Disclaimer: Inuyasha is mine. What? He's mine, mine I tell you! You can't have him! Noooooo! ;_; *gets dragged away yet again by the copyright police, because, of course, Inuyasha is the property of the wondrous Rumiko Takahashi, who kindly lets poor worshipping fanfic authors use her characters..and lets them fantasize about owning them even though they never will*
By Amanda Hitchcock (but call me Tally ^_^ )
Summer storms hung taught on the breeze, filling the evening dusk with a strange tension as it set over the hills and forests; a sense of unease. He could feel it. Oh, he could feel it. Even the other tribesmen were unsettled by it, and their senses were nothing compared to that of the young man standing alone atop a rocky crag. His ears twitched to follow a flock of crows passing, and his nose wrinkled slightly in distaste. Something about the air was too sweet and crackly, like lightning about to strike. But that wasn't what was bothering him.
It was how empty everything felt. He couldn't understand it--what had happened?
"So this is where you've been hiding," a smooth voice chuckled softly. His ears turned back at the footsteps accompanying the voice as they came up the slope behind him, but his eyes stayed steadily fixed upwards on the line of the horizon above the forest, catching the last flashes of sun in their amber irises. A young man with hair like raven finally crested the rocky outcropping, and sat down heavily beside him. "I've been looking for you since midday. We're leaving for the raid soon; the others expect you to lead them."
A noncommittal snort was his answer.
"Inuyasha," the visitor began, then stopped to quietly study his fellow hunter. The two were a strange sight together, one with black hair and one with stark, startling white--but had one of the white strangers been there, what would surely have drawn their attention was not his hair, but the pair of pointed, inhuman ears poking out of it.
Miroku noticed none of that. Instead, what had caught his eye was the unusually peaceful expression on the hanyou's face, and knew that to be the mark of a contemplative mood. He was the only one who seriously tried speaking with the tribe's most feral member. He'd gotten used to the boy's moods.
"Any signs?" Miroku asked gently. Considering his nature, everyone expected him to know more about it than the rest. But he didn't. Still, attuned to the spirit world in a way different than the others, he was the best to watch for any trace of their return.
Inuyasha lifted his head to the breeze again and inhaled deeply, smelling the earthy scents of the mountains and the crisp tang of the sky, filtering through them for something else, anything else. But he came up dry again..the forest smelt dead. Empty. A scent profoundly disturbing and unnatural to the hanyou; add in the new, bitter scents of the white strangers and it was almost sickening.
They were gone. The spirit beasts--myths, demons, spirits, youkai; they went by many names around the world, but they were all essentially the same thing. And they were disappearing.
He had known something bad was coming even before the white men arrived years ago; a tremor had gone through the spirits, and he had felt it, just not strongly enough. And he'd stupidly, stupidly ignored it. And so he was as surprised as the rest of them the day the spirit beasts began to leave. Vanished, moved out. And he had no idea why, except that it had something to do with the arrival of the strangers and their changing world, and for that he hated them.
Angrily, he snorted again and slumped down beside the other man. "Gone," he snarled, finally turning to Miroku to glare at him through a mass of cloudy white hair. "All gone. I told you, they left. Every last one of them picked up and vanished. See that," he gestured at the expanse of forests and fields, the leaves just beginning to turn, "nothing." A troubled pause. "Do you know what animals do before an earthquake?" he asked quietly. "They flee."
"A bad omen," Miroku murmured. Inuyasha was silent. It was more than a bad omen--and it more than irked him that he had been left behind.
Miroku watched the last of the light seep from the graying sky, and then suddenly gave Inuyasha a cheery smile. "Perhaps this raid will restore the balance."
The hanyou gave him a flat look. "You're just hoping to capture a girl."
"You wound me with your baseless accusations. Come now, don't tell me you don't want to catch a few people?"
"No." Inuyasha's voice was suddenly cold and hard. "I take no one. I'm only there for the fight."
"Are you sure?"
"I said only for the fight." Glaring, he challenged Miroku with his eyes.
"Suit yourself." Miroku shrugged and stood up, sighing as he adjusted the beads and talismans around his neck. He knew the hanyou wasn't much of a people person; it was a wonder the dog spirit tolerated his presence. "It's going to be quite a fight though; we're attacking one of their larger towns this time."
Inuyasha suddenly grinned, a grin made dangerous by the sharp fangs it revealed. He stood and turned away from the night sky, flexing his claws as he started down the hill, channeling his anger in a new direction. It was a good night for a battle. "I'm counting on it."
"Bitch," someone muttered as they walked by, and spat at her. Kagome simply sidestepped and moved on, hurrying home with a loaf of bread tucked under her arm and a pouch of sugar held in the other hand. Sidelong glares and vulgar murmurs followed her down the street from the corner store, tailing her all the way to where her house stood far on the edge of town. She gratefully closed the door against them at last and slumped against the wall, letting out a tense, worried breath. She couldn't even step outside anymore.
"Kagome? Is that you?" The girl started, then recognized her mothers voice and smoothed out her skirts, following the sound into the pantry. Her mother was there churning butter, and Kagome silently offered her the bread and sugar from market.
"Thankyou, dear," Mrs. Higurashi said, taking them and bustling over to the cupboard, in full command of her kitchen. When she turned around again, she found that Kagome had rolled up her sleeves and taken over the churn. Awkward silence hung in the air. "So," her mother added briskly, "how was your walk?"
"It was fine."
The woman sighed, concern overtaking her face, and put a comforting hand on her daughter's shoulder. "This will all be over soon darling. They'll find you innocent at the trial tomorrow, and we can all go back to a normal life."
"And if they don't?" Kagome countered. Her mother frowned.
"Don't think like that."
"Well I might as well, everyone else is," Kagome grumbled under her breath. The townspeople had been fast enough to turn on her as soon as the charges were made public; in fact, they were all too eager to bring her down. Everybody needs a scapegoat.
It was three weeks ago now that Hiten and his brother Manten had cornered her by the river alone. Young proper ladies like her were not supposed to go walking by themselves, especially with all the horrid rumors spreading of Indian savages mounting bloody attacks on innocent towns; yet she did it anyway on a regular basis, maybe to prove she wasn't afraid, or simply because she enjoyed long walks through the inner edge of the woods. But it was a different kind of savage she had encountered by the river that day.
Manten, one of the local boys, had been sitting on the riverbank, almost like he had been waiting for her. He'd invited her to stop and rest awhile, she'd declined, and that's when Hiten had grabbed her from behind and wrestled her to the ground. She'd screamed; Manten covered her mouth. And Hiten had started lifting her skirts.
At which point she'd struck him so hard that he hadn't woken up since.
From that moment on, she was an outcast; Manten told them how she had violently attacked them; heck, that she had tried to seduce them, and the gossip spread like brushfire; she was a witch, she was a sinner, a slut, a whore, she associated with demons and drew on their strength to do the will of the devil. After all, how else could such a delicate looking girl send a boy into a coma? She didn't even know herself.
Kagome finished churning, her arms sore from trying to get some of her frustration out by attacking the cream. Damn it all to hell, she thought, storming up the stairs to her room and throwing herself backwards on the bed. She stared dully at the rafters on the ceiling.
Convicted of assault and accused of witchcraft and demonic possession at the age of sixteen. My, she certainly had a knack for screwing things up, didn't she? Oh yes.
"Kagome, I'm going Mrs. Hutchson's on the other side of town, I won't be back until late. Stay out of trouble," her mother called from down the stairs, followed by the sound of footsteps and the door opening and shutting. Kagome almost threw a pillow after her. Stay out of trouble? She was already in trouble!
And she hated to admit it, but it hurt. It hurt and frightened her that people had turned on her so fast; not that she had always been on the best terms with all the townspeople, since her family was one of the wealthier ones, but they had at least been civil. She was all alone now. And it horrified her that no one believed her. They..they had attacked her, touched her, and she was the one being punished. That was justice for you.
To be honest..she was scared. She knew the trial tomorrow wasn't going to go well; the only witness was Manten, and the only evidence was a comatose boy. Case closed. Didn't matter that she was always quiet and well behaved; it was always the quiet ones.
Rolling over, she half-sighed, half-whimpered. She felt horribly alone in the world, and the darkening sky outside felt horribly ominous. The dark haired girl didn't even bother to change into her night clothes, just lay there staring miserably at the walls until exhaustion overtook her.
It was because of this that she was asleep when the attack began.
AN: Next chapter ought to be up within a few days; I seem to be writing this fic at a much faster pace than usual, so I hope to get into regular updates (but I do have classes, so bear with me). Anything confusing shall be explained fully in later chapters, so don't worry. ^_^;