Kagome walked down an unfamiliar road in Tokyo, far from her home shrine. She was enjoying the walk and the common but oh-so-new sights. She never got to leave the shrine these days without much wheedling and pouting, two things, she was routinely reminded, that were below her. Hmpph.
She saw a high school that had just let out and smiled, remembering her old classmates. Sitting on the edge of a container holding a small tree and a few blooms, she took a moment to watch the teenagers milling around; classwork, duties, and young love in the air. She missed those busy days and her three friends at times like these.
Ayumi had followed through on her goals, and was a translator working for the Japanese embassy in Sweden. Eri and Yuka had made very respectable inroads into their dreams before getting married. Yuka, because she was in love with a man who looked like an oversized thug, but was an acclaimed pastry chef who volunteered at nearby children's hospital. Eri, because her family business merged with another and the marriage cemented the alliance.
Blue eyes twinkled. Kagome had done a little meddling there. Eri was a good friend, and deserved a worthwhile partner. With a little poking, prodding, and a few well-selected words, by the time the marriage was celebrated, the two had each developed respect and a genuine liking of the other. If they kept working at it, she had no doubt they'd find their way to true, lasting love in time.
Realizing that time was passing by too quickly for her taste, she stood and straightened her kimono, making sure her obi was centered, and the elaborate butterfly fold in the back uncrushed, before heading down the street. She wandered in and out of stores that caught her eye, but left each one empty-handed. Finally, she saw something a little more promising down a side alley.
Ducking under the awning of a food cart, she smiled at the surprised looks of a kitsune and his son. The elder bowed low while the little one shook, holding tight to a broken hama no ya. "Hello, kitsune-san. I smelled the most delicious scent and knew there had to be a fox-run stand around here. May Inari's blessing follow you always."
"Your presence is all the blessing we could ask for, holy one. I am afraid we have just started prepping the food and have nothing ready, but is there something that this lowly one may help you with?"
Her smile faltered a little, before she slumped down in her seat, elbow against the counter and face cradled in her palm. "Kitsune-san, Inari's most beloved children are never lowly... unless they're using that position to pull off the biggest prank of the decade." She cheered and straightened up as a sly smile creased the father's face.
"True, my lady, very true."
"I had a kitsune friend just a little older than your little one when I was a teenager. He played so many pranks on an inuhanyou friend of ours, that when he went to kitsune school, he became a seventh-rank senior in three years."
The boy's eyes opened wide. "Examinee 77? He's a legend! I'm looking forward to school, but I don't think I'll advance that fast."
She smiled at him, and got off the seat to sink down to his height. Wrapping an arm around her knees, she looked into his eyes. "Everybody goes at their own pace, little one. The time it takes matters much less than the effort put into whatever you are doing. Remember to be the best you can be, not the best expected of someone else. In fact..." she reached into her obi and pulled out a little turtle charm. "This is a good luck charm from my shrine. I want you to have it, so you remember to take all the time you need to do the very best you possibly can."
He immediately dropped down into a bow and she giggled. "I know you are busy getting ready for tonight, but would you and your father be willing to make me a bento appropriate for the park? I believe there will be six hungry people, and it's a very special day for one who is precious to me."
"Unh," the kit nodded sharply, a large smile on his face. Standing up, she slid back onto her seat and watched as they planned and executed an astonishingly artistic bento. She inquired after a quality sake dealer after settling the bill.
"Ah, I have heard that Watanabe-san has acquired a limited amount of Falling Water brand. If you find crossed shadows, ask for what you want and he'll send a courier."
She bowed, thanking them both before leaving. The kit tilted his head. "You didn't charge Watanuki-sama for his food when he gave me the arrow, Father."
He reached down and patted his son's head. "Omamori usually ask the gods for whatever assistance they are made for. What she gave you, though, does not ask for luck, it is good luck. To offer payment for such a thing..." He shook his head. "Beyond insulting such a distinguished visitor, luck that is paid for is no longer luck, and will turn on you."
He regarded his son carefully, proud when he saw the boy nod in understanding. "What a wonder you are, my son, to gain the favor of so many powerful people. Your mother's heart is going to be so full, she'll grow another tail."
Kagome wandered down the street, looking high and low for crossed shadows, but not finding any large enough for her purposes. And time is going by so quickly... Beginning to become disheartened, she didn't notice the boy watching her until a minor spirit tried attaching itself to him and he started spasming wildly in an attempt to shake it off.
He was a handsome boy, wearing glasses, and she immediately noticed the two different eyes as he looked her way again. With the aura he has around him... yes! It's the one everyone talks about. He'll be perfect... and he's coming over here!
"Miss, have you lost something?"
"Thank you, but no, I haven't lost anything. I do need some help though, if you have a moment. Would you mind standing exactly were you are, and being absolutely still?" He had a puzzled look on his face, but complied with her request.
Kagome grinned as she looked at their crossed shadows. Signaling him to be quiet, she announced, "Watanabe-san, it is a very special day for my very special person. Two bottles of Yakurou Dokusen's Falling Water osake would make a wonderful addition to my bento."
The boy's eye twitched, but he remained still until a taloned, bright-purple hand emerged from their crossed shadows. He yelped and jumped, but thankfully didn't uncross the shadows. Kagome happily accepted one, then a second bottle of sake, then dropped a purse onto the courier's palm and chirped a thank you as it disappeared.
"And thank you, glasses-san. My special someone will appreciate this very much. We're having sake and a bento when we meet at Rumiko Park today. I hope I have not made you late for work."
He blushed at her adorable, earnest face and stammered out, "Ah, no. Umm... Yuuko-san-"
"So you are Yuuko-san's part-time help! I'm sure you are a great help to her, but you should run along so you aren't late." Kagome waved at him as she turned to go down her street. "Bye-bye butterfly-kun!" she called before heading towards the park.
Confused, and not happy with the tags 'glasses-san' or 'butterfly-kun', Watanuki continued on to work, moody and grumbling about the whole matter. Maru and Moro welcomed him as he came in the house, trying their best to tease the dark mood from him, but he just kept mumbling until he exploded, "AND WHO CALLS A STRANGER 'BUTTERFLY-KUN'!"
The girls looked at each other in delight before clasping hands and running to Yuuko, who was playing shogi on the back porch with Mokona. "You've got a butterfly-kun!" they chorused, dancing as they sang, "Watanuki is a butterfly-kun! Watanuki is a butterfly-kun!"
"Oh ho?" Yuuko cheered, and slinked into the kitchen, teasing her help by latching onto him from behind and holding him tight to her chest, cheek to cheek. "So, my dear butterfly-kun, where is the one that called you that?"
"Hmph. That crazy woman said she was having a bento with her special person at Rumiko Park."
"Maru, Moro! Clothes for eating in a park!"
"In a park! In a park!"
"Eh? You're going to interrupt her time with her precious person?" Watanuki sweatdropped. "You're a demon!"
Yuuko smiled evilly at him. "Of course I'm not interrupting. We are, since you're coming with me."
"Mokona is coming too!"
"Of course you are," Watanuki whined, realizing he'd be seen carrying a plushie in public yet again.
The three of them walked down the sidewalk, Watanuki having to work to keep up with Yuuko... until he almost ran into her when she stopped in front of Domeki's temple. As soon as he recovered, he went into raptures. "Himawari-chan! How fortunate to run into you here!"
The deep voice made Watanuki's skin crawl, and he arced up like an angry cat, spitting, "Watanuki-sama! Not oi! I'm not some-"
"Too loud." Domeki plugged his ears.
Yuuko and Himawari laughed at the usual comedy routine, before Yuuko stopped the rant by inviting the two to come with them.
"That poor woman!" he moaned, catching Domeki's attention.
"What's wrong?" Domeki asked as he fell in alongside Watanuki.
"Yuuko-san is crashing a picnic. I feel sorry for the woman and her special someone."
Domeki shrugged. "Yuuko-san wouldn't do it if there wasn't a reason for her to be there."
"She's a demon in disguise, isn't that reason enough?"
They entered the park, immediately catching sight of a beautiful teenage girl in traditional clothing.
"Hm. There's no one with her. I hope her special someone is okay." Watanuki looked around the park, but no one else was paying attention to the girl. Then she saw their group and lit up with an enormous smile.
He thought for a moment she saw someone behind them, at least until she launched herself at Yuuko; hugging her tightly. Yuuko returned the hug and laughed as the much shorter girl boosted herself up and kissed her forehead. The stunned part-timer dropped his jaw as Himawari smiled at the two. Confused, he tried to figure out what was happening. "You know Yuuko-san? But... I thought you were waiting for your special person."
"Yuuko-chan is my precious person! And today is a special day for her, so thank you very much for taking my message to her, butterfly-kun. But I was sure that five people were going to show up."
"Mokona is a person! Shake!"
She looked down at the little round black ball in Watanuki-kun's arms. "Eh? Why, I've never seen anyone as cute as you, Mokona-san, except for my darling Yuuko-chan." She carefully shook hands with him. "I hope you and Yuuko-chan have lots of fun together."
Yuuko smiled, and clapped her hands together. "That obento smells wonderful. Kitsune made?"
"Nothing but the best for you today. I even was able to find two bottles of Yakurou Dokusen's Falling Water sake, thanks to the aid of your part-timer."
Yuuko got stars in her eyes. "Yakurou Dokusen makes the finest sake in the otherworld."
Watanuki collapsed inward. "You mean that purple hand in the shadows?"
"A dimensional courier." Yuuko explained. "Watanuki Kimihiro, this is Higurashi Kagome."
"Nice to meet you, " Kagome looked between Watanuki and Yuuko carefully, before smiling mysteriously. "Is he a good joke, or a flat one?"
"WHAT? I'm not a joke, I'm just a hard working guy who got roped into being Yuuko-san's maid and cook and-"
Kagome laughed as he got into his rant. "A very good joke, indeed. And everyone else?"
"Kunogi Himawari." The cheerful girl waved.
"Domeki Shizuka." The dour looking boy nodded.
Kagome grinned, reaching for Yuuko's hand and squeezing it. "Then we're all here and we can start our party! Did anyone remember a blanket?"
"Mokona can ask Mokona for a blanket!"
"Please do! We'll send some of the inarizushi in payment."
The dimensional travelers were happy to help them celebrate, and set over the blanket. Kagome and Yuuko sat next to each other, and Watanuki was surprised to see the tenderness between them. He'd never thought of Yuuko as someone who was loved, and was upset with himself for being so insensitive. Then a shrimp tail flew into his lap and he was diverted from his deep thoughts, shouting at Domeki for littering.
Laughing, eating, and drinking, they all enjoyed themselves as the afternoon waned. Even Watanuki had to agree about the excellence of the sake after they made him try it. But soon the sun was setting, and he could feel something was off, as Yuuko and Kagome's spirits dampened.
He started to understand this parting was something more permanent when Kagome smiled sadly, and reached for Yuuko's hands. "You know my time's up, my darling one. The shrine misses me and won't let me stay gone for long."
"I enjoy seeing you when I can," Yuuko pressed her cheek against those beloved hands, smiling as one of them reached to stroke her hair before she sat up again.
"We have something for you, of course." Kagome pulled an intricate hairpiece from her obi, with a delicate fall of thin lapis lazuli crescent moons and perfectly white mother of pearl butterflies. "For our beautiful daughter, whom we miss so very much. Your father and I will forever hold our precious, impossible child in our hearts. Happy belated birthday."
"I love you, Mama. Please tell Daddy I miss him."
Kagome nodded, and as the sun set, vanished into a twist of the wind.
Watanuki just sat there, tears in his eyes for a reason he'd not be able to explain. "That was your mother?"
Himawari laid a finger on her cheek, trying to figure it out. "But she doesn't seem old enough. I thought she was just a couple of years older than me."
"Mother is a kami. She holds the keys of time and space, and has always made a point to look only as old as she feels. I didn't just decide to be what I am, you know. I was born with the affinity. An impossible child, to be born to parents so disparate." She held up the hairpiece, admiring the detailed work. Lines of curled silver chased over the stones, making elegant patterns. "My mother's insignia is the butterfly, my father's the crescent moon. It's a subtle way of announcing who will gut someone if I am harmed." Her smile was devilish in the darkness that had stretched over the park.
Domeki cleared his throat. "You know, there's a story told among shrine families about a miko who transcended time and was elevated to the ranks of the gods, then scandalized everyone by marrying a daiyoukai warlord."
Yuuko worked the piece into her hair and laughed. "Mother always has marched to her own drummer, and damned the world if they objected to the tune. And no one messes with what Father loves. I should have asked her to hug the little youkai for me... I haven't messed with Jaken in ages." Her eyes sparkled with evil humor.
"AHA!" Watanuki crowed. "I knew it! You are a demon!"
"Half!" cried Mokona as he jumped on Watanuki's head and started another round of craziness.
Laughter echoed through the park, as the revelers went home with full hearts.
Happy early Mother's day everyone!
"Is he a good joke, or a flat one?" Watanuki's name is written with the characters for April first. It's a running joke in the manga.
The was meant for a contest entry The Path To Supreme Conquest tapped me for. Sadly, I couldn't get it done in time. Dedicated to Jellolids, who hooked me on this xover years ago.