A Completely Innocent Addiction
Just A Starving Writer
Disclaimer: nope, not mine.
Author's Note (first, last, and only) More of an author's plea, really. I must confess, I still have no idea where I got this or why I even bothered writing this. So I must beg you, do not flame. I doubt my fragile self image could take the beating. Anyways, what could you possibly say that I don't know already? I'm well aware that the characters are terribly OCC. I know the situation is completely implausible and silly. You know how I know that? Because that's how I decided to write it. After a decade spent tearing my heart out with sad depressing short stories that involved way too much character death, I was tempted to make something...happy. So this my honest attempt at something light and fluffy. Consider it the cotton candy of crappy fanfiction.
If you don't like it, please take your complaints to my muse. She's sitting over in that dark corner drinking peach schnapps and listening to Rob Dougan.
Thanks and enjoy if you can.
Updated 9.10.04: I did a little editing work, added a few sentences to the ending as per request, and split the story into four parts for easier reading. Hope its okay.
Thanks and enjoy if you can.
Part 1: An obsession, a watcher, and a need for entertainment
She waited until she was sure they were all safely in Dreamland before she crawled out of her sleeping bag. The book was waiting right where she had stashed it: beneath her pillow with the flashlight and extra batteries. She was taking no chances this time. Nothing would interrupt her reading.
Kagome told herself once more that it would be best if she would just crawl back into the bag and sleep. She would pay dearly tomorrow for the lack of rest, but that failed to matter when she looked at the book and the pages she had left to read. She was quickly overcome by its irresistible call.
'Maybe just a chapter...' she told herself, though even she knew she was blatantly lying. However, it was enough to bring her feet into her shoes as she gingerly walked out of the safety of their little camp towards the river. She stopped at the rim of the firelight, checking to make sure everyone, including the irate hanyou, was still safely unaware of her departure.
She walked silently in the dark for a ways before finally resorting to using her flashlight to find a suitable space to read. She sat on the hard ground, resting her back against a tree before positioning the flashlight on her shoulder and finally opening the book.
"Now where was I..." she whispered as she caught her place. "Ah yes! Henry's body had just been found..."
Soon the latest inhabitant of the dark forest was completely immersed in her new reality, not even stopping her reading when she rearranged herself. Her various exclamations during particularly interesting parts of the novel broke the silence of the forest. Kagome, as in every other aspect of her life, was a very active reader.
However, she began to find it increasingly difficult to completely engross herself in the story. Her steadfast loyalty to the novel dulled her senses tremendously, but even only half aware, she knew she was being watched. Interestingly, she sensed no ill intent and as long as that remained the case, she was not going to let her observer take her from her guilty pleasure. However, she could not resist informing her viewer of his or her obviously rude behavior.
"It's impolite to stare," she said quietly without removing her eyes from the book.
Her watcher merely smirked in amusement. Of course, he had been well aware of her proximity when he had taken this little detour to avoid Inuyasha's camp. Not that he was at all worried of starting yet another 'disagreement' with the hanyou; he simply did not feel inclined to spoil his evening with such.
However, he was also not so inclined to let an opportunity to sate his curiosity slip away. The girl had always been somewhat of a mystery to him and he was interested to find what she was doing so far from the safety of the others. He had never expected to find her lying on the ground in a very undignified position reading by the light of an odd looking torch. Her eyes had not once wavered from the book, even after sensing his presence. He doubted she was even aware of his identity. So amused was he by her attack on his manners that he almost failed to notice her mumbling.
"Henry was stabbed...but what about the gun...and what was Mrs. Jackson doing with the bag?" she said quietly while flipping back a few pages to reread a particularly important section of the murder mystery, completely forgetting her spectator in light of the latest clues. These offhand comments only further fueled her observer's curiosity.
"Damn..." she muttered, eyes still locked on the book. "They just have to bother me while I'm reading..."
For a sudden moment he didn't understand what she was talking about, until he sensed a rapidly approaching demon, heading straight for the preoccupied girl. Soon, it burst through the trees and stopped to examine its future meal. It became evident that the demon did not sense him, though the girl obviously had. Of course, he had taken great pains to hide every aspect of his presence: he was not fond of being interrupted in his pursuits. Still, the girl had known, so why hadn't the demon?
"The Jewel..." the demon hissed at the distracted girl who still had yet to look at it.
"Nope, sorry," she said, irritation obvious in her voice. "Would you take care of this, please?" she continued, seemingly to him. The observer was almost stunned. He had never revealed his presence, and he was sure the girl was still blissfully unaware of his identity. And yet here she was asking him to dispose of her enemy. And she still had yet to remove her eyes from the damned book. He was beginning to think her stupid.
As if sensing her watcher's lack of motive, she finally broke her eye contact with the novel to spare a quick glance at her attacker. However, as soon as she looked the demon over, she resumed her reading.
"Jewel shard in the right shoulder," she said simply while she searched for her place on the page. "It's the least you could do for your rudeness."
His smirk increased and almost resembled a twisted grin of sorts. Had anyone else been present to witness it, they would have run in fear of their lives. He would perform this service for her this once, though only so she could continue to entertain him. Lately, his life had been so dreadfully boring, and he was reluctant to let a source of amusement die.
Streaking by her body fast enough to blow the pages of her book, he quickly disposed of the demon. Snatching the jewel shard to prevent its regeneration and continued threat to his new pet project, he walked silently back to the girl who was still trying to find her lost page. She made a small triumphant sound as she regained her position in the novel, and he smirked once more.
She really was an astonishing creature.
"Thanks," she mumbled before once more becoming engrossed in the tale. He was confident that she had never once bothered to identify her savior. It took some amount of effort for him not to call attention to himself, just to witness the look in her eyes when she realized who he was. However, he convinced himself to wait. After all, he was greedy in regards to his amusements and extracting every bit of pleasure from this was something he looked forward to.
Dropping the shard, he took his leave quickly. Once the pages of her book stopped fluttering, she exasperatedly went about searching for her once more lost page. There, diligently holding her place was a sparkling jewel shard.
For a moment all she could do was stare at the offending sliver. Carefully, book temporarily forgotten, she picked up the shard, purifying it instantly with her touch, and peered into its pink depths. Finally becoming aware of her surroundings, she looked about, shock clearly written in her expressive face.
There were the remains of her demon attacker, now nothing more than dust and bones. There in front of her astonished body was the soft imprint of her savior's shoes.
Kagome was dumbfounded, but slowly it registered in her befuddled mind that her watcher was gone and she had already been attacked once this evening.
Gaining her feet, she retreated back to the relative safety of camp. She quietly crawled back into her sleeping bag, her mind still spinning. For a few minutes, all she could do was gaze at the book still in her hands. Finally, she marked her place and stashed the book once more under pillow, putting the jewel shard with its siblings in the jar hanging from her throat. Hands fisted in the material of the sleeping bag, she stared wide eyed at the starry sky, waiting for her heart to slow its rapid pace so she could rest.
'This book is gonna kill me,' was her last coherent thought before she slipped away to join the other in Dreamland. Much like the past few nights, Kagome dreamed of the story she was so enraptured with. However this time, a new character joined the show, watching her from the shadows of her unconsciousness, amusement playing in colorless eyes.
The next morning dawned much too quickly for the group of shard hunters. Kagome wearily wiped the remainder of sleep from her tired eyes and groggily pulled herself into a sitting position. All at once, the events of the night came back to her and instantly she was wide awake. A glance at the bottle of shards on her neck assured her that the incident was not a mere figment of her dreams.
Briefly, she considered telling the others what had occurred but decided it wasn't that important. If they realized that she was one shard richer, then she would disclose, but until then, they would remain blissfully unaware of her strange night. After all, they already had too much on their minds without having to worry about her sneaking off at night to read only to be attacked and rescued by an unnamed observer.
Without much fanfare, the group resumed their hunt, starting off in the direction Kagome had felt a shard the evening before. Of course, she was well aware of the possibility that said shard now lay in her possession, but since it would require explanation, she did not mention it. Instead, they walked and she could only hope a new shard would surface.
Of course, she felt incredibly guilty for lying to her friends. It simply was not in her nature to willingly lie to people she cared about. But it simply was not an option to let them know how incredibly careless she had been, and she wasn't even going to start on the mystery of her savior.
'It'll only cause trouble if I tell them,' she kept repeating to herself, hoping she might someday believe it. Still, she was steeped in guilt and it was only worsening as the day progressed and she studied her friends' trusting faces. Soon it became difficult to keep herself from blurting out her secret and so she took the easy way out: she began to place the blame elsewhere.
It was obviously all Eri's fault for introducing her to the book. But no, Eri had tried to warn her of the book's mysterious pull. Tried and failed. So the fault must lie firmly in the book itself. Kagome was well aware of the draw of a well written murder mystery, but this was ridiculous. This story was entirely too well written, too addicting. There simply was no putting the damn thing away. Yes, it was all the book's fault.
'Speaking of which, I wonder who killed Henry...'
The next three days were exhausting but routine for Kagome and the shard hunters. The only deviation was, of course, her late night reading escapes. Each night she grew increasingly desperate to continue the complicated story and each night she sacrificed more and more precious sleep to the undying cause of solving the damn written mystery. Progress was slow: she had to reread large sections of the book whenever a new clue presented itself. As well, there were usually distractions each night, drawing her undivided attention away from the book.
The largest of these distractions was her mysterious watcher. He never showed himself but she always knew he was there, silently memorizing her every exclamation, quietly studying her every move. She would briefly wonder who he was and curse herself for not looking at him the first night before she would once more become too caught up in the story to care.
However, despite his mysterious identity and hidden appearance, she felt safer in his presence, if only because of his actions from the first night. Never once did she feel threatened by the mystery man and perhaps this was the reason she began talking more to him than herself when she stopped in her reading to sort out the facts of the case.
"So...Henry was stabbed in a locked room with no evidence that anyone else was ever in the room. However, Mrs. Jackson was stopped on the Bulgarian border with his suitcase. Charles Franklin was discovered in Naples after being missing for 8 years, holding Henry's wallet. He was detained for questioning, only to be found an hour later strangled in yet another locked room...."
She was well aware that her observer probably had no idea what she was talking about, but it felt good to be able to talk to someone about the novel, even if it was a would-be ghost. Right before dawn each morning she would depart, bidding her observer good day before sneaking back to camp. By the third night, she was positive that he was waiting for her at the edge of the camp when she first snuck off, and followed her back each morning. Due to this and in large part to his protection the first night, she began referring to him as her Guardian Angel.
However safe she felt at night was immaterial to the growing sense of unease she felt during the day. She was moody, as anyone who hadn't been sleeping was bound to be. In addition, the story was devouring her every conscious thought and any poor soul who disturbed her continuous contemplation was soon subject to an angry tirade.
Of course, Inuyasha's violent mood swings weren't helping her own situation any. Here she was, exhausted and distracted, and the boy seemed to be itching for trouble. Finally, after one stupid comment too many, she could take no more.
"Inuyasha, what the HELL is your PROBLEM!??" she asked in utter frustration and irritation.
The rest of the group merely gaped at her. Since when did their pure, young Kagome resort to using such language? However, it did nothing to stop the fuming hanyou who had already been subject to more than his usual daily allowance of sit commands.
"MY problem? What is YOUR problem, Kagome?"
"What are you talking about?"
He huffed in annoyance. He had to put this delicately or else she would presume he actually cared about her well being. Such a ridiculous idea.
"For one thing, you look like crap! And for another, you've been attacking us for no reason for the last 3 days! What in seven hells is wrong with you?"
By this time he had stalked up to her, pointing an accusatory finger at her nose, hoping his scolding would prompt some answers as to her sluggish pace and the black circles forming beneath her eyes. His attention was soon sidetracked by the bottle chained around her neck. Usually it remained tucked into her shirt but her recent yelling had caused the bottle to reveal itself. There was something different about it that he couldn't quite identify. He pulled the bottle to his eyes for further inspection.
"What are you doing?!" Kagome squeaked. Glancing quickly up at her eyes once more, he almost missed the dart of fear that raced across her features. Almost. Taking that as his clue that he was close to something, he resumed his examination of the shard bottle. There was the shard from the snake youkai, that one from the bear youkai, the one Kaede had secured for them...
"Kagome..." he began unsurely. "Why is there an extra shard?"
That quickly got the full attention of the rest of the shard hunters. All eyes were on her and Kagome felt hard pressed to explain.
"What are you talking about..." she stuttered. She took a deep calming breathe before resuming. "There shouldn't be any extra shards..." It sounded hollow even to her. Chancing a glance at the others, she saw confusion and disbelief in their eyes. She was not going to get out of this one so easily.
"Don't pull this crap with me! We had only 3 shards. There are 4 in this bottle. Where did the shard come from, Kagome?" His voice was definitely accusatory now. Her guilt increased ten fold.
"I don't know!" she insisted.
"I DON'T KNOW!!" she screamed, tearing herself forcefully away. There was a pregnant pause as the red faded from her vision and soon she could see the horrified and worried faces of her friends.
'Shit...' she thought as she attempted to calm her racing heart. 'How do I explain this?'
Luckily, she was spared, for the moment at least. Inuyasha tensed and his hand automatically went to Tessaiga's hilt.
"What is it?" she asked warily. He turned hardened eyes onto her and she couldn't help but shiver.
"We're being watched." At this declaration, she put aside her present concerns and expanded her senses outward. Feeling the familiar aura of her night observer, she sighed thoughtfully.
"Oh." Of course, this obviously wrong response set the hanyou off once more.
"What the hell do you mean 'oh'?" he began and soon he was in an all out rant concerning her inabilities to save herself, etc. Finally growing weary of the bashing and wishing nothing more for night to come so she could excuse herself from her tyrant's presence, she did the only thing she could.
"Inuyasha," she began dejectedly. "Osuwari."
She received no thrill from the image of him cratered into the hard earth. However, she could almost swear that she could feel the amusement of the unknown watcher.
'Oh well,' she thought with a sigh. 'At least this time he's laughing with me...'
Leaving Inuyasha behind until the spell wore off, she continued on her trek and the others soon followed suit. Luckily, they seemed to realize no answers were going to be forthcoming from the young miko and neglected to question her. For that she was eternally grateful.
"Kagome?" asked the fox child as he jumped to her shoulder. "Why aren't you worried about the watcher?"
"Because Shippou," she began, deciding honesty was important in this matter. "I don't feel anything bad from him. He seems not to wish us any harm. As long as that remains the case, I'm not going to bother worrying about it."
She smiled thoughtfully as she glanced at the slowly sinking sun. Soon they would stop for the night and set up camp. Soon she would return to the book.
'Speaking of which,' she wondered, returning her focus to the problem at hand. 'I wonder who killed Charles Franklin...'
The next few hours were hell for Kagome. It seemed dinner had never lasted longer, nor did it ever take as long for everyone to drift into slumber. She swore she could feel the impatience of the ever present watcher. Finally, after an eternity of waiting, she slipped from the confines of her sleeping bag and once again left the safety of the camp to answer an irresistible call.
Settling down for a long night of reading, she paused long enough to address the watcher in the woods.
"I'm getting entirely too comfortable in your presence," she said truthfully. She sighed in frustration. Already, the amusement of the man in the shadows was obvious. "What is it about me that you find so funny?" Of course, no answer was forthcoming.
With another sigh, she returned her attention to the novel and soon became so engrossed that she failed to notice a new presence in the forest.
'Or perhaps she is over confident of her unknown protector?' the first watcher mused thoughtfully as he stalked the intruder. The new observer remained blissfully unaware that he too was being observed and proceeded to curse under his breath when he saw what his jewel detector was currently engaged in.
"Stupid girl," Inuyasha muttered as he returned to camp. He had no intention of dealing with the situation tonight. Might as well wait til morning when the others could back him up. "She's gonna get herself killed..."
'Perhaps,' the unknown spectator thought with a wry grin. 'But not until she's served her purpose as my jester.'
He returned to find the girl still entirely lost in the novel. After hearing her exclamation concerning her trust in him, he pondered whether now was the best time to reveal his identity to the strange girl.
'No....not yet,' he persuaded himself. There was still so much more entertainment to be had from the girl while she remained unaware of his name. After all, since witnessing the argument she had participated in earlier concerning the extra jewel shard in her possession, he became aware that her late night escapes could serve as an excellent means of bothering the hanyou and toying with the group.
He was disrupted from his musing when his 'pet' huffed in annoyance as she read a particularly troublesome part of the story out loud.
How could the girl be so addicted to the silly book? Of course, even he was interested, just from the material she related to him, though he did not understand a lot of the information. It seemed all the reports concerning her origins were accurate. She indeed was a stranger to this land. He decided more information was needed. Scoping out the area, he figured it would be safe to leave her alone. After all, dawn was not too far away and the hanyou was aware of her location, should anything happen.
'But just in case...' he thought while pulling out a bracelet that had been tucked into his sleeve. Whirling by her huddled form, he dropped the beads into the pages of the book as he departed, no doubt leaving a befuddled girl behind to question his sanity and name.
For a brief moment he questioned his own mental health but set aside the matter as being ridiculous. He was simply protecting an asset. His new toy would be useless if broken.
Kagome tried to remain calm when she sensed her watcher suddenly leaving. She felt a curious weight added to the book in her hands and once more was shocked to find that her mystery man had left a present for her. Gingerly picking up the small string of beads, she wondered as to their purpose as she could clearly feel a strong magic radiating from the simple bracelet. She paused slightly before slipping the beads onto her wrist, remembering that she had never once felt anything bothersome from the watcher. It could very well be a trap, this she knew. But that didn't stop her from trusting the intentions of her guardian. It was the least she could do after he saved her life and then proceeded to keep her company.
Suddenly, she became well aware of how alone she was. It had been so long since she had been without his comforting presence that she had forgotten how terrifying being alone in the woods could be. Quickly, deciding to delay the book, a decision that proved very difficult to make, she returned warily back to camp. Right before she slipped into peaceful sleep she noticed a pair of gold eyes staring relentlessly at her.
"We need to talk," the hanyou said with quiet force.
'Crap,' she thought before unconsciousness claimed her.
Kagome woke to the feeling of sunlight on her tired face.
'Strange,' she thought as she opened her eyes and took in the sun's high position in the sky. 'Why haven't we left yet?'
"Kagome?" a smooth voice called from her side. Turning on her side, she could see her friends sitting on the other side of the small campfire, intently watching her.
"Yeah?" she asked, beginning to grow worried.
"Are you ready to tell us about the shard?" Miroku asked seriously. The monk always seemed capable of asking without accusing, unlike the hanyou. She closed her eyes wearily.
"Inuyasha found you in the forest last night," the monk continued. Her surprised gasp only seemed to prove her guilt. She glanced at her dog-eared friend only to find him avoiding her penetrating gaze.
"Please tell us what is going on, Kagome?" Sango pleaded. Kagome could only sigh in defeat. There was no way she could deny that tone. They deserved to know the truth of her predicament.
"Well," she began while rolling to her back so she could avoid the questioning eyes of her comrades. "It's just a completely innocent little addiction I have..."
She related the tale without pause, leaving out a majority of the details about her unknown protector simply because she knew she would be unable to satisfactorily answer their questions. However, they beat her to the punch.
"So, you don't know who killed the youkai that first night?" questioned Sango.
"Nope. I never saw him. But I do know that he wears actual shoes. And he's fast. Really fast."
"Interesting," mused the monk. "And he gave you the jewel shard...has he done anything else since?"
"Well..." Kagome said, secretly loathing that she had to reveal this much of her recent encounter. "He usually remains in the shadows the entire time, just watching. But..." she hesitated, fingering the beads on her wrist absently.
"Yes?" pushed Miroku.
"Last night he did give me these," she stated quietly, lifting her wrist to the inspection of the small group. Sango seemed just as baffled as she had been. Inuyasha quickly glanced at the gift before resuming his assessment of the sky. Shippou smiled mischievously while Miroku further examined the bracelet with a studious expression.
"I think he likes you, Kagome," Shippou said as he winked. Inuyasha huffed in annoyance. Kagome merely shook her head in disagreement.
"I don't think so. The only thing I ever sense from him is amusement. I swear, it sometimes makes me feel like a toy."
"Well at least we can be sure that whoever he is, he has no intention of harming you," the monk said quietly while retreating back to his spot beside the still stunned Sango.
"What do you mean?" everyone questioned.
"The bracelet is enchanted to protect its wearer," he said simply.
"How so?" Kagome asked, suddenly even more interested in the gift her watcher had bestowed upon her.
"I'm not sure what the particular effects of this enchantment are. But I am certain that the watcher has some control over the spell. If anything happens to you, he will know immediately and can activate the charm."
Kagome's eyes glazed over as she assimilated this new information into her tired brain. Unfortunately, it only seemed to get muddled into the clues of the damn novel. The two mysteries were quickly becoming one.
"Kagome?" Inuyasha's voice brought her back to reality.
"Where is he now?"
"Umm..." she started as she began letting her senses scope out the area. She quickly pinpointed her Angel's location but it was easy to feel that he wished her to remain silent on the matter. Not wanting to disappoint him, she did just that.
"I can't tell..." She could almost feel the watcher smirk. "I just can't tell," she said resolutely, daring Inuyasha to doubt her. He merely looked away.