Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha - enjoy!

*

Prologue

She had committed the day to memory. Not one detail of that night had so much as been pushed to the back of her mind for the past three years... Not since possibly the worst day of her life had transpired.

The storm had converted to such a hurricane, that it seemed to rain black as the moon's silvery rays disappeared from the sky. The wind was whipping around her own raven hair viciously, relentless as she shielded her eyes from it's powerful bursts of hail and freezing cold showers, desperately trying to get a better look at her.

Kagome, please don't follow me.

She had been only twelve, wearing her silly little yellow jacket and boots, having forgotten her rain hat so that her hair was plastered to her head, damp curls falling around shaking shoulders. Kagome had stood silent. Back then, she had been relieved that it was raining so furiously, so that her sister couldn't see the tears as they poured down her cheeks like a tremulous river of dread and fear. The last thing she wanted was for her to think she was weak in this final hour. She would be strong, just like..

I'm so sorry Kagome, for everything. Please, go back inside. Don't make it worse.

-Her. Just like her beautiful, serene, strong, brave and mysterious elder sister: The modern day priestess.. Kikyo.

Don't say that. I'll return to you. One day. Believe me,

It had always been Kagome's unreachable dream to be just like Kikyo. She used to go to sleep at night and pray that she would wake up the next day transformed into the very person her sister was. The mystifying miko, the prodigy girl, and wunderkind that had been Kagome's role model since before the child could remember.

Come here.. let me hug you once more.

And now she was leaving.

Don't be sad.

Even as her beloved older sister held her close in a somber last goodbye to her favorite little sibling, Kagome was already feeling the loss. For even though Kikyo had assured everyone else she would return as always, Kagome had a 6th sense too. It might not be as controlled or refined as Kikyo's illustrious powers, but it was there. And in her little heart of hearts; she knew this was final. Her sister would not be coming home from this journey, and if Kagome with her still untamed spiritual powers could sense this, Kikyo must have foretold this outcome days ago.

I will always love you little sister.

Kikyo was going to die.

Farewell.. do not forget me.

And Kagome would never forget her.

"KIIIIKYOOOOOOO!!"

The broken girl, now feeling so utterly alone and helpless, collapsed to the ground as Kikyo's cab sped off into the night, as if eager to deliver the young miko to her doom. Kagome curled up in the mud, uncaring that she was dripping with sullied rainwater from head to foot, letting sobs wrack her body, mouth open in silent cries of despair. It wasn't as though Kikyo had just gone off on another mission, to go perform another good deed for the people of Japan. It was as though she had been shot down right in front of Kagome's eyes. And because she knew her sister wasn't ever coming back: Kikyo might as well have been.

*

Ghost Town

By Rio Grande

Chapter One: To Feudal.

*

"End of the line, Miss," the middle aged man commented lightly, wiping his nose with the back of his grubby hand as he parked the pickup at a gas station that branched off from the highway with a jerk. The pretty girl next to him nodded and quickly threw open the door, eager to be away from the smell of greasy potato chips stashed under seats and in glove compartments, and the stench of old car. She hopped to the ground, shouldering her impressively large bag, and scanning the area carefully with fiery brown eyes. "This is the last stop before I take the turn down to Akito," the driver continued, getting out of the blue pickup himself, and then turning to tip his hat goodbye at the young girl he had picked up on the side of the road some many miles back.

Kagome smiled appreciatively.

"Thank you," she said graciously, nodding her head in return, and heading off towards the road with a slight bounce to her step, as she stretched her legs after many hours of nervously sitting still with her knees clamped together, desperate to show no fear or hesitance. The man stared after her for a second, his old and weather worn features crinkled in confusion. What was a sweet thing like her doing, hitchhiking so far a distance? Just wasn't safe.

Kagome took out an aged, creased map she had kept in the pocket of her dark gray sweatpants, opening it up and studying it carefully.

"Let's see," she commented in her youthful soprano, eyebrows furrowing as she tried to figure out where the heck she was.

It had been three years since the alleged murder of Kagome's older sister, Kikyo Higurashi, the lovely miko of Sunset Shrine. Three years of pain and confusion on the family's part, three years of overwhelming questioning and investigations, and three years of guilty knowledge for their middle daughter Kagome.

But that was all going to change.

"Aha! I don't even need another ride, I can just walk up this road for about two miles, and I'll be at Feudal!" she concluded happily, clapping her hands together and stashing the map back in her pants. Making sure her bag was in a comfortable position on her back, she started off on the two-mile trek along the highway to her final destination.

A cold chill ran down her back as she abruptly realized this would have been the exact route Kikyo had taken three years ago now. This would have been the last road she ever drove down. Kagome bit her lip to hold back a violent shiver of fear, focusing on the task at hand: walking.

Kagome was a notably attractive girl person. Her slightly wavy and a bit undomesticated black hair was endearing, her wide brown eyes cheerful, her features cute and pleasing to the eye, and thanks to her training as a miko, she was outstandingly fit. Her aura seemed to radiate warm feelings, and at the same time contained a superfluous of spiritual energy only visible to the trained eye...

Many people found it odd that a young, exuberant girl such as herself was training to become a miko in these modern times. Most people her own age had thought the practice was almost dead, and older ones couldn't imagine how a young girl in this day and age could be so focused on the task. It wasn't an easy roll to take.

In truth, before the dissapearance, Kagome HADN'T been overly excited at the prospect that her future might include many days of praying before a fire, practicing the old ways of brewing medicine from plants in nature, and learning how to exorcise 'ghosts' or 'demons'. It had been laughable, and even though she had always had a bit of mystic power in her since she could remember, she didn't think that this fact alone would be enough to spur her to go miko. Even if her idol, Kikyo, had taken this path, it seemed to be an almost godlike position that Kagome could never reach, so she'd just have to be more like Kikyo in other ways.

However, when her sister had. died, Kagome suddenly decided she had to take up the challenge, possibly trying to fulfill a legacy Kikyo had left unfinished. Everyone had thought Kikyo was the perfect priestess, never once questioning how SHE, the always cool and in control model citizen, could be so devoted. It just seemed to be the right role for her. And when she left, Kagome became determined to make sure she could fit the role as well. She wouldn't let Kikyo's memory die. Not now.

However, currently, Kagome was doing something very un-priestess like- and she knew it. But desperate times called for desperate measures, she supposed, and she was pretty sure Kami would forgive her this one mess up, since she had been so committed as of late. Hitchhiking was a small sacrifice to make when it came to Kikyo.

Kagome was panting lightly as she came upon Feudal, her cheeks rosy and flushed, her backpack weighing down on her worse than ever. Too bad she had never been a light packer. She trotted past the welcoming sign, 'Welcome to Feudal! Population: 4,000', and continued down along the first street she could find.

The first few blocks were nothing but fast-food restaurants and tourist areas, ('A history of Feudal'.) for people who were coming to visit the town. although Kagome had to wonder: Who would actually take the time to visit a place like Feudal? It was anything but spectacular, practically a comfortable pit stop for truckers barreling their way along the highway on particularly nasty days, hungry for a bite. Kagome, being a girl who had grown up just on the edges of the city of Tokyo, was regarding the plain town already with a disgruntled look.

Could this place truly be the grounds that had killed her revered elder sister?

'I know it's wrong to judge a place before you've gotten to know it properly. but I already dislike this town. There's something wrong with its energy. It's . darker, somehow, than anywhere else I've been. I can't exactly figure out what it is I'm feeling, but I know it's a negative vibe. Not a good start,' Kagome summed up forebodingly, continuing to travel along with a rather hooded look to her features, as though she would have preferred to turn back at this point.

But she couldn't give up. She wouldn't give up, not until she had solved her sister's mystery. and possibly avenged her.

Ever since the day they had buried her sister's body, Kagome had been wracked with a feeling of guilt and responsibility. She had KNOWN that Kikyo was going to die the day she drove off to Feudal. and Kikyo had known it too. And even though the fifteen year old realized her elder sister would not be deterred from getting to this town, she often reminisced over all of the different ways she might have convinced her to stay home. to leave this job alone. to live. But that was impossible. Kikyo would have gone no matter what, because she had been doing something important when she came here, something that had her worried, yet determined: Kagome was nearly positive it killed her.

Kagome had never told anyone in her family of her suspicions about Kikyo, since she, besides her grandfather, whose actual powers were really questionable, was the only remaining person with the skills of a true priestess in the Higurashi line. Although, after all of these years, she was still having trouble using her powers to the extent Kikyo had.

Some people scoffed at her, not believing in such things as mikos and mystical powers. Many of Kagome's friends in fact, thought that the schoolgirl's entire practice was a joke. But Kagome knew better. She felt the power in her, had proof she could use it. sometimes. and further more, knew Kikyo had had a surprisingly strong hold on her miko strength, and watched her use it many times before her demise. That was proof enough for Kagome.

After about two more long blocks into the small town, Kagome having luckily stumbled upon Main Street, (In truth, luck had nothing to do with it. Main Street was the only area with any real signs of life in it for as far as the eye could see.) the girl spotted what she was looking for: Godtree Inn. She stood in front of the lodging house, strategically placed right next to Main Street, with a cumbersome expression on her face for a moment. It was quaint and endearing in appearance. but Kagome knew the Inn to be much more than that. This was where Kikyo had been staying when in Feudal, after all.

Kikyo had never actually slept at the inn, but when the police and her grandfather had investigated Godtree, they found proof that she had checked in, at the very least. Kagome knew it was going to be creepy staying in possibly the last place Kikyo had been before her murder, but she really didn't have much else to go on. The circumstances around which Kikyo died were vague, which was, of course, why Kagome had lied to her family and hitchhiked some ways to get to this damned town. If she found her sister's killer, she wouldn't let them go without bringing the murderer to justice.

Kikyo's body was found in the woods just around the edge of Feudal - a place Kagome wondered if she'd ever get up the nerve to visit - with a stab wound in her back, and suspicious singe marks on the ground surrounding her body. Investigators had been baffled by this bit; had there been fire involving her death, and if so, why wasn't she burned? But Kagome knew what this meant. it meant Kikyo had been using some powerful magic before she had died.

Her sister often left burnt patches when using some terrific degree of strong, offensive magic. Something she had done rarely enough, and Kagome had only seen her do in practice. But what had she been using all that power for? Had someone been attacking her? Had she been attacking them?

Kikyo's reason for coming to Feudal originally was for an exorcism, as she occasionally did for the believer who required the assistance of a professional with their mystical disturbance. However, when they had asked around town, it was pointed out to the Higurashi's by Feudal. that no one had requested an exorcism. The next question was, of course.

Then why had Kikyo gone to Feudal in the first place?

The police investigation had been put to rest after about a year and a half, detectives baffled and the family discouraged. There was just nothing to explain Kikyo's death. no weapon was found with which she was killed, there were no fingerprints or bruises on her body or clothing, and no one had seen her doing anything suspicious while staying in the settlement. Everyone had labeled it an unsolvable mystery - Of course, the police didn't believe in spirits and mikos either, so Kagome didn't know how much their opinion really counted for. If Kikyo hadn't been killed the natural way, she was pretty positive something supernatural might have done the job.

That was why Kagome had to do this herself. She would never be satisfied with this part of her life until she had come to Feudal herself, and turned up with no answers personally. Until that time, she was convinced there was something in this town someone, somewhere along the way. had missed. There just had to be.

"Hello?" Kagome called into the empty reception area as she hesitantly entered the inn. In front of her there was a vacant desk for customers, carved of dark oak. The walls were painted a warm, deep orange, and the floor was finely polished wood. Windows were splattered about the walls, bringing in plenty of light and giving the entire floor an honestly appealing look. But Kagome really didn't care about the wonderful decorating job someone had done to the inn.. For the second she entered the Godtree, a disturbing feeling swept through her.

It was pain mixed with magic, it was memories filled with grief. and it held traces of Kikyo. A very distinct, cold magical feel and smell that she hadn't been able to experience in three years. It made the bile rise to her throat, and the fifteen-year-old couldn't help but shudder.

"Yes? I'll be right there! Sorry!" I high pitched, feminine voice squeaked from somewhere behind the desk. Kagome let the hands that had been clutching her arms drop at the sound of the voice, and hesitantly wandered over to the desk, schooling her face to look blank and uncaring. She couldn't let these people see she was shaken. After all, from this point on, Kagome had no idea who the enemy was. Anybody in this town could have been directly, or even indirectly involved with the slaughtering of her elder sister.

"Found it!" a young woman cried, jumping up from under the desk, a pen in hand. "Sorry about that, dropped my pen!" she explained cheerfully.

Kagome, slightly startled by the young girl's appearance, smiled weakly. This place made her nerves stand on end, and her heart was beating hard in her chest. Maybe staying here wasn't the best idea she had ever come up with. "May I help you?" the new girl pressed.

"Yes," Kagome conceded, deciding to just suck it up already. She had come this far, after all! "I'd like a room, please, Ms.Koji." She read the name off the tag pinned to the girl's blue jacket.

"Oh, just call me Rin!" the girl said, waving her hand around with a large, welcoming smile plastered onto her face. It was the sort of smile that made you want to smile back, no matter how spooked you currently were, so Kagome couldn't help but grin as well.

"All right then, Rin," Kagome said warming up to the girl already. Upon inspection, she decided Rin didn't look to be much older than Kagome herself, possibly sixteen at the most. She had long black hair with a little side ponytail, happy, bright eyes, and pale skin with a trace of freckles. The definition of 'cute'. It was endearing.

"And how many days will you be staying at the Godtree Inn, Ms..?"

"Kagome. Just call me Kagome. And. Oh, well, I don't really know. Hopefully not that long, but I can't be sure." Kagome admitted. She knew she had the option of staying here for around a month, since she had told her mother that was how long she would be staying at her friend, Yuka's house at the beach, and had Yuka's promise that she would play along. Yuka's parents weren't at the house either, anyway, so it all worked out rather perfectly, Kagome still pleased with herself for hatching such an ingenious plan.

"How does a week sound? We're not exactly a full house right now, in any case, so if you end up staying longer, it shouldn't be a problem." Rin commented amiably, typing some numbers into a small, ancient looking computer next to her.

"Great." Having this case solved and wrapped up within a week sounded truly appealing, but Kagome had a feeling it wasn't going to happen. That was all right though. She would stay in Feudal as long as need be. or rather, around a month.

She exchanged some information with Rin, paying everything in cash, since she was obviously lacking a credit card. She had stopped by the bank and taken a good chunk of money from babysitting jobs she had been doing since she was quite young, not to mention saved up allowance. Already she had 2,000 dollars. a good amount of money that her mother and grandfather had no idea she was harboring. Lucky for her, the Inn was cheep, too.

The I.D she flashed was Kikyo's, since her sister had been eighteen when she died, and legally able to take out a hotel by herself. with a changed name of course, thanks to one of her trickier friends at school, who made fake I.Ds for any and everyone.

Luckily, it was said by many that Kikyo and Kagome had shared a great resemblance to each other, even though Kagome saw it differently, (Kikyo was much prettier than she was!) so Rin didn't notice the fact that Kikyo had much straighter hair that Kagome, and a narrower face. However, she did point out something else.

"My! You look so cold in this picture!" the young employee pointed out with a little giggle, finding it hard to imagine this girl who was so kind looking and radiated nice feelings, could look so dark and closed off as she did in her little color photo. Kagome mentally bristled, but didn't show it. She was a polite girl. most of the time.

"Yes. well, I was having a bad day," she said carefully. Kikyo had always looked a bit icy, and had been a bit indifferent towards people most of the time, honestly. it was a way she obtained her great power- to close off everyone. Although she showed nothing but warmth to Kagome, in all the years the girl had known her. It was just Kikyo's way, and she hated it when people called her . cold. How could someone as passionate and powerful as Kikyo be cold?

"I see!" Rin said, typing some final details into the computer before grabbing a set of keys off the shelf behind her. "All done now. If you'll follow me...?"

Shouldering her bag, Kagome cautiously followed Rin up the large, winding wooden staircase that branched off to the side, the young woman babbling about this and that the entire way to the second floor, where Kagome would be staying.

"We have very few customers this week, so you'll have the run of the inn, practically! Breakfast is from 7-11, in the dining hall beyond the big doors on the first floor. Lunch is 11- 4, and then there's teatime at five! Dinner starts at 6 and the kitchens are open until 11. There's a small game room also on the first floor to the left of the stairs and down the small hall. the guest's rooms are all on the 2nd and 3rd floors, and the 4th floor is closed off to everyone but employees." Finally, it appeared that Rin had to take a breath after her rapid-fire introduction of the Godtree Inn, and this gave Kagome a chance to jump in.

"Why is it closed off, what's on the fourth floor?" she quickly pressed.

"Oh, it's just for storage and stuff like that. We keep a lot of the building's original furniture that can no longer be used up there, and the like. I rarely go up there though, so I don't know much else," she said, shrugging indifferently and trotting down the 2nd floor hall with Kagome trailing curiously behind her.

"Oh," she replied, storing all of the information Rin told her in the back of her mind.

"And here's your room! Room 2B!" Rin chimed, halting in front of a white painted, wooden door, and standing to the side. "These are two sets of keys for your room, and we have an extra by the desk if you lock yourself out!" she added with a wink, dropping two small, old looking keys into Kagome's hand. Smiling appreciatively, Kagome quickly unlocked her door, eager to see what sort of rooms the Godtree offered, and maybe a little exited at the prospect that she would be able to stay in it alone. When was the last time she had been away from her family for a week or more, all alone? Oh yeah - never.

"Wow. pretty," Kagome whispered after throwing open the door eagerly, and looking over her room. It was appealing and rustic looking, a queen sized bed against the wall on the right, and two large window's straight ahead that gave a nice view of the courtyard just behind the Godtree Inn. The walls were painted a country blue, and the sheets on the bed were pristine white with a wire headboard that made it look like an oversized little girl's bed. Light colored wooden dressers and tables were pressed up against walls, and there was a large open space by the windows where to reclining chairs sat. There was also a small T.V off to the side, and a door to the right that Kagome assumed led to a bathroom. She smiled happily and turned to Rin, nodding her approval, momentarily forgetting that this, or any other room at the hotel, might have been Kikyo's lodging place, where the priestess prepared hastily for her last hours on Earth..

"It's great," she said contentedly, eagerly throwing her bag down, happy to have the ever present weight off her shoulders.

"Is there anything else you need then?" Rin asked politely.

"No, I'm good for now thanks," Kagome admitted, sitting on the bed and testing out the mattress. It was firm, and made no annoying springy noises when you moved around on it - just how she liked it.

"Well, if you do need anything you can just ask for Rin! - or dial 2 on the phone - and the manager and owner of the Godtree Inn is Kaede Hatsuo if anything more serious pops up. Enjoy your stay!" Rin chirped, trotting off and closing the door behind her with a final, happy wave. Kagome frowned at the door once Rin had left, rolling over the name Kaede in her mouth.

"Kaede Hatsuo." she said softly, the name bringing back a sudden rush of memories from Kikyo's investigation. The woman was undoubtedly familiar, though possibly only because Kaede was the owner of this Inn where Kikyo had been staying. Nevertheless, it might be within Kagome's best interests to meet the woman.

Kagome wasn't sure what she was going to tell people when they got around to asking her exactly why she was staying in town, or how they would react if she started asking about a young priestess who had come to stay in Feudal three years ago and was promptly murdered. She knew the event had stirred the apparently peaceful town up considerably, especially with all of the police investigations that had gone on, and wasn't so sure people would be happy to have her resurrect the whole ordeal.

She was just going to have to be subtle.

And she was going to start by getting to know the town, intimately.

*

The only person in Kagome's family who had been down to the actual settlement of Feudal after the murder, ever, had been Kagome's grandfather. He had been the one who had helped the police with descriptions and information, and had insisted neither Kagome nor her little brother Sota be let into the town. Not that he was afraid they too would be murdered, but one could never be too careful, and having one grandchild killed was enough to make anyone cautious. Kagome's mother had never gone down because Kikyo's death had simply broken her heart too much, and she couldn't bear to be anywhere near the place her eldest daughter had been assassinated in.

Because of this, Kagome's knowledge of what the layout of Feudal was actually like was vague to say the least. And while that eerie, out of place aura did in fact still linger all around her as she traveled down the streets with a lighter, smaller messenger bag now, and a light yellow tee- shirt, she had to admit it didn't look TERRIBLY evil or intimidating.

It was basically your run of the mill, Nowheresville once you got right down to it, but managed to pull of being sort of quaint anyway. Looking at Main street again, Kagome found it to be drizzled with places like Ice-cream Parlors, Barber shops, ancient looking drug stores, and then the weakest attempts and modern adaptation, like clothing stores that proffered brand name labels such as Nautica and Gap. However, everything was still slightly wholesome and unassuming, and it was obvious to Kagome that the teenagers of the area would have to drive to the nearest mall for shopping. Not that it really mattered to her. She did not intend to shop while in town. No siree, all of her time was going to be dedicated to the case.

Just after she stopped in the parlor and got some ice cream, that is.

Quickly hopping onto a stool at the counter and edgily glancing around the sparsely occupied store, Kagome decided that it probably wasn't healthy to worry so much about her little private investigation of the town, and that if she let her nerves get the better of her she'd end up driving herself insane, and imagining things like Kikyo's killer lurking behind every corner. She would be the perfect detective now, and get to the bottom of all this, but she wouldn't deny herself every pleasure. She had just been hitchhiking for some many hours. She deserved a sundae, if nothing else!

"Hello, may I help you?" an old, squeaky voice asked, catching Kagome's attention, and pulling her away from her quick inspection of all the occupants in the ice cream parlor. It was all mainly just families with their kids, and one teenaged couple towards the back, sharing ice cream. Nothing too suspicious.

"Um, yes, may I have a butterscotch sundae please?" Kagome quickly asked, berating herself for being so nervous with everything she did as she resisted the urge to stutter terribly all through out her request. She had to get a grip!

"Coming right up," Kagome smiled at the elderly man behind the counter as he waddled away to get Kagome's order, upon looking him over quickly deciding he was automatically ruled out as Kikyo's killer. No way someone that short could kill Kikyo, who had always seemed to stand 7 feet tall, even though she had only been around 5'6, like Kagome. Indeed, this ice cream man was incredibly tiny, with balding hair and a wrinkled, round face that had smile lines etched all over it. He wore a white apron and the typical, striped shirt that was customary for all of the ice cream shop owners in the olden days. He looked kindly, and endearing.

"Here you go, little lady," he said, placing a large, butterscotch sundae in front of Kagome. She licked her lips and quickly pulled the spoon out of the vanilla ice cream, eager to dig in.

"Thank you sir," she said quickly, never one to forget her manners.

"Call me old Myouga!" he chuckled, shaking his head. "Everyone around here does,"

"Mokay," Kagome said around a mouthful of ice cream, grinning.

"Say, I don't recognize you from around here - are you from out of town?" Myouga asked after a second, leaning on the counter and staring critically at Kagome. Kagome mentally sighed, wishing this moment hadn't come so soon, even though she knew it was inevitable for anywhere else she went in the town - it's hard to hide the fact that you don't belong, in a town of barely 4,000. And now she was going to have to lie. She hated lying.

"No, I'm not. I'm from a few towns over. I'm - looking for a lost relative." she quickly murmured, wondering where that idea had come from, and how she was going to run with it.

"Really?" Myouga asked, suddenly looking very interested. "Well, I know practically everyone in Feudal - maybe I could help you with your search?" he offered with a smile. Kagome mentally winced, and quickly spouted the first things that came to mind.

"Well - see - my father died a few years ago, and I've been looking for certain relatives of his, who he, um, left things to in his will. But his family is very scattered. and I haven't been able to locate his - sister. my aunt, of whom I've never met. However my father left a lot of things to her name, and my family is trying to locate her. I heard rumors that she might be in this town, so I came to check it out myself." Well. That wasn't half bad!

"Oh I am sorry about your father - but what is your aunt's name? Do you know?" Myouga asked, leaning over the counter, and standing on his tippy toes and trying to balance his round figure. Kagome only hesitated a second.

"Kikyo. Kikyo Higurashi."

Myouga frowned briefly, lowering his head. Kagome watched his movements carefully, wondering if maybe he remembered her sister's name from the murder three years ago. She figured that the murder had become pretty famous in these parts, considering how 'safe' an area it was. Most likely everyone knew about it in Feudal. Finally he looked up, smiling sadly.

"No, I'm sorry, I don't remember there ever being a resident here by that name. Perhaps you've found the wrong town?" he offered, looking truly apologetic.

"Maybe - that's too bad. Thanks for your help anyway though," Kagome said, looking slightly crestfallen, but none the less deciding that the lie she had just made up was a fabulous way to get information about her sister out of Feudal residents. It wasn't directly prodding into the terrible murder, since she apparently didn't know of her 'aunts' death yet - and yet it might still get her an adequate amount of information about the time her sister spent in the town, if she was able to ask the right people. Old Myouga was obviously not one of those people.

Pushing the empty sundae cup away with a light smile, Kagome dug around in her pocket for two dollars, as Myouga continued to talk.

"There are many small towns around these parts, so you might have mixed up Feudal with one of them. However, I think I'd remember if there was ever a woman named Kikyo who lived here, since I've been in this old town for as long as I can remember!" As Kagome handed him the two dollars, he quickly shook his bald head, a smile on his face. "Oh no, it's on me. I feel badly for having no information on your aunt,"

"It's not your fault," Kagome pointed out, not used to having shop owners refuse her money.

"Don't worry about it," Myouga said, patting her hand and pushing it back. Kagome smiled her thanks, and put the money away, quickly hopping off her stool.

"Thanks! I have to be going now, see you later Myouga," she said politely, turning around and heading out of the shop. "If you remember anything, I'll be in town for a few weeks I think," she added as an afterthought, realizing it would probably be a good idea to establish some connections in the town, especially with people who knew the place well.

"A few weeks? That's a long time to be looking for your aunt," Myouga mentioned, cocking his head.

"Well. I'm going to be staying here until my family comes to pick me up." she said, stumbling over her words. She had never lied this much to one person after just meeting them in her life!

"Well, that's nice. Bye then.?"

"Kagome Higurashi," Kagome said, in response to his questioning tone, and opening the door. "Bye now!"

*

Later that day, as the sun began to dip low in the horizon, and the sky took on a rich pink color, Kagome found herself on her bed back in her room, piles of money surrounding her small form as she organized her finances for the trip.

Now, while 2,000 dollars might have been a lot of money for Kagome or, indeed, any fifteen-year old to have all to their selves at one time; the fact of the matter was it wasn't such an incredible amount of money that it would assuredly keep Kagome fed and happy come hell or high-water for the next month. She needed to organize her funds carefully if she was to survive in this town until her sister's murder had been solved.

So she placed many of the larger bills and more than three-fourths of the money in one pile once she had organized it by amount, and stuffed everything in a large envelope. Sealing the envelope carefully she placed it at the very bottom of her large duffel, underneath her sleeping bag - and hen she hid her duffel under her bed, just to be safe. Gathering the remaining money she had dubbed as the next few days financial support, she stuffed all of it into her wallet and then hopped off her bed, feeling much as though she had just completed a very important task indeed.

It had been around four hours since Kagome had left the ice-cream parlor, and already she was getting a better sense of Feudal's layout. This was in great part thanks to the map she had picked up at the Feudal gift- shop (A run down store with many miscellaneous trinkets that were supposedly of some significance to Feudal, but in truth could have just as easily belonged to any generic small town - not to mention a few wildly un- popular looking books that had been published about Feudal's long standing history and mild success in life.) that showed everything from main street to the many different farms that basically surrounded the town. Indeed, the only real sign of life around Feudal that Kagome could locate was the freeway - and then after that it was all farms and forest for as far as the eye could see, with a few residential houses scattered here and there.

Kagome planned to visit some of the farmers whose land was closest to the forest where Kikyo's body had been found, and ask them a bit about her long lost 'aunt.' It seemed like a good place to start, anyway, and she KNEW these people had to have at least heard of Kikyo, since she was almost positive the police had interrogated the people living nearest to the crime scene.

Exiting her room, Kagome trotted along the hotel hall to the large staircase that led downstairs, trying to remember where Rin had said the dining hall was, and searching for any signs of life in the Godtree. In truth, Kagome had seen hardly any customers or staff at the Inn since getting her room, and was starting to wonder if she was the only guest. Rin HAD said that they weren't exactly having a great season, but Kagome hadn't assumed she meant they weren't having a season at all.

'Which way do I turn? What hallway was the dining hall down?' Kagome wondered, glancing around the main entrance for any signs that would point her in the direction of the dining area as her stomach grumbled incessantly. After a few more minutes of poking around the first floor an elderly lady descended down the stairs and called out to Kagome.

"Hello! Young Lady? Is there something I can help you with?" A very tiny old woman with long silver hair and, most curiously, a black eye-patch, called out to Kagome so that the girl quickly spun around, startled. The woman looked like an old, female pirate.

"Yes, actually! Could you possible could point me in the direction of the dining hall, please?" Kagome asked sheepishly, a silly grin plastered on her face. The old woman's lips quirked, and she approached Kagome with a definite hobble to her step.

"Why certainly Miss, if you'd just follow me this way."

"Oh, don't call me Miss! My name is Kagome," Kagome said, feeling very odd that a woman, who was at least seven decades her elder, was addressing her as though she were her superior.

"And I'm Kaede Hatsuo, owner of the Godtree Inn," the old woman croaked, nodding at Kagome. Kagome's eyes immediately widened, as the name Kaede once more evoked a strong feeling from her, and she instantly sensed a powerful vibe surround the old lady in front of her, the sensation holding traces of mystical powers. Kagome inspected Kaede's aura critically, frowning lightly. Could this woman be. a miko, too? "Excuse me, is something wrong?" Kaede asked after a pregnant pause.

"Oh! No - no everything's fine. It's a pleasure to meet you Ms. Kaede. Thank you for letting me stay at your Inn," Kagome said, embarrassed she had been caught staring, and quickly holding her hand out for a shake.

"It's no trouble at all. Anyway, it's a pleasure having a pretty girl such as yourself stay at my Inn. We don't get very many guests here now a day anyway, and you're such an interesting one! What's a young thing like you doing traveling alone, anyway?" Kaede asked as she took Kagome by the arm and led her towards two large, oak doors to the left of the reception desk, her pace slow and steady.

"Um - well, I'm staying here until my family comes to get me in a few weeks." Kagome said slowly, trying very hard to remember all of the details of the lie she had told Old Myoga. It would be no good to go around town telling people different versions of a lie. "Until then I'm here trying to locate a lost relative, so that they can receive part of my late father's will."

"Oh really?" Kaede commented, two silver eyebrows shooting up into her hairline. "That's quite a unique situation. Why has this relative never contacted you before?" Kagome swallowed, wishing old Kaede wouldn't press this issue, but realizing she ought to have thought out the finer details of the lie beforehand anyway. She couldn't just strut around, unprepared!

"Well. she had. problems with my family. and hadn't spoken to my father in ten years at the time of his death. She doesn't even know he's passed away yet, because she's been so detached from my side of the family. I've never seen her in my life. Only pictures," Kagome said, pausing just outside the doors with Kaede still staring at her critically.

"Yet your father still left her things in his will?" she asked skeptically.

"Yes! He - er, forgave her once he realized his illness was going to kill him." 'Way to go Kagome - your story doesn't even make any sense!' Kagome mentally berated herself. Kaede stayed silent for a beat, her small brown eye looking Kagome over intensely, almost as though she was peering into Kagome's soul, and suddenly the girl felt as though she couldn't move. Something had come over her and her body refused to so much as breath until Kaede finally took a step back, turning towards the doors. Kagome put a hand to her chest and bit the inside of her cheek. What had that been!?

"Well, I'm terribly sorry to hear about your father, Ms. Kagome. Hopefully you'll find your aunt here in Feudal. What did you say her name was?" Kaede asked, one wrinkled, old hand clutching the doorknob.

"It's." Kagome paused, biting her tongue hard. It was odd, but she felt as though she didn't want to say Kikyo's name to this woman. this old woman who seemed far too quick for her own good. It was as though she was scared to lie to her again, or as though she knew Kaede would easily see through anything else Kagome had to say. Saying Kikyo's name in place of her aunt's felt as though she would be pushing it too far after all of the cheap lies she had just spouted; and yet. "K-Kikyo! Kikyo Higurashi," she squeaked, tucking a lock of silky hair behind her ear nervously, and waiting for Kaede's reply.

There was a resigned sigh from the woman, and Kagome didn't even have the nerve to look at her expression as she opened the doors fully.

"I see. I see. Well, Ms. Kagome, please enjoy your dinner. I'm terrible sorry about your father, and your aunt. I have things to attend to now, however I sincerely hope you enjoy your stay here at the Godtree," And with that she was gone, briskly traveling back towards the staircase, her long silver ponytail trailing behind her. Kagome watched her leave with wide eyes, only vaguely realizing that Kaede hadn't mentioned whether or not she knew who Kikyo was, or if she would help Kagome find her

How odd.

*

That night Kagome reentered her room with a full stomach and a contented smile on her face. Dinner had been delicious (And on the house!) and completely filling; a country meal that's original purpose was only to sate your hunger and give you energy to work in the fields the next morning - Kagome couldn't remember ever eating a meal so utterly fatty and large. Not that she minded.. if there was one thing Kagome was a fan of it was food. She loved to snack all day long and could sit around eating sushi until the cows came home if her mother ever allowed it. It seemed to be a miracle that Kagome was as truly thin as she was - although she did make up for her eating habits by being incredibly energetic and active.

On top of gaining a good meal, the teen had also gotten a small glimpse at some of the other customers at the Godtree Inn. There were admittedly not many of them, but Kagome had spotted at least six during her meal. The first group was an elderly couple that seemed totally enamored with one another even after obviously many years of being married, and had eaten just as much as Kagome had in one sitting. They seemed kindly and warm, and had made Kagome smile.

The next to enter the elegant dining hall were a small Japanese family that included a mother, father, and two little girls. They too all seemed to be quite happy together, obviously enjoying a family vacation of sorts. But, looking at the two young girls, both with long manes of glossy raven hair that drifted around their faces as they giggled all through the meal and whispered things to one another when they thought their parents weren't looking, Kagome was overtaken by a wave of nostalgia. They reminded her of days long ago when she and Kikyo had also been very small, and often acted as those two sisters were.

Also, a little ways into the meal, Rin had stopped by the dining hall to check up on Kagome. The pretty girl as bouncy and cheerful as ever, and the two had shared a pleasant conversation that had made Kagome feel much more comfortable after her slightly less than relaxing chat with the manager Kaede. Kagome learned that Rin had indeed lived in Feudal all her life, and was only fifteen years old, like Kagome. Although, Kagome certainly didn't mention the fact that she and Rin were the same age, because she was technically supposed to be eighteen - or so her fake I.D said.

Rin had left shortly before Kagome to go finish some of her duties as junior assistant manager (A blown up title for a minor helping Kaede with the Godtree when they became short on staff, Kagome surmised.) but by that time Kagome had decided that she rather liked the girl. She reminded her greatly of her good friends back home. All of whom were undoubtedly at the beach just then, enjoying a normal summer...

"And now time for bed!" Kagome sighed, forcibly expelling any and all depressing thoughts from her mind, and shedding her clothing for a pair of flannel boxers with her school's mascot on the front, and a large t-shirt. She shuffled around her room, brushing her teeth and washing her face, reorganizing her personal belongings around her small sleeping area, and still feeling very independent and grown up to know that this was her very own hotel room - she had paid for it with her own money! And for once in her life she didn't have to share the room with her younger brother Souta.

She finished her rounds by finally replacing the hotel's pillow with one she had brought from home. It had little embroidered pink flowers around the edges and had been hers since she was very little.. admittedly it brought down the level of maturity Kagome was currently experiencing substantially, but she paid it no mind. Quickly the fifteen-year old flopped herself on the bed and lay spread eagle on it - reveling the mattress size. Her bed back home was much smaller, and, she feared, not nearly as comfortable.

Surely she would get a good nights rest tonight..

*

..In the darkness he stirred - the first movements his stony body had made in three years. The sound of a wind howling its way across the room teased his previously cataleptic senses ..and his ear twitched forward ever so slightly, like a hesitant animal. His eyes rolled around behind firmly shut lids, restless and eager to be awake.

Inside him blood was beginning to pump once more, the warm liquid rushing through long-dead veins and warming his waxen, cold skin so it became soft and colored. Splashes of pink appeared on a face as pale as the winter's snow, and a thin, curved mouth began to turn a light pink shade.

And his heart .. his heart began to beat again. It took up a slow, admittedly sluggish pace, that soon developed from erratic and weak to relatively strong and steady. At least, there was solid thumping sound. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump..

*

.Thump. Thump. Thump.

Two hours later Kagome had caught not one wink of sleep, and her eyes were beginning to get bloodshot from staring, wide-eyed, at her stark white ceiling all night. In the darkness of her room her entire body shook slightly, and her lower lip on the verge of being destroyed due to all of the abuse her teeth were giving it.

Kagome was dead frightened, and was suddenly wishing she were back home, safe in her bed, instead of in this cursed inn where the feeling of stale magic and something much more sinister seemed to hang around her head and set alight her miko senses like nothing else she had ever encountered before. Long gone was the exciting feel of freedom and adulthood - in its place was bone-chilling dread.

She had known that the Godtree made her feel odd and agitated with the hints of magic that lingered in it, but she had had no idea it would get to her like this. What was in this inn, in this town, that made her hair stand on end, and her heart race? Whatever it was, she couldn't sit around waiting for it to get to her - she knew that much. But what could she do when she had no idea what was driving her mystical senses haywire like this?

Shakily sitting up in bed and letting her head crane around the room with a haunted look in her eyes, the high-schooler threw her sheets off of her legs, and quietly stood up. A cool summers breeze came in through Kagome's partially opened window and tickled her bare legs, causing her to hug herself tightly and move towards the door. She had to get out of this room..

She felt small and lost as she traveled down darkened halls that had seemed far more kindly and inviting during the daytime, unsure of exactly where she was headed, but feeling an indescribable pull urging her along at same time. Her feet seemed to be moving of their own accord, and Kagome didn't stop once to consider the fact that it was a little odd that she had left her room in the middle of the night to silently prowl the Godtree Inn.

Deftly she traveled up the staircase to the third floor, her fingers trailing along the banister lightly, her eyes wide and alert. What was this feeling inside her? It was definitely powerful, and it was driving her crazy with the need to unlock its secret and get it out of her head as soon as possible. Something was amiss in this hotel, and she'd be damned if she wasn't going to get to the bottom of it.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

'There's this 'thumping' sound in my head...' Kagome realized as she drifted down the third floor hall that was practically identical to her own, putting a hand to her chest and listening to the steady beat that seemed to be drawing her to it just as much as that disturbing magical feeling in the air was. 'I don't know what it is, but it sounds almost like someone's heart beat.' She reflected, belatedly grasping how morbid she sounded.

With a start Kagome realized her feet had led her to the bottom of the staircase for the fourth floor. The floor that Rin had firmly told her no one was allowed to go into except for staff. Rin had also explained to her earlier that it was only used as storage space for old furniture from the original inn and the like. but suddenly Kagome felt as though there was something slightly more important up there.

Thump. Thump. THUMP.

The beating got considerably louder as she slowly traveled up the dusty staircase, and now she could feel the sound reverberating in her own throat and chest. She licked her dry lips and halted right in front of the door (Which had a large red and white sign across it reading clearly: 'Warning! Authorized personnel only!') that would lead her into the fourth floor, one pale hand shakily reaching out to grasp it. She frowned as she realized her palm was slick with sweat when she tried to grab the doorknob, wondering what she was so nervous about. There was nothing to be afraid of here, right? She was only traveling into the mysterious depths of the inn where her murdered sister has stayed at right before her assassination... Nothing to worry herself with, for sure.

To Kagome's general surprise, the door wasn't locked, and it easily flew open for her when she pushed on it. She gasped and took a step back as the smell of something old attacked her senses, and she took in a lungful of dust. Wrinkling her nose delicately, she carefully peered around the darkened room before her, unsure of what move to make next.

"Hello? Is anyone here?" she called out uncertainly, and very softly.

THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.

No one replied to her query, but the beating in her head was getting detestably loud now so she forged onward, not closing the door all the way behind her as she entered, just in case she needed to make a speedy exit.

Luckily, although there were no lights on in the large, wooden paneled room she entered next, there were enough windows around so that a healthy dose of moonlight streamed in and illuminated the area for Kagome. She found upon inspection that the entire fourth floor looked like your typical attic, with a fine layer of grime coating everything in sight, and a collection of old looking chairs and couches haphazardly pushed against the swooping, and somewhat claustrophobic, walls. Rin hadn't been lying about one thing; it did look as though people rarely came up here, even staff, and Kagome very much doubted this place had been touched in years.

'And with good reason! It's just radiating disturbing vibes! It feels like there's a real strong presence somewhere in here. or at least some sort of mystical disturbance.' And now Kagome felt herself become wary, because for all that she had been studiously trying to become a proper miko for the past three years, as Kikyo had been in her prime, she was still very green with her powers - and she knew it. Kagome had never even had to perform a real exorcism, or anything of the purifying sort, as she knew her older sister had done many times prior to her death. What would she do if she actually stumbled across a real, angry spirit or ghost? Well, nothing, that's what she'd do. She wouldn't know the first thing about laying the angry phantom to rest, and would probably just end up agitating the poor thing more.

'Some miko I am! Maybe I should just get out of here.. I don't even remember why I wanted to come up here in the first place,' Kagome thought carefully, slowly turning around and determinedly trying to block out the persistent buzzing in her head that was a literal barrage of angry supernatural powers.

And then, as she was about to head back towards the door, she spotted him.

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!

"Oh my God!" Kagome gasped sharply, slapping a hand to her mouth and stumbling back quickly, a shockwave of fear rocking through her body. "What is that?!"

What it looked like to the confused girl was a young man, probably not much older than herself, with long silvery white hair that reached his lower back - pinned to the attic wall.

Kagome clamped a hand over her mouth, emitting small whimpers that were only tiny hints of the real scream that was threatening to rip from her throat. She was so terrified she could hardly move, much less grasp the fact that what she was gazing at was probably a dead body.. somebody had killed this odd looking boy, and stabbed him through the heart with a sort of sharp object so that he hung there from the wall..

'And recently too. He still looks so alive! Like his eyes could open up at any second..' The idea that someone had recently murdered the young man made Kagome even jumpier than before, as she realized that the killer could be lurking in the shadows at that very moment, waiting for the perfect moment to attack and pin her to the wall as well. Her hands began to shake her head swiveled around the room overanxiously.

'I have to tell someone about this! It's terrible!' However, before she could make a beeline for the door, Kagome noticed something odd about the dead boy. Something that gave her pause, and even fueled her curiosity enough to make her take a tentative step towards the hanging cadaver. and it wasn't the snow white dog ears peaking out of the boy's head, nor his razor sharp claws that hung off his fingers like pearly accessories - it wasn't even the odd red kimono he was wearing that seemed so old fashioned.. Though all of these new facts did indeed frighten and intrigue Kagome as well. But no, the most startling aspect of the bizarre scene placed before Kagome was the object currently impaling the young man.

It was an arrow.

But not just any arrow either. As Kagome slowly walked towards it, her hands clenched firmly at her sides, it occurred to her, like a bolt of powerful lightening coursing through her system -

That it was one of Kikyo's arrows.

*

That was a pretty hefty first chapter if I do say so myself. Thirteen pages and I'm not even supposed to be working on this fic! (I'm sorry to everyone who was really hoping for a Bitten update.) I realize the tone I'm taking with this story is a little eerie - but I assure you that's just how I want it. If you have any thoughts or comments about this fic please, please, PLEASE review and I promise I'll try to reply to them or at least incorporate them into the next chapter. Have a nice day everyone,

Rio Grande~