Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or any of the publicly known characters, plot, etc. I'm just renting them from Rumiko Takahashi, Viz, etc. I do own the plot of this story and any original characters I've created. I will make no money from this fic; I write for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of my readers. This disclaimer applies to all the chapters in this fic, though I will probably post abridged versions in every chapter.
A/N – well here it is, the beginning of the story I've been looking forward to writing since I first contemplated writing fanfiction. This might not turn out to be the best fanfiction with the title Metamorphosis—that distinction probably belongs to Sueric—but it was the title I liked the best. This story takes place sometime between episode 151 (Kagome's Innate Choice) and the end of the anime. I thought about diverging from the later manga chapters, but there are certain things I want to do with this story that make this impossible. Now, on with the show!
**Important 2010 Update**
Now that the story is completed, I think I should say something for all you new readers out there. This story contains "adult" material, by which I mean sensitive subject matter that may dredge up bad memories and cause emotional pain to some readers. It may not seem like it in the beginning, but it evolves into a serious story meant for mature audiences only.
Also, I wanted to list the various awards the story has won. Not to toot my own horn (well, not only that), but to make sure I remember and pay my respects to the people who voted and the administrators behind the awards. Their hard work and time invested is appreciated.
2nd Place Best Inuyasha/Kagome Romance – Feudal Association, December 2010
3rd Place Best Action/Adventure – Inuyasha FanGuild, 4th Quarter 2010
2nd Place Best Romance: Inuyasha/Kagome – Inuyasha FanGuild, 3rd Quarter 2010
2nd Place Best Legend – Destined Awards (Eternal Destiny), 2nd Term 2010
1st Place Best Character Portrayal (Inuyasha) – Destined Awards, 2nd Term 2010
2nd Place Best Love Story – Destined Awards, 2nd Term 2010
1st Place Best Legend – Destined Awards, 1st Term 2010
1st Place Best Inuyasha/Kagome Romance Fiction – Feudal Association, December 2009
3rd Place Best Romance: Inuyasha/Kagome – Inuyasha FanGuild, 3rd Quarter 2009
Featured Fanfiction –
Featured Fanfiction – Eternal Destiny, September 2009
3rd Place Best Original Player (Daichi) – Destined Awards, 2nd Term 2009
2nd Place Best Plot Twist – Destined Awards, 1st Term 2009
2nd Place Best Feudal Fairytale – Destined Awards, 1st Term 2009
1st Place Best Character Portrayal (Inuyasha) – Destined Awards, 1st Term 2009
3rd Place Best In-Character Fiction – Feudal Association, March 2009
It started out as a normal day in the feudal era. The sun was shining brightly, the birds singing merrily as if rejoicing in nature's beauty. One couldn't help but smile on a day like this, not even the normally surly hanyou who lounged against the ancient tree standing proudly next to a clearing within which sat an innocent-looking wooden well.
Of course, Inuyasha's good mood might have had more to do with what day it was, or more specifically, who was supposed to return that day. He grimaced. Her departure had been marked with an argument, abruptly ended by the dreaded 'osuwari' command. He scowled as he remembered exactly why Kagome had thought it necessary to utilize the kotodama rosary's subduing power. It had been nearly dusk, while they were on their way back to the village so she could take some more of her 'test' things, when Kikyou's shinidamachu had made their appearance. He hadn't even glanced at Kagome as he disappeared among the trees. He didn't need to; he could sense her sadness, her heartache without the use of his eyes. If he looked back at her, saw the hurt in her normally dazzling expression, there was a very real possibility that he wouldn't have been able to go at all. But of the many things he owed Kikyou, the first was his attention when she called. So, heedless of the angry glares and cold shoulders he would undoubtedly receive in the morning, he left.
The meeting had been short; he and Kikyou didn't have much to say to each other anymore. He did notice something different about her, however. Flashes of contentment, the subtle and momentary softening of her eyes, fleeting glimpses of the old Kikyou he hadn't seen in over fifty years. More of Kagome's influence…just what happened to Kikyou at that lake, where Kagome purified Naraku's poison from her body? She had changed, though only to someone who knew her well. Even so, he still saw far too much of the frigid, bitter, dead Kikyou for his liking. When she once again asked if he remembered his promise to her, he hesitated in answering. His heart rebelled against the notion, but his mind, his deep-seated honor quashed it. "If it comes to that," had been his soft-spoken reply. She nodded, apparently accepting his less than enthusiastic answer for what it was, the temporary outcome of an inner battle, fought within a man wavering in his once iron-clad convictions.
He departed soon after, but did not return to camp. At times like these, when his emotions were in utter turmoil, he sought out his old childhood refuge—the trees. When he was young the trees had been his only friends, the wind his only comfort as it wrapped around him. It was different now, in large part because of the kind miko who had shown him how to trust again. The miko he had abandoned to go see his former love. Sighing in self-disgust, Inuyasha sat down on a branch and stared wistfully at the near-perfect half moon. He thought about many things: Kagome, Kikyou, what he wanted, what he should do… Answers eluded him, and hours later he knew no more than when he first began reflecting. When he finally returned to camp, he found Kagome propped up against a boulder, fast asleep, her math book in her lap and a burned out flashlight lying next to her open palm. The scent of her tears and the fact that she had tried to wait up for him filled him with guilt, and he gently placed her in her sleeping bag, his fingers lingering on her cheek in a soothing caress before he caught himself. Growling at his indiscretion and wondering what had come over him, he leapt into the tree overlooking their camp and remained awake, eventually watching the sun rise on the eastern horizon.
As he suspected, the others had given him the icy treatment the entire next day. It was clear that they, Kagome included, simply assumed he had been with Kikyou all night. And with as sour as his mood was, he wasn't about to correct them. They wouldn't have believed him anyway; they never did when it came to Kikyou, and it pissed him off to no end. So when they reached the village, and Kagome spoke up, having apparently decided that his nightly absence entitled her to an extra day in her time, he snapped. Fortunately, Kagome was at her breaking point as well, and she brought the argument to a thundering halt before Inuyasha could shove his foot too far down his gullet.
So here he was, waiting for her, on the fourth day since her departure, not the three they had originally agreed to. He had not gone after her, vowing to give her the time she needed to pass her tests, not to mention cool her temper. That was not to say it hadn't been difficult; it always was, when she was gone. Kagome... The sound of her name, those three exquisite syllables, was enough to bring a small upturn to the corners of his lips. His heart always beat just a little faster when she was near, her scent invading his nostrils and dominating his senses. And yet, when he was with her, he had never felt more relaxed. Such conflicting sensations, but so wonderfully balanced by her simple presence.
Things were entirely different when she was gone. He found himself constantly on edge, and if he wasn't sitting in Goshinboku brooding, he was probably either eating, sleeping, or grouching at his companions. He knew his anxiety was foolish, but whenever Kagome left a small part of his mind couldn't help but wonder if she would come back. But she had always returned, never failed to forgive him, and for that he was eternally grateful. Sometimes he would travel to her time with her, and she didn't seem to mind, as long as he 'behaved.' But times like these, where he had done or said something stupid, he couldn't, wouldn't follow. And the guilt made the waiting all the more intolerable. Yes, even if he could only admit it to himself, he missed the wench…a lot.
*Tap, tap, tap*
The soft sound of his foot repeatedly impacting the ground reached his ears, lending a rhythmic cadence to the otherwise jumbled sounds of nature. His arms folded over his chest and an irritated scowl plastered over his face; he was the picture of impatience. Come on, wench! You should have been home from that 'skool' thing of yours by now. Let's go! Grumbling under his breath about lazy wenches and their stupid modern responsibilities, he resolved to give her a little while longer before going through to retrieve her. Suddenly a strange scent reached his nose, and he pushed himself upright while laying a cool hand on Tetsusaiga's handle. He stood calmly, eyes scanning the surrounding forest for signs of a foreign presence. Inhaling once more, deeper this time, he frowned in consternation. What the…a neko youkai? The scent was unlike Kirara's, however. It was more powerful, less animalistic, and more closely resembled the scents of those rogue panther youkai he had fought months ago. Sure enough, a feline youkai emerged from the foliage a moment later. Dressed in black clothing that perfectly matched his hair, he stood proudly, his smug expression lending itself to the utter contempt dripping from his yellow eyes. He was not a panther youkai, but his gait was predatory, and he moved with a sort of grace that only cats seem to possess. He stopped short of Inuyasha, eyes raking over the hanyou, sizing him up as his sneer grew.
"Ah, the hanyou Inuyasha, just the…creature I was looking for."
Inuyasha bristled at the offhand comment, but remained externally impassive. He did, however, tighten his grip on Tetsusaiga before responding.
"Who the fuck are you and what do you want?"
The strange youkai chuckled. "I'm sure you've entertained this demand before. Your shards of the Shikon no Tama—you will give them to me."
Inuyasha smirked. Good…I could use a distraction. "You're right, I have heard that before. Tougher bastards than you have tried to take the Shikon shards from me, and they all died. Why don't you go back where you came from before you get hurt, pussy."
If the youkai was bothered by Inuyasha's defiance, he didn't show it; his wicked smile never wavered. "And yet I don't sense the power of the jewel coming from you. It is rumored you travel with a miko…could the jewel shards possibly be in her possession?"
Inuyasha growled fiercely, tearing Tetsusaiga from its sheath and brandishing it in front of him. "The jewel is under my protection, as is Kagome. Attempt to touch either one of them and I will slice you to pieces."
"Kagome, is it? What a pretty name! I only hope she is as pleasing to the eye as her name is to the ear."
"I've had just about enough of you, bastard! Kaze no Kizu!" he screamed as he slammed Tetsusaiga into the Earth, sending rippling waves of energy tearing toward his opponent. The youkai easily leapt out of the way, landing effortlessly on a nearby tree branch.
"Is that the best you've got, puppy?"
With the diamond spears aimed upward at an angle, the youkai dove for the ground, avoiding the attack. Just after the last spear passed he leapt to his feet and charged Inuyasha, very nearly severing his neck from his shoulders. Only instant reflexes honed from years of combat allowed him to dodge the swipe, though he did receive a small gash on his neck.
"Aww…puppy's already bleeding, is he? I had hoped you'd be more of a challenge."
"I ain't even gotten started yet," Inuyasha replied, quickly taking stock of the situation. This fucking cat was fast, and the odds of hitting him with Tetsusaiga were slim to none. Besides, if the fight moved any closer to the village, all the inhabitants were at risk of suffering collateral damage from the sword's stronger attacks. Inuyasha sheathed Tetsusaiga, relishing in the opportunity to fight an opponent hand-to-hand. Normally he wouldn't dare, not with Kagome and the others under his protection, but none of them were here, and the only one in danger was him. And he had no intention of letting the bastard draw any more of his blood.
"Giving up already, half-breed? It's a wonder you've survived this long."
"Feh! All I need to defeat a bastard like you are my claws." Inuyasha lunged, aiming a swipe at his enemy's torso, but the youkai dodged. He continued to avoid Inuyasha's strikes, his contemptuous expression never vanishing. He's toying with me…fuckin' bastard! I'll teach him to underestimate me! Digging his claws into the wound on his neck, Inuyasha flung his arm forward and yelled, "Hijin Ketsusou!" This time the youkai was a little too slow to dodge the unexpected attack, and one of the blades tore into his shoulder, sending him flying backwards only to land on his feet with true feline agility. When he raised his eyes they were narrowed, his face no longer amused, but quite irritated.
"You'll pay for that, filthy mongrel!"
Inuyasha was about to reply in kind when a flash of light to his left and a delightful scent alerted him to Kagome's arrival.
"Inuyasha," she called tiredly, "help me up! This bag weighs a ton!"
Moving to position himself between the well and the cat youkai, he called back, "Quiet, wench! Stay in the well!" Then, once more wielding Tetsusaiga, he turned his full attention back to his opponent. Damn…she makes me wait four fuckin' days and then spoils my fun! Gotta finish this quickly now.
"Ah, now I sense the Shikon jewel shards! I'm feeling generous today, Inuyasha. Hand over the shards and the woman and I'll let you live." He spoke haughtily, as if he was making an offer too good to refuse.
"Fuck off!" Inuyasha yelled as he once again unleashed the Kaze no Kizu. The youkai leapt into the air, twirling above the turmoil as he expertly flung a short sword hidden behind his back. The blade glowed red as it came on, wisps of youki trailing behind it. Inuyasha tried to elevate Tetsusaiga to block it, but he could see the effort was useless; the blade was moving too quickly. He could only brace himself for the pain.
The command sent him slamming to the ground, the blade slicing his billowing hair on its way by. Furious, he raised his head, but his retort died on his lips as he glimpsed a scene that made his blood run cold. The youkai was darting toward Kagome, who was struggling to notch an arrow in her bow from her place next to the well. It wasn't going to happen; the youkai would be on her long before she was ready. Unable to rise because of the cursed spell, Inuyasha did the only thing he could—he flung Tetsusaiga with all his might, praying to every Kami imaginable that it would strike home.
For once, his prayers were answered, as his desperate heave cleaved the youkai clean in half, spattering the shocked miko in blood even as the youkai's body dissolved and dispersed to the winds. Instantly Kagome unleashed a bloodcurdling scream. She screamed like she had never screamed before, her head thrown back and eyes bulged impossibly wide. Then, as if her body had suddenly shut down, she stopped, wavered for a moment, and toppled forward. Inuyasha, who had been cringing from her high-pitched shriek, broke the spell's weakening hold and caught her just before she hit the ground. His ears would be ringing for awhile, but that was not a concern at the moment. No, at the present, his primary worry was the miko in his arms, and just what the hell had happened to her. Gathering her up bridal-style, he took off at a sprint toward Kaede's hut, not even bothering to pick up Tetsusaiga beforehand. Miroku and Sango had just mounted Kirara when he arrived, apparently having heard the scream themselves. Then again, half of Musashi had probably heard it. Inuyasha brushed past them into the hut, ignoring their questions and forcing them to follow in his wake.
Kaede took one look at the frantic hanyou, and the unconscious miko in his arms, before motioning to the pallet in the center of the room. She was alarmed at the amount of blood on Kagome's blouse, but a quick lift of the garment revealed that it was not her own. Kaede frowned; it appeared the girl had no physical injuries whatsoever.
"What happened, Inuyasha?" she asked calmly.
"I don't know! Fuck! A youkai attacked, but the bastard didn't even touch her! Some blood splattered on her, then she screamed bloody murder and passed out!"
"Calm down, Inuyasha, I'm sure it was just fright," Miroku chimed in, attempting to placate the anxious hanyou.
"I'm not so sure about that, Houshi-sama," Kaede replied as a disturbing thought occurred to her.
"What do you know, Babaa?" Inuyasha growled dangerously. Under the circumstances, Kaede let the disrespectful term go. Kagome wasn't awake to sit him for it anyway, which brought her back to the problem at hand.
"About fifty-five years ago, before she met ye, Inuyasha, the same thing happened to my sister, Kikyou." No one in the hut dared speak, each waiting for the old miko to continue her story. "She slayed a youkai, some of its blood got on her, and she screamed before falling unconscious. She awoke later in the day and was finally able to tell us what had happened."
Kaede sighed wearily, and the entire group knew they weren't going to like what she had to say next. "Apparently some youkai have a strange power Kikyou simply called 'Rebirth.' It is a very rare power, and those youkai who do have it are usually unaware of it. But at the moment of death, these fortunate few are able to launch their spirits inside the body of whoever wears their blood, and attempt to take over. The youkai Kikyou slew tried to possess her, but after a long battle within her, my sister was able to purify it. I fear this is what happened to Kagome, and at this very moment she is fighting to keep control of her body and mind." A long, heavy silence engulfed the hut, as all the members of the Inu-gang tried to digest this new information.
"Is there anything we can do?" Sango asked.
Kaede shook her head. "I'm afraid not, child. We can make her as comfortable as possible, but I'm afraid the rest is up to Kagome."
"But Kagome's strong! She'll be ok, right?" Shippou said hopefully. This time the old miko smiled reassuringly, but her expression was hollow, her eyes belying the confidence of her words.
"Ay, young fox, Kagome is strong. If any of us could pull through this, Kagome can. Now, why don't ye go gather some flowers for Kagome; it may aid her recovery." Shippou nodded and bounded out of the hut, and Kaede once again allowed her worry to show.
"Give it to us straight, Kaede-sama."
The old miko started, taken completely off guard; as far as she could remember, Inuyasha had never addressed her as 'Kaede-sama' before. But as she looked at the hanyou she could see the guilt written on his face, his eyes locked on the floor, ashamed to make eye contact with anyone.
"If things happened as you say, Inuyasha, there was nothing more you could have done. There was no way to prevent—"
"I shouldn't have let the youkai get so close! Now just shut up and tell us what you really think!"
So much for respect… Kaede thought, sighing. "My sister, Kikyou was able to purify the youkai's spirit because she had been trained. In terms of pure strength, Kagome rivals my sister, but she knows not how to properly channel it nor how to deal with threats of this kind. Kagome probably has no idea what has happened to her, and she may not be ready to deal with what the youkai will show her. I do not know what Kikyou saw as she was battling the youkai, but for a long while afterwards she was sad, distant. She only began to come out of her depression when she met ye, Inuyasha."
"What happens…if Kagome loses?" Inuyasha asked in a voice barely above a whisper, hiding his face behind his bangs.
Once more Kaede hesitated before answering. "The youkai will possess her mind, and her body will slowly transform back into his original form. She will become the youkai whose blood she wore, and the rebirth will be complete." Once again silence gripped the inhabitants of the hut, as everyone tried to control their fragile emotions. Finally, Inuyasha spoke up.
"That won't happen." Eyes blazing, daring anyone to object, he picked Kagome up and settled against the wall, the miko nestled in his lap. Shocked by his uncharacteristic display of affection as well as the open concern in his gaze, all of the humans stared at him. A slight flush rose to his cheeks but he tamped it down, fear overriding embarrassment.
"Kagome will win," he declared. She has to…