A/N: A pet plot bunny of mine, part of Hangetsu's predecessor. I unearthed it, decided the bunny is good enough to warrant it's own one-shot, and wrote it.

Dedicated with much, heartfelt thanks to nazilane, who pointed me into the right direction.


Early Promise

The noise of the metropolis is muted here. The dull roaring of cars driving by, the jingling of bicycles, the clatter of feet on the concrete, and the chatter of voices is reduced to a gentle hum.

A sense of stillness lies over this place. Birds are singing, and the wind rustles the leaves of the large trees. Sunlight dances in the courtyard. The soft breeze tangles the sacred ropes around the huge tree. It is a quit place. A place for prayer and for contemplation. A sacred place.

Down the numerous steps that lead to this place the city seems closer and its sounds are louder. The echoes of many voices can be heard from the open windows of the houses in the street. But the small, forlorn form sitting on the lowest step is the only person in sight.

The little girl is dressed festively in a pink and white kimono. Yet there is nothing festive about her. The head with the glossy black hair is bent. She hugs her legs to her chest. The slender shoulders shake.

She is crying, sobbing in huge, heaving gusts, occasionally hiccupping. She cries as if her heart is about to break.

The sunny day is no comfort to her. Neither the breeze tugging on her hair nor the cheerful singing of the birds can lighten her mood. Her world has gone dark and black, and there is no one here to bring the light back.

Suddenly, there is a gentle touch on her shoulder, and the girl raises her head. Her tearstained eyes are wide and widen further as she stares at the man that is kneeling in front of her. She forgets to cry.

He is a stranger, and she has never before seen someone like him. Everything about him is fair; his hair, his eyes, his skin. He even dresses in white.

'Why those tears?' he asks her, his deep voice low.

She sniffles and wipes her eyes. There is a pair of sunglasses tugged into the collar of his shirt. She eyes them uneasily. Her mother has told her to stay away from men with sunglasses.

He notices her uneasiness and smiles. 'Don't worry, little one. I won't harm you.'

She looks at him with her huge brown eyes.

He reaches out one hand and taps it to her cheek. She blinks. When he withdraws his hand, there is a single tear glistening on one of his elegant fingers. The girl watches in fascination as it breaks the sunlight into a rainbow.

'Pretty,' she says. Her voice is high and childish.

The man smiles. 'Yes, a pretty little pearl. But why are you crying little pearls?'

The girl's bottom lips trembles as fresh tears rise in her eyes.

'Inu is gone,' she wails.

The man blinks. 'Inu?'

She nods, and the tears roll down her face.

The man sits down beside her.

'Do you like Inu very much?'

She nods. 'Want Inu back!'

She cries loudly, messily. All her heart is in her sobs.

'Where is Inu gone?' the man asks.

The girl only cries harder.

The man slowly raises one hand and caresses the dark hair.

'Tell me, little one, where is Inu gone.'

She points down the road. 'They took him a-away f-from m-me,' she wails.

The fair man frowns.

'Who took him?'

'T-the b-boys.'

'Boys?'

She huddles, makes herself as small as possible. 'T-took Inu aw-way. W-want Inu back.' She shivers. A wild sob breaks from her lips. 'H-he's so sc-scared of t-the boys.'

The man pets her head.

'Don't cry, little one. I shall get Inu back for you.'

At this, she abruptly stops crying and looks up at him, her eyes wide with wonder.

'Get Inu back?' she repeats, hope and surprise in her little voice.

The man smiles reassuringly. 'Yes, of course. Just wait here. I will bring him back.'

The girl looks doubtful. 'T-they are many boys,' she whispers.

'I am not afraid of them,' the stranger replies gently.

'T-they a-are mean.'

The man wipes her tears away.

'Don't cry anymore, little one. I shall bring Inu back,' is all he says.

Then he gets up and strolls down the street into the direction the girl has pointed. She stares after him, admiration and worry written large on her small face.

The man disappears around a corner. The girl holds her breath. Her hands clench into tiny fists. She closes her eyes. Her body has gone tense. She remains in that position for all eternity, barely breathing until there is a voice in her ear.

'Is that Inu?'

She jerks her eyes open, and looks straight into the slightly dirty face of a once snow-white dog plushie.

'Inu!' she squeals and hugs the plushie tightly to her chest. 'Inu, Inu!'

She kisses the dog's face over and over, babbling in their own secret language, telling him he is safe now and there is no need to be afraid anymore. Then she looks up at the stranger who is sitting, smiling softly, next to her on the step. Her face is radiant.

'Thank you very much for saving Inu,' she says prettily.

The man inclines his head gracefully. 'My pleasure, little one.'

She grins broadly, hesitates, and then lunges forward and plants a wet but enthusiastic kiss on the man's cheek.

'Thank you, thank you, thank you!'

The man gives her a short hug, laughing softly.

The girl sits back, happily petting her plushie. Her world is made whole again. The strange, fair man has brought light back to her little life.

Suddenly, she looks up, a question large in her eyes. 'The boys wasn't mean to you?'

The man shakes his head. 'No.'

'Cause they is always mean to watashi-chan.' She looks a little frightened. 'They are more taller than watashi-chan.'

The man brushes her hair out of her face. 'But I am taller than the boys.'

She tilts her head. 'Yes,' she agrees after due consideration. 'But … why give they Inu to you? The boys are mean.'

'I am meaner.'

The girl blinks. 'Oh.' She looks curiously at the strange man. 'Where they scared of you?'

'Yes.'

'Really?'

'I have been told that I can be very scary,' the man says and winks at her.

She giggles, then hugs him again. 'I like you!'

Before he can answer, there is the sudden sound of steps from the top of the stairs and a woman's voice.

'Kagome-chan!'

Man and girl turn and look up at the young woman that comes hurrying down the steps. The man gets up as the woman reaches them.

'Hello, mama,' the girl says cheerfully, then squeaks as she is swept up into the woman's arms.

'Kagome-chan! Oh, goodness, I was so worried! Don't run away like that again, do you understand?'

'Yes, mama,' the girl, Kagome, says dutifully.

The mother turns to the stranger who has been watching mother and daughter with an unreadable expression on his face.

'I am so sorry if she has bothered you,' the young woman begins.

The man raises a hand and shakes his head.

'She has not bothered me at all, oka-san.'

'He saved Inu!' the girl cries. 'Kagome-chan likes him!'

The young mother looks confused. 'Saved Inu?'

'The mean boys took Inu away, and then he came and saved Inu.'

Kagome's mother has had the time to get a closer look at the stranger, and now there is a certain wariness in her eyes. But her smile is very polite.

'Thank you, sir. Have you said thank you, Kagome-chan?'

'Yes, mama! Kagome-chan said thank you—' She frowns and raises her hand, counting on her fingers '—four times,' she finishes proudly.

Her mother's mouth twitches. 'That was very well done, Kagome-chan.'

The girl beams.

The young woman looks at the man. 'Please, excuse us now, sir.'

The man inclines his head and steps back.

'Now, say good-bye, Kagome-chan,' the mother instructs.

The girl's happy smile turns into an angry pout. 'No. Don't wanna.'

'That is not nice, Kagome-chan,' her mother rebukes gently.

'Don't wanna say good-bye! He stays!' The girl looks at the man. 'Yes, yes! You stay. Please?'

'Kagome-chan!'

'Stay here and play with Inu and Kagome-chan!'

'Kagome-chan, hush. He cannot stay.'

The girl's face reddens. 'Why not? Kagome-chan wanna him stay! Kagome-chan likes him!'

The young woman casts an apologising look at the silent man. 'I'm sorry. We must go now.'

She turns and steps up the stairs.

The girl in her arms begins to struggle. 'No! Nononono,' she cries, wriggling and squirming. 'Wanna stay! Don't wanna say good-bye! Pleeeaaase!'

The young mother eventually has to stop. Her daughter's struggle has become too forceful, she cannot hold the girl any longer.

'Kagome!' she chides sternly. 'Stop this! Come now!'

'Wanna stay! Inu wanna stay! We wanna play!' the girl bawls.

'Kagome—'

'Hush, little one.' The man's soft voice stops Kagome's howls instantly. She looks at him.

'Inu is tired, look.' He points at the plushie she is holding. 'He must go to sleep now.'

Kagome glances down, a little doubtful. 'Inu tired?'

'Yes. He had a very exciting day, now he is tired.'

The little girl looks up. 'Put him to bed?'

He nods and smiles.

'Inu goes to sleep,' she announces.

The mother smiles in relief. She takes her daughter's hand and leads her up the stairs. Half-way up, the girl stops and turns. Her face is very grave.

'I like you,' she says solemnly. 'Will you come and marry me when I'm grown up?'

'Kagome!' her mother gasps. 'You can't say that! I'm so sorry, sir.'

'Can say that!' the girl insists. 'Kagome likes him. Inu likes him. Wanna marry him.'

The young mother radiates embarrassment, but both the little girl as well as the strange man ignore her.

'When I'm grown-up?' she asks.

The man, who has gone as silent and still as a statue at her question, now moves. He steps forward and up the steps until his eyes are at the same level as hers. His expression is as solemn as hers.

'If you still want me when you are grown into a beautiful young lady, Kagome, then I will marry you.'

The girl's mother gasps again and tugs at the small hand she is holding. The girl smiles serenely.

'Thank you.'

Then, suddenly, she breaks free from her mother and runs down the steps. The man catches her as she stumbles against him, lifting her up. She wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him again.

'Promise?' she whispers.

'Promise,' he answers.

Then he puts her down and steps back. The mother hurriedly takes her daughter's hand again and drags her up the stairs. Kagome smiles over her shoulder down at him, and when they have reached the top of the stairs, she waves and calls, 'Good-bye! Remember!'

Then mother and daughter disappear from sight.

At the bottom of the stairs the man stands silent and motionless, head tilted slightly as though he is listening to something. Then, finally, he casts a last, enigmatic smile up at where the girl has disappeared.

'Good-bye, Kagome,' he says softly. 'I shall keep my promise, little one.'

Then he turns and walks away.

Ten years later and five hundred years earlier, Kagome cannot shake the somewhat irritating feeling that she has somehow met Inu Yasha's arrogant and dangerous older brother before. But for the life of her, she can't remember when, where or how.


NB:

Watashi is the female, informal way of saying "I". Apparently Kagome hasn't yet figured out the name thing.

About the "men with sunglasses"; in Japan nobody wears sunglasses except the yakuza.