Konban wa, minna-san! I was feeling, I don't know, writing-ish, but not inspired enough to do another chapter of 'Inferno'. So, I sat down at eth compy, started typing, and this was the result. Tanoshimu! (Enjoy!)

Disclaimer: I don't own it.

Naka ni wa Kusachi

( In the Meadow)

He came across her in a meadow.

It was a high, slopping place, just shy of the village boundaries, a rarely if ever used training ground that he had stumbled across on one of his annual midnight runs that were occurring far too frequently for his liking. He had come, panting, sweaty, and tripping over his own two feet into the meadow, his vision blurred as salt soaked blond bangs had tumbled over his blue eyes. Exhausted and too frightened to return home just then, he had collapsed upon the ground, falling into a dreamless slumber to the scent of crushed grass and the whispering of the wind through the leaves behind him.

The meadow itself was unextraordinary. It was simply a collection of feather soft grasses, grown quite tall, that reached over and tickled a person's thigh, should it be bare, in the breeze as it passed. A gap through the twisting branches of the trees that Konoha was famous for lead to it, and the forest surrounded the meadow on three sides, the final side stretching out into a sea of grassland and hills as far as the human eye could see. The night sky was all but alive above the meadow, starry and shining by night or blue and endless by day, and he would often come just to stare up at it forever, hoping that if he looked hard enough, he would fall into the inky blueness and be lost in the shimmering stars for an eternity. It became tradition, when a villager reeking of alcohol and whose fists seemed to be attracted to his face arose, he fled here, to this meadow, where he lay all night, wishing himself up into heaven.

And in that tradition, he came upon her.

She was resting by the edge of his meadow, just a few steps from the slope of the hill, staring up at the sky. Her head was tilted back gently to enable her gaze to travel upwards, and the thick, silky curtain of ebony that was her hair tumbled down over her shoulders like onyx water and just barely brushed the ground below. Her face, what little he could see for the lack of light, was young, soft. She should only be a few years older than he himself, at least by his guess. And she was dressed strangely too, like nothing he had ever come across before. She wore the top of kimono, with large, billowing sleeves that fell to her wrists, and fanned out like a wave, rippling in the breezes. There was a slit on the shirt just below her shoulder, revealing a white coloured garment underneath. He could see the shape of an insignia, over the swell of her left breast, which was all but hidden in the curves of shirt. The material itself was a light, airy purple colour, lavender or lilac, he thought. The pants, which looked like they belonged in some sort of Japanese fairytale, flowed down her legs and billowed out so greatly he had thought it was a dress she wore at first. The colour was a deep plum purple, flattering to what little of her skin he could see. Beside her lay a quiver of arrows and a long bow, shining softly in the moonlight.

Never, in all his times coming to this place, had he ever encountered another person here. Animals, small woodland creatures would often pass by, but humans he had never seen. It angered him, for this meadow had become his retreat, his place of solitude when the world around him became too filled with sadness and he found himself unable to cope with the hatred always directed at him. So why should she be here, this strange maiden intruder? What purpose did she have in his meadow? He opened his mouth to demand an answer to her trespassing, but the she beat him to it.

" Forgive my intrusion, good ninja. I meant no offense coming here."

She did not turn her head from the sky, but her words, spoken so softly and so clearly, reached him, though he stood on the other side of the meadow. He froze, not comprehending the events that were happening, as he processed the words she said and waited for them to make sense in his mind.

" H-How did you…" He trailed off, unable to finish a sentence in her presence.

" How did I know you were there?" She finished his sentence for him, the barest hint of amusement in her voice. " Why, I sensed you, of course!"

No mistaking the amusement as a laugh trickled from her throat. He clenched his fists as he tried to force words of protest from his mouth. But none came. A hot flash of fury passed through him. Who was this maid, and how was she was able to render him, him of all people, silent and speechless with merely her presence? It infuriated him, it enraged him. Who was this woman to take away his words, his speech!

" Come sit with me, good ninja." She beckoned without taking her gaze from the sky, but raised a hand and twisted slender fingers, calling him to her. Of their own accord, his feet began to move, carrying him to her against his will. He did not want to be near her, this strange woman in olden clothes who had stolen his tongue from his mouth. But he found himself at her side in a matter of strides, staring at her upturned profile. He landing in a crouch with a 'thump' and stared suspiciously at her. Another laugh escaped her lips.

" You don't trust me." She stated, unafraid of his answer.

" No, I don't." He said, his words his own again.

" And why not?" She asked, clearly enjoying their banter. He scowled.

" I am a ninja." He growled and saw a smile form on her face.

" So you are taught not to trust what you do not know or understand?" She asked.

" Basically." He muttered. And she lowered her head with a sigh, her eyes closed.

" How very unfortunate. That a child should be so untrusting." Slowly, she turned her head to face him, and he caught sight of high cheekbones and gently defined features, with ebony bangs falling across her face.

" How true to human nature you are."

And then she looked at him with silver eyes.

Not the dull, faded silver of his sensei's hair, nor the scratched, and rusty silver of western cutlery he had seen. But silver a moon. Silver as water at night. Silver as gowns made of starlight must have been for the goddess when they went out dancing. His breath caught painfully in his throat as he looked at him through those eyes, eyes that must have made Selene herself jealous, eyes that were the stars sent to earth in human form. Trembling, he leaned over, brushing hair from them, staring, lost in heaven once more. His shy, calloused finger tips danced up over her hair curling into it and sliding free, stroking up to the top of her head, and touching…

He jumped back with a startled yelp as two triangular appendages atop her head flicked at his hand. Stunned and opened mouth he gazed at her, unbelieving of the sight before him.

" You…you have…you have…" The words, though formed at ready upon his tongue would not pass his lips as she stole his senses from him again. She smiled at his antics, and flicked her ears once more.

" I have dog ears." She said in a trilling voice, her silver eyes closing in mirth at his face. " Honestly, my good shinobi, have you never seen a hanyou before?"

The term struck a cord inside him, deep in the back of his mind where he allowed thoughts of demons and maidens and heroic conquests.

" A halfling?" He murmured. " I thought they all died out?" He reached forward once more, carefully tracing the shape of the ear with his index finger. The maid giggles once more.

" I am one of the last, little warrior." Her silver eyes flashed with sadness and he pulled his hand back, ashamed of himself for being so insensitive to her.

" Why are you here?" He asked, trying to draw attention from his previous insult to her. She looked him with eyes that were so much older than her body and turned to the sky once more, staring up at the star.

" I am weary, dear shadow stalker." She said simply. He looked over at her, confused.

" Weary? Of what?"

A smile tugged at her lips.

" Well, why does one become weary? Of what can someone become weary? What does one do when one is weary?" She questioned him and he pouted.

" That's not fair!" He complained, crossing his arms on his chest. " You've answered my question with another question! Three more questions!"

She made no move to calm him, and tilted her head back further to look at the stars.

" How old are you?" She asked him unexpectedly.

" I'm twelve." He said, still peeved by her trick.

" Twelve." She mused. " Yes, that's too young for so many questions. Answer only the first then, and you shall have your answer."

He looked at her funny, as if trying to disconcert a trap from this deal presented from him. When he found none, at least, none that he, as a ninja, can find, he tilted his head to the side in though gazing off into the same sky as she.

" Well…" He mused, thinking hard, " well, one becomes weary when it's gone on too long."

" When what has gone on too long?" She asked him softly, neither looking at the other.

" It." He shrugged, his eyes closed.

" What is 'it'?" She asked again, her tone light and airy, as if she did not care for the answer.

" The journey. The adventure. What ever it is you've set out to do. When the path you're walking has gone on too long, and the adventure has become dull and listless. That is why one becomes weary. Because all the fun and reason has gone out of something and all that is left is the long, dull road ahead." He looked over at her, through the curtain of his sun-kissed bangs. " Am I right?"

She reached over and cupped his whiskered cheek, not noticing his flinch at the contact, or, if actually noticing it, ignoring it.

" You speak well, for one so young. It would be a shame to end your life."

He froze, unthinking, and looked up into those silver eyes that flashed purple for a moment. And his cheek begun to sting as if he had been slapped, but he didn't see her hand begin to glow as purple as her eyes. He trembled slightly, unable to pull away from her grasp. And somewhere, deep inside of him, a dark rough voice spoke up, brimming with malice and the promise of pain to the maiden before him.

' Miko.' The Kyuubi thought, and he was finally able to move.

Bolting away from her he stumbled backwards because his legs wouldn't work. He fell, scrambling back, looking at her as though she were Death. A sad smile played upon her soft features.

" I should kill you." She whispered softly, looking at him with those moonshine eyes. " I should. I am a miko. I am bound to slay demons that I come across, and there is a demon somewhere in you boy."

He knew he shouldn't have come here. He knew his sanctuary would not last forever, and eventually, some drunk villager or passing ninja would kill him one night as he lay sleeping. But never had he suspected that a studier of the lost arts would come to his meadow, seek him out, and then send him from this world with one brush of her fingers. Shaking like never before, he tried not to panic, but it was futile as fear rose up in his being, choking off his life as each painstakingly drawn out moment. He looked up into those eyes, his frozen form reflected back at him, his own blue eyes wide and terrified.

And then, she spoke.

" But I won't." She leaned away, looking back up at the sky as he tried to understand what had just occurred. Still shaken, he shot a look at her, sitting as far away from her as he could without leaving the meadow. It was his meadow, and he would not relinquish it to her, the strange, mood-shifting miko.

" So, you won't kill me?" He asked slowly after a silence had settled in about them.

" No." She answered, still looking up at the sky. A second silence came over them, soft and unquestioning as he pondered the weight of her answer.

" Why not?" He asked after some time had passed, and the moon was farther along in the sky.

" Because though there is a demon in your belly, there is a fire in your eyes that I can't bring myself to extinguish." Her voice was firmer than he had ever heard it in their short encounter. " I can see you amounting to great things, if given the chance to grow and learn."

" Honto ni?" He asked, skeptical. She did not answer, but rose fluidly into a stand position, her bow in her hand and her arrows slung over her shoulder.

" It is time for me to leave." She said simply, turning to face the sea of grass that the trees did not cover. He looked up at her, struck by how tall she truly was, and watched as she walked off into the distant grasses for a moment, before he realized he did not even know her name.

" Matte!" He shouted after her and she paused, her black hair stark contrast to her clothes that are spun of twilight.

" My name is Uzumaki Naruto, the future Hokage of Konohagakure." He said loudly, trying to hide his anticipation. " What's your name?"

He didn't really expect an answer. He thought she would walk out of his life after his outburst, taking with her his name and his dream and leaving nothing in return. So he looked up in shock as she began to speak.

" My name is Higurashi Katayume. I am the daughter of the Four Souls. I am the keeper and guardian of what is known as the Shikon no Tama."

She began to walk again as he watched her fade off.

" Where will you go?" He called after her.

" Wherever I am supposed to." She replied. " I am not in control. My path leads to the end of the tama, which has caused so much pain and grief. I must find a way to end its legacy once and for all. Take care, Uzumaki Naruto, future Hokage of Konohagakure."

She was almost out of sight now, and, for a brief moment of insanity, he wanted to chased after her and go with her, help her face whatever dangers and horrors he somehow knew she must face. He wanted to follow after her, bring an end to the suffering and pain he saw in those silver eyes. For one moment, he wants to follow the o-museme into whatever end awaits her.

Then the moment has passed and he stood upon the hilltop once more, watching the almost out of sight maiden.

" Take care, Higurashi Katayume, Shikon no Museme and keeper of the Shikon no Tama." He whispered , knowing she would not hear him. " May your weariness not keep you from your goal."

And then she was gone, out of his life like a falling star that streaked across the night sky, brilliant and intense for one beautiful moment, then faded and vanished the next. He stood upon the hill for a long time, watching the moon pass overhead and feeling the grass tickle at his tanned sky. He stood there until daybreak, when a thought occurred to him. He raced off into the forest, darting over tree branches, his brain stewing over the idea that had occurred to him.

The next night he sat upon the hilltop, a large, dusty book in his hand.

The legend of the Shikon no Tama dates back to the feudal era of Japan, involving tales of mikos and demons. This particular legend involves a fifteen-year-old girl named Higurashi Kagome who fell through a well five hundred years into the past and freed a hanyou who was pinned to a tree by his lover, the miko Kikyo. Kagome broke the spell and set the Hanyou Inuyasha on the vicious demon that was chasing her named Mistress Centipede…

Well, how many of you saw that coming? No one raises hand, not even authroress Me neither. Well, apparently, Naruto just met Kagome and Inuyasha's daughter, Katayume. Please R&R and tell me if you think I went a little crazy when I wrote this, okay?