Near an island, known as Amami O Shima, part of the Okinawan string of islands.
The warm wind, one which Sesshoumaru had never known, caressed his face tenderly, as though embracing him like his mother. The sky was brilliant that day, a blue that he had never seen from his apartment window in Tokyo. Perhaps, his father had been right to suggest this family vacation. He glanced over his shoulder and found his father and mother gently embracing each other as they watched the dolphins play along the edge of the ship. The water was warm enough here. How innocent they were.
On the edge of the horizon, a small line of green appeared, and as the minutes ticked by, small mounds began to form, taking the shape of the island. Sesshoumaru once again turned and glanced behind him, to find his father placing his firm, warm hand onto his shoulder. Glancing into his face, he saw a most relaxed and content expression, as though the pains that he suffered from years of broken bones and dislocations due to his profession in Kendo had disappeared with the warm wind, which too, held him close.
"Papa?" he questioned innocently, "Are we almost there?"
"Soon, Sesshoumaru, soon."
"Mother?" Kagome questioned, as she sat over the stove, stirring the curry that they would soon have.
"Yes, Kagome?" Her mother replied, looking up from her sweeping.
"They are coming today, right? I wasn't wrong, was I?" She fumbled, as though doubting her memory.
"Yes, Kagome, they are coming today." She cooed gently, as she opened up a large window, letting the morning sun stream in through the panes, now sparkling clean.
"Mm, I'm glad. Summer vacation would have been boring if they hadn't come." Kagome giggled, as she tasted the pungent curry.
"Ne, Kagome, what do you want for your birthday? Being ten, after all, is a big deal." Her mother questioned, careful to hide the edge in her voice. She too, was glad that the Okuda's had decided to come, for money was always tight around the Higurashi house, especially since her husband had so recently died. However, Souta and Kagome had continued to grow and bloom, like the bulbs did every year, their colors brightening the small ocean-side inn.
"I don't really want anything much. Perhaps some new colored pencils." Kagome replied after a moment.
Mrs. Higurashi turned her back towards her daughter, careful to hide her tears. She never wanted them to see her cry. She had to be strong, for them.
The front door slid open, and Souta's small footsteps could be heard running along the polished floors.
"Mother!" he cried happily, rushing towards her, his arms full of flowers which her grandfather and he had collected.
A collection of pansies, daises, and buttercups smiled up at her through lacy ferns. Taking them carefully and plopping them haphazardly into a cobalt blue vase, she bent down and kissed her son's forehead.
"Yep! And I picked them all by myself!" Souta grinned, wiping his lips. The poor boy had just recently learned of the harms of 'cooties'.
"Kagome? Ready to go?" Her grandfather inquired, walking into the door.
"Yes, let's go." Kagome smiled, taking off her apron and walking the length of the room towards the carport. Little did she know what an important impact these people would have on her life.
"There they are! Isn't that they, grandpa? You said a mother, father, and a young boy my age!" Kagome whispered excitedly, pointing her finger at the three people that had just emerged from the ship. Her grandfather, studying them for a moment, nodded in agreement, and slowly made his way towards them, charming them with his lively jokes and kind remarks.
How fortunate that it was that the expected rain was not due until the end of their stay! How they would enjoy their stay on the island! How the fresh air would do them good! How safe the island was! And so, it continued, until the party of four, reached the car, where Kagome stood nervously watching and waiting.
"My my! Now, who is this?" the lady questioned sweetly, stooping down to eyelevel with Kagome, "What a pretty young girl!"
"This is my granddaughter, Higurashi Kagome. Say hello, Kagome." Her grandfather instructed kindly.
"I'm very pleased to meet you." Kagome said timidly, bowing low.
"And what nice manners. My name is Okuda Mara." She exchanged, getting up, and bowing low in return. "This," she motioned, "Is my husband Okuda Isamu." The man bowed low, smiling gently, as if he knew some unseen joke, "And this, is my son, Sesshoumaru." She motioned to the boy that stood in front of her. He bowed, but not as low as the others had. His face was blank and emotionless, but his eyes conveyed his emotions, hesitant, and unsure of his surroundings.
"It's nice to meet all of you." Kagome replied once again, bowing.
"Now, now! Shall we go; Yuuki has prepared lunch and is expecting us."
"Your daughter in law, correct?" Mrs. Okuda questioned, climbing into the car.
"Yes, please, do call her Yuuki. We are all friends here." He laughed, starting the car.
"Ne, mother, it's alright! I'll watch after Souta, and so will Sesshoumaru! We will be fine!" Kagome urged, grabbing a lantern on the back porch. Mrs. Higurashi exchanged looks with the other adults, but then after a moment, seeing an affirmative from the Okuda's, answered, "Yes, but be back soon, okay?"
"Of course!" Kagome smiled, and grabbing Sesshoumaru's hand, she pulled him cheerfully along the back path that led down to the public beach. Souta was hurrying in the rear, his small legs trying to keep up. The night was warm, and the stars above shinning like fireflies, which gathered around the pale lantern of the sky; the moon.
Sesshoumaru studied this girl, who was so urging him along. It was strange, no one had ever taken his hand in a game, and no one had ever been nice to him—except his parents. At his school he was left alone, isolated; he was not even noticed enough to tease. And this was the way it had been, ever since his half-brother had entered the school, which had been five years ago. The two hardly spoke, unless forced to; and never participated in games together. It seemed as though Inu Yasha had taken his place in and Sesshoumaru had been cast aside like some old toy.
No body ever said anything about the cruelty of it all, for it was dishonorable for his family to even allow the two to attend the same school. After all, it was common knowledge that Inu Yasha had been a result of an affair between his father and the woman. It was even more terrible, however, that the two shared the characteristics, which clearly showed their genetic background. Silver hair, the golden eyes…
"Isn't this nice, Sesshoumaru?" Kagome questioned, digging her toes into the sand.
Sesshoumaru said nothing, but continued to look blankly at the sea.
"Do you want to go in?" She questioned, curious.
"No." he said after a while, "I can't swim."
"Oh…that's too bad." Kagome sighed, sincerely sad, "Ne, tomorrow, grandfather and I will show you how! Is that alright?"
"Whatever." He grumbled his expression one of exasperation.
The two were quiet for a while watching Souta kick the waves and giggle madly in his own amusement. The sound of cicadas had died down in the night and only the lap of the waves gently kissing the sand could be heard. A cricket began to sing its song, reminding Kagome of the violin concerto's she had once heard on the radio.
"Is this what you do?" Sesshoumaru questioned silently.
"What?" she responded, confused.
"Is this how you live your life? On the beach at night? With your friends during the day?"
Kagome looked at him for a moment. Something was troubling him.
"I try too. I am most happy when I am by the beach and with my friends. I am happy right now, for I have both with me." Kagome explained, looking up at the moon that hung low on the horizon. She was not aware of Sesshoumaru's amazed glance.
He looked at the moon too; he had never seen it so big amongst all the towers of Tokyo. Perhaps, this was what he had longed for—to be away from the towers of Tokyo, which gobbled up his happiness, like starved chickens.
"Tomorrow let's spend the day together." Kagome chirped happily, making designs in the sand.
"Okay." He replied, not aware in the dark that he was smiling.
It had been a week since the Okuda's had first arrived, and everything was going beautifully, including the weather. Although there had been some speculations of rain, the storms seemed to completely bypass them, leaving only fresh cool ocean breezes, which flourished the rice fields.
Mrs. Higurashi and Mrs. Okuda seemed to have become fast friends. Mrs. Okuda was simply fascinated about rice fields, so often the two could be found weeding or inspecting the plants with keen eyes. If not there, they would be down in the small town of Kaze, talking to each other about their life's experiences while sipping a cup of tea at a local café, which a friend of the family owned. Grandfather and Mr. Okuda often spent the days relaxing in the clubs downtown, where they amused themselves playing 'Go' and Ma Jongg—and if not there, the two would be walking along the beaches and hillsides, grandfather pointing out the flora and fauna of the island.
A few times a week however, Mr. Okuda would treat himself to watching the young children practice their kendo in the local Buddhist church. At night, he would return and watch the adults where he was welcomed with open arms; for he was one of the highest ranking in skill throughout Japan.
It was now a sunny summer afternoon with light the color of honey which washed everything with the beautiful haze. Sesshoumaru and Kagome, as well as the rest of the Higurashi family, had gone out to shop for lanterns to decorate their house in celebration of the Obon festival, which was soon approaching. Isamu walked towards the house, he could see his wife cutting some zinnias from the patch closer to the road. Mrs. Higurashi had said the zinnias had done well this year. Some of them were unusual colors—salmon, lavender, and peach.
He stepped inside the house and waited a few seconds for his eyes to adjust. The echo of children's voices could be heard. From the hallway he could see the wooden sun porch. He walked towards the kitchen, and was about to put down the basket of herbs he had been carrying, when the pain came. It was almost as though something, a small hand perhaps, was scratching the walls of his chest. He stood motionless, looking past the basket of herbs in his hand. Then the pain became sharper. It started somewhere between his chest and stomach and spread both upward and downward.
Behind him, the door opened. His wife was coming into the house. He wanted to turn around and look at her coming down the hallway, pink and purple zinnias in her hand. But his chest hurt too much. He had to stand still, and concentrate on the pain. Mara, he wanted to say, don't worry. Don't grieve. But he could not utter a sound. Mara was saying something to him. He could not hear clearly. The echo in his ears became louder. For the first time, it seemed to block out any noise. Mara had now tossed the bunch of zinnias on the table. The flowers scattered over the basket of herbs.
Zinnias for the alter, Isamu thought. Thank you Mara. He tried to smile. The flowers are for me. They are beautiful.
"Don't cry, Sesshoumaru." Kagome said quietly as she gently touched his shoulder. "Think of how happy he will be…now he can live here forever…"
Great clouds rumbled in the distance, bringing with them the smell of the mainland. The sea had turned stormy, a mixture of gray resting atop white highlights of foam. The trees sang softly overhead. The whole world seemed to be mourning the loss.
"We came here for him to relax…" Sesshoumaru sniffled, "His nerves were terrible…the stress…"
"It's not your fault. It's no ones." Kagome insisted.
Sesshoumaru continued to cry for a few moments longer, but then, finally, he managed to sniffle out, "From this point on, I will never cry again."
"Don't say such things…" Kagome said quietly.
"I wish I could stay here with you forever…Tokyo is so terrible…" he explained quietly, as though to himself. Kagome looked at the boy, who for two weeks had become so very close to her. Indeed, she wished he could stay here forever. They could grow up and grow old together—that was her one wish. Twiddling with her earlobe, she took off her one of her silver earrings, which held a small orb on it.
"Sesshoumaru, when we grow up, lets get married." Kagome stumbled out, embarrassed. Perhaps she could heal the wounds of his father's death. Sesshoumaru looked at her, his eyes wide in amazement and shock.
"Okay?" she questioned nervously.
He paused for a moment. How happy he had been with her on this island. He had hoped the days would have never ended.
"Alright." He sniffled, smiling, which he was still unaccustomed to.
"Here. You keep this, to remember me by." Kagome smiled, placing it into his outstretched hand. "I don't have much…but…keep it with you."
Sesshoumaru gazed down at it, as though some treasure. Digging into his pocket, he found a small silver ring his mother had given him on his twelfth birthday. Although he liked it—he was never allowed to wear the jewelry at school. Placing it in her hand, he said seriously, "Promise you won't forget?"