Update 8/14/09: It's E-n-B here after quite the extended leave of absence. I won't make any excuses as to why I haven't updated this story in so long. I have none, really. I simply couldn't seem to find the drive to continue, and I truly am sorry to those of you I may have disappointed.

The good news, though, is that I think it's come back to me at last. Or perhaps I'm finally just in the right place necessary to continue. I was set back quite a bit for some reason when the series finally came to a close, but the fire seems to be back now. That said, I am currently revising all of the chapters already posted in order to reacquaint myself with the story. No major changes, just tweaks here and there. Simultaneously I am working on chapter 11. It should be finished soon with any luck.

Once again I can only bow humbly before all of you with my most sincere apologies. And to those of you that still wish to continue on along this road even with a guide so flawed and prone to stumbling as myself, I hope you will continue to enjoy the journey.

With newfound sincerity, E-n-B

Hello, everyone. Eien-no-basho here, though I'll be going by E-n-B for short. This is my first attempt at an Inuyasha fanfic and as such I request a bit of leniency in judgment. Ultimately, though, I would ask that you don't take it too easy on me -there's no improvement where there's no criticism. What I really want to do here before I get the story rolling is explain a few key things:

1) Though I love it to death, history is my minor. I will make good, if not always accurate, use of Japanese history as I know it to be. In other words, feel free to call me on any inaccuracies you might catch. I want to know when I'm in the wrong.

2) This story takes place in the classical Japanese Heian period (roughly 794-1185 A.D.) rather than the Sengoku (Warring States) period (1478-1603 A.D.) where the actual series takes place. This is because I found that the earlier time period suits my purposes better.

Some of the key characteristics of this period that I will be making use of are (here's your mini-history lesson for the day) a decentralized government with its capital at Heian (now Kyoto) and with many independent villages spread out across the country. These villages had extremely minimal contact with or connection to the central court in Heian. And while the capital itself borrowed Chinese institutions and enjoyed a great amount of wealth, the majority of the small villages were still composed of mud pit houses or flimsy huts.

So basically being a courtier meant wealth and comfort, and being a peasant meant constant struggle to grow enough food to get by. The disparity between the two groups was obvious and caused deep rooted resentment that would come to a conclusion later in the Kamakura age.

Another facet of the Heian period was the Tennō, or 'Heavenly Emperor', a concept introduced in the preceding Nara period of a divine Emperor descended directly from the central Shintō kami (god) of the time, Amaterasu the sun goddess. By virtue of this relation, the Emperor was acknowledged as having the divine right to rule and absolute authority.

That, however, did not prevent the numerous court intrigues amongst the many noble clans that had their hands in the government of the country, resulting in bloody struggles within the court for control of or the position of the Tennō. Most notable among these silently warring clans were the Fujiwaras, who maintained a stranglehold on the Heian government for a good number of years.

Another big factor in my story will be the dominant religion of the period- Shintō, or the 'way of the gods'. It is essentially a religion that believes in many kamis, most of them in some way connected to nature or some natural phenomena. Anything from a prominent tree (Goshinboku) to an impressive rock might be considered to house a kami, so there is an inherent appreciation of nature and the spirit 'force', so to speak, of nature. Kagome and Kikyou are both priestesses (mikos) of this religion in the series.

Miroku, however, is a Buddhist monk (houshi), a religion that had made its way over from China by the Heian period, but that was still relatively minor. In my story I shall leave him as a Buddhist monk, despite its relative obscurity in Japan at the time.

There are some similar tenants between the two religions, so there shouldn't be too much conflict (though it should be noted that I am no expert on either religion, especially lacking in my understanding of Buddhism, so feel free to correct me at any misstep you may catch).

3) Finally, while I will be using the Heian time period, I will by no means be sticking to the events that actually occurred during the time. The mere existence of Inuyasha and youkai in the story already distorts the reality of things, so while I may utilize a few key events, most of the happenings will be products of my demented imagination. Please do not take them as fact.

Also, if the dialogue seems a little stiff at times, that's because it is. Formality and propriety are a big part of Japanese culture and that is what I hope to portray accurately. I'm done yapping now, so if you're not already exhausted from that disgustingly long preface, please feel free to enjoy the story.

The low intonation of the sacred words murmured softly through the silence of the room, inflection dipping and leaping like the trickle of a stream. Soft light gathered in pale hands, poised just above the small form of a prostrate child on a dirt-packed floor. The hands hovered searchingly over the length of the boy's body- head to foot, head to foot-halting just above the center of the stomach.

With gentle pressure the hands pushed down, and the boy began to shudder. The shudders grew quickly into wracking convulsions, and suddenly there was the scream of wind whipping through a narrow valley. A shadow, writhing and twisting, seeped slowly up from the boy, lingering briefly above him before slipping out through the thatched roof of the small, crude hut. The boy lay still once more, his face relaxed now in peaceful slumber.

Kagome sighed softly, leaning back and placing her hands in her lap as the glow faded from them. She turned to the two pale countenances sitting at the small boy's feet, offering them a reassuring smile.

"He should be fine now. It was just a small unsettled spirit making him sick. A little rest and he'll be right back to normal."

There was a rasping exhalation from the woman, the little boy's mother, that Kagome could only assume was relief. The man, the boy's father, solemnly placed both of his palms before him on the floor and bowed until his forehead nearly touched the dirt.

"We thank you deeply, Miko-sama. You are welcome to anything in our possession as payment."

"No, no. It's not necessary. I'm just glad I was able to help," Kagome protested, standing and dusting off her tattered red hakama. Slinging her longbow and arrows up over her shoulder, she executed a quick bow in return.

"If it's alright, I'll be back to check on him in a few days. I want to make sure that that spirit doesn't come back to bother him."

"You're welcome anytime, Miko-sama," the wife spoke up, her smile infinitely grateful as only a mother's could be. "But the spirits certainly seem to be unsettled lately. My Taro is the third one you've had to take care of this month. I don't know what this village would do if we didn't have you to protect us."

The smile slipped from Kagome's face and she readjusted the quiver on her shoulder uneasily.

"It's very kind of you to say so…" she replied quietly, eyes downcast. "Well, I have to be going now. I promised Mama that I would help out in the fields today."

Bobbing a quick bow to the two, Kagome exited the hut quickly.

The clouds hung low and dark in the sky outside, as they had been wont to do for the past few months. The downpour would start soon, Kagome lamented mentally.

All of the rain they had been receiving had overflowed the banks of the river on which her small village was situated, destroying much of what had been a meager crop to begin with. Winter would be upon them soon and what little grain they had in reserve would be used up quickly. The village would be in no small amount of trouble if something was not done soon.

Kagome sighed, the wearying feeling of having a mountain of troubles and a molehill of solutions coming over her again. There were only two solutions that she could think of, each extremely implausible.

One would be to trade with a neighboring village for a supply of grain to last through the winter. Unfortunately her village had so little surplus of anything that it was unlikely that another village could be persuaded to trade, if that village even happened to have enough to spare.

Another obstacle in that plan would be the recent decimation of numerous villages by a horde of renegade youkai. She and Kaede-sama, the village's elder miko, had managed to erect a barrier strong enough to protect their own small village, but many other villages with lesser spiritualists or no spiritualists at all had been destroyed. That was what she had heard from the few merchants that had passed through the village, anyway. So there was no way of knowing how long it might take to even reach the closest village still standing.

The second option would be to make the long journey to the imperial court in Heian and beg for some sort of aid. But in addition to the time it would take just to get there, it would take even longer for the decision to be made as to whether or not aid would be granted. And if aid was given, there was no telling what kind of payment would be asked in return.

To top it all off -as if the impending starvation of her entire village was not enough- the spirits and youkai had been restless for months, their agitation grating constantly against her sixth sense. The horde that had swept through destroying villages was merely one extreme manifestation of their malcontent.

Kagome sighed again, a small frustrated huff. Certainly she and Kaede-sama had managed to protect the village, but where was their so-called Tennō when his subjects needed his protection? Walled up in his grandiose palace and too busy with courtly affairs to concern himself, no doubt.

Or at least that was the way that Jii-chan had explained court life to be after having visited the court once in his youth. Kagome herself had never had the time to venture outside of her village, let alone anywhere near the capital.

The wind kicked up suddenly, sweeping sharply up the slope on which Kagome now stood as the downpour began. The miko closed her eyes and felt cool drops slide down her face and through the length of her hair, silently questioning the rain kami as to the reasoning behind these sudden downpours. As usual she received no response.

The rain continued to pour. All of her ever-growing worries clamored for attention in the quiet she sought to create in her mind. For a brief, choking moment Kagome could feel her future unfold before her, long and dark. Inhaling deeply to calm herself, the miko went to check on the barrier surrounding the village.

Two hours later found Kagome slogging up the largest hill in the village through the raging downpour, on her way to the village's temple. Though "temple" seemed to be a gross exaggeration as far as the shabby little structure was concerned. It was more of an enlarged hut really, but with stronger thatching on the roof and slightly thicker walls. It was, however, all that her humble village could afford.

Kagome pushed the thick, coarse mat hanging in the doorway aside as she entered, ringing what water she could out of her hair and trailing white sleeves.

"Kaede-sama, I was just out checking the barriers and…" Kagome trailed off as her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting of the room.

Kaede-sama sat beside the fire pit in the center of the room, a cup of tea clutched in her rough, deeply lined hands. The good tea cups, Kagome noted absently. But it was the stranger seated across from Kaede-sama that froze Kagome's familiar greeting on her lips. He turned away from the fire to face her, a friendly smile gracing his generically handsome features and a couple of fine gold earrings in his right ear catching the light.

Kagome flushed in embarrassment at her slip in decorum. She realized simultaneously why Kaede-sama had brought out the good teacups and that she looked like a living landslide, drenched and splattered with muck.

"Kagome, child," Kaede called, her rasping voice firm enough to shake Kagome from her stupor. "This is Shingon Miroku-sama. He is a houshi visiting from the imperial court."

Galvanized by Kaede's words, Kagome flowed gracefully down onto her knees in the doorway. Bowing respectfully and hoping that it would somewhat mitigate her horrible appearance, Kagome said with stiff respect, "It is an honor to meet you, Houshi-sama. Please excuse my breach of manners and my…less than proper appearance."

"Not at all, Kagome-chan," Miroku returned with a chuckle, surprising Kagome with the familiar address. "After all, any man who fails to appreciate a woman who looks quite so well as you do when wet is no man at all."

Kagome rose up from her bow, her expression twisting in shock. The houshi continued to smile his blithe smile as if he had not ever uttered an inappropriate word in his life. Kagome's eyes slid to meet Kaede's single good one in askance, but the old miko merely shook her head in a manner that said clearly she had expected nothing less.

"Come, child, sit," called Kaede, motioning for the younger miko to take the place beside her.

Kagome rose hesitantly and went to her, giving the grinning houshi a wide berth. He was very clean, she noted as she passed, mentally comparing his pale skin to the ever-begrimed skin of herself and the villagers.

His short, dark hair was tidy and pulled back into another fine looking gold ornament at the nape of his neck. His dark osode and deep violet kesa were also of some rich material, obvious even from a distance. All testament to the great wealth of the capital, and a poignant reminder of the lack in her own little village.

Kagome realized that she had not quite managed to keep the bitter tone of her thoughts from her face as she sat down, alerted by the slight slip of the houshi's smile and Kaede-sama's gentle grip on her shoulder. Quickly she schooled her face into civility and offered to make another pot of tea.

The houshi replied in the negative with equal civility, if a bit more warmth. In the silence that followed Kagome reminded herself firmly that the man in front of her was not the cause of her frustrations and did not deserve to deal with them.

"What business is it that takes you so far away from the capital, Houshi-sama?" Kagome asked, forcefully shucking off the tension she had caused in the room.

"I was sent out to investigate the recent spiritual disturbances that were reported in this area," Miroku responded, though Kagome caught a quick look that passed between the houshi and Kaede. "The recent youkai attacks seem to have stirred things up even further, making my job of finding the source a bit more difficult than I had expected. But rest assured that I am doing everything within my power to prevent such a tragedy from recurring."

Kagome nodded, though a few things did not line up in her mind.

"Are you just passing through, then, on your way to one of the wrecked villages, Houshi-sama?" Kagome voiced her thoughts. "I think they might require your aid more than us, after all. The youkai were not able to touch our village."

Another furtive glance passed between the houshi and Kaede-sama.

"Actually, Kagome-chan, I decided to visit this village precisely because it was not destroyed. I was curious as to what saved your village when several of the surrounding villages were completely leveled. Kaede-sama has been informing me that this small miracle can be attributed to you," Miroku explained, an oddly intent look in his eyes as they rested upon her.

"No, no, not at all," Kagome refuted, slightly discomfited. "I only helped a bit. Kaede-sama was the one who did most of the work. She is just too modest to say so."

"I'm far too old for modesty, child," Kaede interrupted dryly. "If it had been me I would have said so."

"You do have quite an aura, Kagome-chan," Miroku added, the sharpness still in his eyes. "I was able to sense it from several miles away, actually."

"Well…" Kagome faltered, at a loss with the gaze of both her mentor and the houshi fixed on her. The feeling of missing something important hung irritatingly just above her like smoke from the fire.

Minutes passed filled only by the pattering of the rain against the hut and the slight crackle of the fire. Miroku and Kaede sipped their tea quietly, neither of them making any moves that Kagome could see to renew their silent communication. She was stuck with nothing but vague annoyance and a few half-formed suspicions.

At length Kaede set down her mug of tea and stood, the creaking of her old joints nearly audible.

"Well, Houshi-sama, if you will excuse us, I believe Kagome's original purpose in coming here was to request my assistance in reinforcing the village barrier. As I would like to accomplish that task before night falls, we must be going. Right, child?" she said.

"Umm, yes," Kagome said, recalling her initial intent suddenly.

She rose quickly and fetched a cloak hanging on the wall, knowing that Kaede-sama's old age left her vulnerable in weather the likes of which continued to rage outside. Kaede nodded gratefully, wrapping the rough garment around her shoulders and head.

"Feel free to remain here in the temple for as long as you wish, Miroku-sama. It is, as always, at your disposal," Kaede offered as she and Kagome grabbed their bows and headed towards the door.

Miroku rose to join them, gold topped shakujou jangling in his hand.

"I am afraid I have already imposed on your kind hospitality for far too long, Kaede-sama," he said with a slight bow. "Besides which, I have a few matters to attend to before I have to move on. So I suppose we will be forced to part ways here for the time being."

Before Kagome could so much as blink he was at her side, bending over to kiss her hand. It was such a foreign gesture that she had to fight down the urge to flinch. Until she felt the quick sweep of something across her posterior. Reflex alone had her open hand connecting hard with his face, mortification chilling her as the fleshy sound echoed in the small room.

"I…I-your hand!…" Kagome babbled, her own hands flapping in odd, distressed gestures that might have been attempts at placation. Her mind whirled as it attempted to catch up. By the kami, she had struck a noble!

"Not to worry, Kagome-chan. My hand slipped and you reacted as any proper lady would," the houshi said smoothly, gingerly touching the red mark forming on his face.

Kagome could not help but think that the hand on her butt had felt oddly deliberate for an accident, but wisely kept that observation to herself.

"Let us be on our way and let Miroku-sama be on his, child," Kaede spoke up, barely suppressed laughter thickening her voice. She took Kagome's hand to lead her out like a child, but Kagome hesitated as something occurred to her.

"Umm, Miroku-sama," she ventured hesitantly. "I do not quite know how to say this, especially after hitting you like that…"

"Ah, could it be that you have fallen for me?" Miroku interjected with the utmost seriousness. "Alas, fair Kagome-chan, as beautiful as you are, I am currently in no position to take a wife, though I suppose I could at least grant you the pleasure of bearing my-"

"Ummm, no, that is not it at all," Kagome interrupted bluntly, too surprised by the outlandishness of his words to remember manners. "I was just wondering if you would be returning to the capital before winter."

"Oh!" said Miroku sheepishly, though without quite the degree of embarrassment that Kagome thought fitting of the situation. "Yes, I intend to. Why do you ask?"

It was Kagome's turn to feel sheepish, wringing her hands hesitantly.

"It is just…because of all the rain and the flooding, the village's crops for this season are wrecked, and I am not certain what to do to keep the people from starvation this winter. I was hoping…that you might plead to the Tennō on our behalf. I am truly sorry and ashamed to request this of you, but I can not think of anything else." Kagome bowed submissively, putting herself at his mercy.

"Now, no need for that Kagome-chan," the houshi said. "I will be more than glad to plead on behalf of your village when I return."

"Really?" Kagome could have hugged him, her eyes bright with relief as she raised them to look at him.

"Of course," he replied. "And all that I would ask in return is that you, Kagome-chan, would bear for me a healthy-"

"Time to go, child," Kaede cut him off, practically dragging the young woman out of the hut.

"Farewell, Kagome-chan. I am certain we will meet again," Miroku called after them as they disappeared out into the storm.

"Are we certain he's a houshi?" Kagome asked incredulously.

"One would hope so, child. Otherwise you've just allowed him to grope your hindquarters with only a small slap in return."


It would not be until several hours later that Kagome was allowed to return home, waterlogged, exhausted, and irritated beyond belief.

Holes in the eastern-most edge of the barrier had required much more energy than she had anticipated to fix, on top of her already having expended a good amount of power in healing the child that morning. And all the while the rain had continued to pour down on their heads. Kagome could almost feel the crops dying.

To add to her irritation, Kaede-sama had skirted neatly around every question she had asked concerning the houshi. While that did much in confirming her suspicions that something beyond what had been revealed was going on, in the end she was left with more questions than ever.

Thus she returned home defeated for the day and hoping for nothing beyond changing into a dry set of clothes and crawling into her futon. Her day, however, was nowhere near over. Emerging from the cozy hut that she shared with her mother, brother, and grandfather was Miroku-sama. Kagome nearly fell over.

Catching sight of her he waved cheerfully, yet again seemingly ignorant of his odd actions.

"I knew we would be meeting again, Kagome-chan. Certainly it must be fate. Though I am afraid that you are looking a bit worn after your long day."

Kagome's mouth opened and closed several times, but even a polite formality refused to spring readily to her lips. She settled for merely shaking her head, hoping to clear whatever fog had entered it and caused this odd delusion.

"I see you are speechless with joy at our reunion. But come inside and sit down. We have much to discuss."

With a gentle hand on her shoulder he led her inside. Only vaguely did Kagome realize how silly it was to be led into her own home by a stranger, occupied as she was with keeping track of how low on her back his hand dared to dip.

Her mother sat inside the hut, clutching a piece of needle work in her lap and looking troubled. She jerked up as they entered, as if suddenly throwing off a heavy weight. With smile almost too wide she rose to greet them.

"Kagome, I'm so glad you're finally back. I was getting worried about you being out in this horrid weather all day long," she fretted, wrapping her daughter in a tight embrace despite how soaked the miko was.

The embrace was oddly lingering for just a welcome-home hug, and Kagome could have sworn she felt her mother shaking just a little bit.

"Where are Souta and Jii-chan?" she asked, managing to put her mother at arm's length to take a look at her.

Her mother turned away quickly and went to busy herself with digging around in a small, rough trunk for a blanket for Kagome. At a loss, the village girl looked to the houshi at her side. His smile was as friendly and unhelpful as ever.

Kagome's mother discovered a blanket with a tiny exclamation and quickly returned to wrap it firmly about Kagome's shoulders, leading her and Miroku to the fire pit in the center of the room. She forced them both to sit down and bustled about making a warm pot of tea in a manner so informal that Kagome had no doubt her mother and the houshi had been talking for hours before she arrived.

"May I ask what you are doing in my home, Houshi-sama?" the miko ventured hesitantly.

"This is the other business that I had to attend to today. Though I believe your lovely mother would like to be the one to explain things fully to you," he replied. Something cold and heavy began to form in the pit of Kagome's stomach.

"Mama? What's going on?" she called, halting her mother in her tracks. "Where are Souta and Jii-chan? Why have you been talking with Houshi-sama?"

Slowly the older woman set down all the trinkets she had been busying herself with and came to sit across from the two. The smile was gone. It had been painfully forced, Kagome realized.

Abruptly she noticed how tired her mother looked, the lines around her eyes and mouth deep. The older woman made a few helpless, pointless gestures with her hands before she was able to look her daughter in the eye.

"Kagome, dear…" she groped for words, and Kagome found herself holding her breath. "You know…you know too well what the situation here in the village is. As things stand we won't last through the winter. And even if we do, we'll still be dependant on you to keep the youkai from attacking.

I know you're strong, dear…I know. But if things continue like this…all I can see is something long and difficult and painful for you. I don't want that. And I'm sure some part of you has realized it, too, and that you don't want it either, even if you refuse to say so."

"Mama," Kagome snapped, wanting her to stop.

Of course she knew what her future in this village would be, saddled with the weight of protecting it until she died. She had known ever since she was old enough to consider it. The bleakness of it had nearly overcome her in her weaker moments.

But she had long since accepted it, and decided to bear it with all the grace and cheer she could muster. She had no intention of ever voicing her fears, and it certainly was not something that her mother needed to be concerned with.

Kagome needed to do her duty and keep the villagers safe, no matter what. They all depended on her. She could not let them down.

"I sent Souta and Jii-chan out to see what they could do in the way of covering the crops when Miroku-sama came requesting to speak with me," Kagome's mother plowed on relentlessly, though her voice quavered like it was all she could do not to cry.

"They both want what's best for you as well, but I didn't think that they would be able to handle this in quite the detached manner necessary. You're beyond this village, Kagome. It's as simple as that.

The way that Kaede-sama educated you, your immense spiritual gifts, even just by your own nature you're set apart. You're so far beyond all of us that the villagers can't help but clutch at you like a fine jewel, relying on you for anything and everything. And you can't help but struggle to please them all, because that's who you are. But you'll never be happy here-it's not possible."

"No, Mama, that's not true at all," Kagome pleaded, desperately frightened at hearing the words she had only ever thought under the dark cover of night spoken aloud. "I was raised here, I'm just the same as everyone…as you…"

"Shhh, now, Kagome. You know better than to lie. You might want to be like everyone else, you might have tried very hard to be, but you'd only be lowering yourself. So when Miroku-sama made his offer there was really no choice but for me to accept. I know you'll be angry, but…please try not to hate your mother, dear," she entreated, guilty now.

"I do believe that your honorable mother has only your best interests at heart. A lesser woman would not be able to do what she has done," the houshi added solemnly. Kagome jumped a little, having forgotten that he was still in the room with them.

"What has she done exactly?" Kagome asked, heart like a stone in her chest.

"Miroku-sama has requested that you accompany him on his journey back to the capital in Heian. So in a few days time, after you've packed and said your good-byes to the villagers, you'll be going with him…to live in the court as a spiritualist."

The tears that her mother had been so valiantly holding back escaped now, sliding like rain drops down her face.

Kagome was by no means a frail or delicate girl, but she suddenly found the entire universe squelching to a slow halt inside her head like a dammed up mud slide. Black slipped down to veil her eyes and she fainted.

Update 8/14/09: It's E-n-B here after quite the extended leave of absence. I won't make any excuses as to why I haven't updated this story in so long. I have none, really. I simply couldn't seem to find the drive to continue, and I truly am sorry to those of you I may have disappointed.

The good news, though, is that I think it's come back to me at last. Or perhaps I'm finally just in the right place necessary to continue. I was set back quite a bit for some reason when the series finally came to a close, but the fire seems to be back now. That said, I am currently revising all of the chapters already posted in order to reacquaint myself with the story. No major changes, just tweaks here and there. Simultaneously I am working on chapter 11. It should be finished soon with any luck.

Once again I can only bow humbly before all of you with my most sincere apologies. And to those of you that still wish to continue on along this road even with a guide so flawed and prone to stumbling as myself, I hope you will continue to enjoy the journey.

With newfound sincerity, E-n-B