Disclaimer: I DON'T OWN INUYASHA! There, I said it, now don't sue me!
CHAPTER ONE: NOTHING COULD BE WORSE
Nothing could be worse.
I flicked my eyes half-heartedly around my room. It had always been small and cramped, not that I minded. But for some reason, with all the furniture removed and all my belongings boarded up into cardboard boxes, it looked even smaller.
The paint on the walls was chipped, the carpet—rolled up against one wall now—was stained. And to make matters worse, we hadn't had air conditioning for a while either. I'm pretty sure that for most people, summer + Okinawa, Japan + ZERO AIR CONDITIONING does not equal any level of comfort.
I sighed. It was right now that I was beginning to realize just how wonderful sweating in a tiny apartment could be.
I have lived in Okinawa for my entire life, and in my opinion it is the most beautiful place in the world (although that might be because it is one of the only places I have ever seen). It's pretty quiet. I shared an apartment with my mother, my ten year old brother Sota, my grandfather, and my family's cat Buyo, who was currently sitting on my lap.
I had spent the last half hour leaning against the wall, stroking Buyo, probably glassy-eyed and looking really defeated. Or maybe sulky. I feel like a mixture of both. My natural sixteen-year-old rebellious instincts had encouraged me to try to give my mom and my grandpa the silent treatment, but I knew that was immature and mean. I tried it for a while after I learned what was happening, but I didn't have the heart to continue.
For those poor, mildly mentally challenged people who haven't yet figured out what was happening, even after the mention of "furniture removed" and "belongings boarded up into cardboard boxes," I guess I may as well tell you (there's no point in shunning you, too, although it is tempting): we're moving. Yes, as in leaving. Leaving Okinawa. For good.
I hate this. I hate leaving. Okinawa has always been pretty quiet and life might seem dull to someone used to the city, but the beaches are stunning. I've always loved to lie out in the sun, especially when I've got my adopted sister Rin—who is also sixteen years old—for company. Although Rin is a little shy, she is the nicest, most innocent, open-minded person I've ever met. It's impossible to feel uncomfortable or unwanted in her presence. She's amazing.
I'm going to miss this place so much. I'm going to miss the beaches, the rice-ball shop down the street, the old man who hates our family cause Buyo keeps sneaking into his yard and ruining his garden… and I won't even go into how much I'm going to miss my best friends (other than Rin, that is), Ayumi and Eri.
All because my mom lost her job again.
We've been having money problems since my dad died. It happened a few years ago—actually, exactly three years and forty-nine days ago. Like my grandfather, my father was a shrine keeper. Legend has it that spiritual powers are bestowed upon and passed down through certain families in Japan. The Higurashi family (my family), according to my grandfather, is such a family. My grandfather can be so funny sometimes; he's sure that he has special powers, but I can tell you he doesn't have any. I remember that my father would always wink at me when my grandfather went into one of his spiels. It used to make me giggle, that even he couldn't really take his work seriously.
My mother became involved in shrine keeping after she married my father. Sota and I have had some training in the practice as well. We've been moving from place to place, being the keepers of the shrine, but continuously we've run out of money. I've had to take part-time jobs. I'm just glad Sota hasn't had to yet; ten years old is much too young to forfeit your childhood.
Although Rin and I mock my grandfather for his odd beliefs, the idea of spiritual powers genuinely does interest me. Actually, it is known that spiritual power does exist—except it's very rare.
And very, very dangerous.
Shrine keepers have one main duty: to protect the shrine and the town from demons. It was originally thought that all demons are evil by nature—however over the years, most people in Japan have grown accustomed to them. I've never actually met a demon. They aren't as populace as humans, and they reside more in the big cities or separate demon reserves—not in small cities or towns like my family has lived in. And no human would ever dare to live in a demon reserve; just as some humans are prejudiced against demons, some demons are also prejudiced against humans. And in a fight between an unarmed human and an unarmed demon, the demon will always win.
Unless, of course, you have spiritual power, I thought, amused as I reminisced at my grandfather's latest speech.
Sometimes I wondered if I possessed spiritual power.
Once in a while, I could swear I could feel it, or at least feel something, some hidden power within my veins. My grandfather says that spiritual power is a blessing—and that its purpose is to defend yourself against demons. He has a certain fear of demons. He doesn't trust them; maybe he had a run-in with one a while back, I don't know. But either way, that's probably why he's tried to keep us away from places with demons until now.
Cause now, we're moving to Tokyo.
Yes, busy and lively and filthy rich Tokyo, the center of Japan, the big city, famous for its integration of humans and demons. My grandfather had been totally against the idea at first, but as the price of living here began to become too much, we knew we had to grope at any offer made to us.
It came from someone named Kaede. None of us have ever met her, but apparently she's an old woman in Tokyo who's looking for shrine keepers. My mother and my grandfather have spent ages talking with her over the phone, and finally they made a deal. Kaede is not only giving us the job of being the shrine keepers, but there's also the house connected to it—which is insanely cheap.
It's because of her "miracle offer" that we're moving. I used to wonder if I could hate someone I've never even met. Now I know I'm fully capable.
I sighed. I knew it was petty. But when I thought about leaving my Okinawa, all I wanted to do was curl up and cry.
"Hey Kagome," Rin said, giving me a kind of sad smile. She sat down beside me.
"Hey," I said dully, glancing up at her.
"Come on, cheer up a little," Rin pleaded. "It makes me upset to see you like this."
"Well what do you want me to be like, then?" I asked sarcastically. "Happy?"
Rin looked down. "Sorry," she said. "I just wish you weren't so upset. I mean, I'm upset too, I love this place. I love everything about it. But we shouldn't dwell on it, you know?"
Rin has a kind of high-pitched, sweet voice. I looked up as she spoke.
"I know, I'm sorry," I said sincerely. I grinned wryly. "I mean, when you think about it, shouldn't we be happy? Doesn't everyone want to live in Tokyo?"
Rin laughed. "It's so weird," she said cheerfully. "We're moving from this cheap place because we have money problems… to Tokyo."
I snorted. My family has serious issues.
"But hey, look on the bright side," Rin said. She leaned a little closer and said almost in a whisper, "We might get to meet…"
"Nothing," she said quickly, blushing and looking away.
"Oh come on, tell me!"
"Well, I was thinking… I've never met one before and I… I just… I've always wanted to meet a demon."
I raised my eyebrows, wondering if Rin had gone completely crazy. I mean, sure I've always secretly wanted to meet a demon, but Rin? Child of flowers and singing with a freaking halo blinding everyone who looks at her cute little black-haired head?
"Um, Rin…" I said slowly, coughing. "Weren't your parents killed by demons?"
Rin nodded. "That was a while ago," she said. "And besides. I don't think all demons are bad. They're like people—there are bad ones and good ones. I want to meet a good one."
I grinned at this, and hugged my sister.
"Kagome! Is Buyo in there!" I heard my brother shout from behind the door.
"Oh, yeah, sorry." Rin and I stood up, the fat, absolutely spoiled ginger cat lying lazily in my arms. Buyo is probably the only cat in the world who wants an escort to carry him wherever he goes.
If I were to raise children, they would be the brattiest, most spoiled, unbearable beings on the face of the Earth.
I sighed. "I've done myself in! I'm gonna be a slave to this cat for the rest of my life!"
Rin grinned. "Have fun."
Sota opened the door, wearing soccer shorts and a blue t-shirt.
"You guys are so slow," he moaned.
"Sota, really, don't irritate me today I'm short-tempered and crazy," I said shortly.
"But you're always—"
"Sota," Rin chided.
"Well Mom says we have to come downstairs, and bring the boxes," Sota said. He glanced into our room. "Um…" he called, "Mom, there are a lot of boxes up here!"
My mother—slender like me, but her wavy raven-colored hair is short—appeared, emerging from another door. She glanced into my room and groaned. "What have you two been doing in there this whole time?"
I shrugged. "Obviously not bringing boxes downstairs."
Rin and I giggled.
My mother sighed. "Just start now, okay? We're supposed to leave here in fifteen minutes. You girls are ready to go otherwise?"
"Mm-hmm," we said, and returned to our room to grab our boxes.
When we were back outside, loading the boxes into the cars and the moving van, we began chatting again.
"So what do you think Tokyo will be like?" Rin asked, sounding a little excited.
"It's almost like you want to leave," I groaned. "Sometimes your optimism is unbearable!"
"That's just cause it makes you feel bad about yourself," Rin teased. I rolled my eyes, grinning a little.
"So what makes you think you'll like Tokyo? The cute guys?" I asked, a little sarcastic.
Rin grinned. "Maybe. More I guess… well, I'm still excited about meeting the demons, and seeing a whole different society. Tokyo must be amazing. And it's really, really rich too—"
"Which means it'll be filled with spoiled, rich idiots and overpriced clothes," I pointed out.
"Oh don't be so down," Rin said. "Give it a chance. You might like it. And I know you're interested in the demons, too."
"We'd better stop talking about demons like this when we get to Tokyo," I noted. "It probably sounds like we think they're zoo freaks or something."
"I think you'd better stop talking about demons like that now," an old voice called as a short man walked up to us.
We put our boxes in the car. "Oh, hey, Grandpa, what's up?" I asked innocently.
"You can't trust demons, and now that we're moving to Tokyo," he bit back a grimace, "It's even more important that you know that." He groaned. "This is awful."
"Easy solution: let's not move?" I suggested half-heartedly.
He smiled wryly. "Okay, Kagome, we all know you don't want to leave, you don't have to advertise it anymore."
"Come on, let's go get the carpet," Rin said, tugging on my wrist.
"I've got a carpet to get, see ya Grandpa!" I called as I was dragged away.
The carpet was a lot heavier than we had expected.
"Okay, this is a problem," I said flatly as we tried and miserably failed to lift the carpet.
"Who would've thought carpets could be so heavy?" Rin muttered.
"It's an obese carpet!" I moaned. Rain grinned.
"Hey Kagome! Hi Rin!"
Rin and I exchanged a glance. I knew that voice. It was the voice of maybe one of the only people I would be relieved to see the last of.
"Hi Hojo!" Rin said cheerfully. Man, is she good at being nice.
"Hey," I said casually, smiling at him like I always do.
"Want a hand?" he asked.
"No, we've got—" I started to say, but he was already at the middle of the carpet.
"You guys grab each end," he instructed. "We'll lift it together. On three, ready? One…"
I rolled my eyes. It was like I was four or something. Hojo was always so extra-helpful, and he didn't have a clue of how to distinguish between helping and being really annoying.
I lifted on one, and to Rin's and Hojo's surprise, lifted my end of the carpet right up to my waist. Rin yelped, struggling to lift her end.
"Nice, Kagome," Hojo said appreciatively.
I grinned. "Wow. A few minutes ago I couldn't do that, I swear."
"It's all about believing," Hojo said sincerely.
I bit back a laugh at the cliché.
Halfway down the stairs, the carpet began to grow heavier. I managed to make it to the moving van before collapsing, just as weak as I had been when I'd first tried to pick up the carpet.
"Ow!" Rin and I squealed, and then looked at each other, and Hojo, on the ground with the carpet on top of us, and laughed.
Hojo laughed too. He rolled the carpet away and stood up, offering a hand to help me up. Sighing internally, I accepted it. There was no reason to be rude. After all, I would be out of here in ten minutes anyway.
"So what brought you over here?" I asked, for conversation's sake.
"I just wanted to help," he said, shrugging. "Plus I wanted to say good bye. My family and I are leaving to go to the beach in about five minutes, I don't have much time."
"So, we'll keep in touch, right?" Hojo said hopefully.
"Yeah, of course," I said, cringing, wishing there had been a way for me to say that without making it a promise.
Hojo nodded. "I'm gonna miss you so much!" He suddenly hugged me. I hugged him back awkwardly.
"I'll miss you too," I said. "I'm gonna miss everyone. I hate leaving this place."
Rin nodded. "Me too. I love it here. I'm just glad that…" she trailed off, looking away before smiling again. "Hey, it's Ayumi and Eri!"
Sure enough, Ayumi and Eri were running across the street screaming like the silly, excitable girls they were. They ran up to me and Rin and crushed us in a tight group hug.
"Ah!" I gasped. "We're moving, not dying! I'm not ready to suffocate!"
Ayumi grinned, relaxing. Eri, on the other hand, hugged us harder.
"And so the world became one Rin Suzuki Higurashi smaller…" Rin choked out.
They released us, and we all grinned and then, of course, screamed and hugged each other again.
"I'm gonna miss you so much!" we all yelled at the same time.
"Of course, we'll email, and call, and all that stuff," Ayumi assured us.
I nodded. "Every day."
Eri grinned. "I can't believe you're going to Tokyo! Lifestyle of the rich and famous, coming your way!"
"Hardly," I said.
"Yeah, we have to help out with the shrine and stuff," Rin added.
"That must be interesting, though," Ayumi said, eyes bright. "I mean, imagine the kinds of things you'll learn from being a shrine keeper."
"And the kind of things you'll get from Tokyo," Eri said enviously. "I know it sucks you're leaving and all, but I think you're really, really lucky."
"Well, I'd better be going," Hojo said cheerfully.
Ayumi and Eri, noticing for the first time that Hojo was there, nearly yelped. They blushed and turned, giggling. "No, you don't have to go! Really! Sorry, we barely noticed you!"
Rin and I bit our lips to keep from laughing. Almost every girl in our school is crushing on Hojo. I really don't understand what they see in him. They don't understand what I don't see in him. It took Ayumi and Eri a long time to wrap their minds around the fact that when Hojo asked me out over the summer, I turned him down.
"No, I've got to go," Hojo said, smiling politely. "I'm sorry, I'd like to stay, but my family is leaving very soon. I'll see you guys later. And Kagome, Rin… I guess this is goodbye."
He hugged us again, much to the amusement and envy of Ayumi and Eri. Hojo waved, and left.
"Well, now that you're gone, I guess Hojo will have to give someone else a chance now, huh?" Eri said thoughtfully.
"Don't talk like that," Ayumi chided. "It's like you want Kagome to leave."
"What? No! Of course not!"
I laughed. "I don't know, you sounded pretty happy."
"Of course I—I just—oh come on you know what I mean. It's amazing Hojo hasn't given up on you." She scrutinized me. "He must really like you."
"Well, he'll have to give up on me now," I said cheerfully. "So it all works out, right?"
"Yeah. And besides… I bet there are lots of cute guys in Tokyo," Ayumi said with a giggle.
Eri's eyes lit up. "The second you get to school, we want details, girl!"
"Absolutely," Ayumi enthused.
I mock groaned. "Okay, okay. I'll send you pictures."
Ayumi was serious. "But on to serious topics… make sure you're careful. Tokyo's the big city. Cities aren't as safe as places like this, you know?" she and Eri exchanged a worried glance.
"Not to mention that there are demons in Tokyo," Eri added darkly.
Eri is one of those people who just doesn't like demons. I think it's just how she was raised.
I rolled my eyes. "Isn't a human guy more likely to be a perv toward a human girl than a demon would be?"
"You'd think so. You never know," Eri said. She brightened up. "You just need to make sure you find yourself a strong boyfriend to protect you!"
"I don't need a guy to protect me," I said dismissively.
Eri frowned. "You can't not be interested in guys."
"Even if she isn't, that's fine," Ayumi said. "Nothing wrong with being independent."
"You know what would be cool?" Rin asked dreamily. "Falling in love."
"Just imagine. You might meet your soul mate in Tokyo," I told her, giving her a grin.
"You both might," Ayumi said admiringly.
"Oh I'm so jealous!" Eri groaned.
"We'll keep you updated, I promise," I assured her.
"You'd better," Eri threatened. From the look on her face, it looked like she meant business.
"Don't worry, we'll tell you about everything that's going on. Every day," Rin promised. "I'll email you and call you and everything—except that would use up minutes, so I'll probably just email usually."
Ayumi nodded with a grin. "Good idea. Don't worry, we'll keep you posted too!"
"Rin, Kagome, time to go!" our mother called from the car.
We hugged tightly again, and then stepped back.
"Well… this is goodbye," Eri said, seeming faintly surprised.
"Yeah," Rin said meekly. She sighed. "I wish we didn't have to leave."
"Me too," Ayumi moaned. "It's so much worse now that you're actually going."
"We've gotta go, Mom might run us over with the car," I said, grinning.
"I don't look good flattened on the asphalt," Rin piped up, to our amusement.
We ran to the car, climbing in the backseat. Ayumi and Eri waved as we pulled out of the driveway.
"We want to know what's going on!"
"Tokyo drama, here you come!"
"Tell us EVERYTHING!"
"We will!" we shouted out the window. "Good bye!"
"BYE!!" They screeched, jumping up and down and waving frantically.
We turned a street, and our old apartment, along with Ayumi and Eri, were gone.
Tokyo drama, here we come.