Reposting-- a friend mocked my original title unmercifully. This one will have to do. Futher bulletins as events warrant.
The Trouble with Shikigami
The predator silently crept closer; yellow eyes focused on his prey. From a distance came the muffled sound of water and thin, querulous voices arguing over dinner. However, the kneeling girl in front of him never stirred, her eyes closed, her hands clasped at eye level, a scrap of paper hanging rather desperately between her palms. His prey was completely unprotected. An ear flicked.
He pounced. Or, rather, flopped.
"Buyo!" Kagome wailed. "I'm trying to concentrate here!" Absently she stroked the cat with one hand while she raised the now shredded scrap out of his reach. She sighed. She'd never get the hang of it--
"Sis!" Her door flung open, impaling itself on an already abused doorstop. Souta, in blue jeans slightly too short and a blue shirt slightly too long, pointed the business end of his index finger at her, and declared triumphantly, "It's your turn to do dishes!" From the satisfaction in his tone, Kagome knew she'd just been the unwitting beneficiary of a discussion downstairs.
Kagome flounced back on her heels, slapping her palms behind her. Buyo yowled as he slid off her knee. Shooting her brother a glare from under her bangs, she hid a smile. "Who said, little brother? I did them--" she trailed off. When had she last washed dishes? In a dishwasher, anyway?
"Ha! And anyway, it was decided by committee. We had a vote and everything. You didn't object." He looked too smug for his own good. Stupid civics classes. She'd suffered more than once from his sudden interest in the machinations of democracy, and she knew she hadn't heard the end of it yet. Ah, the good old days of third grade. Oh well, at this rate he'd have a scholarship to a decent university. At least one Higurashi would.
She sighed again and rose to her feet, surrounded briefly by a snowfall of paper chads. Souta gave what sounded suspiciously like a satisfied 'keh." As he turned to leave, he tossed over his shoulder, "And Mom better not catch you making paper dolls again, sis. Some of us think homework is important."
"You know, you may be taller, but I can still show you who's boss!" But Souta had already thumped importantly down the stairs. Thump thump thump thump-- The thumping hesitated, and Kagome heard a thunk as Souta jumped the last five steps. She smiled absently-- he'd managed it, this time. Last time there had been a bloody nose. And the time before that a bruised chin. But he was growing up and getting stronger.
Unfortunately, she wasn't.
Kagome stopped herself in mid-sigh as she looked around her scrap-filled room. She was surrounded by failure in the form of wood pulp. Dropping her shoulders, she closed her eyes for a moment to mourn the passing of her aspirations. If you didn't have the talent, she supposed, then no use fighting it. She might as well move on to something more productive. Like barriers, or algebra. She was running out of white paper anyway.
Then again, she always had the paper in her algebra notebook. She grinned as she dug the battered spiral-bound paper from her backpack. If at first you don't succeed...
She'd do the dishes in a minute-- she wanted to try one more time. Buyo, sensing trouble whenever the girl had that slightly manic look, wisely decided to follow Souta to the kitchen.
Kagome tried five more times before giving up for the evening. She rose from her aching knees and stretched mightily. Hands on hips, she looked down at the paper dolls before her. At least her paper doll skills were getting better. Although that wouldn't look good on a resume, though-- time-traveling college student with paper folding experience seeks internship. Nope. She'd better get to work on her algebra.
After the dishes.
As she entered the kitchen a few moments later Kagome knew the three people at the table had been discussing her. The slightly embarrassed silence was unmistakable-- she'd been on both ends of said silence too often not to notice. She smiled in determined cheerfulness and proceeded to the sink-- least said, soonest mended, after all.. Three plates, two glasses and one long silence later Kagome very carefully placed her soapy hands on the rim of the sink, bowed her head, and through gritted teeth snarled, "WHAT!?"
Grandpa quickly grabbed the newspaper, snapped it to arm's length, and began to read intently. Souta looked down with a defensive tilt to his mouth at his civics book. Her mother didn't even flinch. Ah, another in-depth conversation about my innermost feelings and dreams. Hojo must have called again.
"Hojo called again, sweetie."
"We're all just concerned. I know you don't like him as well as... other people, but--"
"When," Souta began, in a condescending tone, "are you going to tell Hojo?"
"Tell him what?" She glared morosely at a soap bubble. It popped.
"That you don't like him as well as other people."
"And, Souta, just who are these other people?" Her voice was unnervingly calm. The countertop creaked under Kagome's hands.
"Souta, dear," her mother said, interrupting what could very well have been an extremely interesting discussion between her children, "why don't you go play Halo?"
"But Mo-om, I need to study! Just 'cause Kagome is okay with a state college doesn't mean--"
"Now." Souta shuffled away from the table, flipping his hair the way only teenagers could.. The last thing she heard him mutter involved 'hanyou' and 'brother.'
Kagome knew her mother didn't want her sweet daughter making any rash declarations about whom she did and didn't like while throttling her youngest. It was unnerving how easily they read each other. Oh well. At least Souta was gone. Unfortunately that left--
"Kagome, you know you're my favorite granddaughter--"
"--my only granddaughter--"
The smile disappeared.
"--and I just want what's best for you--"
Kagome resumed washing the last of the dishes. This conversation could take a while.
"--but we really must know what's going on in that head of yours. You know it concerns all of us when you're down the well and with that boy--"
"His name is Inuyasha." She set down a pot with more force than strictly necessary. "And he's just a friend!" The unsuspecting dish towel was twisted unmercifully as Kagome dried her hands.
"Yeah, right!" came a disembodied, teenaged voice. Kagome threw down the towel and turned purposefully towards the front room. "Time to take out the trash!"
Her mother raised her hands soothingly, stopping the irate young woman in her tracks. Gesturing to the table, she waited until her daughter seated herself in Souta's vacated chair. "Kagome, you know we all like Inuyasha--"
"Yeah, right!" came the voice again, only without the sarcasm. Kagome remembered once when Souta had filed all his fingernails into points, running around yelling 'Sankon Tessou!' at Buyo. Her mother had encouraged it.
"--but you really can't keep stringing him or Hojo along like this. Make up your mind, or someday someone will make it up for you." Her mother's hands were folded on the table with an air of finality. Her whole family was in on this-- intervention. She wondered if they had a twelve-step program as well. How to Love a Hanyou in Twelve Easy Steps. This was worse than Souta's first crush, when the family had rallied behind him, forcing him to make a move. That had been puppy love, this was-
Well, technically it could be called puppy love too.
Kagome idly picked up Souta's pencil and began filling in the essays on his worksheet. Describe the process of a bill becoming law. Well, that was obvious. So Kagome promptly wrote, I like vanilla.
She glanced at her mother, then at her grandfather. Both were watching her intently, one straightforward, the other from behind the sports section. Her grandfather hated sports.
"Please put the paper down, Grandpa. You're not fooling anybody." As her grandfather complied, she turned back to her mother. "And what do you mean, someone may make my mind up for me? Is there something you know about Hojo? Is he seeing someone?" She certainly hoped so.
"Sweetie, this isn't about Hojo or Inuyasha. It's about you." Her mother was silent for a moment. Define the role of the Emperor in modern government. Kagome wrote, I stink like cheese. "Kagome, how are your friends? Have you seen them lately?"
Kagome looked her mother in the eye at the abrupt conversational shift. She narrowed her own eyes slightly. "Nooo-- Eri is away at university, and the other two are engaged." Kagome smiled beatifically. "Imagine, in June I'll be a bridesmaid twice!"
"But never a bride!" came the voice again. Kagome scowled and began dotting all the is with cute little hearts.
"Kagome, Souta isn't too far off--" At Kagome's shocked expression, she patted her daughter's arm. "I have no doubt that someday you'll be a bride, and graduate from college, but honey, your friends are moving on with their lives. They're making decisions about who they are and where they want to be in the future." Gripping her daughter's hand, she looked steadily at her little girl. "Sweetie, you're still living in the past."
Kagome withdrew her hand from her mother's grip, folded her arms, and huffed back in her chair. "It's not like I have a choice! I mean, we've got one shard, and Naraku has the rest, and we know he's gonna make a move soon-- in fact, I should be packing--"
"That's not what I'm talking about. You're still living in your past, Kagome. We're all pretty sure how you feel about Inuyasha. But you don't seem to be doing much about it."
Kagome stared at her mother, who had seemed so rational five minutes ago. Lacing her fingers together, she leaned forward on the table, hiding behind her bangs.
In a small voice, she began, "I do like Inuyasha..."
"Ka-gome n' Inuya-sha sitting in the god tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g--"
In a fit of maturity Kagome blatantly ignored her little brother. "But I'm not-- well, capable enough for him. He likes me okay, but he doesn't respect me, you know? He's always having to rescue me, and getting upset when I can't do something or do do something but do it wrong. Sango is an amazing fighter, Miroku is a powerful priest, but me? I just stand around, scream occasionally, shoot an arrow or two. The only thing I could do really well was find shards, and there are no more shards."
"Don't you think he might like you for who you are, not for what you can do?"
Kagome lowered her head the last few inches to the cool wood of the table. "But that's just it. He does like me. He just doesn't respect me."
Kagome felt a hand on her hair. "I think I understand. Is that what all the paper is for? Are you trying to improve yourself? To earn respect?"
Kagome nodded into her elbow. "Yep."
There was a slap. Kagome jerked upright, nearly toppling her chair. Her grandfather stood at the end of the table, both hands flat on his forgotten newspaper.
"That's where all the paper went to! You've been practicing making ofuda!" He slapped the table again, for emphasis. "I always knew you had it in you!"
"Sorry, grandpa." Kagome winced and held up her hands apologetically. "I'm trying to create shikigami." Her grandfather deflated, reminding Kagome of an inverse Myoga. "I don't have anything against ofuda. Um, they really seem great, but I don't think I have the-- er, skill to tackle those yet."
"Shikigami," he muttered again. "Where did I go wrong?" Then, with a glare at his favorite and only granddaughter, "Do you know what those things can do? And what do you want 'em for, anyway? What do you need a familiar for?"
"Nothing, grandpa!" Her hands gripped his, urging him to his seat. "Really! I'm just trying what I know she can do."
"Who's 'she'?" Her mother was uncomfortably quick. Kagome released her grandfather's hands and turned to innocently meet her mother's eyes.
"Um, nobody, really, just another miko."
"Yeah." Kagome buried her head into her elbow again. However, she did it too quickly and managed to give the table a solid thump with her forehead. "Owwww..."
"I think," her mother said, as Kagome sat back up and rubbed, "that you deserved that. Maybe it will knock some sense into you."
"I agree." Her grandfather concurred.
"Yeah, right!" a youthful voice chimed. Kagome picked up the pencil again and very carefully began misspelling words. Starting with Soda Higurashy.
In Kagome's room, a paper doll fluttered as a draft scuttled across the floor. It flipped up into the air, performed a graceful somersault, and swayed gently to the floor. For a moment it rested, unmoving. Suddenly it thrashed as if caught in a gale. It curled and twisted. Some unseen power flung it into the air in the center of the room, where it began spinning, faster and faster like a deranged top, before breaking away to a wall, hitting with a whisper. It was dragged, headfirst, into a counterclockwise path, just inches from the plaster, and whirled violently about the room.
The paper shuddered as it cut through the air, and strained against itself. It should have torn. Instead it expanded. Abruptly veering from it's path, it made a beeline for Kagome's bed and impacted with surprising force. At that instant a small puff of pink light surrounded the abused scrap, and when the light faded a black-haired girl in an obsolete green school uniform lay peacefully snoring.
On the floor, another paper doll twitched.
Kagome trudged wearily up the stairs. The Intervention had continued for another twenty minutes, and all they had resolved was: Yes, Kagome liked Inuyasha. No, she didn't like Hojo. Yes, she should cut Hojo off. No, she hadn't eaten the last of the baklava. Yes, she could be just as strong as Kikyo, but in different ways. Different ways, indeed! What, could they defeat Naraku with the quadratic formula? Oh, another incarnation? Bah! 'X' equals negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus four ac over two a! Take that! Her mother-- arrgh! And her grandfather-- arrgh arrgh! And Souta-- he deserved much more than an arrgh. Why couldn't they see? She just wasn't right for Inuyasha. He needed someone who was stronger. Like-- well-- Sorry Mom, but like Kikyo. Kagome reached dejectedly for her doorknob and paused, furrowing her brow, as her feet crunched. She looked down. A draft from her room had kicked hundreds of white paper slivers from under her door, littering the hall. Little pieces clung lovingly to her socks. Mumbling words that were quite surprised to be coming from her mouth, she tapped her toes to dislodge the worst of it, backed away from her door and started down the stairs for the kitchen broom.
That's when she heard the thump.
Kagome froze. It sounded like someone had flung open her window. Perhaps a white-haired someone whose triangle ears had been burning for the past half-hour. Slinking back to her door, she placed her ear against the smooth paint. If Inuyasha saw her shocking display of impotence scattered like an origami crane massacre-- but there was no sound. Not a muttered curse, not a shuffle, not a sniff.
She carefully placed her hand on the doorknob. And turned.
Another thump sent her leaping back to the middle of the hall. Oh, yes, there was definitely someone in her room. Her room!
She scowled, straightened her spine, and flung open her door.
The curtains from her open window fluttered merrily at her. Other than that, the room was still and empty. Scraps of paper covered nearly every horizontal surface and most of the vertical ones, twinkling in the evening autumn light. Rushing over to the window, Kagome nearly threw herself out, looking towards the well house. Nothing. Not a scrap of paper on the rooftop, either. No one, not even Inuyasha, could get out of her room paperless tonight.
She flopped onto her bed, her hand absently drifting over the lingering warmth of her duvet.
Must've left the window open. And Souta, clutching his abused homework, had retreated to his room midway through the Intervention. He must be lifting weights again. She rolled off the bed, shook the paper from her hair, and went to get the broom.