Summary: AU Inuyasha, the brave hero from far away, has
just arrived at where his beloved lays in an enchanted sleep. With a
kiss on the lips, she opens her eyes... and they're the wrong color.
It seems he's woken up the wrong girl! Based on Sleeping
Rating: T (13+) for some language, comic violence, and the occasional perverted act from Miroku.
Disclaimer: Inuyasha and its characters do not belong to me, but to Rumiko Takahashi, Viz, etc.
Chapter 01: Sweet Dreams
KAGOME ROCKED BACK on her heels, cushioned by her rough olive green tunic, and exhaled wearily as her fingers relaxed around a small stone bowl she held cradled in one palm. She dropped her pestle inside the bowl and set it down on the floor as the tools clacked together, and further occupied her fingers with rubbing aches out of her hands that felt so much older than they were. Her long arched neck ached and her tense back ached from staying folded in the same position for such long hours that seemed to stretch on much longer than they ought to have done. She had the energy of her father's warrior spirit, but it did not often like being focused on her mother's task as a village priestess. Her energy wanted to be free and untamed, leaping her onto rooftops and climbing her into trees and scaling her over fences to scare the cows; not devoted to working out medicines and potions and threading warm blankets. But she had not been able to follow in her father's footsteps because her father had died many years ago, well into her early life, and the only trade for her to learn was her mother's, and she had forgone her reckless desires and succumbed to responsibility.
She had the soul for it where she lacked the focus. She was gentle to others by her own sweet nature, although somewhat harsher on her enemies than most of her profession, and she felt a desire to help and protect people especially strongly. And it was for that gentility that she was able to awaken from a deep and dreaming sleep in the gray hours of twilight while other women went on sleeping to see her mother off to a nearby town with her younger brother, where the two had been called for duty, and then wear down her body in tedious, meticulous tasks such as herb-grinding and medicine-making. That morning she wove into small white pouches a remedy for a fever that had been climbing throughout the town, webbing into the young and old alike and causing a sickness that bedded even the most persistent of the village farmers. She herself had not avoided the fever entirely, and the sickness had her eyes feeling hot and tired before the noontime meal approached. But she could not lay down to rest her work; if she did not work, no one would find their health improved, and then the village would suffer further, and her good nature would not let her allow that to come to pass.
Kagome looked down at her knuckles, which had grown knobby with work as the tireless years went by. Her fingertips were calloused from working with a bow to keep the village safe of demon and robber, and her body was thin and lean from the hard work she put into babysitting the village children and the traveling to and from distant towns to deliver both medicine and help. She had once yearned to have a lady's hands and figure, to live in the city and pass her days away with arranging artful flowers and attending balls with her hair held in curls by colorful silk ribbons, skirts voluminous and grandly sewed. But she had given up on that dream when she once met a city lady's daughter, who was angry at the world and assumed that she deserved more than she could be given; and Kagome knew she would rather work always and be happy than to have free reign on the fulfilling of wants and desires and be without wants and desires, although she knew she would eagerly accept a holiday if offered... she would simply no longer yearn for a life she could not have, which would lead her to become as the city lady's daughter had.
With a gentle yawn and the encroaching of sleep, Kagome picked up her mortar and once more began to grind the leafy herbs inside into a cold green mixture. She worked out the tough kinks found in the thickly veined vegetation and was kept awake more by the stringent, spicy smell of the medicinal mash than by the pain in her joints. Even the woody scent of her cottage home, which always smelled warm with sun by that time of day as if heavy with memories of the forest in which the floorboards had grown up, was drowned beneath the powerful smell, as was the cool and earthy scent of the stones constructing the skin of the house. After days of working with it, the smell of the potion never seemed to fade into something agreeable.
Outside, in the late morning breeze of the ending Autumn, Kagome could hear the laughter of the village children as they approached her home. She smiled to herself as she heard a playful screech that ended with a boisterous feminine laugh. The children had all been sick at once, bundled up in their homes and kept from their favorite realm of the outside world in their dark bedrooms, sipping the boiled tea made with the medicine Kagome had ground. Sickly children were ever a thing about which to worry; children withered so quickly, and without such proper and careful tending they would easily fade and die like new flowerbuds in a frost. Kagome was glad of hearing their delighted noise filling the otherwise quiet village once more, which made her tiresome work less folly and more worthwhile.
"Hi, Lady Kagome," one child said as a group of three came into the small cottage, pulling open the heavy oak door wider than it had been and filling the room with clear and bright sunlight.
"Good morning," Kagome replied. "Are you all feeling better?"
"Yeah," another of the children, the only boy of the group, responded as he scrubbed a tiny hand through his dark brown hair. "And I'm sick of being sick!"
"Me me me!" the second girl added.
Kagome smiled and asked, "What are we up to today?"
"We're hiding here," the first one said, bringing her voice down to a whisper as she scrunched her nose up, wrinkling it as the other two nodded in agreement.
"Hiding, eh? What did you do now?" Kagome inquired at the same whisper, continuing to prepare medicine and losing eye contact with her company. She was familiar with the children, and her manners vanished in sight of them; informality was easiest and best, and with that she could talk amongst the children as no more than a child herself, and felt with them the connection she had otherwise lost at her apprenticeship.
"Well, we uh... we were playing with our ball by the old well, you know?"
"You mean by Mister Tam's house?"
"Uh, yeah... that's the problem... we accidentally knocked a branch out of his apple tree, and lots of apples, too." The boy of the group gave a smug half-grin as the first girl finished speaking, and he pulled a brown pack from his back and dumped the contents onto the floor in front of Kagome, the fleshy red fruit spilling and rolling across the floorboards. Two of them came to bump and rest against her folded knee.
Kagome laughed. "Old Mister Tam won't notice at all," she assured, picking up an apple and biting into it. "As long as he doesn't catch you down there."
"Oh! And I wanted to ask you, Lady Kagome," began the second girl, her golden-red curls bouncing around her shoulders as she shifted to take something from an almond-colored satchel on her back. Almost reverently, she pulled out a rumpled yellow flower and held it out to Kagome, who looked up at her audience and set her apple down in her lap. The flower was globed and hung heavy on its stem, the petals a pale shade of color that burned into a deep orange by the tips, vibrant and smooth. The girl's little plant lost a petal as she thrust it forward. "What kind of flower is this?"
Kagome smiled and delicately ran a finger along the orbed blossom. "That's a honeybur," she told the three children, who looked on in rapture. They were always awed by Kagome's extensive knowledge of flowers and fruits and vegetables (although significantly less amazed by that, since it was partly her knowledge that kept them all on healthy diets). Any time the children had a question, one which they were often too afraid to ask their parents for fear of seeming silly or saying something wrong, they would come to the apprenticed priestess. She knew something on every subject about which they inquired, and she was never ashamed to lend out answers and knowledge, and she never punished them when they kicked their ball somewhere it did not belong. They had seen her angry only once, and that had been at a teenager who had stolen her younger brother's loaf of bread. They were happy and felt very well-protected to be on her amiable side.
"What's it for?" the girl continued.
"Well," Kagome started to say, going back to her work as she talked. Almost nonchalantly she told them, "You give that flower to someone when you want to make a confession you're too afraid to make. Sometimes you can give it to someone to let them know you're apologizing for something, but mostly you give it to someone when you want to tell them you really, really like them."
The two little girls shrieked happily and the boy gave Kagome a deadpan expression.
"I told you so!" said the girl who held nothing, pointing happily to the heavy-headed flower, whose bud sat nodding against its sepals as its holder moved in an excited flurry.
"Did you want to give it to someone?" asked Kagome.
"Someone gave it to me!" the girl explained shyly, hiding her blush behind her bouncing curls.
"And who was that, Sachet?" the priestess asked with a grin, suspecting the answer already. A little boy had come to her earlier in the week, before the whole group of children had come down ill, and had asked her how to best tell someone you loved them. Kagome had been working on making a match of the two for a long time; she loved to meddle with the love affairs of others, especially the innocent and pure love of children. She wanted to direct it, so that their love always retained that purity and innocence.
"Do you know Eru, Lady Kagome?" the other girl answered slyly. "He gave it to Sasshy this morning."
Kagome smiled brightly, silently congratulating herself on matching up that particular pair. "That's lovely! Did he kiss you?"
"Noooo, of course not!" Sachet yelped, giggling wildly and blushing as her friend laughed in delight, clasping her little hands over her stomach and leaning over as if heartily amused.
"Thank all the goodness," the boy said, sticking out his tongue in disgust as he crossed his thin arms over his chest. "What kind of sissy gives flowers to girls?"
"You gave a flower to me a week ago!" Sachet's friend insisted, fisting her little pale hands against her hips and glaring at her friend. Her laughter had turned into anger at the one male of the group.
"That was because I was dared to!" the boy defended himself with a long-suffering sigh, putting out his bottom lip in a pout and blushing in embarrassment. "I would never give any girl a flower anyway else!"
Kagome smiled and looked back at Sachet. "What are you going to do, Sachet? Do you like him, too?"
"Do we have to talk about feelings?" the boy whined, looking nauseous. He was often impressed by the wisdom of the children's local idol, but even for her he would not suffer the talk of emotions.
"Why don't you and Arow go out and play in the fallow field and eat your apples; Sachet and I will stay here and talk," Kagome suggested peacefully, finally taking a second bite out of the fruit that she had been resting in her lap as she worked.
"Okay," the boy agreed, rushing out of the open door as one little girl followed him, her fingers hooking into the cloth of his tunic to keep in step with him. Kagome almost winced as she watched this action, as she had unknowingly passed this habit on herself. Whenever she had time off from her duties, she went with the village boys into the forest to explore; she was the only girl who wanted to go out adventuring while the others stayed home and taught themselves to read, or sewed pretty things for themselves. Kagome thought her own work was tedious enough and had no desire to remain confined within a house.
Before she had learned to shoot a bow, or when she travelled without it, she had been nervous on getting lost in the woods, and had habitually latched her fingers onto the tunic of whomever walked before her, and it was something that the younger children had picked up from her and practiced themselves. With it they annoyed each other, their siblings, and their parents as they put it into action unnecessarily.
"Hmm?" Kagome asked, going back to her medicine once more. "Do you like Eru, too?"
"I think so," Sachet whispered. "But what do I do?"
"Excuse me," came a voice at the door. Kagome looked up from her work and Sachet turned around. Both females blinked at the tall, thickly built man blocking the sunlight streaming in from the old wooden doorframe.
"Can I help you?" Kagome asked. "Sachet, why don't you go outside with Arow and Mar? I'll talk to you again later, okay?"
"Okay," Sachet responded with something of a pout on her round face, bounding past the man agilely and disappearing behind his looming figure as she raced towards the fallow fields where her friends were laid on their backs, chewing the sweet fruit they had stolen.
"Good afternoon," the man said to the apprenticed priestess after a moment's silence. "I was looking for nightly boarding but was unable to find an inn."
Kagome nodded. "We don't have one. There's another village about two miles northwest from here that has an inn, but if your need is immediate you may consider boarding here at the temple. We haven't the nicest accommodations, but enough to keep you for a night."
"That will do," he answered, shifting beneath his extravagantly embroidered traveler's cloak. Kagome was inwardly amazed that he traveled without company worthy of defending him, and she wondered how he warded away bandits from his richly designed clothes and the purse bulging at his hip. He wore no armor but of thin metal buckles around his joints, thick leather boots tightly laced up midcalf, and a thin sword clasped in a carved leather sheath at his side.
"Our village priestess is out of town tonight, but I'm her apprentice and I'll tend you while you stay here. I'm Kagome."
"Well met, Kagome. I am Musou, a lord from the north, and I have traveled far from home on a voyage. Your hospitality is kindly accepted."
"Then my duty is being done. I'll go have a bed prepared. We dine at the time the sun sets here in the temple; please feel free to do as you wish until then," she replied, setting aside the work that had occupied her time. She stood and retreated deeper into the building, padding softly into the room set aside especially for traveling guests. It was a small room, with space enough only for a bed designed to cushion one person, and a little table at its side with a pitcher laid atop it, and a book of prayers. She made up the bed there, spreading over a hay-stuffed mattress clean white sheets sewn of cotton, and the man stood in the doorframe of the room and watched her work in the light given by the little window hanging beside the bed.
She cast him a furtive glance over her shoulder, unnerved by his intense interest in her progression. Her fingers anxiously smoothed over the sheets, working away the wrinkles cast in it, and her mind raced as she wondered at the man's motive. She decided he must be making sure she performed her task correctly, or that he was eager for a nap after a long day's travel, but his eyes on her back were cold and harsh as if seeing something terrible that was invisible to herself.
With the last sheet placed cleanly over the mattress, Kagome straightened and cleared her throat. She offered a polite smile and carefully left the room. Musou, as he had called himself, followed her from the guest room and further into the main room. She chewed on the inside of her cheek and seated herself and again took up her work. She went on with it as best she could, trying to keep herself relaxed as he watched her unblinkingly like a wild cat waiting for its prey to fall into position. Her fingers went on rubbing out kinks in the herbs, and lying the fine mash to dry in the sunlight, and tying up the already dried contents into white pouches, which she moved into a woven basket so that she could later deliver her hard work to the townspeople who needed it.
She was grateful when a young man of fourteen burst into her cottage, hardly daring to announce himself as he entered. He was panting wildly from running, his chest rising and falling rapidly. He was pale and shaking like a frightened animal.
"Can I help you?" Kagome queried in slight bewilderment, temporarily drawn away from thoughts of the stranger sitting across from her as she focused on the winded man standing in her doorway.
"It's my sister," the boy huffed out in a voice quavering with anxiety and weariness, bending over and placing his hands on his knees as his breathing calmed. "She's really sick... please come help her!"
Kagome immediately set aside her work and scrambled about the room in a flurry, going to the shelves and expertly taking down rags and bottles and bars and packets of ingredients made for different purposes. She wrapped these all in a bundle, which she carefully cradled in her arms. Without excusing herself from Musou's company, she followed after the young boy to where his sister lay, sweating and heavy on the comfortable feather-stuffed bed that she shared with her husband in a small room of their cottage. Her husband was holding her hand and brushing her matted bangs away from her eyes, and Kagome went to work on helping ease her pain, and waiting on her until the fever broke.
IT WAS VERY late when the woman's fever had finally begun to fade, and even later when Kagome decided it was safe for her to be left on her own. She went from the cottage and told the woman's worried husband, and the young brother whose sleepy eyes blinked rapidly to stay awake, to come immediately to her should the sister's condition worsen.
As she stepped on the path home, Musou startled her by greeting her abruptly from the shadowy porch.
She gave him a suspicious look as she recovered from her surprise. "I'm sorry about supper, let me get cleaned up and I'll have you something to eat..." she said as he fell in with a regal walk beside her gentle, tired shuffling.
"No need for apology," he told her placidly. The pair's walk back to Kagome's cottage was taken in silence, surrounded only by the soft whispering of wind and any autumnal bugs who were late in going to hiding, and she was too tired to be uneased by Musou's steady stare as she washed her arms and hands and prepared a light broth for them to eat. She ladled out a large portion into a porcelain bowl for him, and cut him a thick slice of bread, and then prepared a meal of the same for herself. She gave a prayer of thanks customary to one of her station, and they ate what they had in silence. She worked to keep her eyes from closing at the dinner table, the feeling of her fever creeping up back to her after a day of being kept at bay, like a searching, menacing shadow. Musou's eyes went on watching her, even as she took up the dishes and washed them, and as she left for the bedroom she normally shared with her younger brother while he was home.
She sat down heavily on her bed, which sunk slightly underneath her weight. There was a small window carved near the head of her bed, and she looked out of it with a weary, dazed expression, and with a distant sort of wonder realized how much had gone on during her day, and faintly realizing that she still needed to talk with Sachet. She smiled wearily.
Kagome undressed slowly and crawled like a worn hunting cat into the large bed she had shared with her younger brother since he had been old enough to leave his cradle, and she wove herself comfortably beneath the warm handmade quilts. She fell asleep near before her eyelids closed over her tired plum-gray eyes, and she found herself in a contented, dreamless sleep that wrapped around her like the first breeze of spring.
"LADY KAGOME! LADY!"
"Yes, Arow?" Kagome replied tonelessly, ignoring the dutiful tone of the little girl's voice as she came climbing up the porch. Kagome loved the village children, but felt she could barely have patience for them today. She had hardly had any sleep the previous night, and earlier in the morning she had been awoken very soon to help birth an early baby. The child was fine -- he had been a bit small, but he was a pleasant and healthy baby boy.
"That Musou guy is leaving and he wants you to see him off," Arow said, picking at her dress and puffing out her lips in a pout.
"Don't call him 'that Musou guy', Arow," Kagome said with a grimace, inwardly berating herself for passing on her bad manners to other people's children. "You should be calling him Lord Musou. He is of very high social standing." Arow gave her a blank look. "Alright, I'll accept 'that creepy Musou guy' if it's only us around," Kagome corrected. Arow gave a half grin and stuck her plump tongue between her teeth smugly.
"Well, he's waiting for you at the town entrance."
Kagome sighed. "I'm coming, I'm coming." She put down a plate of bread she had been leisurely working on eating, and placidly followed the little girl to the mouth of the town, where the dirt road split out into three branches. At the curve of one road stood Musou, his pack hanging loosely at his side. He had that same dangerous look in his eye that uneased her so badly, and had been uneasing her since he had come to the village. Even the townspeople gathered behind her rather than jovially sent him off, as they normally did with more pleasant guests. There was simply something unappealing about the man who stood before them.
"Ah, Lady Kagome," he said, smiling pleasantly, the corners of his mouth somehow making his smile look disgusted as his eyes swept briefly over the crowd of people behind the young priestess. Arow latched onto Kagome's tunic, pressing herself against the woman's side and glaring at Musou. Whomever her role model disliked, she also disliked.
"Master Musou," Kagome pursued listlessly as her hand found Arow's head, her fingers idly stroking the baby-soft hair. "I bid you well on your journey."
"Lady Kagome," he continued, ignoring her well wishes and farewell. "I have a humble request, if I might make it."
"Oh, really?" Kagome asked dryly. "And what might that request be, Lord?" It was then that Kagome began to notice how tense the villagers had become throughout not only Musou's lingering but also during the electric conversation. She had never been fruitful in masking her frustration behind polite words.
"I request that you accompany me on my journey. My domain is shy of the holy, and--"
"Absolutely not," Kagome spat, disgusted, her hand pausing against Arow's head. "Not only is it highly inappropriate for a woman -- especially of my station -- to travel alone with a man without chaperone, but I have quite duty enough to perform here for these people I tend. My duty lies here and my destination only within these walls, and I shall never subjugate myself nor submit myself to the likes of you."
Kagome was not sure if she was more upset that he wished to risk her integrity, or that he would even consider she would come with him.
"Why, you mouthy devil," Musou replied, now sounding rather venomous at being thwarted. "What is the reason of demeaning me in front of your own people? Is this the kind of example you set?"
"I set only the example that my people do what is healthiest for them. How is my leaving with some man -- on only his word -- healthy to a village who still needs me? Why would I risk the reputation of this town by traveling alone with a man who none of us know? Now, go!" Kagome crowed, heart pounding with fury.
"You cheeky priestess! For this humiliation, I will lay a curse on you!" Musou cried. Kagome was slightly taken aback by his threat, but she never lost her footing. She was confused by his conviction, but not frightened by it. Musou continued, "I place you under enchanted sleep, in the remains of a castle in a far away valley... guarded by magic and wisps and fairies, you shall stay in sleep until some poor hero foolish enough to find you kisses you once upon the lips; and by this seal you are to remain bound to him by two commands of subjugation until you learn your proper place as a subordinate, humble priestess! And for each year you sleep, a rose will grow up around you, until you are bound entirely. If the day you are bound comes before the day you are rescued, you will lie forever in an undreaming sleep, and you will not even be permitted the courtesy of death."
Kagome took a step back, her expression uneasy, and she pushed Arow behind her, where the little girl grasped the back of her tunic until her mother pulled her away. The villagers behind her gasped and clung to each other, and some rushed back to their homes or shooed children away from the place while still others called for warriors.
"I am not afraid of you," Kagome yet called as she recovered from her displeasure. "And I will never, ever be a subordinate, humble thing to someone who thinks so highly of himself as you."
A glow of light purple in color erupted from Musou's hands, and then Kagome's world funneled into darkness and silence.