Reposted, revised, still all about the hanyou love.
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It was a beautiful autumn day. The last of the flowers were out; they would cling stubbornly to life until the rain came and trampled them underfoot. The road was uneven, covered with rocks and grass, and it was obvious no one had been by this way for at least a decade.
The bumpy earth rose into a hill, and when the young woman navigating said hill made it to the top she had a fairly good view of the village below. Squinting against the sun, the girl put her hand to her forehead in an attempt to see more clearly.
The houses were silent. Some were charred in places, others were decaying, slowly collapsing in on themselves, but for the most part it looked as if everyone had simply packed up and left. Shiori sighed. So, this one too...
Even now, years after its end, you could find villages left empty from the constant wars that had marked the Sengoku Jidai. It almost made her ill; but then, a disregard for life had always struck a little too close to her heart.
It is unlikely there is anything left. Still, it would be worth it to look, she rationalized. She hadn't come all this way for nothing. Shifting slightly, she glanced down at her side and twisted the homemade bandage tighter. A pesky spider youkai had managed to sink its fangs into her before she was able to kill it. There was no doubt in her mind that the poison would work itself out of her system with no lasting damage, but in the mean time something had to be done about the pain.
Rumor had it there was a field full of medicinal plants here, guarded by a youkai. Shiori was reasonably sure her strength was enough, even injured as she was, to fight them off for the plant. However, no one lived here. She rationalized that the youkai could have left when the people left, if it were a man eater. The field would have gone wild with no one to care for it, and if that were the case she could just go up and pick what she wanted.
However, it seemed much more likely that there was no field at all. If that was the case, Shiori resolved to squash Makoto for sending her on a wild goose chase. That flea demon had been camping out in her home for the past year, waiting for her fiancee' to happen in the area so she could try and trap him.
The lumpy ground crumbled under her feet as she half walked, half slide down the hill side. The ground leveled out, and she paused for a moment to relish the feel of grass back under her feet
Shiori found it more than a little depressing as she walked through the village. She could tell it was the work of ordinary bandits, not youkai. It's not enough, she thought, that the humans and youkai kill each other; the humans kill fellow humans and the youkai kill fellow youkai. No one had any allies in this world.
The village ended and a wide expansion of land opened up, carefully spaced plants growing out from the ground. Shiori stopped, and lifted her eyebrows in surprise. Ho! Looks like Makoto was right after all.
Something was nagging at her, telling her there was something about the situation that wasn't quite right, but she shrugged it off and moved into the middle of the field. She wasn't sure what the plants looked like, but she assumed they would be the most abundant ones in the field. After several minutes of looking around, she bent down and pulled one up by the roots.
A sudden noise caught her attention, and she jumped up to a defensive pose, arms raised, to see a tall youkai had come out of a hut so shabby, she had assumed was empty.
There was several moments of tense silence, and then she dropped her arms and stepped forward in surprise.
Why, you're a hanyou!
I am sorry about uprooting one of your plants, Shiori said later, feeling abashed, though he had made no accusations himself. She was seated inside of the house, and noted that the roof was just barely taller than the man. His hunch was almost comical. It was rude.N-no, that's okay, he said, poking the fire. He frowned slightly, looking at her side. You're hurt...Yes, that's why I came, she said, smiling nervously. But I'd be imposing on you, to ask for something now.I can make an infusion for you to drink, he said, and before she could refuse politely or thank him, he had gone out to get it. He made her dinner, to, and fixed the drink up for her in a recently cleaned cup. Feeling slightly out of her element, she accepted everything he gave her quietly as she tried to get a handle on the situation. She hadn't had anyone fuss over her since her mother died, and it made her home sick.
Night had fallen by the time she was able to leave. He worried about her traveling around, and she said she did best by moonlight. She had hardly made it three paces, however, when her side began to hurt. She eased back down against the wall and held her stomach.
May I stay here tonight, Jinenji-san?Okay... Er... please, just call me Jinenji, he said uncomfortably, who was apparently unused to politeness.
The next morning, Shiori woke up to find Jinenji already gone. She sat up, her back stiff from lying against the wall all night, and the blanket she had borrowed pooled around her knees. She stood, her joints creaking, and folded the cloth out of habit before walking outside.
There were more trees here than at home, and they helped keep the harsh sun out of her sensitive eyes. Blinking, she glanced out across the large plot of land and yawned slightly. Jinenji was already hard at work, weeding the field. She watched his hunched back for a while, then moved out to meet him, walking in between the tidy rows of medicinal plants.
The first thing he did was ask if she was feeling better. Shiori was bemused; people didn't generally ask her how she was feeling. But she felt better and told him so, then knelt down slightly.
Would you like some help?
Jinenji stammered, uncomfortable with asking anything from anyone. She set to work without his answer. Pulling weeds was usually a simple task, but this was a demon's field and they all clung to the soil stubbornly.
Do these grow year round?
He inquired about her wound hourly, stating each time that he could do the work by himself and that she did not have to push herself. Shiori found his selflessness endearing.
They fell into a pattern. Shiori stayed up late, enjoying the night, then slept in the next morning. One of the benefits to an uninhabited place was less noise and light at night, and she found it comforting. Jinenji was up with the sun, already finished with a most of his chores by the time Shiori stumbled out, groggy and not a little cranky.
He continued to make her a counter-venom which she took twice a day, even though she hadn't offered him anything in return and was now taking up free room and board as well. It weighed heavily on her conscience, and she compensated by helping him in the yard as much as she could. While they worked, she talked, and Jinenji liked those times the best. He had never had anyone to carry on conversations with, and even when they were talking about things as simple as the change in the weather, he enjoyed it.
The talk inadvertently turned to their parents.
My father left me this field, he had explained to her when she had asked him how he'd come upon it, and privately wondered at the loving way he treated every leaf. She was intrigued. The only thing Shiori had ever received from her father was a family responsibility she didn't want.
Were you two close?
He nodded, and she thought he was lucky. She couldn't remember her father's face anymore, though the feel of his hand resting protectively on her head and his comforting presence strayed on and off the edges of her memory.
How did your mother die?
She had worn herself out, taken one to many beatings that were meant for her daughter. One winter that was too cold, one cough that lasted too long.
If there was anything Jinenji took pride in, it was that his mother had lived to a ripe old age and had passed on peacefully of natural causes in her sleep. The medicine he had made her had kept her going through things that would have killed many others, though he knew her stubborn nature had as much to do with it as anything.
He told her he didn't really know what had become of his father, but his mother had often talked about him as though he would appear around the bend in the road at any time, and she admitted the whole bloody truth of her family to him. It was the first time she had said it out loud, to herself or anyone else, and she felt strangely relieved afterward.
On the eighth day, Shiori didn't come out of the hut at all. Jinenji had wondered why he missed her as much as he did: after all, it wasn't as if she had left, she was only inside. When he finally came inside late in the afternoon, he was surprised to see a large meal laid out, and Shiori vigorously stamping out the bit of the fire that had spread across the floor.
Why did you go to all the trouble?
Shiori didn't want to tell him the reason. Because I feel sorry for you, spending all day working in a field on the edge of an empty village, that no one will use because I am probably to only person to come by in ten years.
she said, smoothing out the creases in her lap, I wanted to repay you for everything.There's nothing to repay, he said automatically, and Shiori thought it was nothing short of amazing that he sincerely meant it. She smiled sadly for a moment.
I though you'd say that. Think of it as a gift, then.
Jinenji was amazed. No one had ever given him something for his medicinal plants; even a thank you' was rare. And he didn't expect payment. He sat down to eat, and though he offered her more than half of everything, she firmly refused. I'm not the one that's been working hard in the field all day.
Later, when dusk had fallen and Shiori took the bowls out to clean them, she tried some of the food and gagged. It was horrible.
And Jinenji ate it all.
It was only two days later that Jinenji turned human. He seemed resigned to the fact there was no way he could stop her from finding out, but he put off telling her and only stuttered out an explanation right before it happened, then dove back inside.
When he emerged from the hut, he had pulled on a different set of clothes. She guessed the large ones he usually wore would have fallen off his diminished form. They looked like new, and Shiori supposed they wouldn't be worn or frayed if he only used them once every twenty-eight days.
He looked young, though several years older than her, and his hairline was beginning to recede. His eyes were wide and his skin was swallow, and he was slightly bent over. His arms stretched a little lower than most peoples' were supposed to.
They sat together out by the front door, backs to the wall and enjoying the calm breeze. Shiori finally noticed his scars, and they made her wince in sympathy. She didn't know how well his regeneration skills were, but all the marks she had received when she was young had healed. Until she was thirteen and her mother died, and she had sworn no one would ever touch her again.
Tired, she sagged, resting her shoulder against Jinenji's, and didn't notice his blush.
I never told anyone before.Your secret's safe with me, she replied drowsily. Shiori paused, then pulled herself off of the wall and turned to face him.
I turn human when the moon is two-thirds full. I never told anyone either. One hanyou to another, what does it matter?
I won't tell anyone, he said quickly, and she smiled.
I trust you.
It was by accident they found out they had both had run-ins with Inuyasha and Kagome. Shiori asked him what the worst thing that had happened to his field was, and he mentioned a fire. She inquired further, and the story unfolded from there.
Jinenji had wanted to know who the medicine had been for, but Shiori, who had no clear idea, recounted the people she had seen traveling with the hanyou and miko pair. He asked what they were like, and she told them they were all the same. They all wanted to help.
She wondered, by the way he talked about her, if he had felt about Kagome the way she felt about Inuyasha. Her red warrior, riding in on a blaze of glory and killing the wicked grandfather. It was a childhood crush, a hero worship and an inspiration.
Shiori wondered where Kagome was. She had to be old by now, and likely still had Inuyasha at her side.
The first big storm caught them both by surprise. They scrambled among the plants, trying to save them from getting drowned or washed away before the rain drove them inside, legs streaked with mud and soaked to the bone. Shiori had never been in such a powerful rain storm before, but she thought it looked just like the sea.
Jinenji gave her the clothes he wore on his human night while he lit a fire, and she felt better knowing she was using the fabric he trusted at his most vulnerable time. She told a few jokes, and Jinenji realized he was enjoying himself, and wondered what life had been like without her.
Shiori shivered and drew the dry fabric closer. They could hear the rain pounding against the roof, dripping in through unseen cracks. She gazed around at the walls that did little to keep out the damp, cold air.
Have you always lived in this house?We rebuilt it once, he said, and she guessed he was referring to the fire. But that must have been decades ago. She didn't know how tall he had been then, but Shiori didn't like the way he had to bend his neck so that his head didn't hit the roof, giving him a permanent curve in his spine.
We should rebuild it again, make it huge. So much room we wouldn't know what to do with it all.
She hadn't considered the implication of her words until she had already said them, and they spent the rest of the evening pretending she hadn't.
Her wound healed completely. The herbs that grew here had incredible healing powers, even among demon remedies.
Shiori had discovered Jinenji worked so well with his hands he could have put an embroiderer to shame. He'd built everything on the land, made his own clothes, repaired his own tools. And even though she sometimes felt he was too nice and wished he would be selfish, just once, she was still awed by how kind he was regardless of his past.
In turn, she tried to help around the house: light the fire, wash the dishes, mend clothes. Things she had blotched all her life and continued to blotch, but she tried to do them all anyway. When she finally realized Jinenji actually did like what she did and wasn't just being polite, she had beamed with pride.
Shiori had been with Jinenji for more than two months and a half when Makoto's message reached her. It was long-winded, and Shiori wondered why someone who was half the size of the brush didn't get straight to the point. Of course, she relented, she could have possessed someone and had them write it for her.
The general message was where the hell are you and why aren't you back yet', with repeated threats on her life and a hostile reminder that she was an essential part of my over-all plan to catch my cheating husband-to-be once and for all.' Makoto seemed certain that where her fiancee had been once he was sure to return, so she camped out at the village instead of trying to find him again herself. However cowardly Myouga was, Makoto was just as lazy.
Her key part' in the plan seemed to be little more than a source of fresh blood. She scrawled on the back it's not you, it's me', and sent it back to her.
Shiori went around the house to find Jinenji hoeing. She thought of how good he was, how unfalteringly kind. She thought, I love him.
He looked up, a nervous smile on his face that had only started appearing lately, and she smiled back. I got a letter from my village today. He looked surprised, as if he had never expected or considered that would happen.
She blinked. I don't want to. She crossed the distance between them. I don't want to impose, either.You're not, was the quick reply.
Shiori gazed at him, thinking of the reason she had come to the abandoned village in the first place. She had refused all help to kill the youkai, because she hadn't trusted any of the villagers. She'd never really trusted them, ever since they had willing offered her up to protect their own lives.
I could not look at people without thinking they had another motive... my grandfather taught me that. I... am ashamed of it now. I did not think there were people as good as you in the world.
Yes, her grandfather. And even her savior, Inuyasha, who had given her strength through her childhood had originally come to improve his blade, not to help her.
Jinenji didn't know what to say. I'm not... She shook her head and took his larger hand in her's.
When I first came here, I pitied you because you were all alone. But I am even more isolated in my village, surrounded by people. There's nothing there for me. I... she flushed. I've asked you once before. Will you let me stay here? I couldn't walk out before, and I know I still couldn't now.I... I would like that. I would like for you to stay with me.