Kagome had been out for a late-evening stroll. She preferred going for her walks at night these days. It wasn't the same as being able to go for a walk in the Sengoku of course, but there were fewer people out at night, and there was a stillness that was soothing. Even if pollution and an over-abundance of city lights prevented her from being able to see the stars as clearly as she would like.
It had been the better part of a decade since she'd last seen the other side of the well though. Her quest was complete; the jewel was whole, Naraku defeated, and after much meditation she had hit upon the right wish to remove the Shikon no Tama from existence. That things would be as they were supposed to be.
That had just so happened to include her being on this side of the well, and unable to travel through any more, and strangely enough had also prompted Souta – her little brother who, ever since his first soccer game, had wanted to play at the FIFA World Cup – to start getting more serious about his role as the male heir of the family. As the person who would inherit the shrine, even though Kagome was the eldest (and the one with the spiritual powers, not that she'd ever actually explicitly mentioned that to her family).
Kagome had applied herself to her studies like a person possessed after that. She'd been scraping by well enough with only minimal interaction with her teachers (even if the stress of maintaining a passing grade had given her a few premature grey hairs), but once she'd been back at school full-time, she'd started flying through. Despite having been held back a year for absences, she was soon skipping up. She'd graduated top of her class, gone to Tokyo-U, and there she'd studied both business and education. She wanted to run her own business, but a) she wasn't quite sure what sort of business she wanted to run, and b) she knew that it would take time and money to get a business going, so learning at the same time to be a teacher... well, that would give her an income until she could sort out the business dream.
"...you must hate him intensely for running away like that!" a voice broke through the stillness of the night.
Kagome looked down from the sky. She hadn't exactly been watching where she was going as she walked, much more interested in just walking and thinking.
There was a girl, wrapped up in scarf and jacket with bags beside her, and a man who wore a pair of round glasses. No, wait. Not a man. Kagome could feel his spiritual powers from where she stood a good ten feet away still.
"Well, I'm embarrassed to admit it," the... god? Yep, those were the divine powers of an honest-to-god (and damn that pun) kami. The kami said. "But I abandoned my home. It's been decades since then," he admitted. "There's no telling how everyone is doing. Tomoe's bound to jump-kick me as soon as I show my face."
"But still, at least you have a home to go back to," the girl pointed out. "Sounds kinda awesome. I don't even have that any more," she said, and laughed in a nervous, slightly self-depreciating sort of way.
"I can give you my home," the kami offered. "I don't mind."
"Huh?" the girl asked, and blinked in surprise.
Kagome frowned, and marched over even as the kami stood.
"The house shouldn't be left unattended forever," he was saying, "and if you were there, I wouldn't have to worry about it any more. Most importantly..." he bent, and set a hand on the girl's head.
He was just about to kiss her brow when Kagome reached them and grabbed his ear sharply.
"Ow!" the kami yelped.
"Most importantly, she's a teenager," Kagome informed him sharply, "and you have responsibilities, Kami-sama."
"Um... I'm sorry but..." the girl tried hesitantly.
Kagome gave the girl a smile. "I'm Higurashi Kagome," she said. "Pleased to meet you."
"Uh, could you please let go of my ear?" the kami requested.
"Are you going to try and palm off your god-hood on a teenager again?" Kagome countered shortly.
The kami laughed nervously.
"Teenagers don't have time for supernatural adventures," Kagome informed him bluntly. "High school is exhausting enough. Besides, how old are you?" she asked the girl.
"Seventeen," the girl answered.
"Which means you're not a legal adult yet," Kagome said with a nod, and turned back to the kami she was still holding by the ear. "So she's also going to need a guardian, not just a place to live."
"She is... you both are more worthy of my house than I am," the kami insisted, though his voice was soft and more begging than commanding.
Kagome sighed. "Fine," she allowed, and released her hold on his ear. "Can you split it?"
The kami beamed a bright smile. "Yes," he agreed, and straightened up. He pressed a soft kiss to first Kagome's brow, then the girl's.
While the girl raised a hand to her forehead where she'd been kissed, the kami pulled out a slip of paper. "Go to this place I've mapped out, and tell them Mikage sent you," the kami said. "They will be sure to welcome you."
And with that, he was gone.
Kagome raised an eyebrow at the empty space where he had been.
"This from someone who said he'd be drop-kicked as soon as he returned home?" she quipped sarcastically. "Right. Sure. Well, I guess this means I can stop paying rent at least," Kagome decided as she considered the rather scrappy little map she'd been handed.
"Uh, what just happened?" the girl asked nervously.
Kagome smiled. "You met a kami," she answered. "What's you're name?"
"Momozono Nanami. Uh... he was a kami?" the girl queried.
Kagome nodded. "Yep. Not really all that impressive, are they?" she joked. "Come on, let's check out this place that was just turned over to our joint ownership by a kami," she suggested, and picked up one of Nanami's bags. "If it's too run down, you can stay in my apartment."
"Oh, uh, thank you," Nanami said softly, picked up her other bag, and followed after Kagome.
The shrine was, as Kagome had suggested, run down. The absence of the kami that was supposed to live there had not done the place any favours, but... at the same time, it didn't look as bad as it could have. Kagome breathed deeply and spread out her senses.
There was youki about the place. Actually maintaining the building. A tingle ran down Kagome's spine at the sensation. She hadn't felt youki in way too long. Most yokai didn't interact with ningen any more, after all.
"Lord Mikage?" a little voice, child-like but echoing, called out hopefully.
"Welcome back home, Lord Mikage," another small voice rejoined, also child-like and echoing, and very pleased.
Nanami screamed in fright as red flames leapt up around them, the cheerful exclamation of "Lord Mikage!" ringing out from within them.
Poor girl fell backwards into the building.
Kagome stayed outside though. She knew what that was, and she waited, patiently, for the wisps to form properly.
"Lord Mikage!" they exclaimed again, and suddenly there were two little bodies floating towards her.
"Actually, I'm Kagome," she corrected. "Mikage has decided to shirk his duties indefinitely. I'm sorry."
Two sets of tiny shoulders slumped, but those little masked faces looked up at her so dolefully.
Kagome collected them into her arms, even as she ignored the yelling and screaming that was coming from the building behind her – the one that Nanami had fallen into.
"Now, what are your names? And Mikage-sama said something about Tomoe? Who's Tomoe?" she asked them.
"Master Tomoe is the familiar of this shrine," said the wisp that wore a smiling face-mask. "I am Onikiri."
"But, if Lord Mikage isn't the Land God any more, then the contract is broken, and will need to be re-established. Either with him or another, because a Land God must have a familiar," the wisp with a slightly frog-like mask supplied. "I am Kotetsu."
Kagome nodded. "And how does the familiar contract work?" she questioned.
"You must kiss Lord Tomoe on the lips, and he will be bound to you as your familiar, bound to obey your will!" Kotetsu declared instantly.
Kagome nodded. Not the strangest thing she'd ever heard, and it was way too late for her to be precious about first kisses. That had happened a long time ago for her. Hah! In more ways than one.
She released the two wisps from her arms and turned to go into the dilapidated old shrine. Nanami was yelling at... Ooh. A smile formed on Kagome's face as she fought back the urge to laugh. Oh, the irony! Silver hair, cute ears... but a fox, like her dear Shippo, rather than a dog.
She strode confidently between the two and, surprised as they both were by her presence, she cupped the fox's face in her hands and pressed her lips to his.
A pair of glowing rings flashed momentarily around his wrists.
"You must be Tomoe," she said with a soft smile as she withdrew her mouth from his, satisfied at having felt the magic lock into place. She almost couldn't believe how good it felt to be around youki and magic and spiritual energies again. Ten years was a long time to go with only her own spiritual powers for company.
"I am," he agreed grudgingly, and then he looked between Nanami and Kagome. "Wait... two?!"
"Mm," Kagome hummed in agreement. "Now, if you please Tomoe, would to pull your youki back in? I want to see exactly how much work this shrine really needs."
The fox stiffened, and she could see the anger behind his lovely violet eyes as he realised he was bound to her, but he obediently inclined his head and pulled his youki back into himself.
The shrine shimmered, and the run-down visage faded in favour of the shrine's true state.
Kagome winced. It was even worse than she had initially suspected it would be.
"This is going to take a lot of work," she said flatly as she looked around, then sighed. "But, that can wait for the morning. For tonight, we'll be staying at my apartment. Tomorrow I want a list of everything that needs to be fixed. From floorboards to roof-tiles to plumbing and electricity and everything in between. If I could get a blueprint of the shrine with measurements, that would be great too."
The fox, the two wisps, and the teenager all stared at Kagome in mute shock.
"Pack up your things Tomoe," Kagome instructed. "You'll be staying with me too, until we can get the shrine fixed up. Onikiri, Kotetsu, would you both be darlings and start on those lists for me tonight?" she requested, even as Tomoe mechanically began to walk off to another part of the shrine.
"Yes, Lady Kagome!" Onikiri chirped happily, and brought a hand up to salute.
"We'll get started right away!" Kotetsu agreed as he mimicked his compatriot's posture.
The two then flew off to start writing up everything in the shrine that needed work, and Tomoe returned.
Kagome had moved out of her childhood home, the Higurashi Shrine, shortly after she'd graduated from Tokyo-U. Souta was going to inherit the shrine, and besides, there were too many memories there. Memories that no one else had, because 'everything as it should be' did not include visits from InuYasha into the present day. As far as the rest of the world knew, Kagome had just been really sick those two years she'd been running around the Sengoku.
Only Kagome remembered otherwise. At least, she assumed so. She couldn't really find any of the demons she had once known and ask them if they still remembered. It would be damn hard to find them if they still lived, and really, really awkward for her if they didn't remember.
Besides, the apartment she rented was near several schools – and she worked at all of them part-time, teaching business classes mostly, but occasionally she filled in for other teachers if one of them called in sick or something.
It made tax season a pain it the butt, but she managed, and she had saved up a bit of a nest-egg as well. A nest-egg which would soon be going towards materials to restore the Mikage Shrine.
"You've got a nice place here, Higurashi-san," Nanami complimented as she followed the older woman into the apartment.
"Thank you," Kagome answered. "You can sleep through this way," she offered, and opened the door to the room that was the guest room that she kept for when Eri or Yuka (or both of them) showed up after a night on the town. As they got older, they were slowly becoming more responsible, but they were still very adamant that they were young enough to enjoy a good time still, so they showed up at Kagome's apartment once or twice a month.
Ayame was almost always the one to collect them in the mornings and take them away to sober them up, though Hojo had come for Yuka a few times as well, as he was her boyfriend now (and Kagome thanked the kami that he'd given up on her).
Kagome saw Nanami settled, then turned to the white fox that was standing in her apartment.
"If you can bear the thought of sleep?" she started, drawing his attention from a wall-hanging (a simple ink painting she had done herself of a two-tailed Nekomata and a kitsune playing among curls of fire).
Tomoe turned to her, and she gestured for him to follow behind her.
She opened the door to her home office. "You may sleep in my room with me, or here. If you don't want to sleep, then I ask you spend the night reading. It might happen that you need to follow Momozono-chan or myself out in the human world, and should that happen, you will need to be knowledgeable of the human world."
Tomoe bowed his head, and settled into Kagome's office chair cautiously.
Kagome liked to sleep in. She really, really did. Unfortunately, after a couple of years of getting up at the literal crack of dawn – and sometimes even in the grey time before true dawn – sleeping in was a habit she just couldn't get into. With that being followed up by classes at eight in the morning most days... waking up early was a habit she'd never gotten out of. She could nap during the day, no problem, but in the mornings? No.
Besides, getting up early afforded her more time to do things. Things like clean her apartment, cook breakfast and her boxed lunch, and get in a little meditation before she took a shower and actually got ready to go out into the world and start the day.
"Momozono-chan, time to get up," she called into the guest room as she knocked on the door. "You have school today, and I've made your breakfast and packed your lunch."
There was a sound of flung back bedding and scrambling limbs before the door was flung open.
"Really?" Nanami asked, shocked. "Last night wasn't a dream? And... you made me a bento?"
Kagome smiled. "Really," she confirmed. "Now get a move on. Oh!" she stopped herself and pulled a set of beads – oh, so familiar, but no, these were different beads, with a different purpose – out of her apron pocket. "This is for you to wear too," she said, as she presented the beads to the girl.
"Wow, they're so pretty," Nanami said as she slipped them over her head. "Thank you, but why?"
"Because you're a kami now," Kagome stated simply, "but you're still a fragile little ningen, and the combination of the two is an invitation to yokai to eat you. The beads carry a protection spell. It won't stop them from recognising you as a kami, you'd need to actually cover your brow for that, but you'll be safe enough from them despite that."
"Really?" Nanami repeated, surprised.
"Yes," Kagome confirmed. "Any yokai that touches you while you wear these beads will be burned."
"Any demon?" Tomoe asked, his voice purring with disbelieving curiosity.
Kagome smirked. "Any demon," she promised him. "Even you, Tomoe, cannot touch Momozono-chan and escape without getting a nasty shock."
"Interesting," Tomoe decided thoughtfully.
"But you're Higurashi-san's familiar, not mine, so that shouldn't be a problem, right?" Nanami pointed out.
Tomoe shrugged. "Maybe," he consented.
Nanami decided she'd had enough of the conversation and moved out to find the breakfast that Kagome had mentioned.
"Maybe you aren't as useless and pathetic as I thought you would be," Tomoe allowed grudgingly, a thoughtful look in his violet eyes. "I'm not convinced about the other one though."
"You say such sweet things," Kagome quipped with an amused little twist to her lips. "And you don't have to answer to Momozono-chan, so don't worry about her capability to fill her new role just yet. There's fried inari among the breakfast foods, if you want some, Tomoe."
The fox's ears perked forward at the suggestion, and he lifted his nose slightly so that it could guide him to the kitchenette.
"So, did you sleep at all last night?" Kagome asked Tomoe as he sat down at her table.
"No," Tomoe admitted freely. "The wretchedness of being bound to a human female..." he growled, a scowl on his face. "The humiliation!"
Kagome smiled and reached out to stroke his ears. "I promise I won't embarrass you," she said gently as she enjoyed the way he went rigid, and then suddenly boneless at the way she stroked his ears just the right way. "You spent the night reading my books then?"
"Yes," Tomoe admitted. "They were..."
"Yeah," Kagome said with a slight chuckle when he couldn't find the words to describe some of her books. "They are that."
Nanami finished her breakfast quickly, then hurried off to bush her teeth and dress for school.
Kagome blinked when the girl returned. "Momozono-chan, you go to Ujigami?" she asked, surprised.
Nanami blinked at the question. "Yes," she confirmed. "Why?"
"I teach there today," Kagome said. "The business class. You're... not one of my students," she said, mentally going through her rolls for that school.
"No," Nanami confirmed. "I am taking extra math courses though," she added with a self-depreciating smile. "I want to study accounting at university. After living with my dad's debts..."
"Ah," Kagome registered. "I suppose that makes sense. Well, we should both get there early today. Since your father ran off and you're now living with me, that's something that the school will need to know about."
"And what am I to do today?" Tomoe asked, just a hint of bitterness in his tone – but only a little bit, as Kagome was still rubbing his ears just right.
"Prepare the shrine for renovations. Remove any rotting wood, set aside tiles that have fallen out of their places or broken, sand the torii gate to ready it for a new coat of paint... and bring me that list I asked for last night, so that I can see to ordering the supplies we'll need during my lunch break," Kagome instructed.
"Yes Mistress," Tomoe answered dutifully.
"And when you come to the school to deliver that list, you need to address me as Higurashi-san. I would like as few inane questions from my co-workers as possible. If you call me 'mistress' where they can here, then I'll be getting an earful as soon as you're out of sight."
"As you wish."