Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha. Please do not sue.
Author's Note: Here we go! The first installment of one of my favorite stories I've written over the past three years. I hope you guys all enjoy this! So hang on tight, because it's going to be a wild ride!
Chapter 1, Overture
There's a buzzing, and then a blinding light is shoved into my face. I blink hard against the offensive breach of darkness. I realize I'm shaking myself awake…I must have lost consciousness after they tied me to the chair.
"What's your name?" questions a person somewhere in the thick cover of darkness. I recognize the voice as belonging to one of the men who had been in the room with us when I --when they left me behind…left me for dead. I know that he knows my name, my face, and my situation. It's a simple "for the record" question. The sting of my abandonment resurfaces and clouds my judgment.
"Higurashi Kagome, you ugly son of a bitch!" Alright, probably not the best choice of words, but I'm tired, confused, scared, and hurt. My throat feels like it's been filled with cotton balls, my tongue is swollen in my head. My eyes burn, and I suddenly remember the prick of a needle being slipped under my skin. So, they drugged me after they tied me in…that's why I lost consciousness.
As punishment for my foul language, my interrogator sends my ears ringing with the end of his handgun. My head is thrown to the side by the blow, and the chair rocks dangerously. It resettles, and I move to collect my thoughts that were scattered by the vicious attack. I curse again --but under my breath this time-- as I feel blood trickle down my cheek. I can feel the bump forming on the side of my head.
Another light is turned on at the far side of the room and I see a standard stainless steel table piled high with sanitized equipment. Over the table is a glass cupboard stacked with multicolor liquids in glass containers. The scene is partially obscured by the silhouette of a man who is putting surgical gloves on his long bony fingers. He takes a syringe from a nearby tray and uses it to extract a ruby-red liquid. I recognize it immediately as sodium penothol: truth serum. My stomach gives a nasty jerk, and my mind rushes back of his warning: '…highly dangerous, Kagome. Can make a person crazy…'
"Now, my dear," the man addresses me, bringing my mind back, "you have two choices: the easy way…or the hard way." He pushes the syringe's end on the latter statement, sending a tiny jet of the sodium penothol into the air.
He walks across the room to me, keeping his face hidden by shadows, and holds the syringe in the light so that I can examine it. He lowers it threateningly to my arm, which is bound tightly against that of the chair. He leans in close to my ear and whispers, "Tell me about your affiliation with the criminal Inuyasha."
Like hell I'm going to tell him. I may have been hurt, but I'm not going to give away my only chance of getting my life back. I'm not going to tell him, but I will tell you.
So forget what you've heard in the newspaper and on TV. Forget what the Government has nailed into your brains through the radio. Discard the headlines full of scandalous, hart-wrenching stories about a girl that they never knew. Discard the image of a hard-working, middleclass schoolgirl who was kidnapped and perverted to the rebel movement by the most wanted man in the country. Leave all that at the doorstep 'cause I'm going to tell you the truth.
THREE MONTHS EARLIER
I guess, to some degree, I was happy then. I mean, I was satisfied. There was nothing really to complain about. I had gotten accepted to one of Tokyo's finest high schools. My boyfriend was one of the cutest, sweetest boys in school. My family was well off, and my friends were caring…it would seem my life couldn't get any better, right?
Maybe you're right. Maybe that life was something you would like to lead. I can't speak for you. But I can speak for myself, and I know now that that life was a lie. That life was a shadow, an image that the Government created for the populace to disguise the real truth. It was a life of ignorance.
"Ignorance is bliss." Confucius. Well, Confucius you nut-job, let me tell you something that will blow your mind: the ignorant bliss of the people of Tokyo was killing tens of innocent people a day. That's right, from five to fifty citizens of Japan a day, right under our noses. And we never knew. Neighbors, teachers, friends…they disappeared and never came back.
We never asked where they went. Their lives were the sacrifices we were willing to make to turn the blind eye.
Even I never asked. That is, not until I became one of those unfortunate people.
I turned in the hallway and my eyes fell on my far too enthusiastic boyfriend. He was running down the hall towards me while waving his hand over his head and smiling like an idiot. Trying my best to control the blush I felt springing up on my cheeks, I beamed at him, showing him that I would wait. When he got closer to me, I smiled again. "Hey, Hojo-kun," I greeted him warmly.
"How was school today?" He leaned up against the wall beside me.
Mentally, I groaned. More than anything in the world, I hate small talk. "Great, you?" I searched discretely for a way out of the situation. Yesterday's after-school date had been a complete disaster, and I wasn't too keen on the idea of another trip home in soaking wet clothes.
"It was…good." Hojo was fumbling for words to fill in the empty space, but the smile on his face didn't falter for a second.
Somewhere down the hall, I heard my friend Eri complain about her mother's job at the library. Apparently, her mother, the head librarian, would be working late again because she had to sort the storage. Thanks to Eri's griping, I suddenly had a brilliant idea of how to get out of the situation. "I've got to go, Hojo-kun. Sorry, but I promised to help Jichan clean out the storage in one of the older parts of the shrine. See you around, yeah?"
Hojo's smile grew. He was so understanding…and so gullible. "Yeah, see you!"
I turned and scuttled down the hall at top speed.
Finally, I reached my street. My family owns a shrine and has for…ages. Higurashi Shrine it's called, but really it's just storage closets filled with junk and a plot of land surrounded by legends as old as the dust on some of the scrolls. Jichan, who technically owns the shrine, is the main and only priest on active duty at the Higurashi Shrine. Ever since we started dating, Hojo had been popping in now and again to help my grandfather in his "holy services" to society. My family's house is located near the back of the shrine, flanked by trees of the surrounding sparse forest.
I skirted the main building and sprinted up to the god worshipped at our shrine- a several-thousand-year-old tree named Goshinboku. I quickly bowed my head to the tree. It has some crazy story surrounding it that my grandpa was always trying to sell me. Something about a hanyou and a girl from their future and a little wish-granting stone called the something no Tama. Yeah right. I mean, who believes that kind of crap these days?
I finished my prayer, crossed the yard, and entered my house. "Tadaima!" I called happily as I slipped off my school shoes and placed them on the greeting mat.
"Okeari nasai!" said my mother as she emerged from the kitchen. She flashed me a cheerful smile, which I returned. "No Hojo today?"
"No," I answered as I made for the stairs. My mom is observant, but she rarely comments. In every sense of the term, she is the perfect Japanese woman.
After vainly attempting to start my homework, I embarked on a quest to the shower. I turned on the steam and spent a luxurious forty-five minutes preening myself. I dried my hair, changed into comfortable at-home-clothes, and settled into my room to watch an hour of good-old cable before dinner. Ah, the simple life.
I didn't know it yet, but all that simplicity was about to disappear.
Just as I began nodding off to the incomprehensibly boring weather report, I heard a crash downstairs. I shut off the TV. Then, I listened. There was no voice, no call from below that would reveal whoever had caused the crash and the state of their well being, and no one was asking.
My father died when I was young, but I hadn't forgotten his careful instructions and his monthly drills. My body moved across the room of its own accord, settling into the silent march that I had practiced as a child. The back of my hand tested the doorknob for the heat of a fire. There was none. I pressed my ear to the door and listened again. Somewhere downstairs, I heard muffled voices. I shifted my position noiselessly and put my ear now on the floor. Someone was in the room below, which was my grandfather's room. Biting my lip, I reached up, slowly opened the door, and peeked out into the hall.
No one was there. From where I sat, I could see that the door to my little brother's room was open as well. I pushed my door open more, and saw the paled face of Souta, my younger sibling, looking out into the hall. Our dark eyes met, and I nodded to him. He too had not forgotten the routine. Carefully, we stepped into the otherwise deserted hall, and I clasped his hand in mine.
"We're making a break for it," I mouthed to him. He nodded, too afraid to protest. Father had died before he had gotten any farther in the routine with Souta. Now, my little brother was depending on me. I wouldn't lose my cool…yet. I took a deep breath, and pulled Souta with me as we began our descent down the stairs.
The Government outlawed guns years ago, only about a week after my father had died, but my mom had always been sure that our gun could never be found. I wasn't sure why my mother was so keen on keeping the gun around, but I had never asked. Now, I thanked the gods that mom had been so cautious. I counted the steps down. One-Two-Three-…-Seven. I stopped and bent down, feeling the floorboards. Then, I found the snag. I inserted my thumb and pulled up. The floorboard came up without so much as a squeak, and I reached in to pull out my father's handgun. It wasn't much, but it would get Souta and I through the house. As the unfamiliar weight settled in my palm, I prayed that I wouldn't have to use the weapon. I checked for bullets quickly, and then Souta and I continued down the steps.
We couldn't go out the front door, as Jiichan's room was in that direction and that was where the people who had broken into our house were. That meant we would have to take the long way around. I bit my lip in frustration and pulled Souta with me into the kitchen. Then, from behind me, I heard a male voice shout, "There!"
I didn't turn around before I started running. A kitchen chair was in my way, and my fist sent it sprawling. If they hadn't been referring to Souta and I and had, in fact, not been aware of our presence, they were plenty aware now. I crashed through the back door, dragging Souta along behind me, and began to sprint across the moonlit shrine grounds.
That was when they sounded the alarm. As a strict rule, every house has a little red button hidden in every room. If there is ever an emergency, such as a bomb scare or a massive earthquake, the family is required to press that button. It sends a signal through the city, and the alarm in the capital building goes off. Then, people have to scurry to the nearest safe house to be counted and sorted. Every conceivable event has its own ring tone. Tonight, the alarm was telling people that there was a bloodthirsty murderer on the loose.
I looked over at Souta, who was frozen in terror. "That's for us, Souta," I informed him, pointing to the streetlight that was blinking red with the alarm. The tension in his frame lessened some; Souta had a chronic fear of bloodthirsty murderers.
We passed under the torii that marks the only entrance and exit to the shrine. Before us the shrine stairs --a length of seemingly impossible-to-scale precipitous stone steps-- descended to the street below. I looked back over my shoulder, and saw three men racing across the shrine grounds toward us. A gun shot broke the silence of the night, and I felt the bullet graze past my leg. That was all the initiative that I needed. I turned and bolted down the stairs.
We were running down one of the main streets now, myself in the lead and Souta close behind. People scurried about, running toward the nearest shelter. They screamed and cried and some were trying to comfort small children. It was almost as bad as Tokyo at rush hour. I was sure the men wouldn't be able to find us in this mob of shelter-goers. But Souta and I weren't going to the shelters. If we went to the shelters, they would find us. We had to keep moving. In order to discourage unwanted attention, I had hidden my gun in my pocket. It stuck out quite a bit, but no one was looking.
My heart pounded with the flashing red streetlights, and my breath came in heaves. There was a wound on my leg where the bullet had flown past it, and it was beginning to burn. Souta was in a complete hysterical daze, and was beginning to stumble. I had to find a place where we could hide soon.
I turned the corner and headed down another street that I knew led to the old developments, those houses that were hurriedly abandoned in the bomb scares of 2010. The bomb scares had been so severe that even when the culprits had been caught, many people had still feared moving back into the neighborhood. Many homes had been abandoned with all the furniture still inside. Perhaps, I reasoned pleadingly, one would have semi-clean sheets and running water so that I could dress the wound on my leg.
There were far fewer people on this street. Those that were here moseyed along, taking their time in heading for the shelter. From the looks of them, I was pretty sure that a bloodthirsty murderer would have no chance against them. Souta moved closer to me.
Finally, just when I was ready to collapse, Souta barked in surprise. "Neesan!" he cried in delight, pointing at a dark alley. "There's a door half-way open in there!"
Raising my eyes to the star-less heavens, I gave silent praise to whatever divine power out there pitied us tonight. Then, I grabbed Souta's hand and pulled him with me into the alley. It was a short alley, and it had a dead end. Characteristically, I began to chew on my lip in frustrated concern. This was our only hope. I moved to the door.
There was a rusty, gnarled, key lock chain holding the door shut.
"Crap!" I exclaimed in fury.
"Neesan…" Souta whispered in concern, "Mama says you shouldn't curse so much. She says it's-"
I couldn't take it. The stress was too much. I took out the gun and pointed it at the chain's key lock. "Well, Souta, mama's not here now. So what I say goes. And I say that we blow this chain sky high."
A small, nervous yet boyishly mischievous grin started on Souta's face. I answered him by crinkling my nose in a teasing smile. Then, I did just as I told him I would: shot the chain up, over, and out of the alley. I reached back and pulled Souta inside of the dark room, slamming the door shut behind us.
In the deep silence of the room, I realized suddenly how tired I was. "Souta…" I breathed.
I crinkled my nose again, this time in a decisive pout. "It smells like mothballs in here."
Souta let out a low chuckle. I joined him with a giggle of my own, and found that it felt remarkably good to laugh.
Several minutes later, Souta had discovered the light switch and I was moving through the abandoned house to search for clean cloth and water. Souta stayed in the room we had entered in, a living room with a squishy salmon-pink sofa and a TV that belonged in a museum. Eventually, I managed to find a bed and under the dust-ridden comforter, there were fairly clean white sheets. It appeared the moths had only just gotten to them, so for now, I was glad. In the adjoining bathroom, there was running water. I poured some onto the sheets, then returned to the living room and to Souta.
"Neesan?" Souta said after watching me clean my cut for a few minutes.
I grunted to show I was listening.
"What's going to happen to us?"
I blinked and looked up at my younger brother. His large brown eyes were wide with worry. I let out a little sigh and then heaved myself onto the squishy couch beside him. "Oh, Souta…" I said softly, pulling him in a light embrace, "don't worry so much about it. I'm here, and I'm going to look after you, ok?"
Souta blinked, and then a sly smile crossed his face. "That's exactly why I'm worried!"
"Hey!" I exclaimed. From our position, I easily pulled him into one of the most painful noogies of his life. When that was complete, I stood, gathered the sheets, and went to the bathroom to toss them in the bathtub.
"So, Souta," I said from the bedroom. "What do you say we try to find a board game in this shack, hmm? What do you want to play?"
"Chess," answered an unfamiliar male voice. I gasped, color draining from my cheeks. Immediately, I sprinted back into the living room. There, a young man of about twenty with gray hair, a suit, and sunglasses, was holding a gun to Souta's head. I hadn't even raised my gun before two more men appeared from behind the first, their large bazooka-like weapons pointed at my heart. "Checkmate," the man cooed.
I felt hot rage bubble up in my stomach, filling me with a fiery energy. "You bastards," I snarled between clenched teeth.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk!" the man with the sunglasses taunted. "Such naughty language for your guests!"
"You broke into my house, you idiotic asshole."
"My, my, what a temper you have! No doubt inherited from your father! After all, your mother was such a sweetheart once we got to negotiating." I could almost feel the mocking look in his eyes as he teased me.
"I swear to God, if you've touched my mother, you sick son of a-!"
"'Touched'?" the man said thoughtfully. "Well, that depends on what you mean by touched. I'm sure our…offers 'touched' her quite deeply."
"Let him go," I demanded, motioning towards Souta forcibly.
"Making demands so soon in our relationship without an offer of your own is not common courtesy. After all, we have not yet even been introduced."
I was sure at this point that his gentleman act was going to cause me to retch. "Fine then, who the hell are you?"
"Fukouka, ma'am," the asshole said with a tip of his head. "And you're Higurashi Kagome."
"Great. Now that we're all acquainted and buddy-buddy," I seethed in the most sarcastic tone I could manage, " let my brother go."
"No," Fukouka answered simply. The gun pressed deeper in Souta's temple, and the boy was beginning to tremble badly. Tears shone at the corner of his eyes. "That is, not without a compromise of some kind."
I shook my head. "You can have whatever money you want, just give my brother back to me."
"Oh no, we don't want your money, that we have enough of," Fukouka said, a devilish smile crossing his lips.
"Then what is it you want?" I asked carefully.
I thought I was going to puke. Seriously, at that moment, my stomach was doing somersaults. "Excuse me?" I stuttered, flabbergasted and way beyond grossed-out.
Fukouka's mocking smile spread, and he moved forward, taking Souta with him. "That's right. If you come with us quietly, we'll let you and your family go."
"What are you talking about?" I asked, still confused. "Why would you want me?" I'm only an A-cup, after all, I thought to myself. The only boy I'd ever attracted was the biggest idiot in the whole world.
Fukouka's expression changed from overpowering joy to insanity. "Ah, so you don't know then? You don't have a clue what you are?"
"I'm a freaked-out fifteen-year-old girl who wants her family back and never wants to see your ugly mug again," I provided smartly.
Fukouka grinned maniacally and stepped forward, pushing Souta back into the clutches of one of his henchmen. I tried to dash for him, but I found my way blocked when Fukouka shoved his handgun under my chin. I froze immediately, and the balloon of rage that had been building inside of me exploded into a million pieces, leaving only immense terror in its wake.
"You're coming with us, Higurashi-san," Fukouka said simply.
My eyes darted to the place where the two men stood, supporting their bazooka-like guns. I wondered about their past, and how they had gotten messed up in something like this. If I went with Fukouka, would I end up like them, brainless pawns that killed at the whim of their masters? My eyes darted to Souta, and I saw raw determination in his eyes. Don't do what they want, nee-san, I heard him saying. Don't do it.
"No," I said, glaring darkly at Fukouka.
Laughing gleefully, Fukouka extracted a small stiletto from his boot.
"NEE-SAN!" Souta screamed as Fukouka raised the stiletto.
Fukouka brought it to my face, and I closed my dark eyes in numbing fear. Then, I felt the skin on my cheek part, and a liquid slip down my cheek. I cried out in protestation to the pain, and Fukouka lifted his stiletto away. I opened my eyes and watched as Fukouka, still laughing like a madman, leaned in close to me and licked the blood from my cheek.
I wanted to scream, to fight, to rip Fukouka's sunglass-ed eyes out of their sockets with my nails, but I couldn't move. Terror had possessed and seized hold of my body, rendering it utterly useless. I was absolutely frozen in place. Oddly enough, my mind raced back to that afternoon when I had been watching the news. The top story was of a murderer at large. Apparently, he had killed a beautiful, law-abiding, seventeen-year-old girl and then disappeared. He had had some strange name like 'super dog' or something like that.
So consumed was I by this strange thought that I didn't hear the door being kicked open. It was only after the first gunshot ripped through the night that I came to my senses.