of a Soul
Hematologist: One who studies the generation, anatomy, physiology, and the pathology of the blood.
Chapter 14: Interference
"I see…" Nishioka murmured into the phone that his shoulder held propped against his ear. His hands were busy trying to make notes on a sheet of loose paper. It wasn't working so well; his fingers were quivering so much that the words were barely discernable. It was also taking a rather sizable effort to keep his voice steady.
"It was a good idea to get out of there, Natsuko," he told his student, forgoing his note-taking for the time being. It was a futile effort in the face of his excitement. Instead he began pacing the small room, tethered by the coiled phone cord.
"Yes, you can come here. I'll call down to the desk and tell them to let you up. Get here as fast as you can." Waiting for her to hang up, he stopped stiff, nerves taunt. The moment the connection clicked closed, he jumped to life. One quick, curt call to the receptionist downstairs later, he was left to stand in the middle of his dusky office. His fingers fumbled together as he tried to contain his excitement.
Things were finally starting to come together. Now, with Natsuko so eager to get rid of the youkai, she would be more than willing to betray her precious Yayoi and lead him to the estate. This little delay had also given him ample time to prepare.
That thought reminded him of what he'd been doing when the phone interrupted him. Picking up his paper once more, he closed his eyes, composed himself, and then entered one of the doors behind his desk.
It was a typical treatment room, with white walls, steel table, and built-in cabinets. The only difference here were the machines that stood against the far wall. They were all befitting someone who was in a coma as opposed to a patient in for a check up. All of them were shut down, however, except for one. The heart monitor was attached to the little girl who lay on her stomach on the table. Her eyes were closed, but he knew she wasn't asleep. The normal-paced beeping of the monitor gave her away.
Nishioka didn't say a word to his niece, even when she cracked open one shy eye to look up at him. He only went over to the side bench and withdrew a needle and a handful of collecting tubes. Crossing the room to stand beside her, he drew up the end of the flimsy cotton sheet and exposed her legs.
He couldn't help to grimace at the sight of those feeble, atrophied appendages. Pity that someone with such strong miko blood would be born a cripple. If it had not been for his plan, all of her glorious inbred power would be going to waste.
Akako, the daughter of Nishioka's only sister, was the first real priestess to be born into the family since his mother. His mother, a powerful yet slightly aloof woman, had taken on the girl's training immediately. There was not much to be taught in this day and age, since youkai no longer existed. Miko blood was outdated in most respects and only a strict family line kept it alive in their lineage today. The training was more of a formality than anything truly vigorous. It wasn't even a formality that needed to be undertaken at all, because no one believed in magic powers any longer. No one would believe in a priestess that had the power to purify.
But his mother was a stickler for tradition and thus Akako had become an apprentice miko. After a year of this, his mother had pronounced her granddaughter as a much stronger miko, claiming that her blood was much purer than her own was. Nishioka had often wondered how that could be, since she was the generation farthest removed from their miko ancestor. His mother had simple said that it was most likely because of her birth defect. Fate had decided to grant her mightier powers in return for her sacrifice.
Nishioka didn't really believe that crap, but he wasn't truly worried about it any longer. Akako and her strangeness suited his needs, and that was good enough.
"Was that Natsuko-chan on the phone?" Akako asked him in a whisper as he cleaned the skin behind her knee with antiseptic. This was the perfect place for what he was to do, because there, no one would ever see the puncture marks.
He grunted a response, intent on his work. Suiting up the needle, he used his other hand to move her foot in order to tighten the muscle and expose the veins before plunging the needle into her leg. He didn't have to be as painstakingly careful with Akako like he had to be with real patients. She couldn't feel a thing. Attaching the collecting tube, he loosened his hold on her so that enough blood would flow through the needle to fill the small vial, before closing the tube and picking up another.
Akako didn't move, just like always. She just remained flat on her stomach, staring at the distant wall. "Will Natsuko-chan be coming here?"
"Yes," he answered impatiently, watching the red liquid fill the little plastic container. There, still warm under his hands, was an answer to many -- if not all-- of his problems.
After a few more vials he stopped, pressing a small cotton piece against the wound. Using plain medical tape, he secured the padding before leaning over the table and flipping his niece onto her back. Akako blinked rapidly from the harsh, overhead lights. He picked her up a moment later, putting her down in her wheelchair and strapping her legs in.
Miko blood, he mused as he watched Akako arrange her ridiculous blanket over her legs, was the key. According to the old scrolls he'd found, pure miko's blood, when mixed with certain herbs, could create a sort of powerful tranquilizer if used correctly. If used incorrectly, it could mean death, naturally, but Nishioka wasn't worried about that. With a taiyoukai it would take a great deal of miko blood indeed to kill him.
"Oji-san, can I ask you something?"
Nishioka's eyes slid over to his niece. "What is it?"
Akako sat in her chair, twiddling her thumbs absently. She didn't look up when she finally spoke. "When can I stop?"
Nishioka was silent for a moment. His eyes drifted back over to the red vials on the counter. "Soon enough, I suppose. Why?" He turned to her then, eyes narrowing in accusation. "You said you liked helping Oji-san."
Akako paled, her hands coming up in entreaty "No…no, it's not that, Oji-san! I promise! It's just that I keep getting tired and…" Her voice trailed off. "Akako will keep helping Oji-san if he wants her to," she whispered.
"Hn…and here I thought you were going to be a bad girl, Akako," Nishioka drawled, just to string her along a little more. Having her willing made it much easier on him and less blood lost. Although, if he thought about it, her struggling would not amount to much since she could not move her legs.
The phone rang in the next room. Opening one of the upper cupboards, Nishioka made sure to store the fresh blood amongst the other collected vials before pushing Akako out of the room. Leaving her right by the door, he waded through old paperwork and books to grab the receiver.
It was the receptionist and she sounded somewhat peeved. "Natsuko is here, Doctor. She's coming up now.
"Good." He hung up on her then, cutting off what would have been a minor rant about his rudeness. It always amazed him how many people were willing to waste his time and yet whenever he came up with anything brilliant, no one would spare the time to listen to him. The world was focussed on such inconsequential things.
Nishioka cleared a path towards his desk, falling down in the chair behind it. Akako had started humming quietly to herself, twiddling her thumbs again. It was a rather annoying habit. He did his best to ignore her, deciding to contemplate the graying ceiling instead.
He hadn't always been here. He recalled his old office quiet fondly. He'd had his own secretary and assistants, not to mention room for his texts and notes. He'd been a well-respected hematologist once. Until, that is, he mentioned youkai.
He'd seen it in people's blood. It was such a small thing, nearly inconsequential. A minute morphing of healthy DNA, a change in the blood makeup. His peers had not noticed it-- possibly because they had not known what to look for. But he had always known; he had memorized the stories. And there it had been, clear as day under the lens of his microscope; proof that these legendary creatures had once lived.
He'd even gone so far as to mix his own blood with one of the used samples, and he'd been rewarded with what he considered a satisfactory reaction. The partial youkai blood had…well… shied away from his miko ancestry, for lack of a better term. He could never exactly explain what had happened, but it had been proof enough.
Of course, explaining that to his fellows hadn't gone as planned. He might as well have told them that aliens were coming from Mars--they might even have believed that more.
And that was how he'd ended up here--the crazy doctor. And getting this job had only been sure luck. Now he spent his days researching useless theories that did not interest him at all. He had not treated a real patient in years.
"Oji-san, am I gonna get to see the big doggy?"
Nishioka jerked out of his daze, nearly losing his seat at his niece's unexpected question. "The what--?" he spluttered a moment before the words truly hit him. He clenched his jaw. "No, not the…'big doggy'," he sneered. "That is just childishness."
Akako appeared to be eager to ask more questions --nothing could stop that mouth, it seemed--but he was saved by a knock on the door. Rising from his chair, he was ready for Natsuko when she entered.
Or at least he'd thought so. What came bustling in wasn't the young woman he knew--it was a nervous ball of terror-fed energy. Her agitation was enough to fill the entire room, affecting everyone else inside like a disease.
He noticed vaguely that she was shoeless. How the receptionist hadn't noticed and stopped her, he didn't know.
Even Akako sounded hesitant, a reaction very different from her usual joyous greeting. "Natsuko-chan…?"
Natsuko ignored her, coming over to press shaking palms flat on his desk. Her face was a painful white, the shadows under her eyes dark as pitch. Leaning so that her face was right in front of his, noses nearly touching, she said in a quiet, falsely calm voice, "We have got to stop him."
Nishioka's eyebrows jumped up immediately. "Do we now?" he asked, trying to sound nonchalant but failing miserably. Thankfully, Natsuko didn't notice.
"Yes. He killed someone today."
Excitement erupted in him like a flare of good tidings. He had to stifle the urge to wring his hands in excitement. "I see…well, I suppose I could make a few calls and we can see about…well, you know."
Natsuko moved back, her face still sporting a pinched, strained look. "How long will that take? I'm afraid for Yayoi and--"
Waving a hand, Nishioka cut her off. "Do not worry. It will not take long. But, before I do it," Here he stopped, giving Natsuko a quick scan with his eyes. "I think I may have something to calm your nerves. Something Akako has helped me with."
Natsuko nodded her head, eagerly. "Anything would help around now."
"Good, follow me," he said, kindly, taking the young woman's arm and leading her around the desk to the back room. "It shouldn't hurt at all."
She jumped and tried not to wish. No 'I wish it hasn't closed', or 'I hope I can make it'. She attempted to wipe her mind clear, to just let time carry her away, but it was not working. She was anxious and with very good reason.
It wasn't every day you decided to test time.
Her eyes were closed the second she leapt to the second her feet landed gently on the ground. But she knew it had worked before the smell of dust and slight decay had reached her nose. The pull of the magic had been the same as each other time she had jumped into the well and that had been proof enough for her.
That wasn't her only concern. She'd been more than positive that she could make it through. But, then there was…
"Oi, Kagome, comin' up?"
Kagome's head jerked up and there he was, smirking at her from the lip of the well.
Jerk… she whispered to herself. While she'd been down here preparing for the moment when she would turn and find him beside her…he had already left. Figures…
Sighing softly to herself, she hoisted a familiar bag on her back, just like always. She couldn't be too angry with him--he was here, wasn't he?
"Looks like it worked, huh?" she said, reaching for the nearby ladder rung. She was stopped short when he appeared at her side, scooped her up, and pushed off into the air again. Digging her nails into his red coat, she realized that she would never quiet get used to such sudden flashes of vertigo.
She was back on her feet shortly and the two of them just stood there, staring at one another.
"So…" she began, fidgeting with the strap of her bag.
Inu-Yasha just stared at her, his ears swiveling slightly. He turned his face away a moment later. "Your mother's home."
"Yeah…" Why he would bring that up, she didn't know. Mama was usually here every time he came.
"Look, Kagome, you don't have to...well, you know…" the assertive tone drained from his voice quickly enough. He took a quick glance back to her then his eyes darted away again. "You can, you know…wait or somthin'. It ain't like nothin's gonna take it away from you here."
Kagome grinned up at him lightly, knowing exactly what he wasn't saying. Her hand rose to the small bauble she wore around her neck. The smooth, pink jewel was warm under her fingertips. It had been hard won, a battle full of so much she would only remember in nightmares. Sometimes she still felt a bit queasy at just the smallest breath of thought, but there was nothing she could really do. It was the price they had had to pay, she guessed.
At least all of their party was still alive. Recovery had been tough, but thankfully she had begun a stockpile of medical products and equipment with Kaede, just for such emergencies. It had been that elderly miko who had attended to them all alone until Kagome had been able-bodied enough to take over.
It wouldn't all fade--Kagome could still see the scars crossing the lower half of her fingers where Naraku had tried to cut them off to make her release her bow-- but the worst was over now.
All she had to do was wish away this Jewel.
Inu-Yasha grabbed the strap that was in her hand and pulled. Startled, Kagome let go and he took the opportunity to sling the sack over his own shoulder. "You shouldn't be carryin' that, Kagome."
Kagome sent him a grateful smile that held a twinge of annoyance. He'd been like this ever since. Apparently he did not like seeing her hurt--she had seen the guilt plain enough many times during the fight. That had been one of the reasons he had insisted on following her through this experimental jump.
That, and the fact that he didn't want to take the chance that she wouldn't come back. He hadn't so much as told her this as hinted at it, but the signs had been so obvious even a blind man could see the truth.
Kagome had to admit--after saying a cautious goodbye to all her dear friends, she had been happy knowing that he was at her side and she didn't have to face this alone.
Now it seemed that all her worrying had been for nothing.
"Wow…your mother's real close…" Inu-Yasha commented abruptly, his eyes narrowing as he stalked towards the door. She didn't dare tell him how strange he looked carrying her big yellow bag.
Kagome opened her mouth to ask him what he was talking about. She never got the chance.
The door cracked open hesitantly, light cutting like a knife through the murky darkness of the well house. An instant later a familiar head popped in. Her mother's eyes landed on Inu-Yasha immediately where he stood in front of the door, and she cried out. Jumping back, she nearly lost her balance, but thankfully Inu-Yasha had manners enough to at least catch her arm.
"Mama!" Kagome cried, racing up the steps. Inu-Yasha let go of her mother and the woman put a hand to her chest.
"Oh my…I didn't expect you to come back so soon!" Her voice was strange. Mama never sounded this relieved before. Nor did she sound so afraid. "I thought I would have to wait forever!"
Kagome stopped to take a closer look at her mother. The older woman's face was pale and drawn, a few lines appearing between her brows as she glanced between the two of them. There was something in her eyes that wasn't quite right…something almost panicky.
Fear bubbled up in Kagome's chest. Something was definitely wrong here.
"What is it, Mama?" Kagome moved to touch her arm. Mama turned to her, lips pressed in a firm line as if she dreaded something.
"Kagome, there's something you need to kno--"
She trailed off as Inu-Yasha shoved his way past her and out of the well house, stalking into the main compound. Kagome could hear him snuffling loudly, head lifted into the air.
"No…" he breathed, his once calm expression morphing into something much different. "No fuckin' way."
He whirled on them both, scowling darkly. "How the fuck is Sesshoumaru here?"
Kagome's heart gave a protesting lurch in her chest. "Sesshoumaru?" she whispered, eyes widening in fear. "What do you…how can that be, he's d--" she stopped then, her stomach turning to instant knots at the memory. Thankfully she had been too nervous to eat much today, or Mama would have been wearing it.
"Dead, yeah, I know." Inu-Yasha grunted, his brows drawing down in thought. "But I can smell him, clear as day here. It ain't a scent I'm bound to forget, so no, I'm not imagining things." He gave Kagome a dark look and she snapped her mouth shut on the instant protestation that had popped into her mind. His eyes drifted over to Higurashi-san.
"So…what were you going to tell us?"
Although still pale and taut, Mama was able to explain everything she knew to them in a clear, concise voice that left nothing to doubt. It wasn't everything that was going on, certainly, and it seemed to have nothing to do with Inu-Yasha's findings on the surface, but Kagome knew this wasn't all just a big coincidence.
Somehow --someway-- Sesshoumaru, although previously dead, was now alive and resurrecting youkai… Or something. She didn't know, but whatever it was, it wasn't good.
Never would she have thought to come home to this.
Kagome felt her knees loosen beneath her. It was her will alone that kept her standing. "No…"
Mama nodded grimly, her hands fisting in her apron.
Turning her head, Kagome caught sight of Inu-Yasha, who was staring out at the distant horizon, his expression set. What he said summed up the situation perfectly.
My sincerest apologies of the lateness of such an extremely short chapter but that first half was a bitch to write… --sticks out tongue at Nishioka-- Weird bugger…
But explanations had to be done at some point… --sigh--
Anyway…as you see, no Sess or Rin this chapter… Oh well… I'm hoping the introduction of Kagome and Inu-Yasha will help a little.
As to Inu-Yasha being able to smell his brother, I might as well address that here since I don't know how far into detail I'll mention it in the story. Basically, Sesshoumaru is the only full youkai in the era, thus making his presence much stronger to Inu-Yasha's youkai-attuned senses. He's never scented a youkai in Kagome's era before, and you know you always tend to notice what's not right before anything else.
And it is after this point, manga-readers, that all canon really starts going to pot. Seeing that I had a lot of this planned before the recent manga chapters (that and the manga chapters of the recent-past) there will be many changes from the actually Inu-Yasha plot… Please bear with me.
Let's see how my first published attempt at Inu-Yasha and Kagome goes…