Of This World And Yesterday
Today has never happened and it doesn't frighten me....
-Bjork, Alarm Call
Chapter 29- Affinity
The blue sky expanded in all directions, reaching for the distant horizons of the land. From where each sat upon the green grass of the park, different people witnessed a quiet, peaceful evening, free of the clamor of the previous one. Free of the thundering skies and the eerie sensation they brought. One by one, people poked their heads out their windows and continued with their lives. News reports still brought attention to the strange weather from the previous day, and the bits of damage a miniscule earthquake had caused.
There was no earthquake. Reason demanded some logic to the handful of new cracks in the sidewalks, not there before the storm. Only a handful knew of the previous day, already slipping into the past of most memory.
A battle, a witch, a raven.
In the afternoon sunlight, a man-made lake in the park's center glittered with the hardness of liquid diamonds, clear and blue. Wide and circular, a few people were taking an afternoon jog, chatting as they ran. There was a clear area around the bend in the lake, a knoll claimed by a fairly large group of picnickers, arrayed out across the green. The handful of clouds in the sky tossed dancing shadows across them, lighting then darkening their chosen spots on the wind shifting grass. Three of the group sat on the crest of of the hill, watching the others below them as the land sloped downward towards the soup bowl of the lake. These were the eldest and the youngest of the circle of senshi, Setsuna, Hotaru, Chibiusa. The grey kitten Diana was perching herself upon the pink haired one's head, hanging on between the odango. She was starting to get a bit large for this, but it was still a good vantage point to see.
"I'm just glad you woke up, Puu," Chibiusa was saying as Diana settled herself. She drew her knees up, tucking them under the hem of her skirt and beaming at her older friend. "You were out so long, it was strange fighting without you."
The guardian of Time gave the girl a wry smile, arching an eyebrow. "It feels like I missed half the battle, for only sleeping two days. You didn't think I'd let you fight without me, did you, Small Lady?"
Chibiusa grinned, shrugging. "No, probably not. Still, I wish you could have seen me take out Tellu's plant thing," she continued, mimicking her motions at the ground with an imaginary scepter.
Flipping herself forward, Diana poked her head down in front of Chibiusa's, tail sticking awkwardly into the air and wriggling. "I'm sure it was a wonderful battle, Small Lady. But you still have to be careful, even if you are a senshi."
"I know, I know," she muttered, though not without a bit of amusement. Diana was starting to sound like her mother. Chibiusa's cinnamon eyes slid past Setsuna and settled on Hotaru for a moment. Her friend had been exceptionally quiet about her battle the previous day. She looked pale, tired, a way Chibiusa hadn't seen her like for awhile, not since she was reborn from their battle with the Death Busters. It reminded her of when she became Saturn for the first time. Hotaru hadn't wanted to speak of yesterday, though slowly pieces had come together, from the muted bits Hotaru spoke of and of Miroku's testament after he woke up.
A kugutsu of Tomoe Souichi, Hotaru's father. The general consensus was that Saturn had acted correctly; a kugutsu had to be destroyed, or it would cause harm. Her extreme reaction was unexplained until an anxious Kami had examined the mysterious black box brought in along with Sango and Miroku. The negative aura swirling around the thing was so twisted that she picked it up, ran it outside, transformed, then dropped her naginata on it before anyone could stop her. Her only explanation was that it caused "very bad karma" and had to be destroyed.
Sango and Miroku seemed to have taken the brunt of the battle. Though others had taken a few bumps over the course of their fights, Miroku was unconscious until late that evening, and Sango until dawn. The healthier ones set out to find them and their missing weaponry, namely Uranus and Neptune who knew where they fought, having left them to take up their own fight. A few hours passed before everyone was able to collapse, having scrambled to check up on family or collect missing members.
Though the Glaive was safely back within Hotaru's possession, Chibiusa saw the tightness of her expression, and the distance in Hotaru's purple eyes. She was worried about it, and the younger girl didn't really know what to do. She knew what it was like, to become something other than what she was. Wicked Lady, a twisted adult form of herself. Though this was not Mistress 9 bothering Hotaru, but a lingering feeling that she had killed her father. She knew perfectly well she hadn't. The kugutsu was a fake, something unreal, made of earth and clay, a mockery created by a witch. Looks the same, sounds the same, but not the same. Though the resemblance was enough. How could she not see her father?
"Setsuna-mama," Hotaru asked, raising her voice quietly for the first time that day. She sat with her knees tucked up under her chin, arms wrapped around her legs. "Do you know how their story ends, in the past?"
Garnet colored eyes swept across the scene below, considering the various groups. It was easy to pick out the littlest first. Shippou and Kami were at the lakeside, playing by kicking a ball between them and running back and forth in their game. Sango and Miroku had taken up a sunny spot on the ground, halfway up the slope, sitting back to back, with Kirara curled up at Sango's feet. Occasionally, wind would carry a few words to those sitting on the top of the hill, though they spoke little. Inuyasha and Kagome were sitting with Usagi and Mamoru, obscured by the trailing fronds of a weeping willow above them. The remains of their picnic lunch were scattered on the cloth beneath them, and Usagi was polishing off another plate.
"The past is fluid, even as the future is," Setsuna replied, tucking a stray lock of hair back behind her ear. "Everything changes as they change it. Had Kagome not been pulled into the well as she says, then Inuyasha may well have slept to this day. Had you," she glanced at Chibiusa meaningfully, slightly scolding, "not stolen my timekey and come here, then the future would have altered."
"Puu, you're not answering her question," Chibiusa commented dryly, arching an eyebrow at the older woman. Setsuna smiled and chuckled, unfolding her arms and setting them into her lap.
"Things may change for them. I have to admit, I've looked to the past, to see what their future holds, and why. I see a great mountain, and a fierce battle within. Other faces they may know, but I do not recognize. One with white hair, such as his," she focused on the currently disguised black hair of Inuyasha. "And the man I believe they've called Naraku, who wears the white pelt of a baboon."
"A baboon?" Chibiusa laughed, arching her eyebrows. "What, is he a monkey youkai?"
Setsuna bit her lip to keep from laughing. "I doubt that, Small Lady. No stranger than some of the things we've seen, I'm sure." The younger girl shrugged and Setsuna glanced down at her adopted daughter. The slant of her hair cut across her chin sharply, and there was a thoughtful look on her face instead of the distant one. "Hotaru-chan?"
"You'll reestablish the temporal warp for them today, won't you, Setsuna-mama?" It was as much statement as question, earning her a slight nod in acknowledgment. "What causes it? That can't be a normal thing, a ripple in time. Something strong would have to tear the fabric of the fourth dimension, even for a slight wormhole."
What could cause a time warp? And why in a well? Was that merely a gateway, or was significance attached to it? The Goshinboku tree near the warp could have served as a doorway. If only the two of them could cross, then one of them touching the tree could serve as well. Why not that? She shook her head, clearing it of technical possibilities and daydreams. "They haven't told us everything about themselves. Nor have we told them everything about us. Kagome would need some link to the past...the Shikon no Tama would be a good key, but the question is, is it only a key? Or a key at all? If the two of them had met in the past, formed a bond, perhaps...and through time, their souls kept in contact...then perhaps their souls found a way to transcend the barrier of time."
"That's so romantic!" Diana chimed in wistfully, looking towards the swaying willow and the figures beneath it. "Just like the princess and prince!"
"And all of us," Hotaru added, taking a breath and releasing her legs. She rolled back her shoulders and lifted her face upward to the sky, skin reflecting the light. A bit of weight shed from her, and a small smile touched her lips. "We all came to the same place, at the same time. Even those of us from far away," she finished, thinking of the Outer planets and how far they seemed during the fall of the Moon Kingdom. "Maybe we're not so different."
"Time travel, magic powers, reincarnation, mikos, magical swords, girls in school uniforms, fighting, connected souls, powerful crystals, the fate of the world at stake..." Chibiusa ticked off on her fingers, glad to see Hotaru had begun to slip back out of her shell. "Nope, nothing alike at all," she winked. "We just have frillier costumes and more girls."
Hotaru smiled at Chibiusa's flippancy, and looked down the slope below her. Kami and Shippou were still playing kemari on the water's bank. It looked fun, but she still didn't feel like getting up. Instead, she sat and watched as the ball popped up again, soaring into the air.
Running, Shippou headed for the ball in the air. For what should have been a stately game, they'd begun to kick the ball harder and further, just for the fun of running on a sunny day. Most of the week, excepting the uneventful time he spent with Inuyasha staring at Kagome's school, he'd been cooped up within the home of the Outer senshi. Mostly, he hadn't minded. There were more than enough things to keep him occupied in the house, with all the machines and inventions, particularly the television thing and the various shows it presented.
"Got it!" Sliding under it, his foot connected with the underside of the soccer ball, and in a whirl of white and black checkers, it went up again. Not the deerskin ball of kemari in his era, but this soccer ball worked just as well. He felt a little awkward wearing shoes. Though he was outside, naturally he had to disguise himself. A fox-footed and tailed kitsune- even a little boy kitsune- would be noticed by someone. It seemed a little odd, worrying about disguises after all the blatantly obvious magical fighting crashing through the skies on the previous day, but he listened to the others and made himself look human anyway. A ten year old boy, a little short for his age, but with unruly brown hair and bright green eyes, wearing baggy jeans and a navy blue tee shirt, little leaves printed on it. Plenty large enough to play kickball with a twenty year old reincarnated ghost girl.
Life was weird sometimes. But then, how many people fought evil hell-named half youkai made up of infinite amounts of other youkai, with the ability to split themselves into rather nasty detachments that were always causing trouble?
Yes, life was definitely weird.
She tended to miss the ball often, not being very fast. Near the water's ledge, her eyes turned upward, squinting, trying to track the ball as it spun in the air, vanishing into the sunlight. A half step to the left, then again to the right as she tried to get ready for a return kick. She was several steps away from where it landed with a splash, sending droplets of water geysering upward, glittering. The ball rolled in the water, floating away idly.
"I can get it," Shippou offered. In this form, he could wade out into the little lake, pick it up and come back. He headed forward, watching as the ball began to slip further in.
"No, no, don't go into the water, Shippou-kun!"
Shippou froze, suddenly remembering their first meeting at the river by her old home, the old mansion. She looked like a little girl, no older than he at the moment, wearing old fashioned robes and purple ribbons in her hair. The reflection he saw in the water had been of this girl, older though not in modern clothing. The repetition startled him, giving him pause as Kami moved forward, kicking off her shoes and pulling up the hem of her skirt as she waded in up to her knees, long hair puddling on the water's surface.
A moment later, she released the edge of her denim skirt, letting it touch the water as she picked up the ball and turned around with a smile, the ball dripping back into the lake. "I have it, Shippou-kun. Gomen nasai, I'm too clumsy with this game."
"T...that's all right," Shippou allowed, still staring. The reflection around her was as it should be, a girl in the clothes of this time, denim skirt and white blouse, tilting her head to the side as her smile broadened a bit, and she tossed the soccer ball up into the air.
And he did.
Closing her eyes on the image of Shippou and Kami, Sango tried not to exhale. She was still tired, and her skin bore faint pock marks still, from the blast she received from Viluy. Looking down at her arms and outstretched bare legs, they were periodic and light, fading but still visible. It was warm out, almost hot, though the cool breeze kept away sweat and felt refreshing. Kirara was curled up at her feet, sleeping lazily in the sun's warmth, tail twitching every few moments in the throes of a pleasant dream. It was only Sango's back that was overheated, but she didn't particularly feel like losing her backrest just yet. This was a comfortable warmth. Miroku was sitting just behind her, facing the opposite direction, an arm resting on a bent knee as he looked at everything, but saw very little. His only outfit torn beyond repair yesterday, he looked a bit awkward in one of Mamoru's suits, minus jacket and tie, though the crisp white sleeves were rolled up out of a desire for coolness.
Sango gave up and sighed.
The sound made him turn his head, able to see her out of the corner of his vision. "Sango? Are you feeling ill again?"
"No, houshi-sama, I'm fine. Just tired."
She chucked once, a bit dryly and turned away to look ahead of her. The cool shade of the trees looked inviting, shadowy and dim. Though noisy, with the chatter of those still eating not far away. The picnic lunch Makoto had packed was delicious, as she'd begun to expect from the senshi's master culinary expert. Kagome could bring wonderful foods from this world, but most of it was in cans or packages of some kind. Various other tasty foods were presented to her now, sweet and sour and filling, delicate and heavy, depending on the item offered for her to taste. She was full, lethargic. Under the sun's heated gaze, she didn't want to move. "Yes, houshi-sama, I'm certain. Just tired."
He hesitated a moment as though to question it again, then turned back to his own mental wanderings, in the opposite direction from her. Sango remembered waking up early that morning. Dawn had already come, and she was disoriented at first, opening her eyes to see a blank white ceiling above her, a light fixture just off to the side, glass covering the bulbs decoratively. Still in this era, still in Kagome's world. Not a dream, and the dull pain that ached through her skin confirmed that. It took her a moment to place herself, realizing she had been laid down to sleep on one of the western style beds in the home of the Outer senshi. A light sheet lay over her, and she felt stuffed, noticing that gauzy bandages had been placed on her hands and a few other places on her body. They smelled of antibiotic salve.
Turning her head, she saw Miroku sitting beside the bed on a chair, facing her. His arms were folded, head bobbing in sleep. Someone had brought him his houshi robes, and he had changed into them. It was strange, displaced, seeing her usual houshi-sama against a background of books from this era, sitting on a wooden dining room chair and dozing as red daybreak streamed through the girlish curtains, creating odd, lacy patterns of light and shadow on his face and hers.
"Would you die to protect someone you love?"
She supposed she had answered Michiru's question.
Despite feeling ill, there was a slightly nervous giddiness that was filling her stomach, a bizarre acknowledgment of something she already knew. Why else get mad every time he looked at another girl? Baka...such a baka. Baka. Fool. Her, or him? Probably both. She felt silly and excited at the same time. Happy, but stupid. Life was certainly weird sometimes. Falling for the sukebe houshi. What on Earth was she thinking?
She snapped out of her thoughts, and turned part way to see an angle of his face. "Eh?"
"Thank you, for what you did."
Blinking, she sat herself up a bit straighter, curious. He was sitting stiffly, arms folded and eyes staring outward toward the empty expanse of grass beyond him. The wind tossed the leafy trees in the distance, and his eyes watched them ripple. It had been backwards. All backwards.
"It's hard to lose someone you love."
Damn the senshi anyway. What right did they have, telling him what he felt?
"I'm not afraid to die. It's not as scary as most people think. It can be a relief. But I don't think it was her time. Or mine. Or yours."
Saturn, the senshi of death and destruction, he was told. He didn't know everything of their story. Snippets and snatches. Did that one know what it was like, to live as though about to die any moment?
Damn them. Love and justice. Damn them all.
Turning his head to the side, he could see Sango's slightly puzzled face looking at him, cheeks a little pink. She looked pretty that way. More so in the dark of morning, with her black hair fanned out on the white pillow. He'd like to wake up like that in the mornings, leaning over her sleeping form. Maybe he was being perverted again, but he didn't care. He wanted to run his hands over her and kiss her when he wanted, lay on a futon beside her and love her when it was dark outside, and quiet. Instead of announcing that, something sure to earn him another slap to the face, he said, "If ever the situation is ever reversed, I would do the same."
A nervous grin appeared on her face. "Next time we're surrounded by youkai and about to die, I'll remember that, houshi-sama."
"Let's just hope that doesn't have to happen," he replied, slowly grinning back and reaching around.
"Houshi-sama, do you want me to tell Makoto what you're doing?"
The idea of an angry Sailor Jupiter storming over and electrocuting him played in his mind for a moment. He then removed his hand from her thigh with a sigh. So much for running his hands over her.
Sango shook her head. Sukebe houshi.
"They're just so cute!" Minako was saying as she leaned forward, a cornflower blue eye peering through the small window of a disposable camera. She pressed the black button on the camera's top, and with a click, she captured another final moment of the great Last Day for their visitors. This particular picture would be of Sango shaking her head and groaning, while Miroku attempted to look innocent. Satisfied with the situation, Minako went back to munching on her ice cream cone, pleased with her work.
Makoto shook her head, following Minako's happy gaze. A few minutes ago, Minako had decided she had a sudden craving for neapolitan, due to the returning warm temperatures. Ami had the unfortunate luck to be sitting beside the goddess of love when she decided this, and was dragged resolutely along on the Quest for Ice Cream. Makoto, reacting to Ami's plea for freedom, tried to rescue the blue haired girl. Rei sighed and decided to tag along, appointing herself chaperone of the great Quest. The four of them had been successful, finding a good size vendor and ordering waffle cones.
"I don't get it," Makoto shrugged, eyeing the two down on the grassy slope for a moment skeptically. "Eechi."
"Oh, come on, Mako-chan," Minako elbowed her. "You helped get them out of Hotaru-chan's school. You know how we found them, and he stayed with her all last night. Admit it, you can't tell me that isn't sweet!"
Makoto's reaction was a noncommittal shrug, and to bury her nose in her own raspberry sorbet cone. The heat was melting the frosty food, and dribbles were running down her fingers, making them pinkly sticky. "I guess."
"They are dedicated to each other," Ami commented, though her gaze was resting with a faint smile on Inuyasha and Kagome beneath the tree, rather than Sango and Miroku. She licked her lips, tasting the lingering sweetness of carmel. "They haven't finished fighting their enemy, you know. That Naraku person they've mentioned before will be waiting for them on the other side of the well. It doesn't seem right, sending them home only to fight more battles."
Polishing off her chocolate fudge waffle cone, Rei buffed her nails on the bottom of her shirt, making sure there were no residual brownie chunks on her fingers. "Well, we can't just go back in time and beat the guy up for them. We're not the only heroic people in all of history. Who knows how our showing up in the sengoku jidai would warp the timeline? We've messed with it enough."
"I know," Ami sighed reluctantly. "Today, a common enemy and a future yet to be decided. Yesterday...should not be tampered with."
"It still stinks," Makoto agreed, frowning as she tried to keep her ice cream from running away from the cone. "Though I do wonder where all the youkai are. I doubt they're all gone. Inuyasha's not too bad, and Shippou's harmless. I really doubt humans went and hunted youkai or anything like that."
Startled, Ami looked at her. "Why not? The impression most would have of youkai would be that they are demonic and evil. A thing to be hated and exterminated. If humanity were spreading, we would have viewed them as a threat to our welfare and have tried to fight them. Is that not what Sango does for a living?"
"Yeah, I guess, but they didn't exactly have modern weaponry in the sengoku jidai, Ami-chan," Minako reminded her a little warily. "Besides, Sango only kills the evil youkai."
Ami's lips drew into a thin frown and she looked down at her ice cream, deciding to be silent. She didn't know what really happened to the youkai, and without all the information, it would be difficult to decide what logic suggested. Youkai were animalistic in nature. Did it make a wolf evil to kill for dinner? She shuddered at the thought of a human as a dinner. Karasu saw herself as the last of her kind. At least, that was Ami's view. Why else act as she had? Creating a kind of biological ark, making other hybrids like her. Everything she had done was two pronged. If she had been successful, then she would have been the most advanced and intelligent of the hybrids, their leader, presumably. If she failed, then she would be dead, and not have to worry about it anyway. She would, presumably, be in the same place as all the other dead youkai. Either way, she wouldn't be alone.
The pieces seemed to fit. The Glaive to exterminate humanity, the Shikon no Tama to expand her power and ensure her place as a leader.
"Sorry," she apologized, voice soft and still thoughtful.
"It's okay, Ami-chan," Rei told her, then decided, "We'd better get back. Usagi-chan's probably finished off all the food by now and...."
Interrupted, Rei and the other three Inner Senshi turned to see Haruka and Michiru cruise along not far behind them, coming to a stop and climbing out as they parked. Minako shoved the last of her ice cream into her mouth and chomped as she whipped out her camera again, snapping a picture of the other two senshi as they arrived, Haruka casual as always and Michiru in a gauzy green sundress. Popping back up from her photography pose, the red-ribboned blonde waved in greeting. "You made it!"
"Yeah," Haruka grinned mischievously, glancing at Michiru. "She couldn't decide what lipstick to wear."
"Actually, Haruka couldn't find her shoes," Michiru countered dryly, folding her arms and giving the other girl a look. "I told you that you left them in the library."
"Eh, well, that's an odd place for me to leave them." Haruka shrugged sheepishly, looking around. "We miss everything?"
"Just lunch," Makoto informed her.
"If there's any leftovers," Rei added sourly, "Usagi's probably finishing them off now. If you hurry you might get something. Otherwise, I think your car will help everyone back to Higurashi Jinja, since we'll be going there together. Kagome's mother said she wanted to get back tonight if everything had settled down, so we should get everything situated before then. She recognized Ami and Usagi, even if she doesn't know who they are. Having all of us show up with them there will be a little more than a tip off." She arched an eyebrow at the more recognizable concert violinist and junior racer. "Particularly those of us who've made it into magazines?"
"Well, then let's try wrestling the food from the odango," Haruka nodded with an understanding grin, heading down towards the shady tree below.
Kagome curled up a little bit, balancing a bowl and chopsticks in her hands from where she sat, wedged contentedly between one of the larger roots of the willow and Inuyasha. This was a bit more like how she had wanted to see everyone stay in her era, even if for a little while. Sango and Miroku were seeming to get along, despite a recent wandering hands attempt on Miroku's part, not unusual. Shippou was running around looking like a human, playing as a kid should. And she was sitting beside Inuyasha, eating Makoto's absolutely delicious picnic lunch on a beautiful day, below a graceful willow tree beside a gleaming blue lake. It was a bit odd, seeing him human still, during the day and dark haired. Fortunately the Luna Pen hadn't put him back in the nonexistent prep school uniform, and instead in a white tee shirt and a pair of cargo pants. He was insisting on barefoot, and she had joined him, kicking off her own sandals. It was nice out, a little too warm, but not completely uncomfortable.
She wanted to pause time for a little bit, lean back against Inuyasha and just enjoy the sense of normalcy.
"Ne, Kagome?" Usagi asked, trying to catch her attention. The other pair were still with them, the future Moon Princess chowing down on whatever was left. Mamoru was sitting just behind her, apparently accustomed to the quantities being consumed and watching it with faint amusement. Usagi was holding out one of the last plastic containers, a little wet from the melted ice in the cooler she produced it from. "There's still some potato salad left...."
Kagome tried not to smile and failed. At least Usagi realized she had eaten more than everyone else. This was apparently an attempt to ask permission to polish off the last of it. "Oh, no, it's all right. You finish it. I'm about full. I can't believe that I'm home, and I'm sitting here eating ramen again. It seems wrong, somehow." She poked at the few remaining noodles and twirled them onto her chopsticks. Usagi, delighted, popped open the lid and dug into the food.
"Wha's rong w' rmen?" Inuyasha asked Kagome with his mouth full. Makoto had packed an extra large bowl of it especially for him, and though he was eating at a breakneck pace, he wasn't quite finished yet. With a swallow, he wiped his mouth on the back of his arm. "I like ramen."
Kagome tried not to groan. She knew he liked ramen. The others knew he liked ramen. She was sure all the senshi knew by now that he liked ramen. "I know, Inuyasha. We have it all the time, though."
Kagome sighed and set aside her bowl. Deciding to change the topic, she looked at Mamoru, considering Usagi was still forking potato salad into her mouth. "I'm glad we decided to do this before going back. It's a nice change. At least they know this time isn't always full of mayhem," she finished, glancing first at Inuyasha, then Sango, Miroku and Shippou beyond.
Mamoru grinned slightly. "Actually, it's crazier than it looks." He leaned around Usagi as she looked up, finishing the last of the salad. "We manage to handle things, somehow."
"Just leave it to us!" Usagi declared happily, setting aside the empty container and plastic fork she'd been using. Her countenance sobered slightly as she continued, "You need to worry about your time."
"Feh. We don't need any help," Inuyasha shot back confidently. "I can handle anything." Kagome elbowed him hard in the ribs while shooting him a dirty look. "Oy! What was that for?"
As she opened her mouth to retort, Mamoru interrupted the argument before it began. "At least Karasu is gone, and you can return home in peace."
"Bitch," Inuyasha agreed, only to see Kagome and Usagi look away, both with odd expressions. "Kagome?"
"I kind of feel sorry for her."
He stared, trying to get a better look at her face. Was she out of her mind? Sorry for that bitch? "She tried to kill you!"
Usagi turned back sadly, fidgeting with the hem of her skirt. "But she was just lonely. So I feel sorry for her."
"Lonely, feh. Demented and evil."
Kagome began to get annoyed, but before she could speak, noticed how stiffly Inuyasha was sitting, and that his eyes were focused up on the high branches of the tree, willow fronds blowing lightly in the cooler breeze. His expression was tight, and she silenced herself, instead leaning against his arm and placing her hand on his shoulder for solace. Under the fabric of the light shirt, she felt him tense for a moment, then slowly relax.
She closed her eyes and exhaled, content.
Lonely? He wondered about that. That Karasu woman, who considered herself the last youkai on Earth. He doubted humans, even ones with advancements such as those in Kagome's time had, could truly kill them off. Ones like Sesshoumaru, at least, were just too damn stubborn to die. Like roaches, in his opinion, but then he never liked his brother very much. No matter how many times you smash them, they somehow manage to drive you insane later. Not that he'd ever exactly smashed Sesshoumaru, but the concept was amusing to consider.
There still had to be youkai out there somewhere. He wouldn't feel pity for that raven woman. Bitch tried to kill him, Kagome, and the others. She didn't deserve pity. Though being alone...he frowned, and tried to concentrate on keeping himself wedged tight enough between Kagome and the inside of the car door. They'd formed a caravan of cars, heading back towards Higurashi Jinja though the traffic that had thronged back to the streets. Stuffed into the backseat of Mamoru's car, he had grumbled about being shoved in so tight. Besides himself and Kagome, Sango and Miroku had been crammed into the back seat, the shotgun, frontseat position instantly claimed by Usagi, who was glad she didn't have to fight for it this time with Chibiusa. Sango seemed to be having the most problems, squirming to keep Miroku from leaning in too close. Inuyasha sniffed. Some things never changed. He might be jammed in, but at least Kagome didn't have to worry about him grabbing her. Except to maybe bring her farther from Sango, to lend the taiji-ya more room to escape any attempts from the houshi.
The air conditioning was on, and the windows up, so instead of sticking his head out to watch the passing buildings, he found himself leaning against the sun warmed glass, observing people walking along the sidewalks. This place was so big. Bright. Loud. He glanced at Kagome, who was trying to keep the other two backseat passengers calm. Usagi got into it a moment later, twisting around and half scolding Miroku, half babbling incoherently about how cute they all apparently were, which just made things worse.
Live here? Looking at Kagome in her own time, he wondered if he'd be able to do that. There was still a long way to go...Naraku would be awaiting them, yet to be killed. He'd been willing to give up his youkai side for Kikyou...the thought brought a serious, thoughtful frown to his face. That, though, was in his own era. Familiar. Here? He almost shuddered to think about living here.
Buildings passed by, casting shadows over the moving vehicle as Mamoru drove. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. On the other hand....
Karasu snapped, didn't she?
Of course, he wasn't her. Feh. There was still time to sort out whatever he needed to.
Higurashi Jinja pulled into view. At the top of the hill would be the well, and the route home.
People milled out of the cars parked along the sidewalk, swirling around and chattering with halfhearted cheer. Those going through the well were happy to be going through it. Though out of the crazy week they had spent in this era, there was a slight sense of remorse for leaving. They had fought a hard battle, won it, met allies and perhaps friends, as bizarre as each side rendered the other. Though perhaps any group of heroes were required to be eccentric. It took all kinds of different personalities and powers to make up a well rounded group.
Car doors and trunks slammed to a close, and the two groups raggedly made their way up the steps to the jinja, toting any items that belonged in the sengoku jidai. Mamoru had passed along a duffel bag to Miroku with his houshi robes, and the monk was carrying his shakujyou, trailing an empty handed Sango. Minako was still snapping pictures to document the last day's activities, and paused a few times to request a photo from someone.
As they reached the now open-air magically repaired well, Inuyasha and Kagome paused, the hanyou reaching into one of his pockets and drawing out a pink gem tipped pen with a satisfied smirk. "Oy, Usagi," Inuyasha called, catching the odango's attention. She turned with a blink and watched as he grinned at the thing. "I've been wanting to get rid of this stupid girly thing for awhile. Oy, pen. Make me look normal again."
From the tip of the pen came a swirling of white ribbon light, and this time Inuyasha did not look directly into the prism before the transformation receded. Within a moment, the tee shirt and cargo pants of an ordinary modern boy were replaced with his red clothing of the sengoku jidai, along with the characteristics of a hanyou- white hair, claws, ears and golden eyes- had returned. Kagome was trying not to laugh at the satisfied smirk her usual hanyou was wearing. Considering that he dropped the Luna Pen when he first used it, he probably was certain he had mastered the foreign magic only the leader of the senshi had made use of. Inuyasha reached out, grabbed Usagi's hand and smacked the pen back into it. No more transformations with swirly lights for him. Damn thing was too girly. It'd ruin his image.
"Thank you, Usagi," Kagome added for him, seeing how happy he was to be rid of it. "It did help a lot."
"Anytime!" the Moon Princess piped happily, looking for a pocket in her skirt. Realizing she had none, she scratched her head, then tugged on Mamoru's sleeve. "Ne, Mamo-chan...?" she asked, holding up the glittering pen. He shook his head, looking half exasperated as Usagi stuffed it into his shirt pocket and clung onto his arm.
Inuyasha tried not to snort. These senshi were so damn mushy about everything.
Haruka and Michiru had been tailing the rest, since Haruka was hauling a rather large boomerang over her shoulder on the way up. The thing was heavy, she had to admit, though was managing well enough with it. Michiru was calling for Sango to stop, and was carrying a large shopping bag in hand. Turning around, Kirara squeaked from where she was draped on Sango's shoulder.
"Your clothes and sword," the aqua haired woman explained as she handed over the bag with a smile, the weapon's hilt protruding from one end. "Kami-san washed your kimono, so it should be clean."
"And your boomerang," Haruka added, leaning in to swing the weapon around her shoulder. She gave Sango a slight grin and winked. "Too bad you're leaving so soon, ne? Could have had a...fun...practice session."
"What?" Sango's eyes widened and she looked a little confused for a moment, as the conversation was interrupted by Miroku suddenly clearing his throat and looming up behind her, watching Haruka warily. "Sango, we should be getting to the well."
Haruka just chuckled and wrapped an arm around Michiru, who was shaking her head at the tallest senshi. With a sigh, she commented as they began to walk away, "Have I told you you're incorrigible?"
"Not today..." came the response as they began to blend into the rest of the chattering senshi. Miroku and Sango were left to stare in their wake.
"What a strange pair..." Sango remarked before she suddenly felt an arm wrap around her neck, sending Kirara leaping off her shoulder in alarm as the weight of an excited Aino Minako joined that of hiraikotsu.
"I can't believe you guys are going already!" Minako exclaimed, an arm around both Sango's shoulders and Miroku's, hanging between them. "Well, at least I did my job here...."
"Job?" Sango repeated, though Minako wasn't listening, currently with her eyes fixed across the courtyard and focused on Inuyasha and Kagome.
"I just wish I had more time for them. Too bad," she shook her head mournfully. Then, just as quickly, perked up with a full, beaming smile, squeezing them in a hug. "Well, lucky you!" Then she winked at Sango conspiratorially and whispered, "Don't do anything I wouldn't recommend. Of course, I am the goddess of love, so I recommend a lot and often."
With that, she launched herself forward, waving her camera in the air and calling for one last group picture. Beside her, Sango heard Miroku say, "Hurricane Aino."
He blinked and looked at her. "Hits every once in awhile."
"Picture! Group picture!" Minako called, corralling everyone into a group with several waves of her hand. "Come on! Everyone line up! Get closer! You all have to fit! In front of the well, okay?"
After repeated calls, everyone managed to shuffle into a ragged line, still chattering as Minako tried to keep everyone inside the camera's viewfinder. It was an uneven line, and no one was looking at her yet as they arranged themselves into some semblance of order. Ami was repetitively suggesting the shorter ones get into the front, taller ones to the back. After a moment, Chibiusa and Hotaru edged their way forward, Hotaru standing in front of Kami, who had Shippou perched on her shoulder. Chibiusa stood in front of Ami, who was carrying Luna in her arms and had apparently adopted Artemis for the picture as well. The white cat was telling Diana to sit up straighter on Chibiusa's head, so that she could be seen between the pink buns of hair. Makoto had taken up a place on Ami's other side, with Rei next to her, frantically trying to comb her hair with her fingers before the photo was snapped. Setsuna quietly positioned herself just behind Rei, taking up one end. Haruka and Michiru were on the farther end, with Sango and Miroku between them and the other senshi. Kirara was reunited with Sango, now safely cradled in the crook of her arm. Usagi and Mamoru had taken their place in the center, dragging Inuyasha and Kagome along with them and situating themselves between Miroku and Kami.
Minako was smiling into the camera. It was funny, watching all of them in line, quickly arranging themselves, even the time displacements. They'd apparently gotten used to her photography over the course of the afternoon, and even understood what she meant when she finally called out, "Cheese!"
On cue, the chattering stopped, heads lifted and smiles formed at once. She'd regretted not spending more time working on Inuyasha and Kagome, but at the moment she wondered how much she would have needed to. Kagome didn't cling onto Inuyasha the way Usagi liked to hug Mamoru, but the hanyou was trying not to look embarrassed at the fact Kagome had an arm around his waist, and had draped his arm over her shoulders. She understood that Miroku's little wandering hands problem would slow down him and Sango...they just needed a good shove in the right direction...but what on Earth was holding Inuyasha and Kagome back? They seemed together, a couple most definitely, but it was as though something was always hovering around and interrupting a real, open romance. As she pressed down the button and snapped the picture, she wondered what it was. There were bits and pieces of the strangers story she'd been told, though she and the others had agreed that there was something important they were not telling. It must have been personal. Very personal.
"Okay!" she called cheerfully, another smile ready on her lips. "That's it for this roll!"
"Feh, finally," Inuyasha commented grumpily as the group broke apart. "Let's get out of here."
Kagome elbowed him. "Mou, don't be so rude, Inuyasha. We've imposed on them a lot."
"Eh...yeah," he reluctantly agreed. With a shrug, he looked at Usagi and Mamoru, then up at the sky. "But they still needed us."
Kagome resisted swatting him upside the head. Baka. "Thank you, Usagi, Mamoru..." she glanced around, smiling at the gathering of senshi. "All of you. Thank you."
"Then I guess it's time," Sango said, stepping forward and hefting her shopping bag a bit. Eyes slid towards the well, and one person moved her way aside, lifting a hand to the air.
"Pluto Crystal Power! Make-up!"
A burst of purple light brightened the area for a moment before fading away into the afternoon sunlight, though not without adding a crackle of energy to the air. The stately shape of Sailor Pluto, Guardian of Time, moved forward with her Timestaff, remembering how this strange story began. Coming to seal a rift in the fabric of space and time, she was now about to reopen it, intentionally create a stable wormhole. It seemed backwards, but right somehow. She tried to trust her instincts instead of her more logical head.
She opened her mouth and began to lift the Timestaff to the air, only to be interrupted by Inuyasha shouting, "Oy, babaa! Don't mess it up this time!"
Sailor Pluto closed her eyes primly and suppressed a chuckle before lifting the Garnet Orb toward the sky and saying, "Let the Door of Time split the heavens and open to me...I call you by your true name. The all knowing God of Time, the Father of the Guardian...Chronos! Send me the path of light!"
With a sharp movement, she lowered the end of the great key so that it dipped below the wooden framework of the well, piercing the fabric of space and unleashing a brilliant blue glow, white at its most intense point, the tip of her staff. Flowing winds caught on natural currents, sending wind pressing upward through the well as Pluto stepped away, letting clear white light beam upward, vanishing into the day's yellow sunshine.
She arched an eyebrow at Inuyasha, just peeling himself from the ground, and rested the Timestaff against her shoulder with an almost cocky grin. "I reopened the rift. Once you have all passed through, it will resume its normal functioning." The smile faded, and she swept her gaze across the time travelers. "I took the liberty of assuming you would rather travel through the well rather than be deposited again where you were removed from."
A few nods followed. Being unceremoniously dumped from the sky was not entirely appealing. With a small bow of acknowledgment, Pluto stepped aside.
Tentatively, Sango and Miroku worked their way forward, peering down into the vanishing depths as they tried to decide what to do. Seeing trepidation written on their faces, Kagome encouraged, "It's not hard. Just try to land on your feet," while motioning with her hands and knowing they were unused to jumping into temporal warps. It seemed strange, but eventually...you got used to it. "Inuyasha and I will be right behind you."
Taking a deep breath, Sango stepped up onto the edge, Miroku following suit. Balanced there, he glanced one last time out at the assembled audience of observing magical females. So many lovely ladies.
"Houshi-sama, are you ready?"
Sango was staring into the abyss, clutching Kirara tighter in worry.
Taking a deep breath to prepare himself, he said, "Yes. Let's go."
There was a slight increase in light the moment they vanished from view, swallowed up by the gleam the well emitted. From where she stood, Kami turned her head to see a wide eyed Shippou watching from her shoulder. "Shippou-kun," she whispered softly, hiding her mouth behind her hand, and giving him a nudge, "you should be going too."
The kitsune blinked once, as though snapping out of a trance, induced by watching the disappearance of two of his usual companions. Ones who did not normally travel though the well. He gulped, then felt Kami pluck him off her shoulder.
"Ja ne, Shippou-kun," she smiled, lightly kissing him on the top of the head and setting him down on the ground. That earned some cooing, adorable sounds from the surrounding senshi, and Shippou's red face blanched white with embarrassment. With a squeak, he backed away, then wheeled around and scampered up onto the well, wanting to disappear. Though on seeing the bottomless depths of the well, he froze, trying to decide whether or not to take the plunge.
A light laugh from Kagome decided him, since she picked him up. "Come on, Shippou-chan. You can come with Inuyasha and me."
"Oy, Kagome, are you coming or not?" Inuyasha demanded, already on the edge of the well and offering a hand. "We've said goodbye to them all day long. Let's go. We've got shards to find."
Kagome hung her head and tried very hard not to laugh. Stubborn fool. Always the same thing. She lifted her eyes after a moment and looked one last time at the group, then called; "Goodbye!"
"Kagome!" Usagi shouted, grabbing Minako's hand and making her wave around the disposable camera. Catching onto the idea, Minako added her voice to the shout and it came in stereo. "We'll get you some doubles!"
"Thanks!" Kagome waved a last farewell, Shippou shyly joining her before they stepped up as well, Inuyasha grabbing her arm to steady her. Then they leapt in, and the familiar sensation of falling through time enveloped them.
It was time to go home.
I hope you all enjoyed the extended epilogue.
Kylara, the potato salad was for you. Enjoy! ^.~
Mina-chan...Hurricane Aino. Enough said.
With Setsuna around, being Guardian of Time and all, I thought I'd toss in a possibility as to why only Inuyasha and Kagome can go through the well. It may just be a writing device to keep Naraku and his minions from crossing the time barrier and making things messy, but in the more character-related sense, there doesn't seem to be a definite answer as to why just the two of them can. It's a rather romantic suggestion that their souls are simply connected, but hey, anything is possible. ^.^
The scene with Shippou and Kami playing kemari is a replay from my fic Kami Monogatari. If you read that...you should have gotten the inside reference in that scene. If not, well, it should still be understandable.
I also don't believe there has been an explanation why there are no youkai in the modern era in Inuyasha. It's possible there are still some out there, but it seems that if there are any, they are very few and far between- or at the least, very well hidden.
I had a lot of fun (and pain and anguish!) writing this fic. It is by far the longest thing I've written. Originally I thought I was absolutely out of my mind (and I still think I am) for writing a cross between two shows that seem so utterly different. But being the obsessive person that I am, the Muses decided to plague me until I crossed the two. I hope you enjoyed the insanity of it all.
Until next storytime.