Disclaimer: Under no circumstances is this piece of writing to be mistaken for anything but the adoring fanfiction that it is. No infringement of Rumiko Takahashi's copyright is intended or desired.

Chapter 4

Time Travel, Again?

English! Why did it have to be English! Kagome groaned softly and laid her forehead against Inuyasha's shoulder in chagrin. So this is what it feels like when karma bites you on your butt, she thought. Inuyasha had jumped slightly when her head touched him, but his stance hadn't shifted, telling Kagome that the foreigner hadn't disappeared in the brief moment she had closed her eyes and wished him gone. She took a deep breath and raised her head, looking at the approaching man over Inuyasha's shoulder once again.

I can do this! It's just a matter of concentration! She willed herself not to be distracted by the fact that she and her friends were suddenly not where they had been, that instead of at the scene of a battle with -- of all things -- a mythical dragon from European legend, they were now standing in a wooded glade, surrounded by people dressed in styles she had never seen before. All I have to do is listen carefully to the big, bearded foreigner, Kagome told herself, and focussed all her attention on that man.

That man was, in turn, focussing all his attention on Inuyasha's sword, but his eyes shifted to Kagome when she spoke up from behind the half-demon.

"He-hello?" She stepped out slightly, so the stranger could see her. His smile brightened fractionally, but Kagome could see that he was still keeping a close watch on Inuyasha, though he didn't seem fearful, just cautious. Kagome decided that was a good sign.

"Greetings to you, milady," the man replied, dipping his head in a tiny nod. "You appeared so suddenly, you took us by surprise!"

"Ah," Kagome was pretty sure he had said something about their abrupt appearance, so to be on the safe side, she smiled, bowed, and said "We sorry!" She inwardly cringed at her horrible pronunciation.

"Oh no, quite alright. Are you newcomers?"

New...come...? Isn't that what he just said before? Oh, this is hard! Focus, Kagome!

"Ah... yes, we just here now."

Just then, Inuyasha's patience ran out.

"What's going on? What's this guy saying to you, Kagome?"

"He just welcomed us here, that's all he's said so far! He's speaking English and I'm not that good at it, okay?" She really didn't need the extra level of stress Inuyasha was providing right now, and her voice was beginning to show it.

"Well, I don't like it. What happened to that crazy woman and her dragon?" Inuyasha responded to her tone with a little growl in his.

"Calm down, Inuyasha! Don't make me say you-know-what. I'm going to try to find out, so just hold on!" The half-demon subsided, and Kagome cast a glance at the rest of their group to make sure they understood, as well. She noticed that Sango had taken a defensive position guarding their group from the back, and Miroku was vigilant as well. And Shippo --

Shippo was nowhere in sight, nor was Kirara. Kagome was about to ask if anyone had seen them, when she heard Inuyasha's growl again. She turned back to face the stranger, who was trying to say something to Inuyasha. She realized she needed to intervene before the foreigner found out the hard way about Inuyasha's temper.

"Ah, sorry. I only one... to speak English." Kagome made a quick apologetic bow. "Sorry!"

"Oh, I see! Well, could you please tell your friend he needs to sheathe his sword? We have a rule against live steel, you see."

Kagome processed this, trying to figure out what he had said from the few words she clearly understood and using context to fill in the rest. The words 'live steel' threw her for a minute, until she realized the man must have been referring to the Tetsusaiga.

"Inuyasha, he wants you to put Tetsusaiga away. There's a rule about swords."

"I will not."

Oh, Kagome thought with exasperation, don't be difficult now! It's hard enough already!

"Inuyasha! Please? I don't think we're in danger anymore."

"Everyone's armed. They all have bows." Inuyasha hadn't taken his eyes off the stranger once, but this standoff coming on the heels of the battle had left him ready to fight. Kagome sighed, and turned back to the stranger.

"My friend, he feel," Kagome groped for the word she wanted, "Danger." At this, the man's eyebrows raised, and he shook his head side-to-side.

"Oh, no, no, of course not. There's no danger here!"

"But, bows and arrows?" Kagome indicated the people standing on either side of the clearing. The man looked to where she directed, and suddenly began to chuckle. This confirmed Kagome's feeling that they weren't being threatened, but she was willing to bet that Inuyasha would find even the man's chuckling threatening. Sure enough, the half-demon growled. Kagome quickly put her hand on his arm. The man's quiet laughter came to an end and he spoke.

"This is an archery tournament. We're just having fun!" He grinned at Kagome.

Tournament? That was a word Kagome knew, and the rest fell in place. She tugged on Inuyasha's sleeve.

"It's really okay, Inuyasha! They're just practicing. It's a tournament, a competition. Now, put Tetsusaiga away!"

"Feh."

But he put the sword back in it's sheath. Kagome was pretty sure the entire clearing let out a collective sigh of relief. She knew she did.

She saw the man call out to someone, and a youngster dashed out of the clearing, but she had turned to Sango and Miroku to ask about Shippo and Kirara. They didn't know where the two little demons were, either, and it was with worry in her heart that Kagome turned back to answer the man's question.

"You guys are from Japan?" Kagome nodded at him. "We've got a lady in camp here who speaks Japanese. I'll take you to her, okay?" Relief came over Kagome as his meaning dawned on her. She smiled and gave him a short, happy bow.

"Thank you! Thank you very much!"

He turned and led them out of the clearing, calling out to several other people in a big, friendly voice as he did so. There was some laughter, and the crowd began to resume their interrupted activity. Kagome quickly filled in Sango and Miroku on the conversation with the bearded stranger.

"But where do you suppose Shippo and Kirara are?" Kagome asked.

"I was trying to figure that out, " Miroku replied, "Do you recall that at the end of the battle, they were still in the sky? Perhaps they were clear of whatever happened to us."

"That would make sense," Sango said, her expression thoughtful, "After all, there was something not quite right about that sorceress' magic, and the way it clashed against the Wind Scar and Kagome's holy arrow..." Sango's voice trailed off as they came out of the small woodland. They were on the edge of a large clearing, but what caught the attention of all of them, even Inuyasha, was that the meadow seemed to contain a village of canvas tents. More people dressed in costumes like the archery group wore walked everywhere. There was laughter and talking, and off in the distance, the intermittent sounds of drumming and music. The scent of wood smoke from campfires perfumed the air, though Kagome almost didn't notice it, so accustomed to the presence of open hearths she had become from her travels in time. As they followed their guide, they crossed into one of the informal streets of the village, lined with open booths displaying jewelry and clothing and weaponry and books, and strings of beads everywhere.

Where are we? Are we still in the feudal era? Kagome wondered, mystified by the exotic wares. There was a scent of grilled meat in the air, and spices, and then they passed by an open-air eatery. Kagome glanced at the people sitting at the picnic tables there, and something caught her eye. One man, dressed in yellow tunic heavily draped with necklaces, was pouring a can of Coca-Cola into a ceramic mug. Coca-Cola! Kagome's eyes sharpened, and she began picking out details that came from her own time, her own world: several people were wearing glasses; there was a cell phone attached to one woman's low-slung belt; a pair of sneakers peeked out from under the hem of the gown of another; they passed a row of Porta-potties.

What the...? Are we in my time, after all? This isn't making any sense, Kagome thought in bewilderment.

Finally, they came to a large square tent, made of white canvas hung with strips of bright fabric. The pegged and roped structure was open in the front, by virtue of two large flaps, folded back and tied in place. Their bearded guide announced himself by scratching on the canvas flap, then slipped inside. Kagome could hear him speaking to someone. She glanced at her friends, but they were gazing at the surroundings with wide-eyes. Well, Inuyasha was pretending to be bored, but Kagome could see that his ears were eager and alert. She hid a small smile. He's such a kid sometimes!

The man reappeared with an elegant woman. She was round like an image of Buddha, but the deep russet gown she wore fell in graceful folds about her feet, and her face had a bright welcoming smile. She bowed to the group, and greeted them. Her voice was harmonic, and she spoke Japanese almost without a flaw.

"Good afternoon. Won't you come inside and sit down?"

The small group entered the tent, looking around with interest. Kagome almost stopped to slip off her shoes at the threshold when she saw that the floor of the tent consisted of layered hand-knotted rugs. A glance at the shoes her guide and hostess were wearing told her walking on these rugs was expected, though it felt odd. The tent seemed to be divided into two sections, as a painted curtain hung across the width of the tent, forming a backdrop for the two folding chairs and the bench that were arranged in this main area. Pierced metal lanterns hung from hooks on the tent poles, and a small wooden table held a ceramic plate and bowl containing bread and fruit. There was a faint scent of citronella in the air, mingling with the ever-present wood smoke, and the soft, clear light in the tent was the diffused sunlight coming through the white canvas walls. Altogether, it was the most pleasant tent Kagome had ever been in, and made her wish they had had similar ones during her last school summer outing. Canvas and rugs sure beats orange nylon any day!

They took seats where the elegant woman indicated, Kagome and Sango sharing the bench and Miroku in one of the folding chairs. Inuyasha remained standing by the open door of the tent, which was no surprise to any one there, not even their hostess, if Kagome could judge from the small grin on the woman's face after a quick glance at the half-demon.

"So, Master Duncan tells me you're all newcomers? That you just wandered on site in the middle of his archery tournament? Not speaking much English, are you tourists from Japan?"

For a moment, Kagome didn't want to answer the questions, feeling for sure that they were in trouble. But then she risked a look up at the woman sitting near her in the other folding chair, and was rewarded with a face so open and friendly, she was immediately put at ease. Kagome couldn't help but smile in return.

"Yes," Kagome nodded, and quickly introduced herself and her companions. "I'm afraid we stumbled across your...er..." Her words faltered, and stopped, as Kagome realized she still had no idea just what was really going on here. But it seemed the lady had encountered bewilderment at their activities before, because she answered Kagome's unspoken question almost as if she had been waiting for it.

"It's a camping event." The woman looked around at the confused faces that surrounded her and chuckled. "I see you'll need the full explanation?" At the answering nods, she smiled again.

"I'm called Lady Catherine du Fresne, and I'm a member of a sort of social club that researches and recreates the medieval period. Well, 'social club' is a bit inaccurate, as it's an international organization now, but it started here in the States, back in the Sixties. The members of our group adopt medieval names, we research and make medieval gear, prepare dishes from recipes in period cookbooks, practice the arts and crafts and sciences of the time...we just generally explore whatever aspect of the Middle Ages we each find most interesting! And during the summer, we have events like this one, where we get to spend the weekend with all of our friends, camping out and playing in a medieval style."

There was a long moment of silence, as Kagome and her friends absorbed this. A peek at Inuyasha revealed even he was amazed at the unusual pastime thus described. Then, one fact took hold of Kagome's brain, and sparked a flare of hope within her.

"So, you're saying we aren't in the past? This isn't the Middle Ages?" Kagome asked.

"Well," Lady Catherine admitted with a chuckle, " we do like to call it the 'Current Middle Ages', but it is still the 21st century, unfortunately."

Kagome turned to her friends eagerly. "Everyone, did you hear that? We're in my time! We're in my world! We can just go to Tokyo and take the well back from there!"

"Your time? Your world? What do you mean by that?" Lady Catherine's gaze was sharp with curiosity. Kagome realized her error in blurting out what she did, and colored slightly. She didn't want to reveal the truth, because who would believe it, anyway? But Lady Catherine was persistent.

"Kagome, you can tell me anything, no matter how strange you might think it to be. I mean, I'm not exactly normal myself, am I? I'm a computer programmer, a Midwesterner married to a nisei, who likes to dress up in medieval clothes and camp out under an assumed name!" Catherine's grin was wide, acknowledging the absurdity of the situation. Her grin turned to a laugh, and Kagome couldn't help but laugh along with the woman. Sango and Miroku laughed, as well, Sango hiding her smile behind her hand. Inuyasha remained impervious to their shared humor, standing in the background at the entrance to the tent.

Kagome glanced at Sango and Miroku, silently gauging their opinions. She didn't feel as nervous about telling this woman as she had a moment before, who had already been so helpful to Kagome and her companions that Kagome felt a little in debt to her. There seemed to be no opposition apparent in her friends' faces. She didn't even bother to look toward Inuyasha, knowing already what his opinion would be -- he was never in favor of anything! Kagome took a breath, and launched into her tale. She told Lady Catherine about her family's temple and the ancient well there, her adventures in the feudal era of Japan, and their recent battle with the sorceress and the dragon. She left out some details -- no need to go into the complications with Kikyo, or Sango's struggle to rescue her brother, or the fact that Inuyasha wasn't just a guy in a costume, but an actual half-demon. Throughout, Lady Catherine listened avidly, leaning forward slightly in her camp chair. When Kagome finished, the cheerful woman sat back with a satisfied air. She looked at each of them for a moment, as if seeing them with new eyes. An appreciative grin never left her lips. Then her eyes grew thoughtful, and she looked away, into the far corners of her tent.

"You know, " Lady Catherine said with the same thoughtfulness that was in her eyes, "I'm not so sure you would be able to get back by going to Tokyo." Her eyes refocused on Kagome. "What if this world isn't your world, if this time isn't your time? What if you were cast not only forward in time, but also cast sideways through space?"

"I don't understand what you mean," Kagome said.

"Well, maybe it's just because I read too much science fiction, but I think it might be a real possibility that you and your friends are in an alternate reality. That incident with the cursed Noh mask you mentioned? I've never heard of any news stories about that, and much of my husband's family lives in Tokyo. Wouldn't they have mentioned something unusual like that? Plus," Lady Catherine's voice softened into an apologetic tone, "I don't think your family's shrine exists. I know there's lots of temples and shrines in Tokyo, but, still..."

There was a long moment of silence, as the implications sank in. It hadn't occurred to Kagome that they might be in an entirely different world. She knew from personal experience that lots of the things most ordinary people thought were impossible weren't, but if this were true...

"Are you saying we travelled across worlds as well as times? Then, how will we get home?" Sango asked Kagome's own questions aloud, and from the ill-hid worry in her voice, Kagome knew the demonslayer was thinking about Kohaku.

"Well, if it really was that clash of magics that landed you here, I might have an idea how we can fix that, but there are some people I need to talk to about it first. Don't worry -- we'll figure out a way to get you guys home again." Lady Catherine smiled gently, then abruptly stood and briskly rubbed her palms together. Her face was suddenly alight with an eager glow. "In the meantime, let's get you girls into some proper clothes!"

She herded the boys out of the tent, winking at the monk as she untied the flaps and let them fall closed. She politely ignored Inuyasha's grumbling. Then she turned, and with her hands on her ample hips, surveyed the two girls closely.

"Sango, I know just what will look perfect on you, with the color of your eyes and your lovely skin." Catherine moved to the back of the tent, and pulled aside the painted curtain wall, revealing a low wooden bed draped with plaid woolen blankets, more rugs on the ground, and several wooden chests. She kneeled in front of one and began sorting through the contents.

"I'm usually the one they bring newcomers to, so I tend to have a lot of extra clothes. Once you get really involved, however, you make clothes that fit the time period of your persona. Oh, here it is!" Catherine pulled out a long white cotton gown, and flung it onto the bed behind her, then returned to her rummaging. "Oh, we'll need this, too, for Kagome -- now, where is that bodice...?"

Kagome and Sango could only stand there at the curtain, watching this woman with amazement. She was so eager to dress them up, but it made Kagome feel like someone's doll.

"You really don't have to go through so much trouble," Kagome said, and Sango echoed her.

"Oh, but I do!" Lady Catherine looked up at the two young women from the ground, a broad smile on her face. "It's one of the rules we play by -- no modern clothes on site!"

"Oh."

Kagome looked at Sango. Sango looked at Kagome.

"Well," Sango said, "if it's the rules..."

"Yep, that's what the lady said." The two friends shared a solemn gaze for only a moment longer, then it cracked. They grinned happily, acquiescing to the lure of fancy dress. They stepped eagerly into Lady Catherine's bedroom.

In no time at all, Sango stood in her new garb. The white cotton shift was mostly hidden now by a long burgundy-colored skirt, pleated into many heavy folds at the waist. Over the top, Sango wore a laced bodice in a deep olive green brocade. The neckline of the chemise had been threaded with a satin ribbon in a matching green, and it was gathered up to a modest level, with the ribbon secured in a dangling bow. Detached sleeves in the same olive brocade were laced to the bodice at the shoulders, so that the only parts of the chemise left visible besides the neckline were the dainty puffs of white fabric that escaped from between the lacing there and from beneath the cuffs. Her dark hair had been pulled back from her face into a loose roll at the back of her head, and shining rose-colored ribbons wound through it.

Kagome could only gaze admiringly at her friend, a soft unspoken sigh on her lips. Sango was so pretty!

"Go on, Sango -- show off your new look to the gentlemen outside while I get Kagome all dressed up too." Lady Catherine said with a satisfied tone in her voice.

Sango nodded, and moved toward the flaps of the tent, but stopped, and turned back to face their hostess. "Thank you, Lady Catherine," the young demonslayer said with shining eyes and a slow bow of gratitude. Then she straightened and left the tent.

"Now it's your turn, Kagome!"

"Okay! I hope I can look half as good as Sango does!"

"Oh, you will, I assure you."

Kagome's outfit was made more simply, and in very little time she was dressed in a new costume, too. As she looked down at herself, however, she experienced a sudden attack of stage fright. She had worn lots of different styles of clothing around Inuyasha -- heck, she had even been naked in front of him! But, for some reason, wearing this medieval gown made her feel different. She looked up at Lady Catherine, who only gave her a grin.

"Go on, Kagome," The lady urged her, a little humor in her voice.

Kagome shyly stepped out from within the sheltering walls of the tent. The gown Lady Catherine had found for her was made from a soft and flowing summer-weight wool, in a rich lapis lazuli blue. The gown fit closely to her torso, then flared into elegant folds from beneath a silver-studded belt, fastened at her waist so that the long tongue hung down to her knees. The sleeves were long, and hugged her wrists with a short row of silver buttons. Silver buttons also lined her back. Her hair had been coiled around her head in a shining braid and covered with a sheer silk veil that fluttered down around her shoulders. She felt like she was wearing a princess costume, and was afraid to look up and see everyone's reactions. Well, she amended, trying to be honest with herself, I'm afraid to see Inuyasha's reaction. He'll just scoff, as usual.

"Oh, Kagome!" Sango's voice was filled with admiration. "You look so lovely!"

"Indeed you do, Kagome. In fact -- ouch!"

Kagome looked up at her friend, and at Miroku standing by her. They were both smiling, though Miroku was rubbing his shoulder where Sango had pinched him, and their pleasure in her new appearance gave her the confidence to look to the side, where Inuyasha stood.

He was looking straight at her, and there was an expression in his golden eyes Kagome was unable to identify. Then, unbelievably, his face flushed with color and he looked away, scowling.

"Whatever. It's different, anyway."

But he wouldn't look back up, and Kagome could see that his cheeks were still pinker than usual. He's blushing...because of me? Because of what I'm wearing? Then Kagome felt the color rise in her own cheeks, and she looked down to hide them. Her hands smoothed down the fabric in the gown, over and over.

At that moment, Lady Catherine lifted the flaps to her tent, refastening them open.

"Well, what do you think, gentlemen? Did I do a good job?"

"Indeed you did, Lady Catherine!" Miroku was, naturally, very appreciative. Sango and Kagome exchanged a roll of the eyes. "But, might I ask, do Inuyasha and I need to change our clothes, as well?"

"Oh, I don't think so, Miroku. If I don't miss my guess, you're both wearing very fine examples of period Japanese garb already. Although," and here Lady Catherine squinted a little at Inuyasha's ears, "you're probably going to catch a little grief from those who favor authenticity over whimsy, Inuyasha. Those ears you're wearing are really more cosplay than Current Middle Ages, I'm afraid."

Eep! Kagome's heart skipped a beat. What are we going to do if they try to make him take them off? I'd hate to see what Inuyasha would do to all these nice people!

Lady Catherine walked over to Inuyasha. Kagome cringed, trying to decide if she could say 'sit' fast enough and long enough to protect their hostess. Much to her relief, the woman only patted him on the shoulder, and gave him a wink.

"So you just leave them on, alright, Inuyasha? Those authenticity aficionados sometimes need a little tweaking to keep them fun!"

Without waiting for an answer, Lady Catherine turned to the rest of the little group standing before her tent. Behind her, over her shoulder, Kagome could see Inuyasha twitching his ears irritably, a deep scowl on his face. Then the look was gone, and he turned his head away from the others. He sure has been quiet, Kagome thought, a little worried. I wonder what he thinks about all this? Tucking away her worry for later, Kagome returned her attention to their hostess. The cheerful woman was explaining some of the activities that were going on all around them.

"So, " she asked, her grin wide, "the people I need to talk to about finding a way home for you are busy right now, so could I take you on a tour of the site in the meantime? Or is there something particular you would like to do?"

Kagome was all for taking the tour, and started to say so, but Inuyasha interrupted her.

"I want to do that."

Everyone turned to look in the direction he pointed. There, through a gap in the tents, one could see an open area marked off by a narrow fabric fence. Within the enclosure, two men dressed in battered medieval armor were facing each other. They each held an oddly-shaped sword. As Kagome watched, they began to fight, circling each other and striking out with the weapons. The sharp metallic sound of their swords making contact with their armor was easy to hear, even at this distance, and Kagome realized it had formed part of the general background of sound ever since they had entered the camping site. Inuyasha hadn't been sulking, she thought, her worries resolved, he's been watching the fighting all along! She felt considerable relief at this realization. Of course he's more interested in the battles than in the fancy dress! Kagome smiled, and saw that Sango and Miroku were sharing her reaction. That's Inuyasha for you!

But Lady Catherine was a little more surprised than they were at this declaration.

"You want to fight in the tourney?" Her eyebrows were raised as she looked at the bit of the tourney field that could be seen through the tents, then at Inuyasha who hadn't taken his eyes off the fighting, and back at the knights in the field. "Well...we have rules about that, too. You have to qualify and prove that you're capable of fighting safely by our regulations, but..." Catherine paused, her face taking on it's now-familiar thoughtful look. "I think we might be able to do it. There's an open tourney taking place tomorrow, and I think we might be able to get you a spot in it. How's that?"

Inuyasha stood there, his arms folded over his chest solidly, a satisfied expression on his face. His only reply to Lady Catherine was a single nod of his head. He was still watching the fighters, and Kagome could see that his eyes had a shine to them. For some reason, she thought, he's reminding me of Sota on his last birthday, looking at his new toys. Kagome had a momentary vision of Inuyasha on the tourney field, and hoped these medievalists were ready for an eager half-demon to enter the fray. Well, she consoled herself, I guess I can always say 'sit' if the carnage starts to get out of hand!