A/N: It has been a long time since I updated this story. The giddiness of spring has inspired me to dip my toes into the fan fiction pool so to speak 

I have to thank Trusuprise and YoukaiMusashi for their comments on the initial part of this chapter.

Sadly, I have no beta at the moment…so all goofs are most certainly mine!

Ame-No-Mi-Kumari - Shinto water goddess.


Inuyasha landed soundlessly in front of the crying child, concentrating his senses for any sign of danger. The boy appeared to be the same age as Souta, Kagome's younger brother. From his coarse clothing and dirt smeared feet and hands, it was obvious that the boy worked on one of the nearby farms – horse farm by the smell of it. Inuyasha could detect no blood scent in the air, so the kid couldn't have been injured by anything.

"Oi, kid! What are you crying for?" called out Inuyasha as he bent down to the child's eye level.

"Are you a d-demon?" The boy stuttered, his tears temporarily forgotten.

Inuyasha's ears twitched in annoyance. Old hurts quickly rushed back to him…he was an object of fear, an object of mistrust and hatred. The worst was seeing children shrink away from him, convinced that he was some terrible monster. Although, the whelps of Kaede's village seemed to follow him around nowadays…he could remember a time when mothers would snatch up their precious offspring if he so much as looked in their direction. Inuyasha did not need this sniveling brat to start shrieking in fear. "Keh, this is the last time I try to help anyone out." The hanyou grumbled to himself, knowing full well that he didn't mean it.

"Kid, I ain't gonna hurt you. Just tell me what's wrong and I'll be on my way." Inuyasha managed to spit out in a level voice.

"Youkai-sama…it's my master…he'll be so disappointed with me." Sobbed the boy as fresh tears ran down his dirty face.

Inuyasha aimed a hard golden stare at the boy for a moment as he took in the child's words, "Stop that noise! You mean to tell me you're crying because you've done something to upset your master? Tough shit, kid. I'm sure he'll get over it."

"No, youkai-sama! You don't understand…he trusted me to look after the horses for him while he went to the neighboring village. If I don't have them back before he returns, he might turn me out!"

"First of all kid, I'm not a full youkai…I'm a hanyou, got it? And second…so he turns you out, big deal!"

"But hanyou-sama! I have no place to go if Master Toru won't let me stay! Nobody wants to help an orphan out. And Master Toru has been so kind to me…he hasn't asked for much in return…just that I mind the horses. He says it's important that I not let the horses roam around on their own for too long."

Inuyasha almost didn't hear the rest of the boy's jumbled words, as his mind seemed to catch on one phrase only - Nobody wants to help an orphan out. The hanyou knew it all too well, having suffered it first hand. Didn't matter if you were born into a rich family or poor family, human or youkai. Orphans were usually forgotten and ignored. Why pay attention to someone when it only meant an extra mouth to feed, another body to clothe? Orphans were at the bottom of the societal chain – they had nobody to look after them or to mind if they disappeared. Only brute strength, intelligence, and a desire for self preservation would ensure an orphaned child's survival in the Feudal Era.

"Oi, kid! What's so special about these horses anyways?" asked Inuyasha, as he desperately tried to stave off the inevitable. There was no way he could leave the little boy whose eyes reminded him so much of Kagome's brother, to an unknown fate.

"They are kiso horses." The boy proclaimed, pride evident in his voice. Seeing Inuyasha's blank look, he continued. "Right now the horses are used as pack animals for traveling through the mountains and by noblemen and samurai. But Master Toru is convinced that he can get farmers to use them too."

"Keh! That's stupid. Farmers use oxen not horses."

"Master Toru says that one day, farmers will use them and I believe him." The boy replied stubbornly.

"What's so bad if they wander around on their own?"

"Hanyou-sama, Master Toru says that if the horses spend too much time out of their pen they will turn wild again and be harder to control."

Inuyasha rolled his eyes at this statement, 'Stupid humans…don't they know that if something is wild, it will always be wild?' before getting back to the matter at hand.

"So, just how did these special horses escape? Did they grow wings?"

The boy suddenly looked down in shame and replied in a quiet voice, "I must not have closed the gate."

"Keh." Inuyasha contemplated the boy's slumped shoulders for a moment.

"Kid, the name is Inuyasha. What's yours?"


"Well, Tetsuya, what are you waiting for…we've got horses to catch!"


Inuyasha grunted in satisfaction as the last of the missing horses galloped into the horse pen and Tetsuya shut the gate. Searching out the horses had taken very little effort on Inuyasha's part, since they had not traveled far away from the farm. There had been something very primal and satisfying about using his senses to track and hunt down the animals. And every time he had scared his quarry into running towards the open gate, Inuyasha had seen the awe on Tetsuya's face grow. Inuyasha had felt an answering warmth blossom in his chest… it felt good for the boy to look at him without fear or disgust. It felt good to be admired – perhaps this was the reason he put up with Souta's attention?

"Inuyasha-sama, I can't offer you anything for your troubles…but please, come with me, you must be thirsty."

Inuyasha allowed the boy to lead him to the lake he had seen from the cliff. It was even more startling up close. Once again, the waters were so calm that the surface seemed to be a polished mirror, perfectly reflecting the fiery oranges and reds of the setting sun, and Inuyasha could not recall ever smelling such freshness, such sweetness from a body of water before. He was suddenly gripped by a huge thirst, a desire to taste the clear liquid that lay before him. Almost before he realized what he was doing, Inuyasha found himself bending over and bringing the cool water to his lips with cupped hands. He drank greedily as if he had just traveled through miles of arid desert.

"Hanyou, the waters of life soothe you, do they not?" came the sibilant whisper of a woman's voice.

Inuyasha looked up in shock to see a beautiful woman dressed in a rich kimono made of iridescent blue and green material, patterned with all manner of sea creatures. Her black hair shimmered with an almost green tint and her skin was smooth like luminescent pearl. But it was the woman's eyes…the changing color of the woman's eyes that initially caught his attention, along with the fact that the woman appeared to be standing on top of the water's surface. Inuyasha's senses blazed to life as he furiously tried to assess whether this woman…this creature, presented any threat to him.

"Who the hell are you?" he snarled angrily as his hand flew to the hilt of Tetsusaiga. How had she been able to sneak up on him? Inuyasha could only barely detect the faint hum of power…an ancient magic. She was not emitting any youki and he could not detect Naraku's scent…but that did not mean the woman was harmless.

"Calm yourself, hanyou. No harm shall befall you here. I wish only to speak with you." She replied in a sing-song voice.

"I don't trust anyone who sneaks up on an opponent." Inuyasha spat back.

The woman stared at him thoughtfully for a moment and then directed her attention to the boy standing agape behind Inuyasha, "Child, please leave us. The hanyou and I have some business to attend to. After all, he has done you a great kindness and must be compensated, ne?"

"Inuyasha-sama?" came the boy's soft voice.

"Get out of here, kid! This could get ugly." Inuyasha replied as he made a show of cracking his knuckles, his eyes focused on the woman standing before him.

To his surprise, she laughed. The sound was clear and merry, reminding him of water splashing over rocks.

"Oi, what are you laughing at?" he snarled in irritation.

"I am in the presence of the hanyou, Inuyasha, correct?"

"What's it to you?"

"Peace, hanyou, peace. Are you not the one who restored Trident of Amakoi to the water goddess, Sujin?"

Confused by this sudden shift in the conversation, Inuyasha could only nod dumbly.

"It is as I suspected. Inuyasha, what is it you wish?"

If Inuyasha had been confused before, he was doubly so now. "Wish?" he repeated stupidly.

"Inuyasha…you stand before the goddess Ame-No-Mi-Kumari at the sacred Mirror Lake. Surely, there is something you desire? Sujin was still too weak from having been sealed to properly reward you for freeing her and dealing with the imposter who had usurped her throne. But Sujin is one of my favorite attendants, and I can not allow your service to her to go unrewarded."

"I don't need anything from you." Inuyasha replied and made as if to move away.

"Are you entirely sure that you do not wish for anything? Look into the Lake…I can see your heart's desires there."

Almost against his will, Inuyasha found himself looking down into the water's eerily smooth surface. As expected, he saw himself reflected…but suddenly the image rippled as if a pebble had disturbed the water. When the surface stilled Inuyasha gasped – the image was of Kagome's shining face.

"What…what is the meaning of this dark magic?"

"Foolish Inuyasha. Magic, yes. Dark, no. Water is the essence of life…without it, you could not exist. It wears away the hardest stone over time yet has no form of its own. Water cleanses, heals, and raises life from the dust. Water can also take that same life away, leaving nothing behind. You have tasted from the Mirror Lake, and the Lake will show you what desires are buried in your soul…look again."

Inuyasha again felt helpless to disobey this command as apprehension and curiosity warred equally within him.

There was Kagome again, head raised slightly so that the firelight reflected off the dark pools of her eyes. Her pale skin was tinted gold by the flickering flames of small fire, a soft blush stained her cheeks and traveled down her neck as she looked up at him. Kagome's ebony locks spilled down her back and shoulders like silk, swaying gently with the movements of an unseen breeze. Inuyasha watched as Kagome's tongue darted out to wet her rosy lips. He had been so mesmerized by Kagome's face, that it had taken Inuyasha a little while to notice that she was wearing his red haori instead of her usual white and green fuku. The crimson material was tied loosely around her petite form as one of her slender hands clutched the edges over her chest, keeping her breasts hidden from his view. Kagome suddenly extended her other hand out towards him – a silent plea that he come to her. Her movement pulled at the material that was covering her, causing it to slide down her creamy shoulders, baring her skin to his gaze… Another ripple went through the scene and Inuyasha was shocked to see his own image join Kagome's.

Both of them were naked as they faced one another. Inuyasha watched his image slowly reached for Kagome with a clawed hand to touch her cheek. Kagome's eyes closed as she leaned into his touch, nuzzling against his skin before placing a kiss on the center of his palm. His image then leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. Kagome appeared not only to welcome the contact but to encourage it, as she twined her arms around his neck and tangled her fingers into his silver hair. The figures in the water were pressed together so tightly, that Inuyasha could not see any space between them. In a sudden move, his image pulled Kagome's body up against his own so that her feet no longer touched the ground. Kagome automatically raised her legs and wrapped them tightly around his waist.

As one, they moved, lips and hands feverishly in contact the entire time. His image lowered Kagome to the ground and settled on top of her….

With a great force of will, Inuyasha jerked his head back. The scene had been too intense, too personal to watch…especially in front of an audience. Inuyasha felt as if he had been looking at one of Kagome's moving pictures. It was galling to think that Ame-No-Mi-Kumari had seen the images as well, that she knew what greedy desires, what lustful dreams he harbored in his heart. And yet, before now he had been unable to look away…every ounce of him had wanted to see this…the culmination of many nights spent dreaming about Kagome. Strangely enough, unlike the fantasies which heated his blood and left him in an uncomfortable state of arousal, the images that he had just seen hadn't ignited his lust. Part of Inuyasha felt cheated by that fact but mostly, he was grateful to the magic that had kept him from embarrassing himself in front of the goddess. Rather than arousal, Inuyasha's blood thrummed with jealous anger towards his image …of what he had been doing with Kagome. Inuyasha smelled the scent of his own blood before he was aware that he had been digging his claws into the palms of his own hands.

"Inuyasha, will you deny that you want this woman – body and soul?" Ame-No-Mi-Kumari's voice floated to his ears.

An image of Kikyou's sad face flashed before Inuyasha's eyes, causing him to bite his lip.

"Or does your promise to the dead mean more than the living?"

At his silence, Ame-No-Mi-Kumari continued her questioning, the softly spoken words hammering at Inuyasha's heart. "Tell me Inuyasha, do you follow bushido - the way of the warrior? Do you hold your honor, your ideals above all else…above the feelings of those whose lives you touch? Above your own feelings?"

Inuyasha looked at Ame-No-Mi-Kumari in astonishment before he gave way to the anger spurred by her words, "You don't know shit about me!"

Ame-No-Mi-Kumari's eyes flashed dangerously and the surface of the lake began churning for a moment before the waters settled again. "You forget your place, hanyou. I will overlook your impertinence this once, but do not test my patience again."

Inuyasha gulped and nodded. If his time with Kagome and Sango had taught him anything, it was that an angry woman was a force to be reckoned with. He wasn't stupid enough to find out what an angry goddess would do if pushed too far.

Ame-No-Mi-Kumari sighed as she contemplated him then said, "Inuyasha, I will leave you with these final thoughts. Look into the waters of the Lake again and tell me what you see."

Half afraid to see more images of himself with Kagome, Inuyasha again complied with the water goddess' demand.

"There's a large koi swimming around." Inuyasha said in relief, as he watched the red and silver patterned fish energetically glide through the water.

"Good. Now tell me Inuyasha, what would happen if someone was to capture the koi, take it out of the water, and leave it on the shore of the lake?"

Rolling his eyes, Inuyasha suppressed the urge to say something about the stupidity of the question, "Keh, fish can't survive without water."

"Look again. What would happen if someone was to take that struggling fish away from the dry land and place it in a small basin of water?

"What the hell are –"

"Answer the question, hanyou!" She hissed as her eyes flashed dangerously again.

Inuyasha looked back at the image of the colorful fish as it swam circles in the confines of a metal basin. "It would live…in a very small space."

"Do you suppose the koi would miss the freedom of the waters it had been taken from and feel trapped?

"Or do you think the koi would be grateful not to be struggling for lack of water?"

"How am I supposed to know what a fish feels? If it feels at all?" Inuyasha answered, impatience evident in his voice.

"Hanyou, all living creatures are sentient beings. Just because you do not understand their language does not mean they are incapable of it. Answer me."

"Keh!" Inuyasha squinted his eyes at the image of the colorful fish swimming around in the small basin. "I s'ppose," he began softly, "It would be a combination of the two. The koi would feel grateful just to be alive…to feel the water again after it had been deprived of it. The fish might try to convince itself that it had never been in a huge lake with so much water and freedom in the first place, that it didn't belong there. If it convinced itself of this, it wouldn't miss it."

"Final question, hanyou. What if the Kami gave the koi a choice? To stay in the small basin or be returned to the freedom and lightness of open water. What would the fish choose?"

Inuyasha looked down at the water, a faraway expression in his eyes as he murmured, "If given a choice…would the koi be brave enough to try again? To chance being returned to the lake, knowing all the while that the same thing could happen…that he could be captured and left to struggle again? Or would he stay where he was, relying on the certainty of a small amount of water?"

"Either way spells danger for the koi, does it not, Inuyasha? If he chooses to return to the lake…he can experience the joy, the freedom of movement again. But with freedom comes the potential for loss, for pain. If he stays where he is, relying on the shallow waters of memory to sustain him, his survival is uncertain as well. So I ask you, which choice will leave the koi with greater satisfaction? A life where chances are taken or one where it swims in a small circle?"

Inuyasha looked up, mouth opening to ask another question, only to find that Ame-No-Mi-Kumari had disappeared, just as silently as she had arrived. He was alone again. And for the second time that day, his head was too full of thoughts.

"Goddess or not, I ain't no damn fish." Inuyasha grumbled to himself, but not before he took a careful look around. Throughout his life, Inuyasha had made many enemies for himself, but he had no desire to add a goddess to the list.


Kagome could barely suppress her excitement. Not for the first time, she was awed by how her travels in the Feudal Era gave her the opportunity to witness the history that her friends could only read about in books. Wedding ceremonies in modern Japan had come under a great deal of Western influence with people opting to get married in churches; more brides wore white gowns and veils instead of the more traditional kimono. The chance to witness a traditional Shinto ceremony – a completely authentic one – devoid of the influence of modern customs and attitudes was too great to pass up. Kagome allowed herself a small self deprecating smile. Of course, she, Miroku, and even Kaede had not been invited by Taka-sama to witness the wedding out of his generosity. As the village's official Miko and unofficial godmother, it would be unthinkable to exclude Kaede from such an auspicious event. In a rather shrewd move to both impress his new in-laws and the villagers, as well as any Kami that might be paying attention to mortal affairs in Musashi's domain, Taka-sama had invited Kagome and Miroku to bear witness to his daughter's nuptials.

"Of course, we will be honored to have the esteemed seekers of the Shikon jewel who bear such sacred powers in our humble dwelling on such a happy occasion." Taka-sama had declared in a loud tone.

Kagome tried to hide a smile as she took in the look of surprise on the passing villagers' faces. Old Taka-sama had made his rather bold invitation at high noon in the village square. By the end of the day, Kagome was certain that the entire village would know about the invitation…she would bet the shikon shards on it.

Movement caught her attention and broke Kagome's reverie; she turned to watch as two priests clad in white robes knelt at the front of the room before a wall in which hung a scroll bearing the names of the Kami. While she, Kaede, and Miroku had been invited to attend the ceremony to "bless" the occasion, it turned out that old Taka-sama was even shrewder than Kagome had originally thought. The actual blessing and ceremony were to be performed by priests from a nearby shrine – one that Taka-sama traded often with. Kagome didn't mind…being treated as an esteemed guest allowed her to forgo traditional miko robes in favor of a pretty kimono. The young girl blushed as she smoothed a hand over the soft aqua silk on her arm. Of course, she was not just wearing any kimono but one that Inuyasha had made for her. Forcing her thoughts back to the present, she gazed at the raised lacquered platform standing below the scroll that held rice cakes and a jug of sake, which had been blessed by the holy men in attendance. Two maidens wearing the hooded cloaks of Shinto shrine attendants, stood near the priests. On the tatami to the left of the platform knelt Taka, the bride's father with his friends. To the right of the platform, sat the groom's wedding party. In front of the altar knelt the bride and groom. The former wore black ceremonial robes depicting his family's crest and two swords strapped at his waist. The latter was swathed in a white silk kimono and a long white, silk veil that completely covered her face and hair. The couple faced a glazed ceramic dish that contained miniature pine and plum trees, a bamboo grove, and statues of a hare and crane: symbols of longevity, pliancy, and faithfulness.

One of the priests waved a long wand from which white paper strips hung as he chanted an invocation to the Shinto gods to purify the room. The second priest played a series of high pitched notes on a flute, while the first accompanied him by beating a drum. The music abruptly stopped. An attendant moved the container of consecrated sake in front of the couple along with a tray containing three flat wooden bowls. The attendant filled the smallest cup, bowed, and then handed it to the bride who lifted the sake cup to her lips and drank. The process was repeated three times. Then the attendant refilled the cup and passed it to the groom. The remaining cups were also filled and passed to the bride and groom in a similar manner.

Once again, Kagome found her attention wavering from the scene before her. The ancient ceremony that she was witnessing felt so right to her. While the more western custom of the bride wearing a white dress and groom wearing a tuxedo to exchange vows had become popular in Japan, Kagome could never picture her own wedding like that. She had always kept quiet during her lunches with Eri, Ayame, and Yuka when they would fantasize about their future wedding days; sometimes she thought it was because she could never see herself getting married. Seeing the scene before her made Kagome realize just why it had always been so difficult. The traditional outfits, with an age old ceremony to bind the lives of two lovers…this was how she wanted to do it. Kagome could easily see herself wearing a traditional white kimono and white veil while sitting next to her groom who would be clad in a black kimono. Only instead of two swords at her groom's waist, she could only picture one – the Tetsusaiga…

An embarrassed flush shot through Kagome's body as her cheeks reddened in self awareness of her thoughts.

'Calm down, girl. It's normal to imagine your own wedding day when you're a guest at one…besides, it's not like anyone here is a mind reader.' On the heels of this thought, Kagome took a quick peek around to make sure nobody was looking at her. In an era where demons and black mikos existed, you couldn't be too careful of your thoughts remaining to yourself.

'So, now it's okay to admit to yourself that you want Inuyasha to be your husband?' came a little snide voice.

'Aack! Must change topic…think of something else, anything else.' Kagome chastised herself.

But it seemed that her treacherous heart was on a roll. The harder she tried to focus on the actual scene in front of her, the more she was able to visualize herself and Inuyasha as the actual participants. Kagome's cheeks flushed at the thought. Ever since she had confessed her love of Inuyasha to Eri, it seemed that Kagome's feelings were simmering under the surface, ready to boil over with the slightest emotional provocation. And witnessing the sacred union between two individuals was fueling daydreams of Kagome's most carefully guarded secret wish. The extreme bliss at the thought of participating in the sake ceremony with Inuyasha under the watchful eyes of loved ones, made her giddy. But the more rational side of Kagome's brain couldn't help but seize upon all the unknowns.

While she knew she held Inuyasha's affection to some degree, affection did not equal love. Affection did not equal a lifetime commitment - a sharing of minds, hearts, and bodies. And there was the ever present shadow of Kikyou that loomed larger than life in Inuyasha's memories and in all of their encounters with the resurrected miko. Even more importantly, Kagome had no idea what the Kami had in store for her. After all, her very presence in medieval Japan was in defiance of the natural order of time and space.

Two years ago, Kagome had become a huge believer in Fate. If not for that strange and divine force, how else would she have been able to travel back in time to an age where demons and magic were everyday facts and not just fodder for bedtime stories? True, her life had been turned around and she had become a stranger in her own time. But Kagome fervently believed she was meant to be here in this time, to meet her Feudal Era friends. She had no doubts about her purpose for the moment.

But what would happen once Kagome fulfilled her duty? Would the same forces that conspired to magically send her centuries into the past decide to close the Bone Eater's Well? Would she be forced to choose which side of a 500 year divide she wanted to live out her remaining years on, forever giving up her loved ones on the other side? Would she even be given a choice?

This last thought caused Kagome to break out into a cold sweat, forcing her to dig her nails into her hands as a feeling of dread coiled in her stomach and she tasted bile. All of a sudden the room was too small and Kagome felt trapped…trapped by the walls…trapped by Fate…trapped by a future she didn't know she had any control over. Luck was on Kagome's side however and she was relieved to see that the ceremony was now over; it was safe to get up.

Making her way towards the door, Kagome murmured congratulations to the other guests, trying to keep a smile on her face all the while keeping her clenched fists concealed in the folds of her kimono. Her thoughts were stifling her and she could feel the moisture gathering in her eyes…she had to get out of here!


A/N: A most sincere THANK YOU to those who've reviewed and emailed me during the last two years, urging me to update.

I can't really express how much reviews mean to me as a writer. To think I might be providing someone out there with some level of entertainment is very humbling.

So thank you thank you thank you for taking the time to review!

If you're interested in reading more about Kiso horses:

The Kiso horse is medium sized, standing about 13 hands (135 cm). During the Meiji Era, Kiso horses were crossbred with many western breeds and the pure stain virtually disappeared. The breed is being preserved in the region centering on Kaida mura in Kiso County, Nagano Prefecture. There are today 117 Kiso horses, which are often seen in processions in local festivals. They are also used as riding horses.