Disclaimer: If you are a faeire, and can grant me the wish of owning Inuyasha, then I'd own it… but knowing faeries, it'd probably be a trick…
"…" – speech
'…' – thoughts
--- - change in scenery, time or perspective
Mid-August in feudal Japan was no time to be taking a walk through the fields. Especially at mid-day, when the sun beat down relentlessly on the creatures below…
"How much longer until we get back?" Shippou lay in the basket of a pink bicycle, his eyelids drooping and sweat beading down his face. "It's hooooot!"
At the lead, Inuyasha shot an irritated look back at the kitsune and answered in a rather testy voice, "Shut the fuck up. You're not the only one who's hot." He crossed his arms, not liking the fact that the weather was beginning to affect him as well.
"Lay off him, Inuyasha." Kagome patted the kid's head from her spot on the bicycle. She sighed, shading her eyes as she looked up into the sky. "It really shouldn't be this hot, should it?" The girl wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, wishing for the cooler weather that Tokyo had at this time of year.
In fact, it was because of the heat that the group was heading back. Apparently, not even Naraku could think up of schemes against the group in this weather. For three days, they had journeyed, finding nothing helpful, least of all a Shikon shard. While Inuyasha had been loath to turn back, Shippou's non-stop whining had whittled down on his patience until the hanyou had finally caved in.
"It is unusually warm today." Sango shook her head. "I just hope this heat won't last for too long." She gazed down at Kirara. The fire kitty seemed to be unaffected by the sweltering heat.
Miroku, who brought up the rear, tugged at his robes. "You know, ladies, if the heat is too much to bear, you can always remove your clothing…"
Everybody froze simultaneously.
All heads shot back to look at the monk, and nobody seemed surprised at the lecherous grin on his face.
"…And you have no need to feel shy. I would gladly join you." He tugged at his robes again. "I could even help you if you wi—"
Face burning at the mental images that the suggestion had planted into her head, Sango glared at him and swung the heavy boomerang at his head. "We don't need your help."
The others turned back around quickly.
There was a crack.
And then a pained yelp.
"And he say he's a monk…"
Inuyasha snorted, golden eyes surveying his surroundings. "Anyway, it'll only be a few more minutes before we get back to the hag's village."
At the mention of this, Kagome straightened in her bicycle seat. "Ahh… yeah. About that…" She shifted nervously. "I'm going to have to go home today."
The half-demon up front stiffened.
The girl sighed. 'Here we go again…'
"What do you mean you're going back?" In one leap, Inuyasha was beside the girl, who continued to pedal. "You've only been here for-"
"Three days, Inuyasha." Turning, she stared at him. "I know it's only been three days, but I really have to get back. Why can't I go, anyway?"
He searched for an answer. "Because… Naraku might try something."
Blue eyes rolled. "I'll only be gone for a day." She turned back up front, aware that the other was staring at them. Her cheeks grew warm. "Then I'll come back. I promise."
"You can't go!" His voice was as close to a whine as he would ever allow it.
"And why not?" She looked at him from the corners of her eyes.
"Because…" He struggled for an answer.
Amber eyes flashed as he glared at her. "Why do you have to go, anyway?"
She sighed. "It's important."
"That's not an answer." He grew confident. "Why do you have to go?"
"I just have to, okay?" She frowned at him. "I have something to do."
"Another test?" Inuyasha drew back, appalled. "Is it? How many times do you have to do those things? Is it some kind of torture device?"
Kagome shook her head. "Not this time, no."
He threw up his hands. "Then why do you have to go back?" His eyes suddenly narrowed. "You're not going on…" His expression darkened. "You're not going on another date, are you?" The pure thought of Kagome alone with another male was fairly nauseating. "With that Houko guy?"
The girl whipped her head around, eyes wide. "No!" She paused, and added for good measure, "And it's 'Houjo', not 'Houko'."
"They why are you going?" The half-demon glared at her.
"Because." She glanced at him. "Why do you care, anyway?"
So absorbed in their argument was Inuyasha, that he didn't notice that they'd already entered the cool shade of 'Inuyasha's Forest'. He also failed to realise that Miroku and Sango had discreetly left the two alone, dragging a protesting Shippou along with them.
"But you're always leaving!" His hands fisted. "It's always this or that." Golden eyes glared at her reproachfully. "It's like you hate this place."
"Oh, Inuyasha." Exasperated, Kagome slowed her bike. "I don't hate it. It's so beautiful, and so different from modern Japan."
His arms crossed. "So why are you leaving?"
Blue eyes took in his form. "Why do you want to know?"
Her tone was teasing, and she knew it. She liked the fact that he was paying attention to her, and didn't want her to leave at all. These were the moments, when she knew that she really did mean a lot more than just a shard-detector to the half-demon.
"Why won't you tell me?" He countered back.
She smiled serenely. "Why won't you ask nicely?" Stopping the bike, Kagome hopped off.
And it was at that moment, that Inuyasha realised they'd actually reached the bone-eater's well during their argument. She'd distracted him for long enough to get to the place.
He frowned. 'Clever woman.'
Kagome unlatched the kickstand, throwing a leg over the lip of the well. "I'll be back tomorrow." An idea popped into her head, and she paused with both legs dangling into the deep hole. "You know, Inuyasha…" She grinned. "If you feel like it, you can come along if you'd like."
This sudden shift in topic surprised the hanyou. "What?"
The grin stayed on her face. "If you're really that curious, you can come with me."
A scowl replaced his surprise. "And why would I want to go to your damn-- stupid world anyway? Everything's so weird and ugly. Everything there's unnatural."
He realised his words had been too harsh too late, as the smile slipped off her face.
She looked at him sadly. "My world's stupid?" Her expression hardened. "Fine." Her voice was distinctly edgy as she pushed off the lip of the well. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Eh? Hey, bi-!"
Inuyasha rushed to the side of the wooden structure, only to watch the blue light fade away. Grumbling under his breath, he couldn't shake off the guilt over hurting her feelings.
Damn it, couldn't she tell he wasn't being serious?
He stood there, indecision wreaking havoc on his mind for quite a few minutes.
"So damned sensitive…"
Glancing furtively around him, the hanyou made sure he was alone.
Then he jumped in as well.
Kagome stepped out of the well house, a frown on her face.
Inuyasha could be so insensitive!
At least the weather was a lot nicer than back then.
"Nee-chan! Finally! We were waiting!" The shout came from across the grounds.
The girl looked up, half-surprised to see her brother racing towards her. He was dressed in full white attire, unusual for the eleven-year-old boy.
She blinked at him in a bemused manner. "Souta? Am I really that late?" She checked her watch.
Her eyes widened.
Pushing the kid aside, Kagome rushed into the house. "I'm home!" Without even waiting for an answer, the girl skipped up the stairs two steps at a time. She ran past her grandfather, who was dressed in a formal kimono, and straight into her room.
"I'm really sorry I'm late." Her voice came muffled from behind the closed door. "It's just that Inuyasha was being… himself again." When she burst out again, Kagome had changed her clothes to match Souta- all in white. "So… I'm ready."
"That was quick." The girl's eyes ran past her shocked grandfather to see her mother coming up the stairs. Higurashi-san's eyes shone with warmth, though her expression was a little sad. "There's no need to apologise."
Kagome brushed her hair back. "Mama…"
Her grandfather cleared his throat and walked past the woman, down the stairs. "Let's go, now."
Obediently following after the elderly man, Kagome's mother commented lightly. "Had another argument with Inuyasha-kun?"
The schoolgirl glowered. "He said the modern era was stupid." She shook her head. "Stupid Inuyasha." Sensing the amusement behind her, she turned around, raising an eyebrow at her mother. "What?"
Higurashi-san hid a grin. "Nothing."
Still suspicious, Kagome stared at the woman before turning back around.
The three walked out of the house to find an impatient Souta waiting. "It's about time." He checked his watch. "The festival's going to begin soon."
Jii-chan shook his head sternly. "Now, Souta, you know O-bon is not all about celebration. It is the day of honouring the dead."
The boy rolled his eyes. "I know, Jii-chan." He gestured helplessly. "You've been saying that for the past two days! It's the same every year!"
"Come, now." His mother laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. "It's time to go."
As the family walked down the steps of the shrine, Kagome looked around, taking note of the many lanterns hung about the place. A faint smile touched her face. However, she turned too soon, missing the red blur that streaked across the grounds.
The four strolled calmly down the clear street.
Kagome glanced about her, lazily taking in the surroundings. She'd done this; travelled down this exact path on the same day of each year, seventeen times now, even though she could remember only the latest fourteen visits. Her expression saddened, as the memory of her eleventh visit- only six years ago from this day.
"Kagome?" Her mother's voice gently shook her from her memory. "We're here."
Blinking, the girl discovered that while she'd zoned out, they'd reached the Buddhist temple. The four looked at each other at the same time before Jii-chan lead the way again, towards the back of the temple. The atmosphere of the place was calm and peaceful.
As they neared the back, the girl turned, noticing the bittersweet smile on her mother's face. "Mama?"
The elder woman shook her head. "Come on. We've done this many times."
The family walked into the open space of the back, where the temple's cemetery rested. Among the stones that marked each grave, were other families, come to pay a visit to their deceased on O-bon. Jii-chan led his family towards one stone in particular.
Stopping in front of the white marker, the four formed a solemn circle around it. In one motion, they bent down to their knees, and bowed respectively in front of the grave.
From a distance away, up in the branches of a tree, a certain hanyou watched them curiously. He could smell the scent of death in this place, but why Kagome was in such a place as this confused him. Inuyasha stayed in his spot however, respecting the fact that this was obviously a personal time for the four.
The old man bowed his head, muttering to himself. "My son, my son…" His eyes were closed in prayer.
The others had followed their elder's lead. Kagome's dark hair fell down to obscure her face, as her head bowed also. A small, sad smile was on her face.
Higurashi-san's eyes were half open as she gazed at the marker. Her eyes travelled downwards to where his ashes lay, and she sighed, her eyes closing.
Souta was the first to finish his prayer. He looked around at the older people, and quietly stood up. He silently stole over to the temple, and took some of the sticks of incense.
By the time the boy had returned, his grandfather too, was done, as he watched the boy approach with approval in his eyes. His mother raised her head, a smile crossing her face as he kneed beside her.
Kagome was the last to finish, and had the longest prayer. When she raised her head, the others saw the calm, peaceful look on her face. Noticing that everybody was staring at her, the girl blushed. "I had a lot on my mind."
Jii-chan chuckled and reached for the sticks, handing one out to each person.
He lit his stick, and like they did every year, each of the other three lit theirs by the burning end of his. And one by one, they placed their sticks into the small bowl in front of the grave marker, offering a final, short prayer as they did so.
Finally, the process was done.
Souta leapt to his feet, although with a little less bounce than before. "So… can we go home now?"
His sister made a reach for him as she stood up as well. "You just can't wait to get to the festival, can you?" Kagome caught him by the shoulders, and gave him a good tickle.
He giggled, then frowned, as the sound wasn't one a boy was to make. "You want to go too!" He leapt away, pointing an accusatory finger at the girl.
She grinned. "Well at least I'm patient."
Higurashi-san looked around the cemetery, noticing the looks her children were receiving from the other people. "Let's go home now." She gently pushed Souta towards the front. "You're disturbing everybody." She chided them.
"Yeah, you're disturbing everybody." Kagome echoed her mother as she chased Souta out of the cemetery. "Squirt."
The woman sighed and watched as her children sped away. She felt a weight on her shoulder, and looked over to see her father-in-law patting her shoulder.
"The celebrations will start soon, eh?"
"Let's go. We wouldn't want to miss them."
Kagome bustled around the house, cleaning up things her brother had left on the floor. She knew the O-bon festival of that day had already started, and that was why she'd insisted on her family leaving first. She still had small things to do, and that included choosing the right yukata to wear.
After placing the last Playstation2 video game in its right place, the girl stood up straight and stretched. In fact, Kagome wasn't that eager to get to the celebrations. Over time, she'd just gotten a little bored of the O-bon festivals- it really was the same every year, after all.
This year, she'd counted on having things at least a little livelier, by taking Inuyasha with her, but since he'd been so rude…
…And speak of the devil…
Whirling around, Kagome placed a hand at her chest at the sight of the familiar hanyou. "Kami-sama, Inuyasha, don't scare me like that!" Then, the initial shock wore off, and suspicion took over. "Inuyasha? What are you doing here? I thought you said-"
"Keh." He crossed his arms. "You told me to come, didn't you?"
She stared at him, not knowing whether to feel angry or happy at his presence.
He shifted uncomfortably at the prolonged silence.
"And… you know, that 'stupid' thing…" He coughed, looking away. "I didn't mean it…"
A small grin twitched at the corner of her lips.
He noticed this, glancing at her from the corners of his eyes.
A smile blossomed across her face. "You're forgiven." Then, she brushed past him, headed for the stairs.
"Hey!" Inuyasha turned around quickly. "Where're you going now?" He had been about to ask her about what she'd been doing earlier that day.
She turned and grinned at him. "Wait here. I'm going to change." Her eyes narrowed. "And don't you dare peek."
He snorted, turning his back for good measure. "Like I'd want to…" He muttered under his breath.
"I heard that!"
The half-demon waited rather impatiently for the girl to change. The minutes seemed to pass by at a snail's pace, and by the time fifteen minutes had gone, he was on his feet, about to burst into her room, punishment or not.
"About time." Inuyasha turned around and glared reproachfully at the stairs. "How long were you planning on leaving me… here…?"
He drifted off at the sight of the girl in a light summer kimono. It was white, decorated with pink and red flowers in a simple pattern. The half-demon stared at her, not used to seeing Kagome in anything other than that green and white uniform she usually wore.
Pleased with his reaction, she passed down the steps quickly. "You like?"
That seemed to snap him out of his daze, as the hanyou turned his nose upwards. "It's better than that stuff you usually wear."
Her expression froze, before it melted into a grin. "Is that a compliment?"
A light pink spread over his cheeks. He tried to disguise his embarrassment by looking towards the side. "Take it as whatever you want it to be."
She shook her head in amusement.
Seizing the opportunity, the half-demon blurted out, "What were you doing?"
Kagome paused in the action of straightening the obi at her waist. "Huh?"
"When you went with your family to that place." He stared at her, waving his hand vaguely. "The place that smells like death."
"How did you--?" Realisation clicked, and the girl looked at him curiously. "Were you following me?"
Inuyasha felt the heat in his face return. "…Maybe."
She glanced at him with an amused expression on her face. "Why were you following me?"
He half-shrugged. "So are you going to tell me or not?"
Sitting down on the couch in the living room, Kagome chose to save the hanyou from further embarrassment. "Do you know what 'Obon' is?
"Should I?" He hesitated before joining her on the sofa.
She curled her knees up to her chest, assuming her usual position on the sofa. "It's a holiday to honour the dead."
Inuyasha stared at her. "You have a festival for that now?"
Kagome shrugged. "It usually takes place on July or August 13th to 15th." Seeing that the hanyou had little to no idea of what she meant, the schoolgirl waved her hand. "Never mind that." She paused. "Anyway, on one of the three days of Obon, we go to visit the graves of the deceased." Her voice grew soft. "And that's why I wanted to come back."
He looked at her, unsure of whether to proceed or not. He chose to risk it. "Who were you visiting?"
She looked at him, her expression unusually sad and thoughtful. "My father."
There was a pause in the conversation. "Well why didn't you just say so?" He stared at her.
She shrugged again. "I didn't think it'd be right to."
He stared at her, confused once more. "What?"
Bright azure blue eyes looked up at him. "Well," She started slowly. "I'm still got a mother, a brother, and a grandfather… and you… " The girl looked at him sadly. "It just wouldn't be right to use that as an excuse.
He stared at her, a little confused by her sensitive approach to the topic.
He scoffed. "Jeesh. Is that all?" When she blinked at him, he shrugged. "My parents have been dead for a long time now. You won't see me snivelling like a weakling at the mention of them."
Kagome gazed at him, aware of the fact that he was putting up a front.
There was another lull.
"Do you miss them?"
Inuyasha turned in surprise. "What?"
Her voice was quiet. "Do you miss them? Your parents?" Seeing that he wasn't about to answer too soon, the girl offered her feelings first. "I miss my father sometimes."
The hanyou stared at her silently.
Kagome's eyes were slightly unfocused as she recalled memories of her father. "He used to give me and Souta piggy-back rides in public, even though everybody stared. Otou-san didn't care about rules when he was with us; as long as we were happy."
She lapsed into silence.
"How did he die?" When she didn't answer, Inuyasha quickly retracted the question. "Never mind. I was just-"
The girl turned to face him. "He died when I was eleven." Her expression saddened. "Souta was really sick- he was just five- and Otou-san decided to go out and get him medicine, even during the storm. He had to walk, since the public transportation was shut down. We waited hours for him, but he didn't-" She paused, suddenly aware of the tears that were gathering at the corners of her eyes.
The emotional wounds were still fresh, despite the six years they'd had to heal. Kagome could still remember that dreadful night, when her entire family had been waiting for him to come home.
She tried to keep the tears from falling; to be strong like Inuyasha was, but the girl couldn't help but let out a sniffle.
And suddenly, she was aware of a pair of arms holding her.
For a moment, her grief was forgotten as Kagome found her face pressed against a strong chest. "I-Inuyasha?" She managed to squeak out his name as an embarrassed flush crept over her cheeks.
The hanyou's face was faring no better, as he stared determinedly forwards. "So what happened?"
Her lips twitched in relief at the comfort he was giving her. "He never came back." A shudder ran through her body. "We got a phone call the next day." The tears returned. "When the storm died down, the police found him—his body…" Kagome let the tears run down her cheeks. "He'd been struck down by a car."
Inuyasha knew that a car was one of those metal capsules that transported humans from place to place. He'd never like them, and now, he had another reason to dislike them.
Glancing up, the girl noticed the scowl on his face, and mistook it for her rubbing her tears on his haori. She began to pull away. "Sorry, Inuyasha I don't know what-" She hiccoughed.
He wouldn't let her go. "Will you just stay still?"
She stared at him, hiccoughs stunned into silence. "W-what?"
He glared down at her. "You're not making this 'comforting' thing easy, you know?"
Suddenly indignant, Kagome pushed away, expression dark. "Well if you don't like it, then don't do it! If I obviously disgust you that much."
Inuyasha's expression was blank, but it soon turned panicky as she shuffled as far as possible away from him, while still on the couch.
She sniffled again.
"Aw, come on… I didn't…"
Kagome glared at him. "I tell you about my father, and you think you're obliged to pity me? Comfort me?"
"I didn't mean it!"
Her expression remained disbelieving, but the tears had stopped.
The half-demon slid a little closer towards the girl.
She continued to glower. "Don't force yourself."
"Hey…" Inuyasha slowly edged towards the girl. "I didn't mean it."
"Yeah. I believe you." Her tone was distinctly flat. She sighed sadly, then got up. "Let's go to the festival, then."
He paused, surprised. "There's a festival too?"
She didn't turn to look at him. "Every year. Dancing, games, food… Floating lanterns down the river…" She let out another breath, then checked her purse for money. "Come on."
Kagome headed towards the hallway that led to the door, but a pair of arms stopped her in her tracks.
Inuyasha, his ears drooping, held her still, his arms wrapped around her waist. "Don't you believe me?"
The girl felt another blush creep up on her cheeks. "Wh-What?" She really wasn't used to this level of tenderness in the hanyou, but- hey, it wasn't as if she minded… She felt him nuzzle the back of her neck, and she almost jumped. "What're you doing?" Her voice shook.
"Apologising… Comforting… take your pick…"
Relaxing, Kagome leaned back against him. "We're going to miss the festival…" she murmured.
He breathed in her soothing scent. "So?"
"Mmm…" Really, she didn't mind if they stood there forever, but now that he was here, she really wanted to get to that festival. She gently eased herself from his hold, and reluctantly, he released her.
Shyly, she gazed at him, before taking his hand and tugging him towards the shouji door.
He stared after her, slightly disappointed.
Noticing his hesitation, she turned back, face still red. Her fingers laced slowly in his. "Well, if you look at it this way, the festival only lasts for…" Kagome checked her watch, "about two more hours…" her face turned even more crimson at what she was about to say. "But once we get back…"
The usual smirk on his face once more, Inuyasha squeezed her hand and slid open the door. "Well, then, let's go." He looked back at her. "The sooner we go, the sooner we can get back."
The girl's eyes shone with a sort of bright amusement as she was pulled towards the steps of the shrine.
Nee-chan – Big sister
-san – 'Mr', 'Ms', 'Mrs'…etc… suffix signalling politeness
-kun – Suffix attached to the end of a young boy's name, or to the name of a close male friend
Jii-chan – Grandfather
Yukata – Light, summer kimono
Oi – Hey
Kami-sama – God
Obi – Kimono sash- tied at waist
Otou-san – Father
Haori – Jacket
Shouji – Paper sliding door
--Got side-tracked many times while writing this, so that's why it's late.
I did some research for this story, and found all sorts of odd (to Westerners, anyway) customs/expectations in Japan. I tried to follow them all… but since my Western mind can't possibly comprehend all of them, I'm sure some Japanese taboos are still in this fic…
Now, as for 'Obon', it's like the Japanese equivalent to Halloween, except it's in August, there's no trick-or-treating, and… well… it's not 'similar' to Halloween in the way it's celebrated at all. -.-;; But since the holiday idea itself of 'honouring the dead' is sort of similar to Halloween tradition, I decided to base the fic on Obon instead of Halloween
I didn't get to go trick or treating…;(
Till next time…