Chapter One: Nighttime Intrusions
Hey guys! Those of you who are familiar with BTBL know that this is a re-write. Those of you who aren't…well, I'm just glad you found this now that I've had a chance to polish the incredibly weak beginning to my little baby here.
THE SETTING: This story takes place just after Naraku has disappeared. No weird hair demon. No Band of Seven/Shichinintai. No Mt. Hakurei. No cute scene where Inuyasha falls asleep on Kagome's bed. Just Naraku—poof!—gone! I'm kind of guessing at the amount of time that has passed, but…oh well…
Japanese Word of the Day: yami- darkness.
Disclaimer: (blows raspberry) No, god damn it!
-- -- --Modern Era, late May
"It's ridiculous, what these teachers get up to! Yeah, I know, I know!"
Kagome Higurashi, sixteen years old, paced restlessly across her bedroom, running one hand through her gently waved black hair, holding a cordless phone to her ear with the other. "Oh, that's right, old Chiba assigns you guys that awful research paper as a final…but get this! I've got to do a huge family tree! No, the whole deal, trace your family back as far as you can, although, thank the gods, he lets us trace just one parent. Yeah, like I research my mom, then her dad, then her grandpa…I don't have to deal with siblings in detail, just mention their names. But it's still so stupid! I mean, there's this website that traces family history back into the 1300's! No, I can't play dumb with that one, it's one of the ones he recommended. He'll check it to see if I tried to cop out."
She paused at the foot of her pink-covered bed, tapping one finger against her leg. The faint voice on the other end of the phone chattered for a moment before her face broke out into a wry grin that lit up her large, expressive gray eyes. "Yeah, well, I'm ahead of you there. Mine's due in two weeks."
A woman's voice suddenly drifted in through the open door. "Kagome, honey, I think it's about time you said goodbye to Eri! You should do your homework!"
Sighing gustily, Kagome relayed into the phone, "Sorry, my mom wants me to abandon you for some old dead people who frankly have absolutely no influence on my life. Yeah. So, I'll see you at school? Great! Then—what? Oh, thanks! Yeah, my birthday was last week—no, it's okay, you've been sick. That's right, I'm sixteen. Hm? No, I can't drive. I got dropped out of Driver's Education because of all of my absences. Yeah, it does suck, but it may be for the best."
She shifted the mouthpiece to below her chin as she called back, "All right, Mom, just one sec!" Moving the phone back into position, she said quickly, "Sorry, Eri, I really do have to go. Oh, yeah? Great. See you Monday!"
With a sigh, she hit the 'off' button and called out, "Okay, I'm done!"
"All right. You mind if I call someone then?"
"Nope, go ahead," she responded, dropping the phone onto her bed and making her way over to her desk. Her mother's laptop sat there, a loan to Kagome so she could work undisturbed in her room. With a sigh, she flipped the top open and quickly clicked on the Internet Explorer icon. "Family history, here I come," she said with an ironic grin, plopping herself down in her chair and cracking her knuckles.
The statement really was ironic. Her family history was still a mystery to her, but the time period in which some of them had lived was not. Some strange trick of fate had landed Kagome a home in a shrine that also contained an old, dry well. Imagine Kagome's surprise when, on her fifteenth birthday, a strange demon had burst out of the well and dragged Kagome straight into the Feudal Era of Japan.
Shaking her head, Kagome found the page she had bookmarked, a brief profile of some great-grandfather of hers from the seventeenth century. Just because she knew what life was like around the beginning of the 1500s didn't mean she knew who her ancestors were…and it was the latter that she needed in order to get a decent grade in her history class.
So, with very little enthusiasm, she copied down the required information: date of birth, date of death if deceased (which this fellow most certainly was), occupation, siblings, and parents' names. After spending ten minutes reading the rather extensive life summary, she jotted down several bullet points that marked what she believed was most important or interesting—or at least what her teacher would believe was important or interesting—about his life.
Next, she clicked randomly on the link that would take her to her current subject's mother, someone named Izumi of the Makoto clan. Taking down the vital statistics, she then went on to Izumi's father, then her grandfather, then her great-grandmother…
The process continued for about an hour and a half before Kagome found herself yawning for the second time in five minutes. She glanced at the clock. Only midnight…I should probably work a little more. Her eyes drooped slightly. Oh hell. I knew getting only three hours of sleep after cramming for that English test would backfire.
She sighed and stood, bookmarking her current page and shutting down the laptop. "Whatever. I'll get more done tomorrow."
With that, she strolled into her bathroom, where she splashed her face with water and ran a brush over her teeth before retreating sleepily back into her room. She was already wearing her pajamas, having taken an early shower, so she all but collapsed onto her pink comforters and wearily turned off her lamp.
"Mm…a real bed," she murmured sleepily. She glanced once at her window, whose curtains were open to let the moon shine down on her, and then closed her eyes. One breath. Two breaths. Three.
She was asleep before number four.
-- -- --
Darkness…darkness everywhere. So dark, she couldn't even see herself. Was she even there? Was she floating in thin air? Standing on the ground? Upside-down? Was she even wearing anything? Did it matter?
Somewhere in the distance, a spot of light appeared. It didn't illuminate anything particularly exciting, just a small patch of soft, green grass. For lack of anything more interesting, she watched it. She didn't know how long she stared before she realized that the spot was growing. The light expanded, revealing more grass, rough ground, a few small wildflowers, a butterfly, some moths, more and more that was totally and completely ordinary.
Suddenly, the light seemed to explode, swelling violently, painfully, lighting up a whole meadow. She got an impression of green, lots of green, little spots of color, dark trees in the distance, a brilliant blue sky, but she didn't see more. It was too bright, and because she still didn't know if her arms were there to throw in front of her face, she settled for squeezing her eyes shut. Assuming that her eyes were actually there.
She waited until her eyes had adjusted, and then she looked again.
Had those two tiny figures in the distance been there before?
The one on the left had long, silver hair and was wearing clothes of the brightest red. She thought she could see something tiny on the figure's head, but she couldn't be sure. But the bold colors didn't make the strongest impression; what she really felt, what really mattered, was the waves of both strength and weakness roiling around in its heart, love and hate, denial and desperation. But most of all…anxiety. Uncertainty. Fear.
The one to her right looked very strange. For some reason, even if she stared right at it, the color and design of its clothes changed constantly, from red to white to green to green and white to white and red to no real color at all, from long and elegant to short and youthful to somewhere in between. Its hair always remained black, but it billowed strangely in an unseen wind; it looked it was constantly shifting. Short and wavy? Long and straight? Straight and short? Wavy and long? Straight and wavy? She couldn't tell. There was just something, a strange sense of familiarity, as if she should know this person, but couldn't pin his or her identity because of some small difference that made all the difference in the world.
The lonely figure reached out one hand. A male voice, rough, forlorn, angry, but not really, seemed to sound right next to her left ear. "You always…always…" A name rolled out of his mouth, a long, hesitant string of words, but as soon as her heart thrilled at hearing them, she forgot them.
The ever-changing one took a small step away from the other. "But it cannot be," it said in a soft, sad, feminine voice in her opposite ear.
The male oozed forward, was suddenly directly in front of the figure. "You're leaving?" he asked, now truly angry, but sad and scared, too.
The female figure backed away again. "Yes…yes, I'm leaving, because it cannot be," she whispered, pulling away, her clothes still flashing, her hair still fluttering. More words that were instantly lost to memory.
He whispered something…something that only the shifting figure understood. She straightened, and her voice was suddenly angry. "No!" she rapped out. "No! Don't say that! Don't lie to me!"
More words, soft words, forgotten words, unspoken words. Even though she was so far away, the female suddenly seemed to start shaking, and she turned angrily away. "No," she hissed.
And with that, the world seemed to crack open. The sky, bluer than any she had ever seen, split along a long, thin black line as jagged as a lightning bolt, and slowly turned a roiling, greenish-purplish shade of black. The earth itself groaned and buckled, and suddenly fractured, opening a cavernous gap between the two figures. The male shouted hoarsely, calling out an incomprehensible name, tried to leap the fissure, but some force held him back. The female stood, unmoving except for her clothes and hair, and watched. But above the crackling and moaning of the torn earth, her voice whispered, "I'm sorry."
"No!" The male tried to leap again and again, but every time, he could never make it off the ground. His ragged breathing somehow cut through the earth's rumbling, as he tried once more, twice more, threw his whole body forward in one last, desperate attempt—
He collapsed to his hands and knees, exhausted, drained, unable to do anything but stare at the other figure. "You're leaving," he whispered, no longer questioning or protesting, but accepting with a dull, crushed glaze over his voice.
There was something dark bubbling at the bottom of the rift, like lava, but darker, more sinister, less real. Not lava. Not anything tangible. There was hurt boiling between the two figures, forcing their sides of the chasm apart. Hurt and anger and sorrow. Despair, hatred, heartbreak, denial, terrible, terrible secrets that couldn't be told because of love. There was love there, too, but dark love, tainted love, love that could never be. There was a sense of otherworldliness, of remoteness, a simple feeling of not belonging. The sea of emotion churned and tossed in a sickly dance that continued to batter at the walls of the chasm. It sent up clouds of vile dark steam that whirled itself into shapes that were only visible for an instant. A well, a backpack, a rosary, an arrow, a sword, a mirror, a child, a jewel, so many strange things that appeared and vanished and appeared again between the figures.
"I'm sorry," repeated the female. The shifting was growing more and more rapid, the red and white and green and black blurring into a dizzying swirl of color. "It could not be."
She turned and walked away. She disappeared.
"No! NO!" he screamed after her, reaching out one single desperate hand, pleading, begging, but it was too late. She was gone. "Damn," he whispered. His hand slowly dropped. "Damn. God fucking, fucking, fucking damn!" He pounded the ground angrily, but it did no good. The sky was still dark, the earth still sported a raw, festering wound, that foul steam still billowed above the roiling pool of hurt and love. Slowly, he sank down, his forehead touching, and then heavily resting on, the grass. There was no more anger. Sadness. Hurt. Loneliness. Fear. The unbearable ache of loss. But no more anger. He didn't care anymore.
Blackness crept in again. It ate away at the upper limits of the sky, the edges of darkened meadow. Slowly it rolled its way to the lone, red figure, devouring the grass, the black heavens, the devastating rift. He was the only one left now, just him, his despair, a small patch of grass. Darkness engulfed his outstretched fist, his feet, his torso, his neck. His head, bowed in defeat, remained one last instant. "Damn it," he whispered in her ear. And then he was gone.
Her throat hurt. She was screaming. She had been screaming for a long time. And crying, too. Her face was wet. She had been screaming and crying and calling out his name as if she could single-handedly close that wide, un-crossable rift. Now, his name tore its way out of her mouth, echoing jaggedly in the black endlessness. "Inuyasha!" she screamed.
-- -- --
"Kagome, wake up, you damn fool! Wake up!"
Grabbing for the source of the voice like a lifeline, Kagome's fist was suddenly filled with a handful of soft, sturdy fabric. She pulled and lurched up to a seated position, breathing hard.
"Inu-Inuyasha…" she muttered, her hand twisting desperately.
Shrieking in surprise, she jerked away and backed up against the wall. Her mind, still fuzzy from sleep, slowly managed to process her own room, her own twisted sheets, her own window, hanging open as evidence of an unexpected intruder in the night.
Said intruder was kneeling beside her bed, a violently bright beacon of red in his crimson haori and hakama. It was the same male figure from her dream with the same long, silver hair. Up close now, she could also see golden eyes and little white dog ears on his head, labeling him as a half-demon.
But his face didn't quite match that lost, yearning voice. Instead, he was scowling the scowl of the perpetually grumpy, but something remarkably similar to distress glimmered in his eyes. "Geez, wench, I save you from a nightmare and you fucking make me go deaf in thanks?" he snapped at her, rubbing one twitching ear.
For a few moments, Kagome could only stare at him, trying to get her breathing under control, trying to process that strange, strange dream. Two people, she remembered. Two people. One of them was Inuyasha. One of them was…was…and they couldn't…it couldn't be…the ground…and there was…at the bottom…he was so hurt… Heartbreak and anger clawed at her chest, although she found it harder and harder to remember why. She could recall…nothing…nothing but darkness and fear and love so strong that it cut like hatred. She shuddered and tried to force the thoughts away.
Finally, she managed to gather enough self-control to frown at him and ask, "Inuyasha, what the hell are you doing in my room?"
For an instant, he examined her in concern, but almost immediately he glowered back at her and barked, "You said you'd come back last night! I gave you until midnight, and then I came to get you, but of course you had to be sleeping, so I couldn't wake you up without getting subdued, so I ended up spending the night in this little box you call a room!"
"I didn't say that! I said three days, which means tonight, not last night!" she retorted, pushing herself off of her bed and checking her reflection in a small mirror she kept on her dresser. "Ugh, look at me…"
Inuyasha's hand, rough, strong, and with fingernails long enough to be called claws, clamped around her wrist and forced the mirror away. He pushed his face in front of hers and snarled, "Pay attention! We agreed on two days!"
The proximity of his coarsely handsome face made Kagome's breath catch. "We—we did not! You may have decided that, but I never made any such agreement!"
"Well, tough luck," he huffed, and dropped her wrist. Moving to the yellow backpack that sat next to her desk, he began rifling through it, asking, "Are you already packed? What the hell's with all of your school crap? Where's—oh, here. Hey, go get some more Ramen will you?"
Kagome could only stare as he tossed out all of her schoolbooks but her math and history textbooks. When he began cramming in her spare uniform, first aid kit, cups of Ramen, water heater, and tightly sealed bag of clean underwear, she finally reacted and lunged at him. "What do you think you're doing?" she hissed, tucking the bag of unmentionables behind her back, blushing furiously.
He gave her a hard stare before he said, "Packing for you. What else?"
"But why?" she snapped, dropping the bag and prodding him in the chest with her finger.
"Because you're coming back with me. Now."
"Why do I have to go back to the Feudal Era with you now? Can't fighting demons and getting Shikon shards wait for one more day?" At this, her hand automatically went to a small glass jar hanging from a chain around her neck. Clinking around inside the jar were two sharp shards of what looked like some pale pink crystal. They were all pieces of a powerful jewel known as the Shikon Jewel, a jewel that, in the hands of a demon, granted the user unbelievable strength and power. Kagome had shattered the Jewel into shards like these during her first venture into the Feudal Era, and had subsequently found herself responsible for gathering them up again with Inuyasha's aid before demons could abuse the shards' power.
"Nope," her traveling companion replied snippily, deftly reaching behind her and grabbing the bag again. "Have you forgotten? Naraku's disappeared. We have to find him before he can cause more trouble."
Naraku was the name of their main enemy, a half-demon like Inuyasha who, also like Inuyasha, intended to re-form the Jewel and use it to transform himself into a full-blooded demon. In their last battle with him, the day before Kagome had left for her own time, Inuyasha and his full-demon brother had managed to slice Naraku to pieces, although they were all too familiar with his power to believe him defeated. As feelings between the two brothers were less than friendly, they had parted with little ceremony, and Kagome had come back home to catch up with school and to rest a bit from all the demon hunting. Apparently, her break had come to an end.
Not that she wasn't going to fight for it. "Well, you don't exactly have any idea of where he is, do you?" she asked archly, crossing her arms.
Instead of snapping impatiently at her, Inuyasha gave her a long, serious look. "We've heard a rumor of a woman who knows something about 'the spider brand.' Remember the spider-shaped burn on Naraku's back? His mark?"
Kagome stared at him for a moment before muttering, "Give me ten minutes."
-- -- --Feudal Era, late May
Kagome sighed and stretched out on her sleeping bag, shifting when she felt the many rocks on the floor of the clearing poking into her back. Just this morning, I was sleeping in my own soft, fluffy, pink bed, she thought mournfully. And now… She impatiently pounded one fist against the dark blue, heavy-duty sleeping bag that served as her bed whenever she and her friends in the Feudal Era couldn't spend the night in an inn.
"Mm…don't hit me, Kagome," muttered a tiny boy who was curled up close to her shoulder. He was incredibly short, with odd little paws for feet, but he made up for the lack of space taken up with seemingly boundless energy. His bright orange hair and sparkling green eyes seemed to reflect that internal wellspring of life, although they may only have been side effects of his being a fox demon. He had the usual pointed ears, claws, and fangs of any full demon, as well as the tail that demons sported. His was little more than a big ball of peach-colored fuzz, but it would eventually grow into a long, elegant fox tail like those that his dead parents had sported.
Kagome smiled down at him and smoothed his hair. "Don't worry, Shippo, I won't. Go to sleep."
He nodded in drowsy agreement and almost immediately dozed off.
"Good night, Kagome."
She looked up at the speaker and found a woman a little older than she was, dressed in a yukata typical of the Feudal Era. With her hair demurely tied back, she looked rather ordinary. But a closer look revealed her strange ruby eyes, hardened muscles, and tough black gauntlets that wrapped from her elbow to a ring on each of her middle fingers.
This was Sango, a former demon slayer who had lost her entire village in one of Naraku's power-hungry schemes. Her own brother, alive only through the aid of a Shikon shard, was under Naraku's control. She worked with her only other tie to her old way of life, a demon fire cat named Kirara, who had gone off scouting for signs of Naraku. An excellent fighter, she was particularly skilled with a huge boomerang fashioned from demons' bones, her Hiraikotsu. The weapon, taller than its owner, was laid out at Sango's back, ready to be used at a moment's notice.
Sango curled up on the ground with a light blanket and smiled at Kagome. "You'd better get some rest; we've still got a long way to go if we want to reach that woman's village tomorrow."
She nodded back. "Yeah, you're right. Sleep well, Sango."
"Doesn't poor Miroku over here get any sort of acknowledgement?" asked a hurt-looking monk who had stationed himself at the base of a nearby tree. Despite his indignant pout, his violet eyes were sparkling with laughter in a face as good-looking as Inuyasha's, although in a more sophisticated way. His right arm was covered with a gauntlet similar in style to Sango's, but slightly more ornate, purple, and securely wrapped with a string of dark blue prayer beads.
The gauntlet was the only external sign of Miroku's curse: a Wind Tunnel within his hand that acted like a black hole when it was uncovered. It was a useful weapon, but the Wind Tunnel had a fatal drawback. Throughout Miroku's life, it would widen until it reached a point where it would engulf his body. The curse was Naraku's, and Miroku's goal was to kill him in order to break free.
"Not if 'poor Miroku' is going to say anything perverted," Sango retorted sharply, sending a glare his way.
Kagome laughed. Miroku was indeed a monk, and a powerful one at that, but there were times when Kagome wondered if his morals truly squared with his calling. Handsome and clever, Miroku was a skilled extortionist and an incurable womanizer. The latter he excused with his need to father a son to carry on his quest to destroy Naraku in case Miroku died first, but he was usually so flighty about the task that they all doubted his sincerity. His favorite target was Sango; he would frequently steal opportunities to give her bottom an affectionate rub, even though she always retaliated quite violently. Perhaps he chose Sango because Inuyasha had very irately and seriously threatened to kill the monk if he tried groping Kagome…but she had relatively reliable proof that Miroku had a special spot in his heart for the demon slayer.
His violet eyes sparkled in the pale starlight. "What if I do something perverted without saying a word? Would that satisfy you?"
Sango blushed violently, and Kagome hid a mischievous smile. Miroku wasn't the only one she suspected of having romantic feelings. "Don't be stupid!" the demon slayer fumed at him, turning huffily away. "Good night."
"Ah, so I did get a good night after all—ow. Sango dearest, was throwing that rock really necessary?"
She gestured rudely at him, and the exchange ended with Miroku's self-satisfied chuckles.
With a sigh, Kagome looked up into the trees, searching for the telltale red of Inuyasha's clothes. She found him perched in a tree on the opposite side of the camp, and called out, "Good night, Inuyasha."
"Keh," he snorted back. "Go to sleep."
She silently turned to the side and rested her head on her arm, Shippo having commandeered her pillow. Whatever she suspected of Miroku and Sango, Inuyasha was still a mystery. Through a long, complicated string of events, he had betrayed and had been betrayed by his former lover, Kikyou, Kagome's previous incarnation. Not long after Kagome had entered his life, Kikyou had been resurrected. She should have been happy that the two of them had a chance to reconcile; but she had two very good reasons not to be.
First off, Kikyou was determined to drag Inuyasha into death with her so they could be together forever. Not a pleasant fate for anyone.
And second…put simply, Kagome was hopelessly in love with the half-demon. He was rude, uncivilized, violent, possessive, insensitive, oblivious, and as un-romantic as they came. Yet at the same time, he was sweet, soft-hearted, protective, loyal, and incredibly courageous. There were times when Kagome wanted to use the rosary around his neck—a string of magical beads that would slam him painfully into the ground whenever she told him to 'sit'—to pound him straight into the earth and out through America.
And then there were times when he would hug her in that awkward, caring way of his, when he would half-kill himself to protect her from attacking demons, when he would confide painful memories to her, when he would just look at her with a strange, soft look in his scorching golden eyes. Times when she would be torn between an overwhelming sense of love and a cynical speculation that he was only thinking of his old lover Kikyou.
But what could Kagome do about it? For the briefest instant, she recalled her dream, or the little she had been able to hang on to throughout the long day of traveling. Loss, fear, anger, and darkness. And so much love and hurt. What did it mean?
With a sigh, she settled herself more comfortably in her sleeping bag and, pondering the long trek still ahead of them, forced herself to sleep.
Neither she nor the others ever noticed the watching eyes so malevolent that they seemed to glow in the darkness beyond the campfire's light.
-- -- --
Wow. Much more description this time around. The dream was originally going to be something between Kagome and Inuyasha, but when I went back to read it…it wasn't enough. So, I decided to revamp it and have Kagome watch him interacting with someone else, and…that angsty little scene was the result.
Anyways, I actually like this chapter. Much simpler than my weird little battle thing I had going with the original. I may actually do a little something more with the dream. You never know.
Um…final note: I'll probably post chapters two and three at the same time, because I'm not entirely satisfied with the way I have them organized right now, which means that certain events from one chapter will probably be transferred to the other. Since that would be quite confusing for a new reader, I decided to be nice and…well, just not let things get mixed up at all.
That's all for now! Ciao!