This was done for Riku Ryuu's Odd Job challenge on Dokuga. It's something that's been puttering around in my head for a long time, and I need a break from the other story I'm working on (which will be posted once it's done in it's entirety). This one will be my escape, because it combines my two favorite things, writing and spinning. I hope you all enjoy. (If you don't understand what I mean by fire spinning, you can go to DA and find lots of beautiful photos and youtube has a plethora of videos).
Disclaimer : I do not own Inu Yasha or it's characters. I'm stealing them and turning them into pyros for our (hopefully) mutual amusement.
By : The Hatter Theory
Chapter One : Shadows The Sun
As the sun was setting, Kagome was sneaking furtively from her shrine, craning her neck every which way to see if anyone was outside. Like a burglar, her movements were quick and silent as she hurried from shadow to shadow, eyes on the prize.
Getting to the steps seemed to take forever, and she peeked over the edge to make sure no one was making a late trip up to the shrine. Once confirming the coast was clear, she exhaled, finally allowing the excitement she'd been hiding all day to come to the forefront, practically skipping down the stone stairs and into the growing darkness.
A car was waiting, just as had been promised. The engine was off, and it was dark inside except for the glow of a single red dot, which she guessed -correctly- was a cigarette. Opening the door and throwing herself inside, she giggled, exhilaration stealing her breath. The smell of chemicals and cigarette smoke mingled, one loved and the other tolerated.
"Let's go!" She urged breathlessly. The car roared to life, old engine sputtering angrily as a backfire rang through the air, and they were off.
"Do you have to do that?" She demanded, rolling the window down once they were on their way. Smoke was filling the interior of the car, making her eyes water.
"My car," Kujaku replied, winking at the younger woman, but rolling down her window anyway, cigarette dangling from her lips while she executed a sharp right turn. "You have to sneak out again?"
"Yeah," Kagome sighed, trying not to feel guilty that she had deceived her mother and grandfather again. Brightening, she opened the bag at her feet and pulled out two large metal folding fans. "I finally got them though!" She explained, opening one of the fans.
"Holy shit! I've never seen anything like that!" Kujaku exclaimed, swerving slightly as she looked at the fans wide eyed and slightly envious.
"Eyes on the road!" Kagome snapped, feeling slightly queasy. "I went to a swordsmith asking if he knew anything about tessen," She explained, ignoring her friend's crude speech. "Really nice guy too. Once I explained what I was doing, he got really enthusiastic, said it would be a unique challenge. I'll probably be going back for custom stuff."
She didn't mention that she had gone to several people claiming to be weaponsmiths before finding one that had actually responded to her emails.
"The cost must have been ungodly," Kujaku observed. Kagome flushed colorfully, thinking about how much it had cost despite the swordsmith's discount for 'a pretty girl'. Three months of every spare yen she made had gone into a fund to pay for the fans.
"It wasn't that bad," She said slowly, earning a chuckle from the other woman.
"I can't wait to see 'em in action. Should be beautiful. Here we are," She announced, pulling into a parking lot. "We're hoping the neighborhood doesn't try to get us kicked out of this one," She admitted as she started to get out. Kagome nodded, carefully storing the steel fans in her bag and getting out. Kujaku pulled a staff from the back seat and a bag, tossing the bag over the hood of the car. Kagome caught it expertly, and Kujaku finished by pulling out a paint can and closing the door with her hip.
In the distance, she could see the telltale red ribbons of fire beckoning, and had to stop herself from running over to the group of people on the basketball court. Kujaku, noticing her eagerness, laughed deeply and threw an arm over the girl's shoulder.
"Two more minutes, and then you can play all you want," She managed around her laughter. Kagome nodded, allowing the older woman to hold her back. As it had every time, her stomach filled with butterflies as the smell of oil and kerosine got stronger, mixing with smoke.
"Hey, little sister and big sister are here!" A voice called out over the noise of the fire. Kagome was able to make out Hakkaku on the other side of the blacktop, his mohawk hidden beneath a blue bandanna. He was waving her over enthusiastically, and Kujaku's arm fell away, allowing Kagome to run around the fire spinners in the center and hug him.
"I've missed you guys!" She admitted as he ruffled her hair.
"We've missed you too. What happened?"
"Mom found out I was coming here."
It was all that needed to be said. Nodoka was a good mother, but she had put her foot down at the idea of her daughter hanging out with the pack, as they called themselves.
Once Kujaku had seen Kagome fiddling with a fan, going through one of the traditional dances, she had pulled her into the group of performers that met once a week to cut loose, and Kagome's attention on school had been thoroughly derailed, much to her mother's dismay. School had -for the first time in her life- taken second string to learning to play with fire as all the others did. Books couldn't excite her nearly as much as the smell of kerosine and oil burning.
For awhile, Nodoka had managed to guilt her daughter out of such 'frivilous' activities. But only for a time. Kujaku had respected Kagome's wish when she'd backed off from the group, but Kagome herself couldn't stay away.
"I finally got my fans," She announced, smiling up at her 'big brother'.
"You're going to burn tonight?" He demanded loudly, garnering attention from those around him.
"Yup!" She announced, earning applause. "Finally!" She crowed happily.
"Kouga's going to be so mad he had to work. Well don't just sit here, go soak the fans," He commanded in a mock authoritative tone, pulling away and crossing his arms, trying to look menacing and failing miserably. Nodding, Kagome walked back to Kujaku, who was already soaking the heads of her staff in kerosine. Opening her bag, she pulled out the two fans and the containers the sword-smith had added as a free bonus. Excitement trilled through her as she poured kerosine into the wide basins and opened her fans reverently, smiling at the sound of metal spreading open and the whisper of the kevlar rubbing against itself.
"Nervous?" Kujaku asked, smiling down at the young woman she'd brought into the group. Kagome nodded, although her smile didn't falter. She was surprised to notice her hands trembling lightly.
"You'll do fine, and I'll be your spotter," Kujaku told her in a warm voice. Nodding absentmindedly, Kagome stared down at the fans, watching the bands of kevlar soak up the fluid, barely hearing the roar and whip like sounds of the fire spinning behind her.
"Best to not look at the fire directly," Kujaku reminded her. "Messes with you eyes."
"I know," Kagome chuckled, breath coming in short pants. "I feel like I'm going to vomit butterflies," She finally admitted, eyes moving to lock with the other woman's.
"It's normal," Kujaku admitted as she stretched her arms and back, moving with a grace Kagome envied. "Just wait until afterward. It'll feel like you won't be able to sleep for a week."
"Was that how it was for you?" Kagome asked, blue eyes wide.
"Oh yeah. I couldn't sleep at all that night, and I thought my heart was going to come out of my chest. It was amazing," Her friend replied wistfully. "Even now it takes me a few hours to come down enough to sleep."
Kagome nodded and watched her friend finish her stretches and grab her staff. As was ritual for her, she spun it a few times to throw off excess oil, and smiled at Kagome.
"Spot me," She commanded with a smirk. Kagome grabbed one of the towels that soaked in a five gallon bucket and moved to the edge of the blacktop, not caring that her arms were chilled by the cold water as Kujaku touched the heads of her staff to an offered lighter and the heads flared to life.
She admired the woman's movements and the way she seemed so relaxed as she began twirling the long staff into the air, tossing it in such a way that it twirled at it came down to rest in her palm with practiced ease.
The fire itself almost blinded Kagome as it arced and swung in patterns, Kujaku dancing with it, carefully avoiding the two other spinners on the blacktop. Every time the fire lit up her face, she was smiling peacefully, as if meditating instead of jumping and spinning and twirling. Briefly, Kagome wondered if she would look as happy and calm.
Kujaku fumbled the staff, dropping it instead of catching it on it's way down, and Kagome's heart jumped into her throat. The staff bounced off her arm and onto the blacktop, clattering angrily. She was about to move forward when she saw Kujaku pick it up with a chagrined smile and begin moving again.
Nothing had caught fire, thankfully. Kagome offered a small prayer to the kami and kept watching, almost hypnotized by the circles her friend began spinning.
Soon the flames began to dim, and the fire spinner began swinging her staff faster and faster until the orange vanished leaving a dim blue that puttered out, and smoke trailed in the wake of the fire. She moved over to Kagome, smiling and breathing heavily.
"Thanks," The woman fairly gasped, sweat beading her forehead. "Your turn's coming up. We're just going to wait for the others to finish and free up the floor," She said as she dropped the staff on the concrete next to the bench. The smell of chemicals and smoke rose from it, almost stealing Kagome's attention. Almost.
"You mean I'm going to be by myself?" She demanded shrilly. "I don't think I can do that," She began, only to be cut off.
"Tradition," Kujaku said with a smug smile as she took a swig of water from her bottle. "First burns are always given full attention. Besides, you'll be wonderful, I've watched you practice."
Shoulders slumping in defeat, Kagome cast a doubtful glance down at the basins holding her fans, suddenly more afraid than excited. She had wanted to dance, but she wasn't sure she could with the attention of the whole group focused on her.
"It'll be fine," Kujaku reassured. "It definitely can't be as bad as Ginta's first time. He hit himself in the nuts with his poi and caught his pants on fire," She reminded Kagome. The story was one of the group's favorite, often recited after the burns when they stopped at the all-night diner.
"Or your top," Kagome added impishly, relaxing a little.
"No one's ever going to leave that one alone, will they?" The older woman muttered. "At least I was smart enough to wear cotton instead of something synthetic."
"Which is why the strap disintegrated and the shirt fell off," A new voice added. Both women turned and smiled up at Kujaku's brother, Seiten. "Hey guys, sorry, my study group ran late," He added. His admission shamed Kagome, reminding her that she had told her mother not to disturb her, she was studying for a big -nonexistent- test.
Catching Kagome's drooping shoulders, Kujaku flicked her on the forehead, startling the young woman.
"None of that. Tonight's your first burn and the beginning of a life long love. No sad faces," She commanded gruffly. Kagome nodded, forcing a smile despite the guilt and nervousness warring within her.
"You're burning tonight?" Seiten asked, hoping to distract his friend from her sudden melancholy.
"Let me put your hair up," Kujaku ordered as she moved behind her and began pulling Kagome's long black hair into a bun. "You should see the fans she had made. They're beautiful," Kujaku added, nodding to the basins. "Kagome, who made them? You just said you went to a sword-smith."
"His name's Totosai. Pretty strange old guy, but nice," She added thoughtfully. "And I think he was hitting on me, but I don't know." The bun was finished and Kagome patted it, surprised by how tight it was.
"Hitting on you?" Seiten asked with a raised brow.
"He gave me a discount for being pretty. I think."
"Smart old man," Kujaku murmured. "The blacktop's clear. Come on," She reminded Kagome. Startled, the student turned and saw that everyone was staring at her, waiting patiently with smiles.
"Go Kagome!" A voice called out, and she was surprised by the sudden calls for her to start. The overwhelming feeling of support from the others, people she was more than happy to call her friends, brought tears to her eyes, distracting her from her schoolwork and family problems and even her nervousness. Moving to grab her fans, she flicked them, surprised by how much the kerosine weighed them down. Drops flew away and once she was satisfied, she moved to the blacktop. Butterflies that had gone silent began fluttering madly and she prayed she wouldn't make a fool of herself.
Someone came forward with a lighter and flicked it open expertly. As the flame touched the first fan, the fire racing along the edge that was covered in the yellow band of kevlar. Kagome touched the second fan to it and watched both come to life within her hands. Yellow, red and orange reflected off of the metal spines and cast flickering shadows everywhere.
Forcing herself to look away from the brightness, she ignored the dots dancing in her vision and moved into position.
Once, when she was very little, she had gone to her father's company gathering, and they had hired several geisha for a performance. They had danced, their steps small and their movements tight. At that point, Kagome had decided that she wanted to do something different. Traditional movements were too limited for her, and it had proven to be the bane of her existence when her mother tried teaching her the different dances.
The fans in her hands swept up in twin arcs on either side of her body, meeting together to form a rough circle. With an ease born of hours of practice, she slammed them shut, delighted that despite the added weight from the fluid, they slid shut smoothly.
Her steps were long strides, and she swept large circles around her with her arms, the fans extensions of herself. Starting high, she brought them down low as she spun, creating spirals around herself. Had she been outside of the strobe like effects of the fire, she would have seen her movements leaving trails of light in the air as she continued.
Almost reaching the ground with her hands, she snapped the fans back open, the metal chiming melodically as she brought her hands in front of her and held the fans lengthwise, bringing them close and spreading them open and closing them as she lunged back and forth, imitating the movement's of a dragon's mouth. Over the noise of the blaze she could hear amused laughter, and her confidence grew.
More leaps and twirls, then stillness. She paused, inhaling deeply. Her heart was thudding heavy in her chest, and she tossed the fans, watching them both flip and catching them deftly. Emboldened by her success, she continued with the tosses, sending the metal fans into the air and catching them in different hands, juggling them expertly.
The flames began to dim, and she caught the tessen in her hands and began spinning them in between her arms and out in circles, then snapping them shut, effectively killing the flames. Adrenaline and endorphins lulled her into a half dream state, and she was barely aware of her deep breaths or the smile on her face as she looked up to the sky.
The enthusiastic applause startled her back into the real world. For a moment she had been lost in her own head, not even aware of her friends watching. Sounds began filtering back in and the world became clear and focused, the edges of everything crisply defined. Her whole body tingled, energy still pulsing beneath the surface of her skin. She wanted to keep moving, keep dancing.
"That was awesome!" Kujaku breathed as Kagome moved from the center of the blacktop and sat her fans down on the concrete. Immediately the student was surrounded by cheering friends hugging her and congratulating her on her first burn.
"Your fire cherry's been popped!" Hakkaku shouted, ruffling her hair. "We should celebrate and go grab a beer!"
"You just want to rub it in Kouga's face that he wasn't here," Ginta laughed, referring to the bartender that had been trying -unsuccessfully- to hide a crush on the young woman from the moment he'd met her.
"I think he just wants an excuse to see the pretty new waitress at the bar," Kagome groused, pulling away and undoing the bun, shaking her hair out. "Besides, I need to get back home before mom realizes I'm missing."
Elation began to recede as reality came rushing back, her guilt crashing over the bliss.
"I'll take you back," Seiten offered. "I've got to hit the books tonight anyway."
"That would be great!" Kagome chirruped, smiling despite the sudden loss of that peaceful feeling. "You guys have a beer for me. Next time I'll just tell mom I have a study group or something and I can stay later," She offered once she saw Kujaku and Hakkaku's dismayed expressions.
"Sounds good," Kujaku sighed. Seiten ruffled his sister's hair and moved to gather Kagome's things, pouring her extra fuel into the paint can Kujaku carried with her. Kagome checked her fans and satisfied they'd cooled down, folded them and threw them into her bag.
The collective goodbye rang through the night, and Kagome hugged herself, smiling gently.
"Are you ever going to tell your mom the truth?" Seiten asked as they walked towards his car. Kagome felt her pleasure dimming more and more at the thought of her mother.
"I'll figure it out somehow," She sighed, arms dropping to her sides. "Just not right now."
"You'll figure it out," He assured her. "But now that you've burned, you probably won't go back. It's like being an arsonist," He laughed.
"I'll be sure to bring that point up when I tell her," Kagome muttered dryly.
"Hey, arsonists destroy things," He reminded her. "We make the world more beautiful."
Kagome allowed his words to warm the part of her soul that had gone cold at the mention of her mother. She wanted to create beautiful things, and her mother would, with time, see that.
That night Ginta sat in front of his computer, fairly cackling as he uploaded the video of that night's performance by the young woman onto his forum. Based around the idea of bringing local pyros together and having fun, the competitive nature of several members had turned it into a war zone, one he was about to throw Kagome into.
"Let's see that witch outdo that," He smirked as the video finished uploading. He labeled it 'The Pack's newest member and her first burn', then placed the tag 'double fire fans'.
On the forum it was no secret that a rival pyro was proud of her technique and incredibly vain. Not many chose fans, and she had long considered herself the top of those few. The one time Ginta had met her, she had treated him and the rest of the pack like dirt, and he only wished he could see the expression on her face when she watched the video.
"Hey, Sesshoumaru, there's something you've got to see," Inu Yasha called through the door.
"I'm studying," Sesshoumaru replied, not even looking away from his laptop. His fingers flew over the keyboard as he worked on his paper.
"I'm serious," Inu Yasha snapped. "I found a girl using fans!"
"Kagura uses a fan," He replied absentmindedly, pausing to see if his sentence flowed smoothly.
"She's using tessen jackass, not some wimpy girl fan. And fans, multiple. Not one. I've never seen fans like this either. They fold and open perfectly," Inu Yasha's voice bit out through the door. Exhaling deeply, Sesshoumaru pushed himself from the bed and moved to the door, accepting he wouldn't get any peace until he gave in to his half brother's whining.
"Look at this," Inu Yasha said without preamble, thrusting the laptop screen into his face. Sesshoumaru watched, surprised by the size of the fans and the way the girl handled them.
"She'd be perfect," Inu Yasha boasted.
"What do you mean, 'no'?" The younger Taisho snapped, closing the laptop and tucking it under his arm. "She's amazing. I've never seen anyone do double fans like that."
"Her movements are untrained. She's new, and she doesn't know what she's doing. She flitting around like a moron." He was turning to go back into his room when his younger brother growled angrily, muttering something under his breath.
"Come again?" Sesshoumaru demanded.
"She could be trained. She's not flitting, she's moving more-" Inu Yasha stopped, searching for the right words. "She's not trying to be a butterfly. It's like she's trying to move like a hawk or a falcon. You could train her, you know about tessen, more than most people anyway."
While it wasn't the strongest vote of confidence, Sesshoumaru knew his bastard half brother had a point. Not many people cared about tessenjutsu anymore, and certainly not anyone in the performing community. It would give their troupe an edge over their competition. But was it worth it? In six months it would be over. Training the girl to be even halfway decent would take at least that long.
"No," The taller man intoned before turning and moving back into his room. His door was almost shut when Inu Yasha's foot blocked it.
"We need a replacement for Kikyo and the others."
"Or you could apologize," Sesshoumaru offered, taking the smallest bit of vindictive pleasure when the other man colored and cursed.
"It's not going to happen. Just give in. We need something new, and she'd be perfect," Inu Yasha tried again.
"If you can even find her, then you can do as you will. But she's not joining," He sighed, slamming the door just hard enough to make his brother yank his foot back and curse even more loudly.
Smirking, he moved back to his futon, cursing his surroundings when he heard the younger Taisho complaining through the thin walls.
It was their inability to get along that had landed them in their current predicament. And their current apartment, if it could even be called that. The walls were different colors from years of smoking tenants and water stains, and the room itself was little more than a closet, certainly nothing compared to what he had lived in six months ago.
Cursing his father's 'wonderful' idea, which had turned out to be more punishment than any sibling rivalry could have warranted, he moved back down onto the bed and pulled his computer back onto his lap. For several minutes he stared at the document he'd been working on, mind wandering back to the video. Giving in, he opened his web browser and clicked on the shortcut to the pyro forum.
The video was the first one linked to on the front page, and he was surprised by the title. Her movements hadn't seemed like those of someone playing with fire for the first time. Curiosity piqued, he clicked on it and watched the young woman, unnamed from what he could see, smiling tremulously as someone lit her fans.
He watched her movements with a disapproving scowl. Inu Yasha had been right, she wasn't moving like a normal female would. Most female performers, especially those using fans, had light movements and focused more on dancing with their bodies, letting the props add to their 'sensual' movements. But the girl in the video was almost using her body to enhance the fans, and there was no attempt on her part of appear sensual at all.
And she lunged and jumped and spun wildly, her movements more free than those of other female dancers. Certainly not like a butterfly. But not elegant enough to be considered a bird of prey either. Once the video was done, he shut the laptop and leaned back against the wall, musing on the puzzle.
Untrained and -he was willing to bet- completely ignorant of the tradition behind her props, which could either be a blessing or a curse. She could be serious about performing, or she could have just found the props and decided they were pretty, which he had seen before. Musing over the possibility that she could be someone worth looking into at least, he admitted to himself there would be no focusing on his schoolwork that night.
His hand went to his bicep, callused fingertips moving over the smooth stump. Not for the first time he wondered if he could have ended the 'lesson' his father sought to teach him by swallowing his pride and directly informing him of the loss. Bitterness threatened to choke him and he pushed the thought away. Within six months, as long as he hadn't murdered his brother or tanked the small business he had created, he'd be able to go back home forget the experience. Except for that one 'small' detail.
When Kagome shimmied up the tree outside of her house and over the branches, she was surprised to see the light off. Trying to recall if she had turned it off, she knew she hadn't. With a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, she tossed her bag inside and then slipped her feet onto the sill. Dread growing heavier in her belly by the moment, she thrust herself inside and was surprised when the light came on and the first thing she saw was her mother, hand still on the light switch.
"You went out," Nodoka observed. Somehow she didn't make it sound like an accusation, just a statement of fact. A damning one.
"I-I did," Kagome stuttered as her cheeks grew hot with shame.
"Where did you go?"
"I just went to the park with Kujaku-"
"That girl is not the sort of person you should be spending your time with. Those people will only distract you from what's important," Nodoka reprimanded, eyes hard and fists clenched at her sides. "You've been doing so well Kagome. You can be more than me, you can do more."
"But mom, it's just an activity, it's not going to stop me from-"
"Just listen," Nodoka interrupted. "I don't want you to be stranded like I was. I want you to at least have the option of being independent. Your college is expensive, and you can't afford distractions. I don't want you going out with those people again."
"But mom," Kagome whimpered, already knowing that she would break the decree, for it was nothing less than that. "My grades are fine, and I'll keep studying hard. I can do both."
"I've told you what I think Kagome. I know you'll make me proud," Nodoka said before turning and leaving Kagome alone in her room. The door shut behind her softly, the gentle click somehow hurting more than the crashing of a slam would.
Grabbing her bag, she fell onto her bed and curled around it, mildly comforted by the scents bleeding through the canvas.
A/N : Tessen are a heavier, sturdy fan used by samurai. Some were made able to open, and others were just made in the shape of a closed fan (a small club essentially). Wikipedia and several weapons sites go into their use and legends associated with them. Kagome's fan is based more off of the menhari-gata, which was a larger, open and closed fan with metal tines. Sometimes they also featured spikes as the end of the tines as well.
Tessenjustsu is the training in the use of a fan.
This is set in 2001 roughly, when Kagome is 20 years old (going roughly by when RT said the manga took place). In the last ten years fire spinning has become a pretty mainstream, fun activity that lots of people are into. This is set before that for several reasons.
Hmm, otherwise I can't think of what to say. I hope you enjoyed the first chapter, and like I said, I really encourage you to go look at pictures of fire spinning. They're about as magical as you can get without using photoshop.
Oh, and as for Ginta's first burn, (which is what we call it when we play) this is based off of someone I know. He really did hit himself in the nuts and set his pants on fire. Thankfully he was put out by his spotter.