malfunctioning, or it never would have landed without waiting for the others." He paused. "Or it might have had special orders."
"You're just jealous."
"That you look so damn good in leather pants? Of course I am, but that's not the point. You don't remember how to fight, not well enough to take out four of these at once."
The eyes of the nearest steel-beast flared, and Kagome /knew/. They were moving too slow. They were coiling like a serpent before the bite. When it came, it would come quick. "Inuyasha..." her voice was barely audible.
He looked at her and something flickered in those too-pale amber eyes, an unaccustomed look to match the face.
"When we move," Noi was saying, "they'll move."
"They're movin' now, genius," Inuyasha murmured as he watched the approaching search demons and Kagome felt goosebumps on the skin beneath her fingers. He looked back to Kagome, mouth half-open, "I don't think..." he trailed off, then set his jaw, turning sharply toward Noi. "Fine," he said swiftly. "Lead the way."
"There's a tunnel," the red-haired boy whispered, barely moving his lips. "If we're lucky, we can make it."
"Spare us the guided tour, moron; just go!"
Kagome loosened her hand on Inuyasha's arm. She didn't want to let go completely.
"All right," Noi breathed.
The second search demon lowered one gleaming head. All eight eyes were fixed on them. She felt Inuyasha tug his arm away.
His hand slipped down to her wrist.
His hand caught hers and squeezed. She squeezed back.
The tiny grove exploded in the evil hiss of metal. Instead of turning straight backwards into the woods, Noi ducked sideways behind the rocks. Caught off-guard, Kagome took half a step in the wrong direction before Inuyasha gave her arm a jerk and half-led, half-dragged her after them.
One slender blade hit her hair. Behind her, Kagome all but saw a half-dozen black strands float toward the ripped moss.
"This way!" shouted Noi. "It turns into a rock scramble!" Kagome turned to follow, loamy cloth of her dress snagging as she went. "I could've been a dental hygienist..." Noi was muttering, "but noooooo, Mama's little boy had to grow up and join the underground and get snapped at by fucking demon birds."
Kagome hissed in a breath. "What's a rock scramble?"
Growing up, Kagome hadn't been a big fan of hiking, but her time in the past had caused her to develop a taste for the mountains. Thinking back, she hadn't had much choice about it, but over time her legs had stopped aching and her lungs had stopped burning and her heart hadn't pounded so hopelessly against her ribs. If Kagome had doubted that Ema's body wasn't her own, she knew it then. Even when there were no roads, they'd picked their paths. Kagome was still fairly hopeless, and Inuyasha had never needed the skill, but Miroku had been an absolute natural.
This was no picked path of any kind.
"Oho," Noi's voice filtered back at her, "or Se just could've fucking remembered how to use his own fucking weapon of choice that he practically sleeps cuddled up with, but noooooo..."
This was no shortcut through a gorge or across a roadless span between one rumor and the next.
Kagome's knee hit granite and left blood behind. Inuyasha's hand on her upper arm twisted and she felt pain in her shoulder and firmness under both feet.
But these were boulders and halves of boulders, glacier-cracked to splinters. The noise behind her stumbled and slashed. Her eyes flicked to the scattering branches. They couldn't fly. They couldn't walk. The rocks were cursed, and not just for her. She didn't have time to go numb. She didn't have time for pain. Noi was scrambling ahead of them. Kagome spared a second to notice that, for a boy that skinny, he sure seemed to know his way up a mountain trail, covering the ground twice as fast as she would have expected. Inuyasha was no slouch either. Kagome began to suspect that the only reason he'd deigned to let Noi lead was because he didn't know the way himself.
Her knees pumped nearly to her chest. Whatever power Inuyasha had lost, landing in this alien place, it hadn't been in his legs. With every jump he took, from one split stone to the next, his hand at her sluggish arm made him lean down so hard that she was sure he'd lose his balance every time. Kagome kept her eyes on the sky, on the rusty-haired boy leading them, on the uncertain ex-hanyou who'd been her lifeline long before this and never seemed to lose his footing. The noise behind her grew.
"Oy, runt!" Inuyasha yelped at their guide. "How much further?" The world seemed to slow down as he began to flip over his shoulder in her direction, smooth as the Earth on its circuit. "I don't think Kagome can keep this-"
Agate eyes set on something behind her and flared wide. The whole world flared white.
Kagome never felt her body hit the rocks.
"You tried to kill me, didn't you?" Sesshoumaru's eyes glowed like steel. He was cold, but when had he turned metal?
"You'll be sorry," she smiled out, handing Inuyasha his birthright. "Here you are, but you have to promise to protect and love me always."
"Kagome, get up."
A boy with Shippo-red hair. "Please tell me you remember how to use one of those!"
Evil poison. It didn't hurt (why didn't it hurt?) but it was bad, very bad, would make her gone. But it felt so good to be still.
The sword in his grip hummed, crackled, pulsed with an electric heartbeat.
Something touched her forehead.
Pain in her eyes.
Hands at her neck.
"...don't push her too..."
Lying on her back.
"...telling you, Indis said..."
"Damn it, wake up!"
She pulled in a breath. It wasn't just her eyes; her head hurt. In fact, Kagome realized, just about everything hurt.
"You're underground, Ema," a strange speech and a strange word. "They can't follow us here. We've had a change of plan." Noi. Noi was talking.
"We had a plan in the first place?" snapped Inuyasha.
Kagome reached behind her and felt rock. She tensed her arms and pressed herself toward the close ceiling. Soon, there was a palm against her shoulder blade and a whispered scent of male sweat and unknown cloth. When had he put his arm behind her? For Kagome, every muscle twitch seemed individualized, but he still moved as one piece. He was close. If her head hadn't been throbbing like a smashed artery, she'd have blushed. Come to think of it... Kagome felt her cheeks heat.
"As a matter of fact, we did," finished Noi. "We were going to go straight to Indis, but considering that we ran into a little complication/, we won't be able to make it there until after curfew. And if you think /that was bad," the boy shook his head, "then you don't want to know what happens at night. If we follow the tunnel a ways, then we might be able to make it to my place. Indis said she'd try to meet us there." Noi faked a sigh. "And I've only got good china enough for two..."
Kagome breathed. "What..."
"-happened?" asked Noi, a smile making his pale eyebrows arch. "One of the damn search birds hit you in the head and Se's fucking memory came back, that's what. Indis used to joke that you two were connected at the brain."
Inuyasha rasped out his human half-growl. "Quit calling me 'shay' and I don't remember shit." He never looked at Noi, though. His eyes didn't leave her.
"Of course," Noi added, "that's not how he usually gets that overgrown charm bracelet to work, but it did the trick. I hardly had to help or anything."
"Lying bastard, you didn't help at all. You were hiding!"
"I was moral support." Noi shook his head in amazement. "They also serve who only turn and flee. Besides, you looked way too into what you were doing for me to disturb you. Ema, I'll be fucked if the damn fool didn't try to carry you here."
"You were too heavy..." he whispered into the ground.
Her hand found his fingers.
Noi hadn't seemed to notice that his audience's attention had shifted. "The second you went down, my boy here is up and over the rocks and kicking ass," the red boy all but laughed. "It's been a long time since I've seen you break a sweat over a few search demons."
"It just..." a crease formed between Inuyasha's new eyes and he held up his right arm, the arm that wasn't supporting her and made a fist. Kagome blinked at sparks, running in even trails from Inuyasha's elbow down past his fingers. "It was like nothing could break me," he said in a voice too quiet to be his own, and then, with a familiar smirk forming on his lips, "so I broke them instead." His hand opened and the light vanished, leaving an innocent shell-smooth surface behind.
Kagome's eyes fell to the armband at his wrist. It gleamed like a black pearl.