Disclaimer: I do hereby disclaim all rights and responsibilities for the characters in this gentle adventure... especially for the one who is keeping their promises. A nod of recognition is bent towards Rumiko Takahashi for her creative prowess where InuYasha is concerned. All due respect is also offered to Yoshihiro Togashi, whose fervid imagination is responsible for YuYu Hakusho.
An Affinity for Success
- 52 -
When their finals ended, Kagome insisted they all celebrate with a hot pot party, which Shuuichi might have looked forward to more if they hadn't extended the invitation to include his mother.
"Is she your girlfriend?" she asked, eyes alight with interest.
"No." He directed his mother to the rear driveway of the shrine in order to spare her the stairs. "I tutored her, and her whole family has been very welcoming and kind."
She eyed him, offering a skeptical, "Hmm?"
"We've become good friends. Nothing more." He patiently explained, "She's always been very clear that she's in love with someone else. She'll go to be with him after graduation."
His mother's whole expression shifted into cautious concern. "Did she break your heart?"
"Maybe a little." He tucked her arm through his, and said, "I think you'll like her mother. Maybe after tonight, you'll have made a good friend, too."
She laughed and shook her head. "I'm not lonesome for company, dear. I have you."
"Yes, you do." He could promise that much. "But Mrs. Higurashi may be in need of a friend. She'll be lonesome after Kagome is gone."
"Like you?" she asked softly.
"I suppose that's how it will be for a while." Shuuichi might hide some things from his mother, but not this. Patting her arm, he said, "I'm glad I have you."
- 53 -
If Wishes Were Foxes
Youko had to give Shuuichi credit. The boy was smart, and he knew how to time things so that reversion ended soon after they completed a job. Normally, the fox wouldn't have cared about the short tether, but he knew why Shuuichi was being so cautious. And he wasn't letting his alter ego get away with it.
Midway through a job, Youko rounded on Hiei, arms outspread. "You can handle this, correct?"
"Hnn." Hiei spared him a glance. "You will only be in my way if you are distracted."
With a grateful salute, he bolted, springing across moonlit rooftops toward the Higurashi's shrine.
He'd bought himself a scant hour; it would have to be enough.
Catching his breath, he rapped on Kagome's window.
A light flicked on, and she pulled aside the curtain. He could see signs of packing. Empty space in her closet. Gaps on her shelves. Simple reminders that she was almost gone.
"Hello," she said softly.
"He has been keeping me from you." Youko hadn't meant to sound quite so petulant.
Kagome smiled. "You're very hard on yourself."
"I do not have long." She didn't invite him inside. He was … disappointed. "I wanted another look at your well. When the time comes, I will be the one to pick the lock."
"Thank you," she murmured, looking happier than he'd ever seen her.
He had done that. Made her happy. But he couldn't keep her happy. He couldn't keep her at all.
Youko asked, "Is he worth crossing centuries for?"
"Yes." Kagome's eyes lowered. "Am I being selfish?"
"You may be the most selfless person I ever met." He dipped his head, catching her gaze. "Even selfless people want things."
Urgent, earnest, and achingly simple, she said, "I want to go back."
Youko could do this. He could smile. "That is why I am going to open the way for you."
"Do you … want to come with me?"
He looked away, laughed a little. "Does that mean you will miss me?"
"We have both made our choices, Kagome-chan." He shook his head. "Shuuichi will stay with his mother. I can watch over yours, as well."
Her eyes glistened. "You would do that?"
Youko reached without taking, letting his fingertips touch the top of her head in a fleeting sort of benediction. "We will have a lot in common, she and I."
Tears slipped down her cheeks. "I know she'll miss me."
He could do this. He could say it. "She loves you enough to let you go."
- 54 -
Youko hurried away before reversion ended, but he didn't go far. Skulking moodily through the shrine grounds, he indulged an entirely foxish whim. At times like this, he enjoyed inconveniencing the boy. No harm would be done, but a point could be made.
With scant minutes to spare, Youko dropped into the Bone-eater's Well.
He could sense the ancient power linked to this place and sent his own strength into it, burrowing like roots, slowly taking it in, patiently drawing it nearer. Surrounded by the components, it was possible to see the unique synergy achieved by stone and clay, root and bone. The God Tree was part of the power, living and changeable. Youko lost himself in the task of unraveling and weaving, for something had damaged its delicate pathways. A minor cataclysm that had changed the balance of power, effectively stoppering the portal.
Healing. Mending. Reminding.
The tree thrummed with potential, but Youko left gaps in his handiwork. He'd make the last few links when Kagome was ready to make her leap, and not a moment sooner. Youko didn't want her inadvertently leaving early. Or worse, provide an opening so someone could come through from the other side.
Yes, he was ultimately giving way to another male, but he wasn't giving up Kagome until he had to.
Youko swayed and sighed. Speaking of yielding….
A silver head bowed. A red one lifted.
Shuuichi recognized the well shaft and knew what it meant. Youko had visited Kagome. He hoped he didn't owe her any apologies for the fox's forwardness. Then he realized that he'd been effectively stranded.
"Is this your idea of a joke?" He rested his forehead against the stone side and laughed softly. "I really am hard on myself."
End Note: These three drabbles were written for no other reason than to nudge this story along to its long-awaited conclusion. Well, I'll also mention that you can now pre-order the second story in the Songs of the Amaranthine collection—Followed by Thunder. Details at ForthWrites dot com. These drabbles are 227, 422, and 291 words respectively. Posted on January 8, 2019.