Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha series or any of the characters.
Summary: The boy is in the tree again. Kagome's school principal has a close encounter of the hanyou kind. OneShot.
AN: As always, notes and translations are at the bottom.
That boy was in the tree again.
Watanabe Yasu, principal of Kita-ku Junior High, stood at his office window with his hands clasped behind his back, furrowing his brow. There was no mistake. Seated on a stout branch of the tree, a ridiculous height from the ground, was a boy in bright red, traditionally styled clothing. Always the same tree. Always the same branch. And he was always looking in the same window.
Watanabe raised a pair of binoculars to his eyes and studied the boy. A baseball cap, perched awkwardly atop a head of outrageously long, silver-white hair. Those impossibly golden eyes. Fine-featured, with a moderately tanned face. Always barefooted. And if it hadn't sounded crazy, Watanabe would have sworn in a court of law that those were claws on the boy's hands.
Watanabe glanced for perhaps the hundredth time at the trunk of the big old tree, smooth and completely devoid of branches until a point some five meters up — he'd measured. Ropes, he thought somewhat uncertainly. There was really no other explanation.
The room the boy was staring into was occupied by class 9-A. Watanabe hadn't dared to tell any of the class's teachers about the boy. He could only imagine their reactions. They'd be in here complaining about unacceptable working environments and demanding pay raises in a heartbeat, he thought, rather uncharitably. He was a little surprised that none of them had noticed anything yet. But they still hadn't stormed his office, so clearly they remained oblivious.
The boy was picking his teeth with a clawed finger now. His teeth looked extra long and pointy.
The boy had visited before, six times that Watanabe was aware of, and likely at least a few times that had gone unseen. The first time, Watanabe had been too surprised to react, and a few minutes later the boy was gone. The second time, he had noticed that the boy was wearing a katana, and he had called the police. The boy was gone again by the time they arrived, and after getting a good look at the impossible climb to the lowest branch of the tree, the police had suggested that perhaps Watanabe was overworked and should take a few days off. Embarrassed, Watanabe had sent the custodian out with a ladder and a broom the next couple of times that the boy had appeared. The third time the boy disappeared before the custodian arrived. The fourth time, there had been a lot of shouting and foul language, and the boy had jumped to the ground (impossible!) and fled. The elderly custodian had returned to Watanabe's office with an ashen expression, and gave his two weeks notice on the spot, fidgeting with a cheap protective talisman and muttering some nonsense about mononoke. The fifth and sixth times, Watanabe had resigned himself to simply watch.
Lucky number seven, Watanabe mused. Perhaps this time he would discover just what exactly was going on here.
He had already charted the best route to take, the door that afforded the best secrecy, and the best angle of approach. Drawing himself up to his full height and summoning every ounce of determination he possessed, he took a few steps towards the door to his office. Then he halted and looked back towards his desk. For a moment, he wavered. Then he crossed the floor and opened the top drawer, retrieving a small object.
Watanabe was a man of reason and logic. But he had also grown up with a very superstitious grandmother.
He tucked the object into the breast pocket of his suit jacket — a little cloth charm that was dubiously in possession of powers to ward off evil spirits — and left the office, striding resolutely through the halls and down the stairs to the staff coatroom, where he paused to quickly get his outdoor shoes. Then, feeling like a truant student in his own school, he journeyed back through the halls to the little-used exit, changed his shoes, and slipped outside.
He walked as quietly as possible around the perimeter of the school, pausing at the corner nearest the tree. He peeked around the brickwork, his eyes quickly finding the red-clad figure amongst the green leaves. He drew back and fought against the faltering of his courage. It was just some teenaged boy, wasn't it? Why were his palms starting to sweat? Why did the air feel almost electric, making the hair on his arms and on the back of his neck stand on end?
Something his grandmother had told him once came to mind. "You might feel things in the back of your mind, from time to time, Yasu," she'd said. "A sense of danger, seemingly without reason. Something wicked is at work. Best to leave the area if it happens." Fourteen years old at the time, and in possession of a sceptical mind, he'd shrugged off her warning as the ramblings of a crazy old woman. He was too old for fairy tales. She'd always claimed to be descended from a long line of miko, and had even been one herself for a while before she'd married. But her beliefs were old-fashioned. There was no room in the world for magic and yurei and mononoke anymore.
He jumped as the school dismissal bell rang, startling him, and he leaned against the wall with his hand pressed to his pounding heart. From the outside, the cacophony of hundreds of feet taking to the halls was a dull rumble.
Forgetting his trepidation as he suddenly realized that the boy had never stayed past dismissal time, he hurled himself around the corner of the building and started towards the tree. Only to find it empty.
He stood amidst the shrubbery, staring in defeat at the vacant spot. How could the boy have disappeared so fast? He'd been so close to discovering the secret, so close to solving the mystery. And now his chance was gone again.
Students started to leave the school, first as a slow trickle, and then in droves of scuffing feet and loud voices. Watanabe went unnoticed, standing behind the decorative bushes. With a sigh, he turned, about to go back inside the school.
"What are you doing here?!"
For a minute, Watanabe jumped guiltily, thinking the question was directed at him. But he quickly realized that the scolding female voice belonged to a student, and that she was speaking to someone else. He took a step towards the open, and stopped again at the sound of a response.
"I came to get you, stupid," the voice replied. "Yer so slow, wasting yer time in this place. Wadda yeh need to come here for, anyway?"
The new voice was that of a teenaged male, irritable and belligerent. Something caught Watanabe's attention. The boy speaking was not only rude and grammatically negligent, but he also used some slightly archaic syntax. Having a background as a Japanese literature teacher, Watanabe tended to notice things like that. Japanese hadn't changed much over the centuries, but even so, teenagers these days did not tend to speak like the medieval peasantry. While the difference was slight, it still caught Watanabe's ear.
The voices were arguing back and forth, too quietly now for him to make out their words, but they were coming closer. Watanabe peered out around the shrubs, but saw no one yet.
"What do you mean, Shippou-chan is hurt?!"
The girl's volume had risen again, and Watanabe could now see the person attached to the voice. She looked familiar… ah yes, young Higurashi-san. The girl with all the mysterious illnesses. He wondered if "Shippou" was a family member. Would she be missing even more school due to some family tragedy? Watanabe hoped not; the poor girl had enough troubles, and struggled so hard to keep her grades up.
He shifted his position, and froze when he saw who she was speaking to. The boy!
This close, he was even more unusual-looking. No one had eyes that colour. Not even old people had hair that shade. Those were definitely claws, and as the boy spoke, his teeth were much pointier and sharper than normal. Fangs.
"It ain't that bad," the boy was saying. "He just broke his arm and a few ribs."
"A broken arm and ribs!" exclaimed Higurashi-san. "He's just a little boy!"
"He's a youkai, Kagome. Even if he's still a kid, he'll be healed in less than a week."
"Shhh! Don't talk so loud! Ooooo, we've got to get back to the Sengoku Jidai right away. I'll have to bring more bandages and pain relievers. He must be hurting so bad! Hurry up, Inuyasha! We need to go!"
"Yer telling me to hurry? Yer the one who's slow."
The boy let Higurashi-san climb onto his back and took off running, with far more speed than was natural.
Watanabe slid slowly down the brick wall behind the shrubs until his bottom came to rest on the ground, heedless of the dirt that would be getting on his clothes. He replayed the conversation in his head, trying to absorb the magnitude of the information. The boy. Higurashi-san's strange illnesses. Youkai. Sengoku Jidai.
This was impossible.
This was the truth.
"They're all around us, Yasu," Grandmother had said. "The old ways have crumbled, and the old powers have faded, but the spirits are still among us. Foolish boy! Of course there's no proof that they exist, but no one can prove that they don't either. Why do you think that is, boy? With all this fancy science and technology, there are still forces at work that we can't explain. You can laugh at mononoke all you want, but you'll remember this when you meet a yurei or get beguiled by a kitsune. Mark my words!"
He'd never believed her until now.
His analytical mind started racing. Could he follow them? It sounded like Higurashi-san had some way of travelling to the past. No wonder she'd been doing better in history class than any of the rest. What was the trick behind the time-travelling? What exactly was that boy? What would people think when they found this out?
His thoughts came to a jarring halt.
"Leave the others be, Yasu," Grandmother had warned him. "You don't want to go getting mixed up in their affairs. Mononoke are perilous. Just you mind your business and they'll mind theirs."
Superstition. He'd thought it useless in today's world. Outdated rules to protect you from the supernatural forces people invented to explain things they didn't understand. But that was backward thinking, wasn't it? That definition of superstition was invented by modern people to explain something that they didn't understand, not the other way around.
Watanabe was no fool. He'd leave well enough alone, and keep his mouth shut.
And he'd see what he could do about convincing Higurashi-san's teachers to grade her as a student with special needs. Maybe something along the lines of disregarding any assignments she'd received an "incomplete" on. A peace-offering, just in case her youkai friends felt protective towards her.
Grandmother would have approved.
Kita-ku – one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo City, arbitrarily picked by me as the location of Kagome's home and school
Mononoke – spirit(s) or apparition(s) something like youkai (usually translated to demons or spirits)
Miko – shrine maiden in the Shinto faith, often translated as priestess
Yurei – ghost(s)
Sengoku Jidai – the Warring States Era of Japan
Q: Why was Watanabe having some weird nervous reaction when he went near the tree?
A: Descended from a long line of miko, Watanabe has some latent spiritual powers. In the modern world, however, these are largely dormant and unrealized due to lack of training. Still, I decided he would have enough power to pick up on Inuyasha's youki, which is something he never would have felt before. Hence the sweaty palms, etc. This is what his grandmother was trying to describe to him.
Q: Why didn't Inuyasha know Watanabe was so close?
A: Mostly because the story wouldn't have worked otherwise. But it is also conceivable that Inuyasha wasn't able to smell or hear Watanabe with all the students leaving the building. Watanabe wasn't making any noise, and we've seen Inuyasha have difficulty tracking scents in public places before.