AN: This is Cannon! It's set in the modern era. Also, if you're waiting for an update on any of my other stories, they're coming! I swear!! This just got me a little distracted...
Disclaimer: I don't own, please don't sue!
"True legends never die." -- Unknown
Kagome gave a long stretch as she stepped out of her Jeep. She'd been on the road for a few hours now and was very happy to finally arrive at her destination. Every weekend she would go to another rural area in Japan scouting for local legends. She had already obtained her degree and become a high school history teacher, but now she was writing a study on how legends in some areas may have been born from natural and geological phenomena. All of this was when she wasn't busy grading her student's tests and papers, of course.
It had originally begun as a search for information on her friends from the past. After defeating Naraku and joining all of the purified jewel shards, Kagome had been sent back to her time where the well no longer allowed her passage through time. She read every book on myths, legends, and folklore that she could find while in high school. And there had been several versions of the legend of the Jewel of Four Souls, but nothing citing any specific persons or what happened after the "demon of deceit" had been destroyed.
On the occasions that her friends were able to pull her away from her books, Kagome had gradually readjusted to life in the modern age. It hadn't been too difficult since she would always be a twenty-first century girl at heart, but she did miss the clean air and clear skies. She'd even gotten over her heartbreak and started dating in her last couple of years of high school. Human boys weren't so bad even if they couldn't run faster than the wind, leap up cliff sides, or use magic. They were, after all, only human.
But then Kagome had gotten the surprise of her life. She'd arrived back at the shrine one evening just before sunset after a long day at school and with friends, but had been startled when she noticed a man leaning against the side of her house as if waiting for something. Glancing around, Kagome didn't see anyone else outside and began to panic. This man wasn't very far from her front door and there was no way she could get into her house without passing him.
Her fears quieted some when he turned his attention her way. He was an older man looking to be in his late-forties. She didn't like to think of it this way, but she was fairly confident that she could fend off someone his age or outrun them at the very least. So, squaring her shoulders and steeling her nerve, Kagome walked forward and addressed the man from a closer—but still safe—distance. "Excuse me sir, but the shrine is closed for the evening. You're welcome to come back tomorrow."
She had been hoping that he would apologize for the confusion, she had even partially expected him to come at her in some way, but Kagome was taken completely by surprise when the man in front of her merely smirked before releasing a deep chuckle. "I know I've changed, but I don't look that old, do I?" He questioned as he removed his black fedora-style hat.
Kagome couldn't suppress the gasp as a hand flew to her mouth and she took a surprised step back before sinking to the ground completely. She could now see that what was earlier dismissed as graying hair was truly a deep and sparkling white. He was definitely older than the last time she saw him, but there was no mistaking the golden eyes and strong mouth that smirked down at her…especially with the two velvety ears twitching on top of his head. "Inuyasha," she whispered.
"Heh, it's about time you recognized me! You've only had a few years compared to my five hundred and some odd. Is your human memory really that pathetic??" The half-demon teased.
Kagome instantly sprang up before yelling back, "Have you looked in a mirror lately?! You looked like you were my age! When did you turn into an old man?" She jabbed.
Ears instantly flattening against his skull, Inuyasha growled out, "I ain't an old man! Let's see you try to age five hundred years and not look like an old hag…" But his grumblings were cut short as the teenage girl threw herself at his chest and wrapped her arms around his neck laughing.
"It really is you!" She cried. "I was worried that everyone had died…"
"You're not getting rid of us that easily," the older demon soothed returning the hug. "Most all of the demons you knew are still around…even that damned Kouga."
Kagome laughed at her friend as she pulled back from their embrace slightly. "All this time and you still don't get along? Will you ever stop fighting with Kouga??"
"Yeah…as soon as it snows in hell and the devil learns to figure skate."
More laughter filled the courtyard before Kagome grabbed Inuyasha's hand and began tugging him inside the house. "Mom! Souta! Gramps! Look who's here!!"
Her mother's calm voice answered from a room down the hallway, "We know, dear. He's been waiting outside for you for a few hours. Oh, and he staying for supper so remember to set an extra place!"
Kagome could only look over at the smirking half-demon in surprise as he kicked off his shoes at the door and padded into the house as though he came over every day.
But that was several years ago. Kagome was no longer a seventeen year old girl but a twenty-four year old woman. She was no longer the student but the teacher. And Inuyasha…well he was still surprisingly the same even after five centuries. They'd done a little to improve his temper and patience, but he still had outbursts.
It had been thanks to Inuyasha, Kouga, and Shippou that she was able to go to college without the aid of student loans. They'd had quite a while to make their fortunes and establish good names in different businesses worldwide. She still thought it was hilarious to see any of them in a business suit.
But they were forbidden from these little excursions of hers. She knew that they would only distract her, and these were times that she could take to clear her mind while doing her research.
She glanced at her Jeep as she grabbed a bag from the backseat and shouldered it. A present from her over-protective trio, it always took her everywhere she needed to go. Her trips often lead her into isolated areas that would require something with four-wheel-drive, so this was the perfect vehicle for her. Though, she was often griped at about its dirty and slightly dented condition. But what did they expect? She was in the woods and mountains, not downtown Tokyo!
Starting down the street where she'd parked, Kagome couldn't help but smile as she passed by the different vendors selling their goods. She sometimes wished that she could move to a place like this and live somewhere with a simpler lifestyle. But even with teaching and doing her research, Kagome Higurashi was still the resident miko at Sunset Shrine. It held far too many memories for her to just leave it behind for someone else to take care of.
She stopped occasionally to buy some locally grown fruits and vegetables here and there, but always kept her ears and eyes open for someone who might know of local legends. In her experience it was usually the older generations that had the best stories; her grandfather was a prime example of that.
Bickering caught her attention and Kagome turned to see two elderly women about the same age in vendor stands that were side-by-side. It was obvious that they weren't really upset with one another and were just squabbling between friends. 'A perfect place to start,' she thought as she made her way over with a warm smile on her face.
"Excuse me, ladies," she interrupted to catch their attention before continuing. "My name is Kagome Higurashi and I'm a history teacher at Musashi High School in Tokyo. I'm currently doing independent research into local legends and folklore in the more rural surrounding areas. If either of you know of any stories that you would be willing to share with me, I'd greatly appreciate it."
"Will you listen to that, Koto? A young person who is actually interested in old folktales," the woman selling jams said to her friend. "If only my grandchildren were as interested in such things! I'm Yoshino, Miss Higurashi."
"I wouldn't want to listen to you blather on either if I were as young as your grandchildren," Koto shot back. "But she is a pretty little lady, isn't she? And to be a teacher at such a young age. You're barely out of school yourself!"
Kagome wasn't sure whether she had just been complimented or insulted, but she kept her smile and assumed the former.
"Koto! Behave yourself." Yoshino chastised. "You'll have to excuse her," she told Kagome. "She's just upset because my jams have been selling better than her melons," the woman preened.
"As if anyone actually likes your bitter jam…" Koto grumbled.
Kagome had to bite the inside of her cheek so that she didn't laugh at their banter. "Well it's very nice to meet you, ladies. So I take it that there are some stories in this area?" She directed towards Yoshino but Koto answered instead.
"No stories that you won't find similar versions of anywhere else," the melon lady answered.
"You hush now, Koto!" Yoshino glared at her friend. "You didn't move here until you were a teenager. I happen to remember a story that my grandmother told me when I was just a little girl," she assured Kagome. "And it happens to be unique to only this valley," she directed at Koto.
"That would be wonderful! Would you mind if I recorded your telling? I don't want to forget anything later!" Kagome questioned excitedly as she dug through her bag for her digital recorder.
"Of course, dear, of course," Yoshino answered with a chuckle when Kagome started grumbling over technologies that ran away from her. When Kagome finally pulled the small recorder free of her bag Yoshino motioned for her to come take a seat beside her behind the stand. "Now let's see…how did that story begin again??" She paused. "Oh yes! Did you know that this valley is one of great value?" She asked. When Kagome shook her head, Yoshino continued. "The mountains on the other side of the entrance to the valley have many valuable natural resources buried within. And several times in the past, developers have come here to try to buy or take our land away from us so that they could get through to those resources.
"But each time they try to get under the mountain something scares them away. Some people think that it's just superstition, but in the mountains lives our Demon Guardian.
"Hundreds of years ago, this valley was under the protection of a great and powerful demon. As long as the people obeyed his law, he watched over them and made sure that no harm came to the valley. He would chase away bands of corrupted samurai and soldiers during times of war, and supplied food during times of famine. But one day humans decided to rise up against the demons that they feared.
"The people in the valley were sure to get caught in the crossfire as others came to kill their protector. So in his last act of protection, their Demonic Guardian brought the giant bones of another, spilled some of his own blood, and left to the mountains so that others would think he'd been slain.
"He was neither seen nor heard from for many generations. But one day some young men who were in the mountains hunting game found great animal tracks that couldn't have belonged to anything from the area. That is how we knew that he was the one keeping modern man away from our peaceful little town." Yoshino smiled at Kagome's expression. She looked just like a child hanging on her every word.
"But that was many years before even my time," she said. "Nobody has tried to disturb the valley or the mountains for a very long time. People have tried to reason the developer's fears away to things such as shadows, rock slides, and echoing animal calls, but I like to think that our Demon Guardian is the real reason we're able to live here."
Snapping out of her trance, Kagome sat up straight and took out a notepad and pencil to ask a few questions. "Do you know what some of the things frightening people away were?"
Yoshino thought for a moment before answering, "It seems like they would hear strange noises; things like eerie howls or growling. There have been a few people who have seen what they said were animal tracks larger than cars. But as I said, it's been a very long time. A scientist looked into it once and said that the "tracks" could have been caused by erosion or some such. He also said that the noises could be calls from other animals or sounds coming from underground and echoing through some of the caves."
Kagome nodded as she took notes even though the recorder was still going. She would do a little investigating of her own. If she found anything interesting or substantial, she would come back a few more times until she reached her own conclusion. "Well, Yoshino and Koto, thank you very much for your time. It's been a great help!"
"Anytime," Yoshino answered as Kagome grabbed her things and started back down the street to her Jeep. "She was a nice girl."
Koto simply hummed before answered, "I suppose. But you know as well as I do that she won't find anything from that story in those mountains. She'll be so disappointed; she had a daydreamer's eyes."
Kagome was driving up a road that obviously hadn't been traveled on in a very long time. The ground was uneven and slightly grown over with various forms of vegetation. Stopping for a moment, she checked her map and determined that she'd come far enough into the mountains to do what she'd come to do—and that was explore.
As she folded her map to put into her hiking pack, Kagome saw a flash of color in the forest and stilled. She listened carefully and waited for any other movements or sounds. When none were heard she continued checking that she had everything that she needed and got out of the Jeep to continue on foot taking a path to her right.
It was another few minutes of hiking before another flash of color and a light rustling caught her attention. She could feel her heart start to beat a little faster as she scanned the area. She was well aware of the wild animals in the surrounding forests and had a can of pepper spray as a small handgun at her hip just in case, but if she needed to use either it would come down to being faster at getting them in her hands than the animal getting to her.
Her breathing picked up a notch and her hand went to her side holster as more movement was made to her left and behind her. Whatever was there was getting closer…
She made a move to slowly turn around, but was taken by surprise when a large weight collided with her chest effectively knocking her to the ground and her hand away from her weapons. When she opened her eyes she was greeted by two giant brown paws pressing down on her chest and gleaming white fangs merely inches from her face. Kagome thought she was going to either pass out or have a heart attack, but eventually took a deep breath and let her head fall against the leaf-covered ground.
"Okay, you've officially scared the crap out of me for this trip," she announced. "You can get off of me now."
A pink tongue delivered a languid lick to her face before the weight was removed from her and she was free to get on her feet again. She glared half-heartedly at the three large wolves—one black, one brown, and one grey—that walked up to her with their tails wagging. "If you think you're getting treats after that stunt, you guys are crazy!" But their whining and puppy-dog eyes (that they pulled off surprisingly well for adult wolves) melted her heart far too quickly for her liking and she pulled a Ziploc bag of beef jerky out of her pack.
Kagome rolled her eyes at the trio as they practically inhaled the snack before starting up the path once again. It was pretty much mandatory that she tell Inuyasha, Kouga, and Shippou where she was planning on visiting each weekend. And because she didn't allow them to accompany her, Kouga always dispatched a few of his wolves to the area to watch over her and keep her company. These three had been sent out for the past few months and she'd grown a little attached to them.
She'd also found they she didn't need her map with the wolves following her around. If she found an area of interest all she had to do was mark it with a flag and spray a nearby tree with any kind of traceable scent and her partners would lead her right back to the site. And that's how Kagome spent her first day in the mountains. There were a couple of spots that could have been what others referred to as "tracks" and another spot that almost looked like giant claw marks in some large boulders. But other than that, there wasn't much to find that she could see. Not even Kouga's wolves were picking up anything that she might have overlooked.
So as the sun set, Kagome started making camp. Another thing that Kouga's wolves were good for was finding water sources and fetching water. She always brought a bucket or two along for various uses, but the handles easily fit in a wolf's mouth and they weren't too heavy if filled with water for them to carry.
Darkness eventually fell and Kagome was making some soup over a small fire she had going while trying to ignore the wolves as they ate their own supper; they'd apparently found a few rabbits in the forest and had a successful hunt. But as she ate she let her mind wander and came to the conclusion that she was indeed a little disappointed with her findings so far. The story had sounded so interesting when Yoshino had told it to her, and she was really hoping that she would find something to support it. She had another day or two, but her start wasn't very promising.
She soon washed her cooking utensils in one of the buckets of water and prepared for bed. Her lupine companions settled in by her side ensuring her warmth. Kagome was just starting to drift off to sleep when a strange sound echoed through the forest.
Sitting up quickly caused the wolves to also go on guard against any possible threats. When it sounded again a shiver crept up Kagome's spine and she saw the three wolves around her move closer together and flatten their ears to their heads; she wasn't the only one unnerved by the sound. But she couldn't just sit there and she certainly wasn't going to be scared off by the noise. The only thing left to do was investigate.
The wolves whined and tugged at her shorts gently when she started pulling on her boots and reaching for her flashlight. "Fine you big babies," she said with a small huff after standing. "If you want to stay at camp that's fine, but I'm going to find out what that is. I just wonder what Kouga will say when he finds out about this." She tossed over her shoulder as she walked off between the trees. She wasn't surprised when several more sets of footsteps could be heard behind and beside her.
Their pace was slow and careful. Every now and then the sound would carry through the night. It was unsettling to say the least. And there was no way that it was noise from underground. This was definitely some kind of animal, but she had no idea what. Its wail was almost haunting and it shook her to the core the closer she drew to the source.
Soon she found herself at the entrance to a cave. "Oh great," she mumbled. "This doesn't scream 'horror movie—turn back now' at all." But when the call sounded again, Kagome found it almost impossible to breathe. The sound was deafening and all-encompassing as it echoed out of the mouth of the cave. It not only sent a shiver down her spine, but caused a shudder to wrack her entire being. This was definitely where the sound was coming from.
She was about to take her first step into the cave when she felt a strong set of jaws tug on her belt. She looked back to see the grey wolf firmly tugging at her with a whine as the other two moved in front of her and bristled slightly with a growl. The last thing she expected was an answering growl from within the cave. But the one from the cave was so much louder, so much deeper, and so much more threatening than what was coming from the two creatures in front of her. It almost caused her to lose her nerve.
It took a few deep breaths and double-checking that her gun was at her side before Kagome was finally able to swallow the lump in her throat and take her first shaky step forward. She noticed that the wolves were no longer following her. She glanced over her shoulder and saw that they were pacing the mouth of the cave nervously, but not daring to step into the darkness that surrounded her. She wouldn't tell Kouga about their leaving her by herself because she honestly couldn't blame them. She wouldn't have followed her either.
A few more steps and the menacing growl enveloped her once more. This time, being completely surrounded by the sound vibrations caused her knees to go weak and her lungs to seize up momentarily. She fell to her knees and gasped to regain her breath. At this point it was all she could do to keep the threatening bile pushed down. Her body and instincts were screaming at her to turn around, to run, to get away from this place, but her mind was pressing her to continue. There was something in this cave that was worth continuing forward and she wasn't going to risk coming back tomorrow and it being gone.
So she stood again on shaky legs and ventured deeper into the darkness. It was wet; she could hear the water dripping around her. There must be an underground water source nearby. The growl started again and she had to brace herself against the cave wall. This time the growling didn't stop but was continuous. She had to be getting close now, and whatever was in the cave wasn't happy about it.
Rounding a small curve in the tunnel she'd been following, Kagome was surprised to see that it opened up into a much larger area. But was instantly gained her attention was a piercing red within the darkness.
She brought her light up with an unsteady hand to illuminate what was in front of her, but found herself forgetting how to breathe with what met her eyes. In front of her was a creature larger than any land animal alive in today's world. Dingy white fur splotched with what she assumed was dirt covered the animal, and large, red eyes that seemed to glow glared at her from its face. The growl grew louder and fangs were revealed in a vicious snarl, but Kagome was frozen to her spot by the natural markings on the animal's face and muzzle.
Sharp, crimson lines lined the corners around the beast's mouth and an indigo crescent moon rested on its forehead. Kagome had only ever seen this colossal creature a handful of other times, but it was unforgettable and one of a kind.
All that she could do was stare dumbly at the great dog demon before her as his name tumbled past trembling, pale lips. "Sesshoumaru…"
AN: So what did you think?? It's been a while since I've done anything like this, and I've had the idea tumbling around in my mind for some time. I have to admit that I'm really happy with the way this first chapter has turned out! Hope you enjoyed and I'll see everyone later!