Disclaimer: Not my characters, and I don't want your money for it either! All hail Takahashi-sensei.
Author Note: Like I said in the two-second summary, in this story Kagome is not Kikyou's reincarnation. The love triangle will be there, but for different reasons. Also I don't see the third movie fitting in this story… so, no Sounga. cries bitter tears
Chapter 1: Girl that falls into a well.
"Please don't go! I can't bear the thought of it… At least take your swords…"
"It is already decided. Tessaiga remains with Inuyasha, for his protection and your own." The white haired man smiled kindly at the woman behind him, although his voice was firm. "Besides, do you think I need a weapon to handle such a meager enemy as this one?"
She gasped at his unruffled demeanor. Dragons did not seem like a small matter to her. Belatedly, she realized he was trying to lift her spirits. At a time like this! Youkai from all over the nation were challenging him for his lands, calling him foolish, weak, and all because of her… And he was more concerned about her feelings than their future. A small cry escaped her lips.
"Know that this is not your fault, love. It has always been like this, for me. Ryuukotsusei only uses this excuse out of convenience." Tipping her chin upward in the palm of his hand, the Inu no Taisho gazed calmly on his chosen lady, as if to memorize her features. A feeling of foreboding swept through her, curling around her heart. "I will return at sunset tomorrow," he promised.
Seeing the way his golden eyes lit up with his pledge it was difficult to doubt his word. Yet she had been raised to question destiny, rather than to dutifully accept it. He would need the Tessaiga; it was senseless to go into battle without it. Perhaps Inuyasha did need the barrier he had placed on the sword, but not for years to come…
At dusk she left Inuyasha in the arms of his nursemaid, and followed after her lord into the darkness, tightly grasping the untransformed demon blade in her shaking hands.
Dappled sunlight crept through the gently swaying branches of the Goshinboku, or the Time-Tree, as Kagome's family affectionately called it. The tree had stood there solid and silent, for as long as she could remember, perhaps even as long as her family had lived in Japan, and she loved the tree almost like a member of the family. But her mind was not focused on the Goshinboku today. It was the day before her birthday, and unfortunately for Kagome, this entailed a different sort of celebration than most families. Instead of showering her with gifts, or throwing her a party, her family made her to go to school just like any other day. What a waste! Her mother had promised to make a delicious dinner though – her favorite food no less, Oden!
Jealously guarding her attention as he told one of his usual tales, her Grandfather tried to draw her away from oden related thoughts. That was the other downside of having a birthday in her family – her o-jichan valiantly tried to fill her brain with nonsense. Not that he didn't try this everyday. But on birthdays his routine became more… pronounced. As if he desperately wanted to make up for lost time, realizing that another year had passed in the life of one of his precious grandchildren.
"Oi, pay attention!" the old man churned, animatedly waving his arms in the air. "The Shikon no Tama is a very important artifact to our family history. In the past, our shrine housed the Shikon no Tama, so selling these symbolic key-chains will secure our business for another year!" Four giant boxes of 'history' sat behind him, looking tacky and taking up too much space in their house.
Kagome inspected the tiny glass trinket on the end of a key-chain charm. She had heard the story of the Shikon no Tama countless times in her youth, and it failed to make any impression today as usual. He wants to sell these? Nobody will buy one… Yes, it was enough to make Kagome look forward to school after all, if only to escape her poor, old grandpa for a few hours. Dangling the charm above the floor, she discovered that Buyo, her cat, enjoyed playing with the bluish-purple ball.
"So Grandpa! What are you getting me for my birthday?" Kagome asked brightly, ignoring his pointed glances toward both cat and key-chain, and the idea that they should not be in the same vicinity.
"Mummified Kappa foot," the aged senior happily announced, shoving said object under her nose.
Eww! She promptly directed the shriveled, wrinkled … whatever it was… it into Buyo's mouth. The cat couldn't get any fatter in any case. One birthday surprise over already, and it was not even a good one! Sometimes it seemed like there was nothing worth looking forward to on her special day at all.
"You should show a relic more respect!" screeched her ojiichan. "Real Kappa's feet are hard to obtain… Oi!"
By a relic, perhaps he means himself? Kagome thought, and then mentally chastised herself for being rude, even as she complained to her grandfather aloud. "Youkai don't exist, Grandpa!"
"Do too! Honest to goodness Kappa…" Quickly turning toward the shoji screen to escape her Grandfather's ramblings, his ongoing words fell on deaf ears when she noticed her mother, frozen in the kitchen.
It was easy to tell why her grandfather believed in youkai, yurei, kami, and other supernatural phenomena. Living in a 1,000 year old shrine complex for more than seventy years had scrambled his brain. What was harder to pinpoint though, was why her mother believed as well. Although Mother never commented on his elaborate tales and seemed like the most grounded one in the family, sometimes, during certain stories, she would fall silent and still, and hang on to Grandfather's every word. And that was how Kagome knew that her mother believed in youkai too.
This left only Souta in her camp. And the only reason her little brother claimed he did not believe in youkai, was because he was too scared to admit that he really did. Thus, Kagome was alone in a family of lunatics. She sighed and went to hug her mother, wrapping her in a reverse embrace, startling her mother out of silence. The older lady meekly chided her, "You should be more respectful toward your Grandfather, dear, he only wants what is best for you."
"I know Mom, I know."
"What are you doing here?" his normally patient and velvety voice snarled at her in rage. He had scented her miles away, trailing him discreetly, and he had turned around immediately. It was too late of course, Ryuukotsusei had already felt his battle ki, and answered his call. The dragon was on his way, whether his mate was in a safe place or not.
Holding out the Tessaiga, she shook her head, unable to answer, her throat clenched in terror. She knew he would never hurt her, she knew it, but … he was so different now. And she should have been prepared, she had told herself that she would be. She had listened to every story of his demon heritage with rapt attention, she thought she understood his appearance and prowess and size, but… he was as tall as the mountains, his fur like billowing clouds of white flame, he filled half the sky… a god of death…
She felt very stupid and small, clenching a useless sword that he obviously did not need at all. He had meant what he said, and her doubt had been sorely misplaced. Quivering, she lowered her gaze and found her trembling voice, "I only wanted to do what was best for you… I thought it might make a difference…"
Straightening her fuku and heading out the door, Kagome saw that Souta had not left yet. He would be late if he took any longer with his chores, so she happily reverted to 'big sister mode' and walked purposefully toward her very own Souta. Sometimes he was so cute. "What's wrong?" she asked, "You're not playing over here are you?"
He turned toward her with a worried expression, holding Buyo's food bowl. She quickly divined the situation. Ah! He is still trying to feed Buyo! Trust a grade schooler to turn a five second errand in to a 10 minute adventure. Souta liked to watch the cat eat, therefore he would not simply put the food bowl down outside the house like a sensible person. No. He had to cat-hunt. But if he was searching in the old well house, then… perhaps the animal was in trouble. The dilapidated old shack might fall in on him or something. Buyo was ever curious about the old well, and curiosity was renown for killing felines.
"Buyo?" Souta called out half in fear, half in relief, as they heard a scratching at the surface of the old well. Then once more, Souta's fear of youkai (that he did not believe in, of course) interfered. He jumped behind his sister and urged her to go down the steps into the well house first. As she approached the bottom, the musty smell of rotting wood assaulted her nose, and she wondered with some trepidation how her cat could have gotten inside the well. It was nailed shut more times than she could count, and there were scores of ofuda on the outside of it, which her Grandfather religiously replaced every year.
A feeling of cold dread crept up the back of her spine, but she squelched it back down. After all, she was the only member of her family that still did not believe in demons and restless spirits. She had a reputation to maintain here! In front of the well, Buyo suddenly brushed her leg. She squealed in shock, then grabbed the cat in relief, turning to face her brother once more. "See? He's fine."
Behind her, the wooden well lid splintered and cracked, and cold, dead arms grabbed her roughly, pulling her backward out of time and space as she screamed. The last thing she saw was Buyo's snide little face, his eyes agleam with hidden knowledge, and she wished at that moment that she had not fed him quite so well or petted him so often. Cats were traitors. She should have gotten a dog.
It made all the difference in the world really. Just not in the way that she had hoped. Before he could reply, Ryuukotsusei was looming in the skies above them like an immortal thundercloud. He streaked toward them like lightning, and the Lord of the InuYoukai only moved as fast as the wind, which meant they were out of time. Lifting his love nimbly with gentle jaws, he searched for a location to hide her from the attack. A dry well was only a few hundred yards away, and over the crest of the next hill, a small human village. He deposited her into the well, and faced his enemy.
His opponent's attention was divided. Ryuukotsusei decided to remedy that situation immediately. Lashing out with his tail, plowing into the earth and ripping out the forest trees that got in his way, he caused the ground to buckle around the wooden well. It splintered and cracked under the force of his onslaught, but it was only partially destroyed. Never looking back, the Inu no Taisho lunged at him with a growl that shook the foundations of the nearby village.
Yes, today, the dragon would die for his insolence.
But first he would lead him away from the well and into the mountains. So that the small part of his heart that ached for her safety would fight with him, instead of against him. That was what defending her was all about, wasn't it? It made him stronger, not weaker – it had to. He would prove this to his son Sesshoumaru, no matter what the cost.
As a strange, tingling feeling of power coursed through her, she pushed the ugly beast away, fleeing into the purplish-blue haze. The mist swirled around her, and she wondered if she was swimming through air or something else entirely. The feeling was strangely comforting, as if she had felt this way before, as though she had known how to do this all her life. Viscous bands of light swirled around her, and ahead of her the bands converged into a shining purple orb. Reaching out, she touched the surface of the globe, and then suddenly heavy once more, she collapsed at the bottom of the dry well. In her hand was a tiny ball of light.
"Shikon no TAMA o yokose!"
It was not every day that Kagome had the privilege of being fondled by six hands at once. The feeling of floating had been rather nice too. But knowing that a YOUKAI (creatures that she now believed in after all) had touched her, and that the youkai was a female to boot, made the experience less than it could have been. Being bitten deeply in the side, and tossed out of the well into the trees, while it cackled something lewd about the Shikon no Tama – well, that was where she drew the line. She screamed angrily and covered her head with her arms as the Goshinboku broke her fall. Wait! The sacred tree? That damned youkai had thrown her over thirty feet!
Blind terror returned as the Centipede coiled around her and crushed her into the tree. The overgrown bug bit her hand, and she jerked her arm back to safety, dropping the brightly glowing ball. This had the desired effect – the youkai ignored her for the time being and loosened its' coils. What was that thing anyway?
"Shikon no Tama…" a male voice, harsh with disuse, murmured above her. She turned, startled, only to find she was not alone in her centipede-made prison. Fuzzy red fabric brushed her face as she twisted to face her companion. Above her slightly and to her left, there appeared to be a young boy, but his silvery white hair and his guarded expression spoke of years of experience.
"Hey! Where did you come from?" panted Kagome, trying to draw breath. The centipede was ignoring them for the time being, so she used a branch to hoist herself out of the monster's reach, until a gasp of pain from the boy stopped her again. Followed his golden gaze with her eyes, she realized her hand was clutching an arrow protruding from his breast, directly over his heart.
"Oh! I'm sorry! Eh…" Kagome quickly let go, unsure how to apologize. Weren't people with arrows through their chest supposed to be dead? What does a person say in this kind of situation? Luckily, he didn't seem to care.
"Girl, you can touch this arrow?" he asked abruptly.
Kagome nodded mutely, wondering what he meant. "So, pull it out already!" he commanded. Behind her back the centipede demon screeched unpleasantly and the coils around her legs pulsed. Without hesitation she gripped the arrow and pulled as hard as she could, only to stare in amazement as the wood disintegrated beneath her fingers in a burst of purple light.
Several things happened at once, then. A burst of warmth and energy flowed over her body, and the centipede youkai paused at the disturbance, looking up with horror. It hastily tried to rectify its' error, and to crush the two beings trapped against the tree, but it was far too late. With a quick shove, the boy with the white hair pushed Kagome roughly onto the ground and slaughtered the giant, in a burst of golden light. It was over before Kagome could even blink. By the time she came back to her senses, the centipede demon was in twitching, convulsing pieces on the ground.
And all she could think was… "Hey! You pushed me! That hurt!" Perhaps it sounded a bit immature, but one thing she had learned in junior high was never to let anyone walk all over you. Once disrespected, forever downtrodden. Standing, she placed her hands on her hips and challenged him with a glare.
"You were in the way!" he retorted, not one to be outdone by childish bursts of temper.
"Well, what were you doing up there anyway?!" she shouted back, then squealed as a piece of the centipede demon flipped past her leg, a bloody chunk of flesh writhing in death. "It's still moving!"
"Of course, stupid! It swallowed the Shikon no Tama. Once the jewel is fully absorbed the damn thing will never die." Giving her one last curious look, the boy brushed off his robes and stretched for a moment, before he dug eagerly into the youkai remains. Kagome thought she was going to be sick.
Obviously, it was time to reevaluate the situation. No one in his right mind would touch that nasty pile of smelly, moving goo without good reason. But if he was looking for the purple glow-ball thingie, why didn't he just go toward the light? Maybe he enjoyed touching dead things… Or maybe he was blind. Yes, that could be it. In which case, she would assist him, since her mother told her always to aid the blind.
With a sigh, she looked around in resignation. They were not standing in the temple complex anymore, she realized, but rather a lush forest near a small connecting meadow. Through the shrubbery, she could see the dry well and behind her was the Goshinboku, but otherwise everything familiar was gone. Where was this place? A parallel universe perhaps? If she assisted the boy, could he tell her?
She plucked the sparkling orb from the centipede's dead body and watched as its' movements ceased and its' remaining life force hissed away into the air. "Is this what you're looking for?" she asked the boy nonchalantly. His ears perked forward and his gaze focused on her hands. Wait. His ears! He had fuzzy, triangular, white ears on the top of his head. Kagome's eyes widened. It was not exactly shocking, not after the last half an hour had turned her life upside down, it was just… Life was so unfair. She had always wanted a pair of those.
"How did you find it?" the boy asked suspiciously, one of his ears tilting backwards ever so slightly, indicating dubious displeasure. Those ears, she could not seem to look away from them. "You can see the Shikon no Tama?" he continued, completely unaware of her growing obsession.
"Mochiron desu. It glows," she explained. "Can't you see it?"
Little sparrows were beginning to return to the area now that the danger had passed, and they twittered as they observed the white haired boy and the black haired girl standing in the sunlit clearing. Kagome stepped in front of her newfound hero and held up the jewel for his perusal. After a few moments, when it became clear that he would not respond, she smiled brightly. "I'll give it to you, but only if I can pet your ears."
Ultimately, that was a fair trade, she thought. Whatever the little purple jewel might be, he seemed to value it more than she did. And she did want to touch his ears awfully much. But the comment seemed to insult him, and he snarled fiercely, laying his ears flat on his head.
"Don't joke with me!" he spat. "No miko gives up the Shikon no Tama for… anything! I'll kill you!"
Instinctively her hand clenched around the jewel once more, as she flinched back from his fury. This was the wrong move. The boy leapt forward, claws extended, and sliced off a lock of her hair as a small demonstration of his power, before he narrowed his eyes and elaborated, "I'll kill you and take the jewel, and then I will be a full youkai! Kakugo!"
Prepare myself? Just how do I do something like that? Kagome's knees gave way and she slid to the ground, her mind awhirl, trying to guess what had upset him so greatly. He'll kill me? I offered to give it to him… Is the subject of his ears so sensitive? She whimpered and closed her eyes, hoping she would die quickly at least. The breeze drifted through her bangs lightly, the birds fluttered in the bushes, and Kagome's heart raced. But still nothing happened. Peeking out the corner of one eye, she saw the boy standing there, clawed hand extended.
He looked perplexed. A little desperate, even. "What are you doing?!" he bellowed angrily. "Aren't you going to… you know… fight back?"
She shook her head no, vigorously. Strange, that he could be so uptight about his ears, yet not mad at all about her yanking that arrow around in his chest. "I'm sorry, I won't ask to touch them again, sorry…"
"Baka! Just give me the Shikon no Tama." He sounded a bit calmer now, but Kagome could still see the desperation in his eyes. Suddenly an idea occurred to her. She would throw the jewel, and he would chase it while she fled the scene! The image of him fetching the ball in his mouth, and bringing it back to her, instantly popped into her head, and she giggled at the idea of him as an overgrown puppy. Fortunately, she never had to explain her nervous laughter, because the boy suddenly spun away from her.
A group of archers were crashing through the underbrush in their direction. "There! Inuyasha has broken his seal! Fire upon him!" cried the leader of the archers, an older woman wearing the red and white garb of a miko. "Ute!" And soon, arrows were raining down on Kagome and the white haired boy in front of her.
With an impudent smirk, as though he had been expecting this attack all along, he slashed through several of the arrows and leapt toward the attackers. Kagome had no such luck with her arrows. She shrieked and curled into a fetal position to guard her vital organs, and then wondered, idly, if her day could get any worse. It certainly couldn't get any more confusing.
The sound of trees cracking and crashing to the ground, sliced through by the boy's claws, drew her gaze away from the ground in awe.
"Well, well. Ever the same, Inuyasha," said the female voice, in a tired manner. "It seems you are still just as rambunctious as before." Drawing a string of dark beads from within her outer clothing, she spoke a few words and the beads began to glow, snapping into place one by one like magnets around the boy's head and shoulders.
Bewildered, he stepped back and looked at the beads on his neck, while the archers wavered in their resolution as well. Neither side knew what was going on apparently, which made Kagome feel slightly better. The woman with the patch over her right eye explained, "I had this prepared in case you ever did manage to break the seal, thinking it best to err on the side of caution. And now I am glad that I did."
"Inuyasha," the elderly miko continued blandly, "Osuwari."