To Hel With The Gods
Kagome tensed as an immense aura came up her mountain, steadily making its way to the shrine. Her lip snarled up over her teeth as she recognized the type of being that aura belonged to. She quickly ran into the house, grabbing the long red bow waiting just inside the door. That one of them was coming to her home made her sick...
Once, long ago, she'd been obedient to the teachings, respecting the gods for their power and wisdom. These interminable days? She'd happily slaughter them all and dance in their blood.
A group of people topped the stairs, a tall blond man in armor among them. She felt the tingle of electricity, smelled the rush of ozone, and knew who she faced. She marched down the path to them, hostility pouring off of her in waves, arrow nocked. Guessing at the nationality of such a diverse group, she called out in English, "Stop. The god is not welcome here."
At the babble she heard as they replied, she shook her head, simply saying "Slowly." The group quieted, the black man in the lead giving a subtle signal for his people to stand by. He was good, but she had over five centuries of experience to draw on. She kept wary eye on the god and the archer. They'd be the fastest at subduing her, followed by the woman. Their leader took half a step forward, stopping as she began to pull back the arrow.
"Ma'am, my name is Nick Fury. I was told you would be expecting us. I'm afraid I don't understand-?"
"Raiden leaves, or this becomes a battle," she insisted, her accent proof she had little need of English on this high mountaintop. Her arm twinged. Keeping the bow pulled this long was bad for the string, but she'd rather not go for the blade hidden down her back. She suspiciously watched as the one she knew as Raiden reached out to her in entreaty, not letting it distract her from watching the others.
"My lady, how have I wronged you? I would swear we've never met before this day." He was using the god's language, eliminating the need for translation.
The agony on his face was real, she knew, but she hardened her heart even as she lowered her bow and replied in her native tongue. "You dare ask me that? Listen to the wind in the trees, the agony of the stones, the weeping of the earth. Listen, and then dare tell me your platitudes. But leave this shrine. You profane it with your presence."
Stricken, Thor bowed to the woman and left, leaving the others highly confused. Nick Fury spoke up again, speaking slowly for her. "I am sorry that we've insulted you, please believe me when I say it was completely unintentional. We actually came to ask your help."
Kagome waited, silent. She saw the impatience the woman waiting behind Fury hid so well, and wasn't surprised when she took over the lead from Fury.
With perfect formal Japanese and impeccable manners, she introduced the group and got to the reason they were there. "We have another member of our group that is... different. Recently, his condition began deteriorating. We were informed by Thor, the Asgardian who just left, that a true priestess may be able to stabilize him, and that you were the most powerful one he could sense."
Kagome inclined her head slightly, a queen conferring the honor of recognition to a peasant. "Bring your friend to me, and I will tell you if I can help. But the god will never be welcome here. Should he return, I will not hesitate to kill him."
Nick and Hawkeye turned, heading for the trailer rig to bring Bruce in. Captain Rogers looked at Natasha quizzically. "I can understand someone having some animosity towards Thor if they've worked with him, but shouldn't we ask why he is not welcome here, ma'am? If it's not rude."
Natasha listened to the Captain, her mind busy assimilating what had been said and the priestess' complete assurance that she could kill Thor, which she would have passed over as hubris if she had not seen the woman's eyes. She knows she can kill him, but does it mean... She nodded, and asked Rogers' question for him.
Kagome looked at them, eyes steady and cool. In a flat, cold voice she said, "This shrine is dedicated to the youkai massacred by the gods 'for the protection of humankind', my husband and family among them."
At Natasha's translation, Steve's face drew together. Thor was decent enough, but maybe there were more Asgardians like Loki than he thought. Remembering something from the quick lesson on Japanese manners he'd gotten on the way here, he bowed deeply, sorry he'd brought up such sad memories.
Natasha kept up the conversation, her job to extract as much information as she could taking precedence over manners. "Youkai are native Japanese spirits, correct? But we have no records of visitations by other worlds in this area. What are we missing?"
Kagome looked the woman over. If they are placing their trust in that one, they should know of the gods' perfidy, she decided.
"Four hundred and fifty-six years ago, the god we know here as Enma was defeated in challenge by my brother-in-law. Shortly thereafter, he met me. He was instantly infatuated, and furious when I turned him down, choosing to stay with my hanyou husband. These events revealed Enma's true character, and he developed an unwavering hatred for all youkai.
"Somehow, he convinced the other gods that youkai were going to annihilate the humans. They ordered the complete genocide of the youkai race, and accomplished it in two short years. My province, Musashi, was left for last. After the slaughter, covered in my family's blood and using my youngest daughter's clothing to clean his face, Enma told me that he had freed me from my enslavement and that he was going to take me as a concubine. I refused yet again, and killed him to avenge my family."
Cold gray eyes skewered the redhead. "His consort cursed me in retaliation, saying I should have been honored to be raised from the filth I bedded down with. She took me from what is now Tokyo and bound me to this mountain top, to live within the boundaries of this shrine for eternity."
Amusement went through her head, though her face remained a calm blank, when Natasha ignored the -unimportant- parts and went straight for the information her organization would be interested in. "You did kill one of them, then? But they are almost indestructible, not even Iron Man can slow Thor down."
"For my arrows, they are no more than human." Kagome said, her utter surety in her power intriguing those listening in on the conversation with the translation software on one of Stark's communicators.
She gave a short, curt bow to the two Avengers left with her and turned to the house. "Bring your friend in when they return," she called back to them. "House shoes are in the cubby in the genkan, go through the left entrance for the treatment room."
Tony turned off his phone, looking at Thor. "Did you guys really do that? Murder an entire race so one of you could have the woman?" His eyes lit up with delight. "My God. There's a Japanese Helen of Troy. I have a new imperative. I must meet this woman. Think she likes younger men?"
Fury slid into the driver's seat and slammed the door. "You'll have to, and I'd recommend not antagonizing her. Iron Man's the only one that could shift the Big Guy, now that Thor's banned from the shrine. I saw an access road behind the house, so we can drive him up. She'll have to look at him in the truck first, anyways."
Thor morosely leaned on Mjölnir, trying to place the slaughter she spoke of, but nothing came to mind. "I am going back to Asgard. I remember nothing of such a war, so I must ask Father. If we waged such a war, and her tale is true, we owe her a great debt. Not only for the murder of her family, but for the bindings put upon her. It is a wonder she is sane. Humans are not usually capable of handling century upon century."
Fury looked at the Asgard prince. "Should we worry about her, or Banner?"
"No, she is quite powerful and with her long life, will be highly knowledgeable. She's the best choice for him." Thor kept to himself the probable outcome of the healing. He doubted Fury wanted to lose the Hulk, but it would probably be best for all concerned. He stepped out of the transport and started to swing his hammer, soon flying up to the newly repaired Bifrost.
Steve stepped just inside the sliding door, hoping he'd find her near the entrance."Mrs. Kagome," he called out tentatively. She came around the corner, and quietly waited for what he had to say. Mangling words beyond comprehension, he tried reading from the translator, "Our friend, won't fit house. Big one in car hospital, living life support."
She considered the earnest young man with a kind smile, and nodded, appreciating his attempt to speak her language. Grabbing a large satchel from the elaborately carved cubby, she motioned for him to precede her, and followed him out. Once inside the mobile hospital, she gently traced her fingers along the green face, sorrow in her eyes.
The rapid-fire delivery of words she only half understood suddenly distracted her from her patient, and she looked up to see man in a garish red and gold metal suit. "Hi, Kagome, was it? Nice to meet you, I'm Tony Stark. For a centuries old priestess, you're absolutely stunning. I'll let you launch my ship anytime. Think you can help our big green friend here?"
She watched the odd man for a moment, noticing where his eyes kept roaming and guessing at the meaning of his words. They would bring a lech. She calculated the trajectory, and sent a pulse of reiki at him, sending him flying out the back of the transport and scrambling his electronics.
Nick stared at the billionaire lying in the dust, who cheerfully agreed with Thor's assessment. "Yep, she's powerful. Damn, she's knocked JARVIS out... it'll take a while to reboot and see if she's fried any chips. I don't think she likes being hit on, though..."
"I think I'll let Pepper know you offended the one who could help Banner," Fury stated calmly, repressing the urge to deck Stark, who sat on the ground grinning like a loon.
"C'mon. That is cruel and unusual punishment. Something frowned upon in the good ole U.S. of A. And surely it did not get past you that she just flung Iron Man twenty yards with nothing more than a lifted hand..."
"Just as I realize she is somehow bound to this area, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is not in the habit of recruiting from other countries, as conflicts of loyalty are detrimental to National Security."
"Eh, details. If Thor can get her freed, I think I'll find a job for her. Damn, JARVIS, what did she do to you that's still got half your functions offline? God, you gotta love a powerful woman."
Nick walked away from the playboy, wishing he could take the woman into S.H.I.E.L.D. So far, the Avengers had been adequate protection, but it looked as though she could blow them into the stratosphere with her power. And if Loki ever decided on another attack... He ducked into the transport, eyes fixed on the glowing forms of the woman and Banner's other personality.
Natasha came to him, quickly briefing him. "She said it will take her a month, but she has much experience with radiation poisoning and he will be fine. As the Diplomatic Service informed us, she is the royal family's personal physician when they need aid beyond normal illnesses, and has been for over a century and a half. Because of this, she was the first person declared a National Treasure; though it was done privately, and is not known to the general public.
"However, what they didn't tell us is that during World War Two a steady flow of patients were brought to her when they could be stolen from our researchers. She learned how to neutralize radiation poisoning during that time, and still receives patients from those areas.
"Also, the blast that sent Stark flying didn't stress her at all. There was no change in her heartbeat or respiration, and she went directly into a trance with the Big Guy. She came out of it long enough to answer questions and assure us she could handle it, and then began glowing as she is now.
"I've checked into the history of the area. There is no current mention of her or her powers, but legends of an immortal miko, or priestess as we would call it, and of a miko destroying something called the Shikon no Tama are common in the area and point to her being here as long as she claims. The locals are very serious about keeping her a secret. If the Emperor hadn't approved our visit, I doubt we would have been able to land on Shikoku, much less made it to the shrine."
"Interesting. Well, at least we know we leave Bruce in good hands."
A month later Fury made the trek back to the high mountain shrine, bearing a gift. As he walked past the final tori arch, he saw Banner sitting under a tree in a meditative pose. The past month had been kind to him. Bruce was no longer pale and drawn, radiating self hatred. Now his face was relaxed and calm... his body looked more defined than it had been as well. His eyes opened, and he stood.
"Director," he acknowledged. "Come inside, Kagome-sama is expecting you."
Following Bruce's example, he changed his shoes for slippers at the door and followed him down the hall, looking at the beautiful carvings and painted screens that made up the walls. As they came into a room that opened onto a Zen garden, Kagome came in with a tea service. She silently served them before taking her own tea and sipping.
"You look good, Bruce. How are you feeling?"
"Never better. I wish I had know about this place. I could have avoided destroying most of Harlem." He glanced over at his host, who's English skills had rapidly improved with near constant use. Of course, it was Fury's fault if he assumed her English was still rusty. Bruce'd found her to be quite devious when she wanted to be.
"Really. You've got him under control?"
"No. Angry guy's gone."
"Wait a minute. Gone?"
Bruce nodded. "Kagome-sama was able to drain off the radiation, then break down the components and cleanse them from my system. Now there's just one person in here." He tapped his skull.
Nick was torn. On one hand, the Hulk was decidedly useful, but on the other... well, he couldn't be trusted not to turn on his own people. "That's not exactly why you were brought here," he equivocated.
"But you told her to heal me, not to keep the monster." Bruce was careful in his answer. He didn't need the sharp mind of the director picking up on his prevarications. His secret was going to stay a secret.
Fury shifted, and sighed. "In truth, I can't be upset with you. I'm happy you're back to normal for your sake. We need brilliant, ethical scientists much more than unthinking angry monsters."
He could have smiled, had he less experience controlling his emotions. Everything Kagome had predicted was unfolding- but then, with over five centuries of observing them, she knew more of human behavior than a shrink ever would. "That's good to hear. What's the plan now?"
"We need to go back, show that the Hulk is no longer a threat. And then I guess you have to decide what you are going to do with the rest of your life." Fury drank the rest of his tea, unaware that he'd satisfied the duo's plans.
"Then I guess I'll go pack up my clothes." Bruce stood and bowed to the priestess, saying a few words in her language before he headed down the hall. She silently offered to pour Fury another cup, which he declined.
Fury pulled out the two items Thor had sent with him, as well as the recommended donation. He turned to the silent woman, placing a letter, medallion, and cashier's check in front of her, before bowing slightly. "Thank you, Bruce is a good guy, I'm happy he will have a good life now." His objective realized, he excused himself and went out to his car.
Kagome read the letter, and threw it into a brazier. The one who cursed her, some bitch named Hel, was facing Odin's justice for her confinement. Like it mattered to her anymore. Too many centuries had elapsed for vengeance to mean anything. She looked up as Bruce came in.
"What's the medallion?"
"I can leave the shrine if I wear it. Fairly useless trinket."
"I guess it would be. I will come back, you know. The only reason I'm leaving is because of that serum... that... abomination. Even a scientist like Tony will admit it is over the line."
She smiled and took his hand, pressing her cheek against it then looking up into his eyes. "Destroy the serum, and either save the youkai it was made from, or make sure there's nothing left of it that they can clone. We don't need any more lab-created halflings."
"Tony will enjoy hacking in and destroying all the data we can find. I'll try to find out if Steve would welcome help, or if he's happy being the government's tool." Bruce said, looking into the eyes of a woman like none he'd ever met.
Feelings he had yet to put a name to spilled over, and the urge to show her how much she was coming to mean to him had him kneeling in front of her, coming level with her face. Eyes flaring a vivid green, he and the Hulk gently ran a finger along her cheekbone.
She returned the gesture, face soft with affection. "Dear one, that you found your balance is a cause for rejoicing. Go out, live your life, find your Betty and cherish her while you can. I will be here, whenever you decide to come home."
Their goodbyes said, he left, joining Fury at the car.
She did not see them off, it wasn't her way. But even as he conversed genially with Fury, he knew that he'd be returning much more quickly than she thought he would. First, though, he was going to search out those like him and spread the word that on a mountain shrine in the heart of Shikoku, there was woman waiting for all her beloved hanyou to come home.
A home she'd guard against the gods themselves.
Enma is the god of Jingoku, the human hell. (Youkai go to a different one.) Hel is the Norse goddess of their version of hell, so I thought they'd make a good match.
After dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, American scientists used the survivors as test subjects. There are allegations that in the immediate aftermath, little to no medical care was provided to them, as the scientists wanted to observe the progression of symptoms. After the American public became aware of the horrors the bomb perpetuated, that policy changed. (Information obtained from a documentary. Sorry, I've forgotten the name of it.)
Shikoku is one of my favorite horror movies, and I've been wanting to use the island in a story for some time. The movie slightly lines up with Inuyasha, as there's a miko brought back to life who wants her man back, and who's resurrection makes her rather murderous.
To clarify the medallion's uselessness- The medallion is useless because she's been confined to the shrine grounds for five centuries. It's all she knows now, and there's nothing to tempt her away from the place. If you ever read essays about long-term prisoners, a common problem is that they cannot adjust to being free. Their life has been regimented so long they can't function without that structure anymore. Its the same for her.
Happy Valentine's Day!