I am Kagome
The kitsune tiptoed through the tall grass, pausing to sniff the air now and then. The myriad of late spring scents combined into a sweet aroma, a delicious succulence that made him smile, made him want to run, to jump, to laugh out loud. Shaking his head slowly, he focused again. He could smell her close at hand. Her scent was warm, invigorating, like clothes dried in the sunshine.
Kagome caught the swaying grass off to her left as she pretended not to notice Shippou's proximity. The nearly nineteen year-old girl sighed and tried to concentrate on her text books. 'Six more weeks, Kagome. You can do it! Concentrate!' It was a very real concern to her, passing her final exams. If she did well on these, she'd graduate on time and in decent class rankings---both of which had been in question not so long ago.
Flicking her raven-black hair over her shoulder as she leaned in closer to her books, Kagome Higurashi frowned in concentration as she absently fingered the slightly glowing pink orb that hung from a thin silver chain around her neck: the Shikon no Tama. The Sacred Jewel of Four Souls. Completed shortly after their final battle with Naraku just before her sixteenth birthday, she'd been protecting the jewel ever since. The original plan had been to purify the jewel right away, to destroy it so that it couldn't inadvertently fall into the wrong hands.
Funny how plans change. Kagome sighed and closed the book with a loud snap. The first wish they'd tried to make was that Midoriko, the miko whose soul was trapped inside the jewel along with a host of youkai, would win her battle with evil. The jewel didn't change at all. The second wish they'd made was that Kohaku, Sango's young brother—another victim of Naraku—would be brought back to live out his life as he should have done. That hadn't worked, either. The third wish had been that the well that connected Kagome's real world in modern Tokyo to this world in Sengoku Jidai would remain open to allow her to pass back and forth between the two since it was nearly impossible for her to make that sort of decision on her own. Again, the jewel had ignored the wish.
So they'd given up on trying to purify the jewel until they could figure out exactly what they needed to do to accomplish it. Now, three years later, the jewel still existed, Kagome still used the well, and they still were no closer to finding answers than they had been on the day the jewel was completed.
Rolling her slender shoulders to alleviate the tension below her neck, Kagome sighed and let her head fall back, absently noting how nice the warm sun felt on her skin. With an exaggerated gasp of surprise as a blurry ball of giggling fuzz landed in her lap, Kagome hugged Shippou. "I'm getting better, huh?" he demanded, his eyes bright, proud of his own ability to stalk his prey: in this case, her.
"Absolutely," she agreed, giving Shippou another quick cuddle before the kitsune hopped out of her arms and dug into her backpack.
Pulling out a box of milk chocolate pocky, Shippou plopped down and tore into the treat. "Next time maybe InuYasha will take me with him when he goes hunting."
She refrained from comment on that. InuYasha had left early this morning on one of those hunting trips—or so he claimed. That he went on these secretive little journeys about once a month, and that he always stayed gone for at least a week was something that bothered her even if she didn't ask him about it. She had come close on a few occasions to asking him if he had gone to see Kikyou during those times. Somehow she never had. 'You're scared of his answer,' her conscience spoke up. 'You're afraid he'll look away from you without answering . . . you're afraid to see the guilt in his eyes as his ears droop . . . and you're afraid to feel like you're just a stupid, stupid girl.'
InuYasha. The hanyou. The son of a human mother and a youkai father, and not just any youkai, but the Inu no Taisho---possibly the most powerful youkai of his time. Half dog youkai, InuYasha was gruff, rude, arrogant, condescending, irritating to a fault, jealous without any real reason---every single thing that a girl her age shouldn't ever want in a man. So why did she?
She sighed. She'd been drawn to him from the start, before she even discovered how simple it was to be lost in the swirling gold of his gaze, before she'd even spoken to him. She released him from the magical seal that bound him to the sacred God Tree---Goshinboku. In return, he'd tried to take her head off with his claws, all because he wanted the Shikon no Tama. That was all water under the bridge. In time, he'd come to trust her, and she'd come to . . . Well, it was safe to say that she cared more for him than she ought to.
Already a handsome boy, the passage of time hadn't changed InuYasha very much. His silvery hair was a little bit longer, hanging well past his waist, unruly bangs that always fell into his eyes, the most adorable fuzzy little ears that flicked and turned like tiny triangular radars atop his head. His eyes were uncanny, such an intense shade of golden, of amber, that if he didn't normally snap something rude when he caught her staring at him, she'd probably be more than happy to gaze into them all day.
It was difficult to remember that he still appeared very boyish when those eyes burned into hers. Only when he had his eyes closed was she able to discern the softness, the vulnerability that he fought so hard to hide. There had been times in the past when she had felt like he might return her feelings. The isolated moments were few and far between but remained precious to her, and in the deepest part of her soul, she knew that those memories were the ones she loved best, and that those memories were what compelled her to return time and time again.
Not that she could really blame everything on him. She hadn't actually told him how she felt, had she? Wrinkling her nose in the bright sunshine, Kagome's shoulders dropped as she raised her knees and wrapped her arms around her legs. The biggest part of her reluctance to tell InuYasha how she felt was that she always got so tongue-tied around him lately. Something had changed about him, and while she still felt completely safe when he was near, there was an underlying sense of nervousness there, too. It was hard enough to deal with the confusing twist in her belly whenever she caught him looking at her, but there was something entirely frightening about the way she forgot to breathe when he was around, when he was close enough for her to smell the wind in his hair, the balmy scent of the woods that always clung to his clothes.
Tightening her arms around her shins, noting with a sigh that she could feel her own heartbeat against her legs, she let her chin drop onto her knees as she wondered how long InuYasha would be gone this time. She had overheard him talking to Miroku late last night. She had gone to bed early even though she wasn't tired. InuYasha had mentioned an old sage who might know something about the Shikon no Tama. Kagome frowned. It seemed to her that he was suddenly in a rush to purify the jewel. 'Maybe,' she thought with a small grimace, 'InuYasha's finally decided that he should go with Kikyou, to hell.'
Miroku, the ex-monk, and Sango, the youkai exterminator, had told her time and again that InuYasha definitely cared for her, that he certainly wasn't planning on going to hell with Kikyou . . . Kagome wanted to believe them, and most of the time she did. Still, the lingering doubt remained; the slight worry that she was wrong, that InuYasha would go, and that she would be left alone. There were no real guarantees. She sighed again.
Unaware of the young woman's sudden upset, Shippou finished off his pocky, stowed the trash back in the bag, and ran off to play in the grass.
Kagome sighed. "Kikyou," she whispered, staring at the jewel once more. Once upon a time, the jewel had been Kikyou's responsibility. During InuYasha's search for it, he'd met Kikyou, and they had fallen in love. When Naraku was born from the merging of Onigumo the thief and countless lesser youkai, he had appeared to each of them, had caused them both to think the other had betrayed them. In the end, it was tragic since Kikyou chose to die instead of to live with the knowledge of the perceived betrayal. Kikyou took the jewel with her, asking that it was burned with her body so that she could take it with her into the next world. What Kikyou hadn't counted on was that it would resurface five hundred years later. The Shikon no Tama had been housed inside Kagome's body since before she was born, and Kikyou's soul had been reincarnated into her, too.
'Talk about strange,' Kagome thought with a shake of her head. 'It's laughable, really . . . I'm Kikyou's reincarnation but I'm not her. I am Kagome . . . but we both care about InuYasha, and he does care about us, too.'
At least one couple had ended up together. Miroku and Sango had gotten married shortly after the four of them, along with a little help from some allies, had defeated Naraku. For the last three years, Sango and Miroku had been trying to start their family. Kagome's deep brown eyes clouded with worry. Sango, now close to five months pregnant, had yet carry a baby to term, and as much as Kagome wished she could help her, it broke her heart to know that, over the past three years, Sango had miscarried six times. They were cautiously optimistic this time. With one exception, Sango lost all the others within the first two months. She'd carried one until nearly four months, but this time she'd managed nearly five . . .
Though Sango always tried not to cry or break down, Kagome could feel her friend's pain. Having lost her whole family as well as her entire village at the hands of Naraku, Kagome was of the opinion that she, more than anyone, deserved the blessing of children. 'Even just one,' Kagome thought, idly plucking blades of grass and shredding them into miniscule bits.
A sudden chill raced up her spine as the sun disappeared, obscured by a head she couldn't see. The brightness of the sun behind him cast a blackness over his expression, and, tilting her head back to stare into the darkness where a face should have been, she felt her lips turn up in an impish smile. "InuYasha . . . I thought you went hunting."
Arms folded together in the copious sleeves of the fire rat haori he wore, InuYasha snorted loudly and stomped around her before sinking down on his haunches. "Keh. Thought you were goin' home," he remarked with a sneer, countering her question with one of his own. Lips pursed together, slight frown drawing his eyebrows together, the hanyou settled into the look that Kagome had long ago deemed 'The Pout'.
"I changed my mind," she answered with a slight shrug, her tone light. "It was so peaceful and nice; I thought I'd study here, instead."
"Don't you need to have your books open to study?" he demanded, staring pointedly at her closed textbooks.
Undaunted by his apparent irritation, Kagome stuck her legs out and rolled over onto her stomach, crossing her ankles together as she bent her knees and leaned on her elbows. "Why did you change your mind about leaving?"
He shrugged. "Who says I did?"
She lifted her eyebrows in silent challenge. "You're still here, aren't you?"
"Keh! I just stuck around to make sure you went home, bitch," he growled.
Narrowing her eyes at him, Kagome counted to five before she answered. "Why are you in such a hurry to make sure I go back?"
"Don't be stupid! Because of the jewel, of course. I can't leave your pathetic human ass here unprotected and you ain't coming with me!"
Refusing to let him see how upset she was by his brusque answer, Kagome leaned forward to drag her backpack over so she could stow her books away once more. "Of course, the jewel," she replied, her tone light, fake. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him wince and smash his ears against his head. "I'll be going then . . . bye InuYasha."
Shuffling briskly toward the well, Kagome repressed the urge to yell at the stupid hanyou. 'Baka! Why does he always have to be such a baka?' she fumed.
"Oi! Wait! Kagome!"
Against her better judgment, she stopped, whirling to face the irritating half-youkai as he ran over to her. "Yes?"
"You forgot this," he said with a loud snort, dropping her notebook into her hands. "Now get movin'. I ain't got all day to wait for you to leave."
"Why, you . . . !" Unsure if she was more irritated at his callous attitude or more angry at herself for daring to hope that he would say something---anything---even remotely nice, Kagome spun around on her heel and sat on the edge of the well, flipping her legs over the side. "I'm going already!" she yelled. "And I'm not coming back until you apologize, baka!"
And she dropped into the well.
Settling down at a table in the back of the media archive room in the library, Kagome dug her notebook and pen out of the backpack before she reached for the research listing. Writing her thesis for health class on three of the most common human reproductive anomalies, Kagome's best bet for current information would be here, in the health journal updates.
"Septate uterus," she mumbled as she leafed through the listings, running her finger down the page. Finding one that looked promising, she jotted the issue number in her notebook as she started looking for more reproductive problems.
'InuYasha no baka . . . He'll never apologize,' she thought, staring at the listing without reading the words. 'He never cares whether or not he hurts my feelings . . . why do I even bother?' She made a face as a smaller voice in her mind told her not to try to answer that question. More and more often lately, though, his irrational commentary sent her running home, where she was immediately faced with how miserable she really was on this side of the well.
Storming straight inside the house when she'd emerged from the time slip, she'd had every intention of heading right up to her room to study. Trouble with that was she'd never be able to concentrate up there. Whenever she was alone, she spent far too much time worrying about InuYasha and what he was doing.
"Mama! I'm back!"
Mrs. Higurashi came down the stairs and greeted Kagome with a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and a bright smile. 'At least someone's glad to see me,' Kagome thought with a rueful sigh.
"I wasn't expecting you back so soon," Mrs. Higurashi remarked as Kagome stretched and set her bag on the stairs.
"I thought I'd get more studying done here than there," she lied.
"Would you like a bath? Are you hungry? Kagome, I made sure you had sun-block! You're getting a burn on your nose!"
Crossing her eyes to stare down the bridge of her nose, Kagome wrinkled the appendage and waved off her mother's concern. "I have that thesis due, too," Kagome went on, ignoring her mother's complaints. "I think I'll just go to the library and finish that up."
"All right. Will you be home in time for dinner?"
Kagome shrugged. "I'll try. I want to get the rest of my research out of the way, though."
Her mother had followed Kagome to the front door. After retrieving her bag, she'd made her escape with a sigh of relief and a guilty pang. More and more often lately, too, it was harder to talk to her mother about things that were happening. Of course, she knew that most kids went through a period in their lives when they didn't really want to tell their parents exactly what was happening in their lives. Kagome hadn't really ever felt like that before, maybe because her mother had never really tried to pry.
Still, she was within weeks of graduating from school, and nothing really seemed any different than it had when she was fifteen and had fallen through the well, in the first place.
Kagome gasped and jumped at the sound of the young man's voice. Turning in her chair so quickly that she thumped her knee against the leg of the table so hard that she thought it might explode; she furiously rubbed as she tried to smile at Houjou. "Houjou! What a pleasant surprise," she ground out, clenching her teeth together so tightly that her jaw hurt. Blinking quickly to stave back painful tears, Kagome forced a smile, willing her voice to remain calm despite the agony in her limb. "How have you been?"
"Great, great . . . I've been working here part-time to help pay for college." His expression darkened as his eyebrows drew together in concern. "Are you all right?"
'No! I broke my leg!' She widened her smile. "Yep, just fine!"
He looked confused but nodded. "I don't suppose you're free this weekend?" A light flush broke over his cheeks, and his smile suddenly filled with shy embarrassment as he shook his head quickly. "If you're busy . . ."
Kagome winced. True she never really had liked Houjou in a romantic way, but at least he thought enough of her to ask her on dates, even if it was a little silly. With as many times as she had put him off or stood him up, though never intentionally, she would have thought he should have given up long ago. "Houjou . . ."
"Eri said you were seeing a guy but that he was two-timing you? Kagome . . . at the risk of offending you . . . this guy doesn't deserve you, if all he does is run around with other girls. I mean . . . well . . . you deserve better."
"All right," Kagome agreed quietly.
Houjou looked amazed at her answer as a slow smile broke over his face. "Really?"
Kagome pasted on what she hoped was a bright grin. "Sure. I'm not really seeing him anymore."
"Great . . . I'll pick you up at five? Dinner and a movie? I'll let you choose the movie."
Kagome nodded. "Five sounds . . . great."
He crossed his arms over his chest and uncrossed them again, distinctly nervous. He stepped back, right into a rolling shelf laden with books that he had been putting away. A stack of them fell off with a huge crash. Kagome bit her lip and hobbled over to help him pick them up.
Bending down made her knee ache. Her short skirt didn't hide it, and she winced to see the flesh on her right knee was already alarmingly mottled a hideous shade of blackish purple and seemed to be swelling at an alarming rate.
Houjou, still suffering the effects of his acute embarrassment, told her he'd see her Saturday night before he pushed the cart out of the media archive room.
Collapsing into the nearest chair at hand with a low moan as she surveyed the damage with a self-disgusted sigh, she couldn't help but note that Houjou hadn't even noticed her injury at all. 'InuYasha would have. He can smell it even if I can't see how. He'd have called me a stupid girl and would have pointed out how careless I was, but he would have carried me, too . . .'
Shaking her head, Kagome deliberately shoved those thoughts aside. It was hopeless to wait around on a dream that didn't really have a chance at coming true. 'Fairy tales and happy endings are . . . rainbows and butterflies . . . Waiting for him is like chasing a rainbow looking for the pot of gold at the end.' She smiled sadly as she stared at her knee. 'A pot of gold that exactly matches the color of InuYasha's eyes.'
"You said yes, didn't you? I knew you would! Houjou is so much better for you than that other guy . . ." Eri whispered loudly as she hurried into the room.
Yuka darted in, too, followed by Ayumi. "Houjou is such a nice guy! And he's attending the university! An older man!" Yuka squealed.
Kagome rolled her eyes but grinned. Houjou had always been a year ahead of them. He'd always been an 'older guy'. Apparently though, now that he was in college, it was different, in their minds.
"You're still hung up on the other guy, aren't you, Kagome? InuYasha, right?" Ayumi asked quietly.
Kagome made a face. "Of course not . . . Why would I be?"
Her friends exchanged knowing glances. Kagome didn't notice as she continued to stare absently at her knee and wondered if she really ought to have it looked at.
"What are you going to see?" Eri asked as she whipped out a chair and sat, hands gripping the back as she peered at Kagome in obvious excitement.
"Well . . ."
"Scary movies are best! Guys love it when a girl hides her eyes against their chests," Yuka spoke up. Kagome grinned. Yuka ought to know. She'd had a date---usually with a different guy---every weekend since she was allowed to start dating at sixteen.
"Romances are good, too," Eri remarked. "They might not like them, but most guys are suckers for a crying girl."
"If you go to a movie that makes you cry, you'd better be sure to wear waterproof mascara," Ayumi added. "Nothing worse than raccoon eyes after a good movie . . ."
Yuka nodded. "That's right . . . you don't want to look like the Bride of Frankenstein, do you?"
Kagome sighed and rubbed her temple as her friends started firing suggestions at her on what she ought to wear. A pounding in her head was starting that rivaled the thumping in her knee . . .
How, exactly, had she gotten herself into this mess?
"Would you like to go for coffee?"
Kagome frowned. "Well . . ."
"Just a quick cup?"
She smiled. "I'm sorry, Houjou . . . I have to finish my thesis, and—"
"I understand," he cut in with a quick smile. "I've really had a good time, and I'm so glad none of your illnesses affected you too badly this evening."
Kagome forced a small laugh as they crossed the footbridge over the main thoroughfare.
"I've missed you, Kagome."
"I'm sure you've got other friends," she hedged, uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was heading.
Houjou shrugged, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Sure, just . . . no one like you."
"I'm not really that special," she argued.
He laughed, grasping her elbow to stop her. Staring over the side of the bridge at the bright lights of Tokyo, Kagome was caught off guard by Houjou's words. "That's what makes you special. You're smart and sweet and beautiful and funny . . . and you just don't know it."
She smiled, glad that it was dark enough to hide the flush that warmed her cheeks. "That's not true," she argued, her gaze dropping to the string of cars creeping along the street below. A sudden tug in her heart brought tears to her eyes. She blinked quickly, staving them back. Houjou didn't notice. 'InuYasha would have, even if he yelled at me or tried to pick a fight. He always knows when I cry . . .' She scowled, angry at herself for thinking about him, angry at him for daring to intrude in her mind while she was trying to forget him.
"You should be with someone who appreciates you, who you are . . . even if he's not me."
Just for a moment, Kagome wished that she returned Houjou's feelings. She sighed as he hesitantly took her hand and started walking again.
"Are you going to attend the university this fall?" Houjou asked in the companionable silence that had fallen.
Kagome shrugged. "I don't know," she admitted. "I hadn't really thought about it."
He chuckled. "You're such a kidder," he remarked. "As smart as you are? Of course you'll go."
"Maybe," she answered noncommittally. "We'll see."
"Ah! Look!" Letting go of her hand, Houjou pointed at the sky. Kagome stared at the shooting star. "Make a wish!"
Kagome closed her eyes, letting her first thought be her wish. 'I wish InuYasha would come for me.'
"What'd you wish for?"
Blinking suddenly as she opened her eyes, Kagome smiled. "I can't tell you. If I told, then it wouldn't come true."
Houjou chuckled as they turned down the street that led to the shrine. "You're right. Don't know what I was thinking," he joked.
Walking her up the stairs, he stopped under one of the paper lanterns Grandpa had hung out. "I had a really nice time," she said, shuffling her feet nervously.
Houjou cleared his throat and smiled. "I did, too. Would you . . . would it be all right if I gave you a call sometime? Maybe dinner and another movie?"
"Sure," she agreed slowly, hating herself as she spoke the word, hating the fact that she still couldn't get InuYasha out of her mind. "I might be sort of busy, though . . ."
"That's alright, Kagome. You're worth the wait."
Houjou leaned toward her, and she froze. His lips were nearly touching her cheek when the low growl off to the left drew a gasp from her as her head turned. Houjou's lips touched hers, and Kagome's eyes widened in shock. The growl escalated into a snarl as Kagome hurriedly stepped back. Face in flames, she couldn't help herself as she lifted her hands to press against her cheeks. Her first kiss on the lips ever, and it had to come from Houjou, and it had to come in front of him . . .
Houjou was smiling from ear to ear. "Good night, Kagome," he said, dragging her hand away from her face and squeezing. "I'll call you!" he said over his shoulder as he loped down the shrine steps.
Kagome stared in shocked silence as Houjou turned on the sidewalk and waved before disappearing around the gate and onto the sidewalk beyond. Glued to the spot, Kagome couldn't summon the will to move her cast-iron feet, couldn't turn to face the undoubtedly furious dog-boy.
The silence was thick, brooding, stifling. Staring at Houjou's retreating form, willing him to move just a little faster though she had very little doubt in her mind that InuYasha could and would catch up to Houjou if he wanted, Kagome started a mental countdown. The higher the number, the more furious InuYasha probably was.
"Give me one good reason I should let that little bastard live," InuYasha finally growled in her ear, his voice deathly quiet as she gasped and whirled around to face the irate hanyou.
Sengoku Jidai: Warring States Era in Japan.
Looking back at this story, this is probably the least enjoyed of my fictions. That's sad. In many ways, it should have been the one I loved most, I think. It had more serious subject matter, more heart, more emotion. It also had more controversy and maybe that was the real reason I felt the way I did. While I hope it wasn't noticeable, it got to the point, probably around chapter 40-45, that I just didn't want to write it anymore. There's only so much bashing one person can take, and I'd had enough. What many of you didn't see were the nasty emails, the vindictive things that were said to me because I dared to keep Kagome in character, because I chose to let her do something that she really would do for a friend. I kept writing for me, and I kept posting for the people listed below, both betas as well as reviewers, and for the countless people who read every day, even if they never reviewed. Sure, I was sad when I finished this story. A part of me is always sad to see something end that I wrote. On the other hand, I have to admit, I'm glad it's over.
So what's next? Well, I'm going to finish up Purity 3 and Purity 4. I also have some other responsibilities now that limit my writing time, as well. I will keep writing, and I'm figuring the next story to get started somewhere in mid-March to early April. You guys have given me courage and strength to keep writing, even on those days when I felt like just stopping. It's for me that I may write the stories. It's for you that I upload them. I do have one request, and it is one that really does matter to me. For those who read this story, for those who read the author's notes: please don't review this story. It really has been nothing but a hurtful thing, and reviews really don't help. Don't think this is a sick ploy to get reviews. It isn't. There is nothing that can be said about this story to make me feel any differently, and even some of the more 'well intentioned' reviews just make me feel sad.
Final Thought from Houjou:
Kagome LOVES me!
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Metamorphosis): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.