Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who is reading. Enjoy this chapter!
Chapter Four: The Best of What's Around
By Everything is Magic
"Sit her down here." Kaede gestured to a sleeping mat beside the presently extinguished firepit. Inuyasha nodded, the woven straw that served as a door to the hut brushing him across the back as he entered. He carried the listless hanyou girl over to the mat and gingerly lowered her to the ground. Kagome mumbled a 'thank you' and pulled her knees to her chest, the green of her hakama now absorbing her still falling tears. Without a word to Kaede, and without making a conscious decision, Inuyasha sat down on the other end of the mat, an arm's length from Kagome.
"You're injured," Kaede raked her eyes to his bleeding side.
"That's… actually why we came to the village." Inuyasha crossed his arms across his chest and frowned. "Don't know what the hell else is going on, but that's all we came for. Some bandages or whatever you have."
"I'm afraid I don't understand anything that is happening here." Kaede had yet to sit down, and she switched her gaze back and forth between Kagome and Inuyasha, in attempt to keep an equal watch on both of them. Kagome, for her part, had not even moved. "You have the shikon no tama, you have somehow revived Kagome, who Kikyou sealed fifty years ago. Your clothing is foreign as well. Yet, you come to this village only to receive treatment for your injury?"
Inuyasha gave her a baleful glare. "Um yeah. That's right. Got a problem with that?"
"Can you explain how you acquired the shikon no tama?" Kaede queried. Kagome's presence was important, but the shikon no tama was a far more formidable concern.
"Oi! I told you. It came from inside me. I was fighting off this youkai by the Goshinboku, and it was after the shikon no tama. I didn't know what the fuck it was, but I figured if he got the jewel, he'd leave me alone. So I figured out where it was inside of me and… stabbed it out with an arrow." He shrugged, conveying that he didn't really think the self-inflicted wound was that big a deal. Kagome sniffed and rolled her eyes at him, then buried her face in her knees again. "But the arrow unsealed Kagome. So she killed the youkai and he didn't get the jewel after all."
"What a blessing that was," Kaede murmured.
"Well Bachi Hebi would have the jewel right now, if it weren't for Kagome."
"I meant the jewel not ending up in a youkai's hands… not Kagome…"
"Can't have one without the other," Inuyasha countered. He felt defensive of her, no doubt about that. But when she was sitting just beside him, a broken and crumpled mess, he could scarcely be anything but.
"Hm..." Kaede nodded solemnly. "And you, Houshi-sama…."
"My name is Inuyasha," he enunciated each syllable.
Kaede's brow furrowed, confusion settling deep into her features. "Dog spirit. A name more befitting of Kagome, than you."
'It's just… ironic,' he recalled Kagome saying when he'd introduced himself to her. His eyes wandered up to the furry black triangles atop Kagome's head. Oh... Half inu-youkai. Hell, that's just too weird. The irony was discomfiting, strange beyond the level of a mere coincidence. His mother had given the name due to her fondness for folklore and mythology. He imagined Inuyasha was a character in a legend she enjoyed, but he struggled to recall any specifics. Inuyasha couldn't remember if he'd just never asked her, or if he'd just forgotten because he hadn't heard the story in years. Having not taken his eyes from Kagome, he felt a pang at the sight of her tear streaked cheeks and the soaked knees of her hakama. I'll have to try and go home to Mom soon…
"Inuyasha-sama," Kaede interrupted his train of thought. "You have the shikon no tama inside of you, but you do not know what it is. I find that difficult to believe. The shikon no tama is a legend any learned person would know well."
"Are you truly a priest, Inuyasha-sama?" She inquired.
"Hmph." Inuyasha shrugged and stretched his legs out. "I have a magical jewel inside of me and can explode shit with my hands. I don't know what I am."
"Miko," came Kagome's quiet voice, from within the folds of her hakama. "The guardian of the shikon no tama has always been a miko."
Kaede nodded sagely. "She is right. Only a miko can be pure enough to constantly resist the call of the shikon no tama's power."
Inuyasha's jaw dropped, and he blinked. "Oi um, one little problem with that theory. I'm a guy."
"Yes I had noticed that, Inuyasha-sama," Kaede remarked dryly. "But if you able to manifest powers in your hands, and if are the guardian of the shikon no tama, you must have very impressive spiritual powers."
"Doesn't make me a miko," he grumbled.
"No you would be a priest, of course. But how unusual," Kaede tapped her chin, "that anyone, let alone a man would be born with the jewel inside of him. For one… it should have been destroyed…"
"I don't want to be a priest either." Inuyasha pushed a strand of hair behind his ear. "Now um, can we get this over with so I can leave?"
"Oh yes, your injury." Kaede walked over to the far corner of the hut and opened a wooden box. Inuyasha caught a glimpse of what was inside, herbs and strings of fabric he assumed were used as bandages. "We still have much to talk about. I will go fetch some water to clean out your wound, and we'll speak more when I return." She glanced ruefully toward Kagome. "Do you truly believe it safe to remain alone with her?"
"I do." Inuyasha did not falter.
Kaede held the shikon no tama up between two of her fingers and grabbed an empty wooden bucket with her other hand. "I will take the jewel with me, and return it once we've figured out what's happening here."
"But it's mine!"
"I realize that you are the proper guardian, but this is not a position to be taken lightly." Kaede looked down at him from her standing position. "You do not even know what it is, and you have taken a known murderer as your companion. Inuyasha-sama… I understand you may not know what's going on, so it will be safe with me right now." Kaede pushed the flap outward and left the hut.
Silence transpired between Kagome and Inuyasha once she had exited. Kagome, for her part, remained listless, unresponsive to Kaede's quipping accusation. Inuyasha gulped, his swallow settling heavily below his throat.
"Is it true?" He asked, his voice precarious. "Did you… do what Kaede said you did?"
Kagome sniffed and wiped her nose with the end of her sleeve. She lifted her head toward Inuyasha, eyes glistening with unshed tears. "I didn't. I… don't even know what she's talking about. I never would have hurt… Kikyou."
"What did she mean then?"
She bit her lip and shook her head. "I don't know…. I don't know anything about that. Kikyou was the one who attacked me. I didn't fight back. I didn't even have a chance…"
Inuyasha lapsed into silence again. Absently, he picked at the fabric of the mat below him. "There's no real reason I should believe one of you over the other, is there?"
Kagome pressed her face against her knees again. "Please believe me, Inuyasha. Please."
She raised her eyes to him, an expression of disbelief crossing her features.
"You're the one crying. You're the one not demanding anything of me." He shrugged. "And damn, I just can't imagine anyone being as good at faking it as you'd have to be."
"Inuyasha…" A wan smile crossed her lips. She wiped her eyes and pushed her legs out straight.
He found the moment exceedingly awkward. "Sorry… about your family. I can't imagine losing… my mother." It sounded bad the moment it came out of his mouth. He expected Kagome to snap at him, angry that he'd tried to analogize her grief to himself.
"Your mother!" He flinched, expecting her to snap at him. "Is she back in your country?"
Surprised, he took a moment to formulate a response. "Uh yeah. She is. But I mean… I left without telling her, because I ended up here on accident." Guilt pooled in his stomach. He imagined his mother was worried, terrified even. He pictured her finding his backpack on the steps of the well-house, then immediately calling his cell phone and getting no answer. He had it in his pocket, but he was pretty sure he wouldn't get service hundreds of years in the past. She'd likely call it repeatedly, then phone the school and see if he'd shown up. She had surely done all of that by now. Now the fear would have set in. He was gone, having left only his backpack, who knows where her son could have vanished to. It had only been an hour or two since he'd fallen through the well, but it felt like days. He hoped it wasn't the same for her.
"You should go back." Kagome's voice was small, but assured. "Kaede's gone. I'll sneak you out."
"No buts," her tone grew in timbre. "I just lost my entire family. I'm not going to let someone else lose someone…"
Inuyasha glanced at her, nonplussed. "Oi, what do you mean?"
Kagome sighed deeply. "The shikon no tama destroys lives. If you became the guardian… who knows what could happen to you."
"So you want me to go home?"
Swiftly, Kagome got to her feet and brushed the dust of the back of her pants. "You are going home, and I will walk you all the way back to your faraway country if I have to." Tears still pooled in the corner of Kagome's eyes, but her expression was determined, resolute, fiercely decisive. "Kaede won't suspect that we'd leave. She probably thinks we're both interested enough in the shikon no tama to stay behind. You don't seem to care about it, and I don't ever want to see it again."
"Ergh, okay. Let's go to the well then..." Inuyasha rubbed the back of his head and stood up himself, the pain in his side flaring up as he did so.
"Let me take care of your injury real quick. We'll just have to do without water to wash it. We can find some at a spring when we're walking." She walked over to the box Kaede kept the bandages in, and snatched up several of them. "Wait," she spoke as she rolled the bandages in her hands and stepped back to Inuyasha, "what do you mean to go the well?"
He grimaced, dreading the idea of explaining this to her. "My country is on the other side of the well. I was… pulled from it by Bachi Hebi."
"Hold up your arms," Kagome commanded gently. Inuyasha did so. She pulled up his gakuran jacket and the shirt underneath it, scrunching it up right below his chest. "It's not near as bad as it could have been, you're lucky," she stated as she surveyed his wound. "Still, it will definitely scar."
"Better than dying." Both of them blushed as her hands pressed against his side, her fingers gently moving to wrap the bandage all the way around his center.
"So you weren't being sarcastic about the well thing, were you?" She asked as she wrapped the bandage around him a second time. He shook his head in the negative. "Doesn't seem that… strange actually. I mean, I don't think there's a country in this world like the one you described earlier."
You have no idea, he thought. To her, his time would surely be alien. Literally. Like she'd landed on an extra-terrestrial planet. "We go to the well, and I climb in. Last time I fell in, it took me here. I just hope it works the other way around…"
"It will. It must," she punctuated, tying the bandage firmly in place. "Kaede will be back soon. We have no time to waste. Follow me, I'll take us around the back of the hut and will get us to the well without going through the village."
Kagome didn't wait for a response, instead walking to the entrance of the hut and opening the flap immediately. Inuyasha pulled down his undershirt and jacket, grumbling at the way the thick bandage made them feel tight, and followed her lead.
After sneaking around the back of the hut, as quietly and as inconspicuously as they could manage, the pair of them traipsed through Kaede's herb garden and onto a grassy knoll. Inuyasha noticed the stairs leading up the village shrine as they walked across the hill. They skirted toward the front of the village and into forest, remaining outside the crop fields and huts and amongst tall grasses and trees. The pair remained silent the entire time, attempting to keep even their footsteps softer than usual. They traced the familiar path from the village to the Goshinboku, and they both cringed as the foul smell of Bachi Hebi's flesh reached their nostrils when they entered the clearing that held the great tree. Inuyasha noticed that Kagome's face was crestfallen again, the melancholic expression returning. She wasn't crying. He wondered if she might be out of tears.
The meadow shone in the mid-morning sun as they entered it, the green grasses calm and pristine. A few stray wildflowers popped out of the grass, and he noticed that a wide line of grass was pressed into the ground. Probably from Bachi Hebi… His suspicion was confirmed when he spotted smears of blood on some of the blades.
The well sat in the middle of the meadow. Inuyasha approached it first and broke the silence. "Are you going to be okay, when I go back?"
"Inuyasha," Kagome spoke and stepped up beside him. "I'll be fine. You need to go. Your mother is probably worried about you." Her voice softened and cracked as she finished the sentence, and she fought fresh tears.
"What will you do?" He ran his hand across the coarse wood that made up the lip of the well.
"Oh I don't know… I'll be okay though." Kagome put on a brave face and forced a smile.
"Keh." Inuyasha sat down on the side of the well. "I can respect that."
Kagome stepped forward, then paused in hesitation before deciding to sit down next to him. "Then it was nice knowing you Inuyasha."
"I really mean that," she continued. "I mean you unsealed me, but it's not just that."
"What else is it?" Inuyasha intoned, curious. She reached up her hand and held it above her forehead, shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight.
"I just appreciate that someone else was willing to give me a chance."
"And I think that's enough to get by, for a while. Knowing that I might meet someone else like you… that's good enough." She made direct eye contact with him and smiled lightly. "Thanks for that."
Inuyasha stared at her, absorbing her words with both confusion and gratitude. He had no idea what he'd done for Kagome that had been so special. He hadn't gone out of his way to do anything for her. He'd just acted naturally, done what came to him, reacted in a manner that made sense to him.
"So the reason I came through the well, was because Bachi Hebi pulled me through…"
"You mentioned that."
"Oi, just reminding you," he clarified. "I thought that maybe if one youkai were ready to attack me in there, maybe others would be as well."
Kagome blinked, not getting what he was trying to say. "Well you're a miko…"
"Am not!" Inuyasha retorted.
"A guy with spiritual powers who doesn't want to be a priest. Is that better?" Kagome rolled her eyes.
He crossed his arms. "I don't know how to do any of that shit though. It just happened last time I did it." Inuyasha's brows furrowed and he frowned, embarrassed at what he was about to ask. "But I mean if it does happen, it might be nice to… have someone there." He tapped his fingers on his crossed forearms. "I mean it's not like I don't think I could kick its ass, but just in case I need some… backup."
His fear that a youkai would come after him in the well was minimal. He wasn't stupid. He no longer had the shikon no tama, which was the item the youkai would be after him for. He wondered for a moment, if Kaede would be stuck protecting the jewel now. She's a miko. That kind of stuff is her job… and if she can't do it, she can find another miko. He didn't feel any affection toward the elderly woman.
But he couldn't just ditch Kagome. It was a ridiculous idea, inviting her to the modern era. He had no idea what his motives were behind doing it. Inuyasha couldn't think past the fact that he refused to willingly leave a girl who'd just lost her family alone. What would she do once she got there? He hadn't thought about it. Inuyasha was not a master of planning ahead. His thought pattern didn't remotely venture into what a hanyou girl would do in a modern era without the scantest hint of anything mystical (or where she'd stay, or anything of the sort).
"You want me to come with you?" Kagome asked, disbelieving.
"Yeah, why not?"
She glanced towards the edge of the meadow, where the wood that led to the Goshinboku began. There was nothing left for her here. No family, no friends, no home. Inuyasha's country sounded like a nice place, free of the isolation that condemned her here. Maybe she could make her own home there.
"Okay, I'll come." She glimpsed down the inky black depths of the well.
He nodded. "Here goes then." Inuyasha swung around the lip of the well, catching the ladder with his hands. He stepped down a few notches and Kagome followed suit. Once he reached the bottom of the ladder, Inuyasha leapt off, and instead of landing on the cold dirt of the well, found himself in the blue-black void between worlds. Kagome appeared beside him half a moment later.
Author's Note: I don't normally make notes at the end of chapters, but I wanted to make it clear that, this fic will be coming back to the sengoku jidai (and soon). I think the trip to the modern era will last a chapter, two chapters maximum. Then not only will we be returning to the sengoku jidai, but we'll be getting back to the battle intensive plotline of the story. The first big battle arc, as well as more explanation regarding the histories of the characters, will occur then.