Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or any related products for the purpose of this story. I am merely one bored fanfiction writer who hopes that you enjoy Little Thief.
"You've got a thief?" Miroku summarized.
"Yep. Some youkai keeps breaking into various homes during the night, scaring everybody in the village. Nobody here's slept in weeks now. It's a quick one. Moves like a ghost, and it makes very little sound. We were wondering if you might be able to take care of it for us, in exchange for a night's food and shelter." The owner of the inn crossed his arms, straightening up a little taller.
Inuyasha rolled his eyes, and his shoulders.
"Is there any particular home that has been broken into more than the others? Since this village isn't small I think it necessary to split up. That will give us the highest chance of catching the creature in the act." Miroku continued.
"There's my inn and the storage house; the inn has been broken into many times, but the thief favors the storage house. That is where everyone has been keeping their provision for this winter organized." The inn owner sighed. "Do you think that you will be able to stop the creature?"
"It is no minor task, but we will manage kind sir." Miroku nodded his head in a polite manner in order to flatter the owner of the town's inn. It worked. Smiling the owner urged them towards the rooms that would be theirs for the night.
"If we're going to catch this thief tonight it would do us well to get a few hours sleep now, my friend."
Inuyasha rolled his eyes again. "If it's like the last time…"
"If we are to believe the headman then this is something far more dangerous Inuyasha, it is not like the "invisible" youkai that we were able to settle amiably with that fake exorcist." Miroku gave him a look.
"I bet you're just trying to con our way into a free dinner and night here," Inuyasha clicked his claws against his arm.
"Inuyasha, they need our help. Please don't pout about it."
"If there's no damn jewel shards then I don't see a point. It's not like the thief's hurtin' people, it's just stealin' junk." Inuyasha was aggravated with Miroku's act today. With the jewels still scattered as they were they had to collect the things before anyone else did.
Miroku sighed. "I know that it is your preference, however us weak humans would like to be able to take a warm bath and get a meal that you haven't gutted first every once in a while. Is that acceptable Inuyasha?"
He blew his bangs out of his face. "Keh. Not like it matters anyway. Damn humans always pushin' this stuff…" The rest of his words were mumbles that no one really wanted to hear anyway. He went to fetch the girls from the other side of the village where they were searching themselves for any signs of work. The inn-keeper had already agreed to allow the girls a bath—always high on Kagome's list—so at least she should be happy.
When nightfall came they sat around the fire inside their rooms, waiting on either Inuyasha's nose to detect a youkai scent or for there to be the telltale screams of humans that would bring them running. Hopefully they would be able to settle things peacefully once more with no need to bring bloodshed into the matter but if the youkai was of the human-hating, disagreeable sorts then it would be very likely that they would need to dig a grave tonight. No one wanted that, after all.
Inuyasha sat restlessly, bouncing the knee upon which his elbow rested. Annoying his two human companions Miroku finally sighed. "Not even Buddha would be able to withstand your impatience, my friend. Might you give yourself a rest, so that Kagome and I might ready ourselves more gently? Your harsh brashness can be most wearisome, Inuyasha."
"Don't turn into a damn woman on me monk. I already got two to deal with." Shaking his muscles out Inuyasha stretched his arm behind his back, bending forward.
"Inuyasha!" Kagome gasped. "If you aren't the most insensitive, thick-head jerk I've…"
"Hush." Inuyasha straightened up, nose in the air. They watched him closely for any signs that Inuyasha smelled youkai.
A girl's scream. Inuyasha bolted outside, skidding around the corner and to a halt. Outside in the light of a lamp he followed where the women were pointing. A few of the men brandished weapons; Inuyasha turned his eyes to the main source of attention.
A small figure had been knocked to the ground by a flying bowl of soup that had landed on its head. Pushing the bowl off in a scramble the white-haired child ignored the hot soup running down its hair, bolting for the edge of the town. One man ran forward, scooping up a stone and flinging it with all his might at the fleeing figure. It smacked audibly against the thief's shoulder only to spur its flight even more.
"You assholes! That's a damn kid!" Rushing past the men, thumping the stone-thrower as he ran, he chased after the miniature figure through the darkness of the forest. Sprinting to keep the little youkai's dark figure in sight he left Kagome and Miroku in his dust in his efforts to catch up to the thief.
Slowing down he saw the shadow duck into an abandoned cave a good distance from the town. Blinking he edged closer," Hello?" His call went unanswered but he hadn't really expected one. Inuyasha just didn't want to sneak up on the kid. Damn. There's a kid out here and…
The scent hit his nose from outside the cave. There was a corpse in there, youkai. It was already rotting according to his nose and it was way past buried. Holding his nose he ducked inside, making his eyes adjust to the darkness of the interior of the stone cave.
The body was at the back of the cave. At some point there'd been a fire but it hadn't been lit for a while. He saw the little figure huddling against the wall, the smell of the soup wafting towards his nose as well and the scents that were able to permeate his fingers. "Hello?" he asked softly. It only made the kid curl in closer on itself. He came forward slowly, "Kid? Kid, are you hurt?" He had to let his nose go to get a breath.
He nearly choked.
That body was a least a week or two old, probably more. Focusing his eyes on it instead he could finally detect what had been a female scent, underneath that radiating stench of corpse flesh and decay. How could the kid stand it? "Kid? Was that your mother?"
Silence. Squatting down he swallowed down his vomit. "Squirt?" He wasn't more than five feet from the child. "I'm sorry for those villagers. My friends will feed you if you'll come closer." The shadow shifted a little towards the corner, not towards him. "You can't stay in here kid."
He doubted the kid would answer him; terror was able to make itself present underneath the scent of the child's mother. Deciding that he couldn't stand the proximity of the smell anymore he got up. "Hey, I don't want you to be scared of me ok?" He had to move quickly to grab the kid who squirmed. Throwing his arms around the figure he lifted the struggling child up, hurrying out of the cave.
He set the kid down not too far outside while he kept the wrist in his hand, kneeling down. In the moonlight he caught the silver of the kid's hair, and a pointy face. "Sssh. I'm not gonna hurt you. You don't have to be afraid of me. My name's Inuyasha. You're safe, got it?"
The kid kept its face down. "Oi. No one's mad at you for stealing food. You're all alone out here right?" If the kid was stealing food then the child had to be older than a toddler; it was hard to make out details in this level of darkness. "Don't be scared of me. I'm not gonna let anybody hurt you."
Bending closer he sifted through the scents of miso soup, fear, and dirt to detect the creature underneath: a terrified inu pup; that's what his nose told him. No more than a few feet tall the kid reeked of corpse. No one had been minding this brat for a while. No wonder the squirt had resorted to pilfering a little food. He relied on his nose to tell him about the little one standing completely still.
"Hey, little girl?" She was a girl, moments away from shaking with fear. "I…"
The kid had something in her other arm. "What do you have there? Will you tell me?" The kid shrank away as far as the grip on her wrist would let him. Sharpening his eyes in the darkness he could see that she was holding something against herself. "Don't you want to talk to me? I'll listen."
He could hear movement in the brush. The girl tried to run but he kept his hand firm. The bundle that the kid held fell out of her arms and fell open on the ground in front of her; nothing more than a few crushed fruits that had been destroyed in her flight. "You're gonna get a bruise if you keep rushing away from me like that," he said lightly.
Kagome and Miroku came out of the bushes with lights in hand. It cast light on the little clearing outside of the cave, giving him a more detailed look at the "thief".
Long, now damp, white hair hung down to the waist of her messy dark blue kimono that looked like it had been splotched with mud and blood. Large frightened amber eyes ran over them all. Her skin worried him the most. There was a large cut above her eye, nearly to her hair that had clotted but still smelled of blood, blood that hadn't been washed away from where it'd run down half her face. Her lips were dry, cracked; her ear looked like someone had shoved her into wood and let it scrape. He heard Kagome gasp behind him. The sound made the little girl try to break free of his hold again, flinching.
This kid couldn't be more than three years old.
She bit her lip, lowering her eyes. "I'm Inuyasha, pup. This is Kagome, Miroku." Using his other hand he pointed at the two humans but she only turned her face away.
"Inuyasha?" he heard Kagome ask softly. The miko was close to tears. "They knew she was a baby, Inuyasha. They've been trying to scare her away for days, the villagers. How could they be so mean?" Miroku held the light for Kagome, gazing at the inu-pup with sorrowful eyes.
"Will you tell me your name?" He saw her hands clench to stop from shaking.
"Do you remember your name baby?" Kagome asked in her sweetest voice, the voice she used when Shippo had a nightmare. The pup turned her eyes in the miko's direction, confused, and Inuyasha relaxed his grip a bit on her thin wrist.
"Little one, you are safe now. Please try to understand." Miroku spoke in quiet tones, and his voice seemed to calm the girl a little bit.
"Keep talking monk," Inuyasha said quietly.
"Sango will surely have heard the commotion by now and be on her own way. I'm fairly certain that we will not be welcomed back into the village after siding with the "culprit", tonight. We will need to collect our supplies before we bed down for the night or I'm sure that there will be no discrepancy in their own thievery. It is most ironic, is it not?"
The girl seemed to like Miroku's voice…Go figure.
"I would imagine that you are thirsty. Would you like some of my water?" Miroku removed one of Kagome's water containers from his robes, handing her the lamp. He unscrewed the lid and came a few steps closer, meeting her eyes.
"If you promise not to run away you may drink all you like." Inuyasha released her wrist uneasily. He hated to let go of such a skittish kid. The pup was focused on the smell of the water, however, and not anywhere else. Gently approaching, Miroku let her hand grasp onto the bottle while she sniffed at it cautiously. Inuyasha watched her figure it out, keeping her eyes open on them while she drank in gulps.
"How could anyone do such a thing Inuyasha? She's so little." Kagome wiped her face.
"Is she alone out here Inuyasha?" Miroku asked gently.
"Her mother's inside the cave." Inuyasha said quietly. At the word 'mother' the girl's grip on the water loosened too much and she dropped it on the ground.
"Is she ill?" Miroku's eyebrows came together.
"Her mother's passed on, isn't she?" Kagome whispered sharply. He gave her a slight nod while he focused only on the child.
"You can smell it, right?" The kid just kept staring at him.
"Inuyasha!" Kagome scolded softly. He sighed, reaching forward to put his hands on her shoulders. She squeaked, falling backwards onto her behind.
"Easy pup, I didn't mean to scare you." Inuyasha was trying to be as nice as he could with this kid. "I lost my mother when I was a kid too. So I want you to listen to me now, ok?" The pup blinked, but let him pat her shoulder.
"We're going to help her, right?" Kagome asked hopefully.
"We always pick up strays," he shrugged with one shoulder, trying to put a good face for the girl. Her little pink tongue came out to wet her lips; the kid was still thirsty. "Kagome, you got anymore water for this little squirt?"
"Back in the room," she said slowly. There was no way they could take the kid back around those humans.
"That's ok then. There's some water not too far from here. Can you smell that, pup?" Inuyasha let one of his fingers touch the end of the girl's nose. She tilted her face up at him.
"We're your friends. Now, do you want to go get some water?" Kagome asked sweetly. She didn't answer. "Don't you want water? Miroku'll bring the light so that we're not in the dark," she prompted. The kid just kept looking at him.
"Hey, you can talk, right?" Was something wrong with her?
"She's just nervous, it's ok sweetie." Kagome came a little closer and the girl's eyes widened. Standing still she watched at Kagome with wide eyes. Why didn't the kid wanna talk? Wasn't she lonely after being alone for all this time?
"I'll take her, ok Kagome? I want you two to go ahead of us. She's scared because you're humans, I think." Miroku gave him a nod, taking Kagome's nod and the lamp from the ground. Pointing in the direction for their weak human noses his two friends went forward.
"See pup?" he pointed at their leaving figures. She looked but didn't seem convinced. "Do you want me to carry you or will you walk?" Her big eyes were on him again making him feel uncomfortable. "I really wish you'd tell me what you want me to do. It'd make it easier on me squirt." She was wetting her lips again. Rolling his eyes he moved slowly in the event that his movements scared her further. He wrapped his arm around the back of her waist and he pulled her a little closer, bending down so that she could get her arm around his neck. He didn't feel her do that however.
He had to literally put her arm on her neck so that she'd finally hang on, shivering, grabbing Kagome's water container from the ground. Lifting her up he stopped to make sure that she was fine with that before following. Her solidness surprised him almost as much as her tininess. She was bigger than Shippo, but not a whole lot heavier.
"You're younger than I was," Inuyasha said to her quietly. The pup raised her head. "Not a whole lot, but I was a little older. My mother got real sick and then no one in our village wanted me, so I had to go out on my own." He had a feeling that this little girl-pup understood what he was talking about. "I used to go through food when the women would go down to the river for laundry. Sneaking into their buildings was always too scary for me," he chuckled softly.
The girl fingered the beads around his neck; he kept talking. "You're a brave little thing to sneak into the middle of a human village like that." The pup was sniffing him too so he continued talking to provide some kind of noise for the squirt. "Kagome will feed you as soon as we can get her bag again. She's got all kinds of crazy stuff in there. She's human, but you can trust her."
He could see the light ahead had stopped. "They found the water, kid. Look." She half-turned her head to see the light that they were fast approaching," We're gonna get you cleaned up a little. I'll make sure Kagome doesn't put her smells on you; she doesn't know it but most of them smell like cat piss."
If he wasn't mistaken the girl gave him a tiny giggle. Stopping he looked down at her; the pup seemed fascinated by the beads of subjugation that Kagome refused to remove after all this time. "It's true. Don't give it away, though. It's too funny. She thinks they make her smell nicer."
Another little giggle. Grinning he set off at a faster pace towards the two humans still sitting by the water. "Inuyasha?"
He sat down by the edge, setting the girl down on his leg. Once again he was struck by how utterly filthy the brat was. He tossed the container for Kagome to fill, handing it back to the child once it was full again. This time she let herself drink without as much paranoia, though she still watched him.
"Lady Kagome and I are going to collect her things, and the rest of our companions, before the villagers have a chance to steal whatever they might happen to glance at. Can you stay here with her comfortably, Inuyasha?"
"You're goin' without me?"
"She seems to fear us; the child will be calmer if we do not return her to the smells of the village." Miroku made sense. How did he know about village smells?
"We'll leave the lamp here with you, ok? Miroku and I won't take very long. Don't worry about us." Kagome jogged after Miroku, leaving him with their little thief. Rolling his eyes at them he took a long deep breath.
Reaching into his haori he pulled out the 'handkerchief' that Kagome had given him a long time ago. Wetting it in the water he touched it to the still-healing cut near her white hair. She didn't move at least, so he could continue to wipe off the blood, dirt and crusting soup from her skin. She seemed to feel more comfortable near him when he was talking to her.
"Damn humans. They never listen to me," he sighed. The pup tucked the water container into the crook of his leg. Re-dampening the cloth he got a hold of her hands. "I always try to tell…" his voice trailed off. The palm of her hand had a large burn reddening the normally white skin. She'd apparently covered it with dirt when it had hurt. A burn on the inside of the hand hurt like a bugger when the muscles moved.
"What happened here pup? Did you try to get something off of a fire? Does it still hurt?"
"It'll feel better in a little while. I'm sorry about that," he touched the cool cloth to her hand. It jerked a bit, but eventually she flattened out her palm again for him to touch with the lightness of a bird's feather. Silence; the girl kept watching as he dabbed at her skin gently. "Why won't you talk to me kid? I don't like to be the one talking." She shook her head. "No? What's that supposed to mean?" In his surprise he let her hand pull out of his before burying her face into the front of his haori. He could feel her muscles trembling. He let one arm come around to rest on her back. "You're probably pretty tired. Stay quiet for a little while if you need to." All he could see of her face were the bangs that stood out from her forehead, the crown of her head…
He heard branches breaking as someone unskilled in hiding their trail approached. "Kagome, did you bring the others?"
She shook herself free from the trail and back into the place where he sat next to the lake. "I always hate it when you do that, but yeah, they're…" Kilala landed on the grass nearby with the two humans and Shippo on her back.
"Inuyasha?" Shippo jumped off Sango's shoulder to come scampering towards him. The kit jumped up onto his leg to peer closer at the pup in his lap. The drowsy pup woke with a start, "Is that the thief Inuyasha? That little kid?"
She was trying to hide so Inuyasha set Shippo down a few feet off of his lap. "Don't scare the squirt," Inuyasha rolled his eyes. "But yeah, turns out it's just her."
"But she's so little!" Shippo's voice squeaked. He plopped down on the ground where he'd been set to stare at the miniature inu in shock. Sango shook her head.
"Keh, she's bigger than you runt." Shippo only rolled his eyes.
"Here Inuyasha." Kagome handed over an unwrapped granola bar that she had left in her bag from earlier. He held it in front of the kid for a minute or two before she got the idea; she took it from him after looking up at him to make sure. She bit down into it.
Miroku cleared his throat. "Inuyasha? You said that her…that there is someone inside the cave? We must give her a proper burial."
"Yeah Inuyasha. It reeked back there," Shippo wiggled his nose.
"I know. Just wait for a while." Their guest was finishing her small meal.
The pup yawned. The weight of her body rested against him as her eyelids drooped closed. "That's it, runt…" Inuyasha let out a breath. He'd been worried that the kid wouldn't want to sleep with the others around.
It didn't take long. Exhaustion crept over the little figure in his lap soon enough. Lifting his eyes back up to Miroku's he let out a grunt. "Figured it'd be better to have her out before we went on back to that cave. Kid's mom's been in there a while, so I don't know how far the smell will spread when we move her." Miroku nodded at his explanation.
"Kagome? Take the squirt?" She nodded. Carefully so as not to wake her he moved the sleeping pup into Kagome's lap. "Come on monk. We're gonna need a shovel."
Speeding back towards the village he met the owner of the inn as he was rounding the corner. Grabbing the human by the collar he hauled him close, snarling into his face. Miroku tried to speak up behind him but decided to keep silent instead.
"You asshole! You knew she was a kid but you wanted us to kill her?"
The man tried to shrink away from him. "We could not stand to keep having our provisions pilfered! Please, I can't…"
"A damn pup! Who's gonna keep me from killing you instead you…"
Miroku cleared his throat behind him. "Inuyasha, it will do no good. Surely our friend here will assist us with a pair of shovels so that we might help the child. Will you not, sir?"
The man nodded enthusiastically in the face of the growling hanyou. "O-Of course. Take whatever you need from us." Inuyasha shoved him backwards stumbling against the wall of his building. Turning he heard the inn keeper speak up again. "You are taking the thi…child with you, aren't you? I'm sure you'll understand that…" Spinning around Inuyasha hit the man across the face as hard as he could manage at the moment. The man crumpled to the ground.
"Come on monk." When they entered the inn again in search of the shovels the man's family went running to accommodate them as soon as they recognized them. Gathering some blankets along with the shovels they made their way back through the forest, Miroku lighting the way.
They set to digging the grave not far from the cave's entrance, but around the side so that it would be less likely to be bothered. Inuyasha wasn't in the mood for the monk's pleasant chatter so he was grateful that at least Miroku seemed to understand that, keeping quiet to himself, as they dug down into the ground. Only the light from the weird glass crafted oil-lamp from Kagome's era lit their surroundings as they worked.
"It's deep enough." Hopping back out of the hole they stuck their shovels nearby, whipping open the folded blankets. Miroku grabbed the light, Inuyasha the shovels and the blankets, following the monk back inside.
Light did not improve the smell and certainly not the view. The skin was loose on the skin of the corpse, the woman's hair sliding from her head. Insects moved on the outside of the corpse that lay in its own…ah, liquid. Covering his nose he waited to see if Miroku would puke.
Thankfully he didn't. Felt like it though.
Spreading out the blanket next to the body they had to roll her onto it, leaving the shovels inside. Anything else and the skin would've fallen off. If they had tried to lift her onto it, or when they were attempting to get the blanket under her, would've made a mess that wouldn't make things more pleasant. Wrapping her up securely they carried her on either end out to the grave. They lowered her down into the earth.
Miroku said a prayer…Miroku was talking to him. "What?"
"I have finished," Miroku said quietly. Nodding he reached back to grab his shovel. Filling a grave back in never took as long as it did to dig one out.
Miroku was heading back towards their makeshift camp by the lake via the direct route. Inuyasha grabbed the monk by the arm, stopping him. "If that kid catches scent of what we've been dealing with it'll upset her. Gotta go the long way round," he snorted.
"I would not wish to disturb the child," Miroku nodded.
There was a light on the other side of the lake; they had gone the long way. Taking a quick wash in the river they managed to get the scent of death and corpse off of their clothes and hands. As soon as Inuyasha was satisfied they headed back to the girls.
Sango was laying out Kagome's sleeping bag for her so that she wouldn't needlessly chance waking the girl. "Houshi-sama?"
"It is us." Miroku sighed, coming forward.
"Why are you two soaked?" Kagome asked.
"Inuyasha insisted on bathing before we returned. We have been burying a woman who has been dead for a time." Miroku sat near the fire that they had created, extinguishing Kagome's small portable lamp.
"But if she was inside the cave didn't she already smell it?" Sango was confused. Inuyasha rolled his eyes, taking back the pup from Kagome slowly. The hanyou went over to rest against the boulder resting nearby, cradling the girl in her sleep.
"Inuyasha?" None of his human friends understood.
"She probably didn't think about it when she ran, if she'd been living in there with her mother before," he said quietly. "Kids forget things when they're frightened." His nose caught the faint smell of corpse on the pup herself. "Kagome can clean her up better in the morning when she's had a little sleep."
"I'd be glad to," Kagome whispered.
"I've heard of youkai who use the scent of another's death to cover their presence. Is that possible Inuyasha?" Sango asked slowly.
"Keh." Inuyasha lifted his eyes from the sleeping figure he held.
"That's bad," Shippo sniffed. Looking at the kit he was quick to dry up the tears that had started up of his own. Kit's probably thinkin' about his own parents.
"Come here Shippo," Kagome called, opening her arms for the ball of fluff that went to her for comfort. "We're all going to help her okay? You don't have to worry about anything either, you know." She cradled the kit close from where his face was buried into her stomach. "Inuyasha would never let anything happen to you."
"I know," Shippo ran a hand across his nose.
"So everything's going to be just fine now." Kagome managed to put pleasantness into her voice somehow, even with the events of the last few hours. Kagome's incredible. How can she manage to do that when she's so sad?
"Might I suggest," Miroku yawned, stifling it with the back of his hand," that we all attempt to get some rest? We will have things to do tomorrow."