Author's Notes: I'm very sorry for the delay in posting- real life has been a mess. That being said, I'd like to thank everyone who nominated and voted for "Mobius" at the IYFG- I really liked the pretty banner ;) To head off the questions at the pass- there are no original characters introduced this chapter. As a final note- if you've sent me an e-mail/posted something to my LJ sometime in the last three months and haven't received a response, please feel free to re-email me. I'm afraid that a lot of things got lost in the outside mess that was real life and I certainly didn't intend to ignore people. I'm always more than happy to answer questions and would be happy to make it up to those of you I missed.
Chapter Summary: Selflessness is for the idiots who don't have anything worth losing.
Disclaimer: Inuyasha belongs to Rumiko Takahashi and Shounen Sunday. Rurouni Kenshin belongs to Watsuki Nobuhiro and Jump.
Warning: Rated R for language, violence, and adult situations.
Chapter 6: Strategy
Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy.
-Sun Tzu, "The Art of War"
August 2, 1993. Tokyo.
"So what's the plan?"
I try to blink innocently, but the last time I pulled off that particular look on Shi was well-before my great-grandparents were born. I should have known that tagging Kagome and setting up the apartment would only distract Shi for so long.
Po seems to sense my nervousness and crawls out from under my shirt to rub against my cheek. I can't help absently stroking him. He's an evil letch of a vine but he's good at the touchy-feely stuff. As long as he stops randomly transmitting pictures of Kagome in her underwear, we'll all get along fine. But I'm procrastinating and Shi is obviously not going to be put off any longer.
"You know that I'm trying to set things back the way that they used to be before this fucking loop and that our guide rather strongly… disagrees."
"Kage- that's been obvious since Kyoto. And I thought that pissing off your invisible friend was one of the main reasons you were doing it."
I'm vaguely insulted.
"Would I really be that bitchy?"
By the time we've both finished laughing, Shi doesn't look as glowery anymore and I'm calm enough to outline the plan for him. It was about time to fill him in anyways. He's a step ahead of me though- as usual.
"I don't necessarily understand why you think that there's something here that you can change that will be key to the whole thing. Why do you think that there's some specific reason that she picked this time and this Kagome, other than her abilities and location at the shrine?"
I realize that I'm going to have to tell him the things that I've been just trying to understand myself. I can only hope that they'll be enough to convince him.
"There has to be some special reason that she picked me. I have some miko powers but they were really diluted before the jewel got popped in."
"You know this?"
"I've been testing this Kagome out. She's nowhere near as powerful as Kikyo or even me, not even in potential."
"So you can see that there has to be some reason, something I do, someone I meet, something that happens that made her choose me in the first place. And not just because I was in the right area. I mean why now of all times? I'm obviously not her reincarnation if she had to pop the jewel in, so why me, why now?"
"It doesn't make sense, Kage. How could Urasue animate that body if you didn't have Kikyo's soul?"
"I don't know. But I intend to find out."
For the first time since Shi got an inkling of what I wanted to do, he looks excited. I feel mildly guilty, but the best way to engage a kitsune is to give him a puzzle. And I'm just about to reel in the line.
"If I can see the patterns, figure out what she's planning and why, I may have a chance to stop it, Shi. The outside attacks are a lot less frequent now, she hasn't given us a mission in months… It's something in this time that she's been building towards, something to do with Kagome before she hits her fifteenth birthday. If I can figure out what it is…"
He nods and I'm briefly mesmerized –again- by all that pretty bouncy red hair. It should be illegal for boys to have hair that shiny.
"It was too soon before now to start putting things together- I needed to see the results of our changes, figure out what the effects were so I could figure out what to change now. And the small archives that I was getting into really didn't show enough of the overall effect of what we've done. And, as much as I hate to agree with the Drama Queen, stalking Kagome twenty-four hours a day isn't really giving me any idea which of her actions or encounters I need to change."
Even though I'm not really explaining myself well, Shi seems to understand. Either that or he's gotten really good at nodding along with my babbling without paying all that much attention.
"So what did you find now that wasn't there a year or two ago?"
I pull out the crumpled flier that gave me the first hope that I'd had for my plan for years.
"The new Edo-Tokyo Museum? But it only displays four hundred years of Tokyo history…. And what's a museum going to have that those small archives won't?"
"It's not the museum itself- the display center's probably an overdone tourist trap."
He gets it about five seconds before I give the answer.
"The archives and the curators. All the people and documents that could give you information on basically the entire time period you're interested in all stored in one place. And it's finally been long enough that you can start to see the long-term effects of our actions."
Trust Shi to almost instantly realize the other problem.
"So what happens if your 'friend' shows up and crashes the party?"
"Her relapse time is getting longer as time goes on, Shi. It's taking longer and longer for her to be able to manifest again after she appears. And she can't see what I'm doing otherwise. Right now I think it's down to once a day."
"So if we work fast-"
"We can get a lot of stuff done before she shows up again."
Shi will do anything for me, and I mean that more literally and with far more proof than most people who say something like that. But as we leave the apartment and I watch him lock the door, I get that brief shiver of knowledge that happens just before the storm breaks. Just because Shi will do anything for me, is it really fair to involve him in this? Midikyo may not be able to touch, but I know that they've managed to take out a number of people on their own during their brief manifestations, all without being seen by anyone but me. So far they've left Shi alone, but after what happened in Kyoto… and they're getting desperate I know. The Drama Queen's never yelled at me like that before and their obvious fear is going to make them unpredictable. They need me alive, but they haven't hesitated in the past to screwing with those I care about to further their purpose. And the closer we get to the final bang…. Well, I'm going to have to decide soon if I need to cut Shi loose to save him.
Don't turn and look at me like that, Shi. Please, please when the time comes let me be strong enough, selfless enough to give up your smile.
Ah fuck it. I'm not good at that maudlin crap anymore. Let's get our asses to the station and then to Shinjuku and the connector.
On the train, watching Tokyo speed past, I wonder what Shi thinks of this new world. He's pressed to my back, arms wrapped around me, head resting on my shoulder so that I can't see his face. Time was that we'd get kicked off the train for something like that. Now we just get a few quiet glares and surprised looks. Tokyo's changing. Japan's changing. The world's changing. Shi and I are frozen. And maybe I don't want to know what he thinks.
We don't talk the entire trip, even during the Shinjuku transfer. Shi doesn't let go of me though and even though I try to run through my plans and Kikyo's possible plans in my mind, all I can focus on are Shi's fingers rubbing circles on my stomach. Even with the tightly packed crowd in the car, I amaze myself with the speed I manage to exit at the museum station. I may be trying to be good and selfless but I'm not made of fucking stone. One stone miko's more than enough and I'm sure as hell not Midoriko.
I was, unfortunately, right about the quality of displays at the museums. Most of the interesting stuff must be in storage and it's probably going to take Shi and I a few trips to figure out the curators we want to target and the story we want to use to gain access to the archives.
I'm just looking over some of the displays, trying to figure out how to initially speak to one of the curators, when I hear the voices behind us. The male one is so familiar… Oh well, it isn't as if eavesdropping is the worst thing that I've done in the last five hundred years.
"This place looks like a cave. A big cave."
"What an articulate and accurate description. Why did I bring you here again?"
"That village down there is complete and utter shit. Nobody lived like that!"
"It's supposed to be a rough recreation."
"And wow. They're sure obsessed with WWII."
"It was pretty traumatic, Kouga."
It can't be.
It can't be.
Note to future self: don't jump on unprepared, disguised wolf youkai in the middle of a public place while clinging to them like a barnacle and making choking noises. I think I just took a few hundred years off his life.
I'll forgive him the name. Just this once. Especially since I can't seem to breathe to speak.
"Kage? I'm sorry sir- my friend is very affectionate and obviously mistook you for someone else-"
I finally get enough air to speak as Shi tries to pry me loose. "Shi- it's Kouga."
He freezes, his hands still on my arms. I wonder how he missed the aura or the scent- it's not like him to miss things like that-
Okay. Now Kouga is holding me so tightly that I can't breathe.
"They said you were dead, that you were killed in that fire in Kyoto. Kagome…."
Okay. We're really going to have to work on that name thing. And the snuffling the hair thing.
"Perhaps we should take this little reunion out of the building?"
It's the woman who was with Kouga. And suddenly Shi lets go of my arms.
"Shi. It's been awhile."
"I knew it had to be someone pretty powerful to mount an illusion I couldn't see through."
"Ohoho. Always the charmer, Shi."
What the hell?
Okay. Definitely time to take this outside.
I realize about five steps from the entrance, Kouga's arm still around my waist, that the woman talking so animatedly to Shi is a kitsune. Apparently Shi's not the only one that's been distracted. Not good at all. Time to start paying a bit more attention to their conversation.
"-So you're involved with the museum then, Megumi?"
The fox lady flashes a smile back towards Kouga and I.
"Yes- I was trying to instill a little culture in the boorish wolf, but obviously it's a completely lost cause."
I look up just as Kouga returns her smile. The difference is amazing- the last time I saw Kouga I was pretty sure he was on the fast track to fading and to see him smile like that… Well, I'm already predisposed to like Megumi the fox lady if she can bring him back to his old self that strongly-
Why is she touching Shi like that?
No. No grabby hands there!
I didn't just growl. I really, really didn't. And Po can stop trying to massage the back of my neck with his leaves because my muscles aren't going to loosen for quite awhile yet.
I don't like her. I don't like the amused glances she's giving me while she's talking to Shi. I don't like that –knowing- look in her eyes as she talks to him. I hate feeling like I've suddenly gone back to being a self-centered, hormone driven teenager. It's not fair and I know it's not fair- she's obviously smart, powerful and pretty funny if Shi's response to her is any indication. And for Kouga to still be alive she has to be some kind of miracle worker. It's just… she's not like the potential one-night stands I had pictured in my mind. Shi obviously knows her, there's history, and I know that traveling with me is going to get him destroyed. I know I'm way ahead of myself, but this is the first time in years that there's even been a potential and frankly- time is running out. Can I do any less for him than for the others I cared about? If he's got a chance with what has to be one of the last kitsune in the world, can I be any less willing to give him up than the other men I lov-
Not the time to think about this.
"So Megumi-san, Shi and I were hoping to find some of the curators responsible for the museum and maybe determine the best way to gain access to the archives. Do you have any idea who a good contact curator might be?"
Oh that kitsune smirk is not a good sign.
"Why yes I do, Kage-chan."
She's going to make me ask, isn't she? And everyone else is also smirking and they obviously know something that I missed while I was feeling sorry for myself, don't they?
"And who would you suggest, Megumi-san?"
Quick Author's Note: To repeat my foreword and hopefully head the questions off at the pass- Yes. Megumi is the Rurouni Kenshin Megumi and not an O.C. And yes- this is still canon and there is an explanation.
KhaosFire-Katana: -Waves sheepishly- Well hun, I finally got enough time together to get this next chap finished. I'm glad that you're enjoying the twistiness because, as this chapter shows, there's still whole lot more twist to come. I'm afraid that I'm not capable of any humour but warped, so I'm glad that you're sitting with me in the same boat ;) Always lovely to hear from you!
FirstQueen: Hee. I had far too much fun writing the wildly inappropriate pointy end conversation- I'm just glad that someone had as much fun with it as I did ;)
bee bee: I can't really say what the pairings are going to be without spoiling the story, but I will say that both Aoshi and Kagome are going to be spending a lot of time with one another. I hope that that at least partially answers your question- I'm glad that you're continuing to enjoy the story.
Lonewolf-chica: Well, I sat down and thought about it and I came to the conclusion that swords probably would be Aoshi's biggest turn-ons. And you probably don't want to know what kind of person makes that kind of mental conclusion ;) The' poke the pointy end' act, while wildly inappropriate, was one of the most fun parts of the chapter to write. I'm glad that you enjoyed it- thanks for commenting!
Emerald-Eyed-Faye: -Hides from her awesome and loyal reviewer- The last three months have been utter hell, but a good chunk of the reason this next chap got posted at all was because I felt so badly about how good you've been about taking the time to comment and encourage me while I was writing this. So er… yeah. This is your fault. Aoshi is definitely a character worth fangirling- whether you know about Rurouni Kenshin or not. In all seriousness, he's a fascinating character with a great backstory and I highly recommend reading up on him if you get the chance. As for Butterfly, as long as you don't tell anyone, the next chap should be up within the week. I'm trying to play catch-up here and hopefully everything will be done up pretty soon.
Mom the Manga Fan: I just have to say that I loved your thoughtful reviews- both for "Mobius" and for "A Choice of Roads". I hope that my horrendous delay in updating hasn't put you completely off the story because I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from you. Yes- I did want to create a sense of disorientation in the prologue and first few chapters, following the theme of a Mobius strip where no matter where you start, it's never the beginning and only gets twistier as you go along. Unfortunately, I erred a little too far on the side of twistiness and will have to remember to drop a few more clues in future when attempting something like this. As for cynical!Kagome… er… I also can attest to the sweet-girl-changing thing and Kagome's always struck me as having a pretty steely core that I wanted to play around with. I'm glad that you agree. It was a real delight to hear from you and I hope that you continue to enjoy the story.
regretfully-yours-Cassy-chan: Updated! Glad that you're continuing to enjoy the story :)
Geasa17: I'm glad that you enjoy the writing style- it's a little odd and not all that coherent, but I'm playing around a bit with seeing how it works in showing the way Kagome's mind works. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
whirleeq: I'm really glad that you're enjoying the story- I have far too much fun writing Shi and the bad, bad pointy end jokes. And Shi as a pretty kitsune who would use either sword for domination? –Blinks innocently- Well, we'll just have to wait and see ;) I was extremely flattered to be nommed for IYFG especially against you and the other talented crossover writers. You seem to be nommed fairly frequently in that category, don't you, hun? Congrats on your many nods from the guild then- I look forward to your future noms as reading material ;) Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Tamia: Threatened with Poky Sticks and Huggly Wuggly Bears? Oh this is a much better class of death threats. I like you. Can I get the Huggly Wuggly Bear even though I updated? –Tried to blink appealingly-
Duzzie: I was far too fond of the pointy end routine and I was honestly not sure of how it was going to go over. I'm delighted that so many people seem to share my very warped sense of humour though ;) I'm trying to work on a slow unveiling of what's going on and what's happened, but it is confusing as all hell- I only hope that it will become less so as time goes on. It was a delight to hear from you- I hope that you continue to enjoy the story ;)
Amy the Evitable: I love Kagome, I really do, but for some reason when I write her, I like to poke her with pointy sticks until that inner steely cynic that I see flashes of in canon gets brought to the front. I'm a very, very bad fan I know. I'm not big on self-pity as a plot device and I can't see Kagome after what she's been through wanting to wallow in it unless she was making fun of herself. I'm glad that you agree. And I also agree that it was a masterful coup of Shi's to pull off that many joint hotspring trips without anyone catching on to his Shippou disguise. I'm not going to comment on pairings one way or the other because it would spoil both the fun and the plot, but I will comment that I am also a pervert of the first water. You were a really fun reviewer- I hope that you continue to enjoy the story.