Chapter 5

Orihime sighed as she watched the rain pelt against her apartment window. She had just returned from the school field trip to Tokyo. A solemn look had replaced the happy façade that usually adorned her face. So much had happened in her life, she wondered if things would ever return to normal for her. She closed the curtains, the soft fabric swishing as they were released. She returned to the abandoned tea cup on her table, sipping the lukewarm liquid slowly.

The past week had stressed her out completely. It all started with the Higurashi Shrine. Each one of her friends could sense the strange energy coming from the well there. It unnerved her since she had never felt energy quite like it. It was dark and disturbing, making her skin crawl as she stood near the decrepit structure. What perturbed her more was the fact that Ichigo had used his Mod Soul so he could investigate what that strange energy was. If he turned into a Soul Reaper, there had to be a good reason behind it. Even after the group was leaving the shrine, Ichigo hadn't returned. Even after they returned to the hotel they were staying at, he still didn't come back. When the next day passed without a trace of Ichigo, she began to worry. When she concentrated, she couldn't feel his spiritual pressure at all. It was as if he had disappeared into thin air; evaporated out of existence, leaving nothing of his being behind.

She sipped her tea again as she turned another page in her history book. She was supposed to read about a specific background story on one of the heroes who defeated the spider hanyo. She flipped through the pages, trying to find someone interesting. It was the third to last hero in the chapter, but the graceful picture in the book caught her eyes. It was a picture of an old painting, depicting a silver-white dog howling under a full moon. She took out a piece of paper and a pencil and began her notes on the so-called "great dog demon".

The inu hanyo's older brother was a feared and respected daiyokai, or demon lord, that reigned over the western lands of Feudal Japan. Being a son of the Great Dog General, InuTaisho, he possessed strength that dwarfed the powers of other daiyokai in the region. However, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Because of his superiority, he deemed humans and hanyos beneath him. He slaughtered multitudes of innocents just because of this fact.

"How could someone be so cold? I don't like this one anymore…" Orihime said aloud as she turned the page to the next hero.

The Eastern Wolf Demon tribe was a powerful group among the wolf demons of Feudal Japan. However, due to the manipulation of the wicked spider hanyo, almost the entire pack was slaughtered. Leading only a small group of wolves and his closest allies, the leader of tribe traveled the land in search of revenge for his people. He fell in love with the reincarnated priestess, which garnered many fights with the inu hanyo. The wolf demon was a sporadic, but loyal ally to the priestess' group. During his travels, he met another human that caught his interest and the two grew closer over time. After the battle with the spider hanyo, he mated with that human when he accepted the fact that the priestess loved the inu hanyo.

She put her pencil down, smiling lightly at what she had read about the wolf demon leader. Love. She knew the feeling all too well: the fluttering in your chest when you see him, the blush that formed on your face when he spoke to you, the elation you felt when he touched you. It was what she felt when she was around Ichigo. Just before the Winter War, she discovered that her feelings were of love. She still hadn't found the courage to tell Ichigo how she really felt. But, she kept her hopes up that he would return the feelings. Then they could become a couple and then have dates and then have their first kiss and then get married and then they'd have—

She blushed at herself when her thoughts went that far. She had to admit to him that she really liked him first before those things could happen.

She skimmed through the table of contents, wanting to get her mind off of Ichigo. In the margins, she spotted an interesting title; it was one of the last few chapters in the book, "A Feudal Fairytale". She quickly turned to the appropriate page. A picture of a painting of two beings decorated the page. They were set in a forested area as the background with a clear blue sky hanging over them. The person on the right had long, brilliant silver-white hair and was wearing a pure white kimono. The person on the left had mid-back length, bright orange hair and was dressed in a pitch black kimono. The two were embracing each other and they looked like they were going to kiss.

Orihime's face twisted into one of confusion. She couldn't tell which figure was the female! And the fact that the one on the left reminded her of Ichigo because of the same colored hair didn't help either! Despite this, she continued reading.

When it comes to real life, most would assume things such as curses and magic spells are merely objects of a child's fantasy. But within the Feudal Era, during the last few months before the end of the evil spider hanyo, there was such an instance where a fairytale actually happened. It was said that the tale passed down through generations, told to all who disbelieved that true love could ever exist between two completely different individuals.

This is the tale of the Black Rose and the Strawberry.

"The Black Rose and the Strawberry?" Orihime repeated.

Her mind returned to Ichigo and she decided that reading a story that had her friend's name in it would only bother her more. She closed the book, placing it on her table before moving into her bedroom. She changed into her pajamas and she lied down on her bed.

Black rose, she mused. It was a symbol of death, but also of rebirth. A rose was one of the most beautiful flowers, but a black rose didn't exist in nature. Yet, it is still a rose and therefore it still exists. Although its dark looks deceive you, it is just like any other flower. If you give it love, it will flourish just as beautifully as any other blossom. You can make black roses yourself if you treat them in a specific way.

"So…" Orihime thought. "This 'Black Rose' was someone beautiful in his or her own way, innocent and pure; but, something corrupted and tainted him or her with hatred or jealousy? Or maybe it means 'forbidden love' since the rose itself symbolizes love? Or maybe the person was beautiful of face but black of heart? Too much symbolism…who knows what it truly means? And strawberries…they mean sweetness, modesty, and love, don't they? Those first two describe Ichigo perfectly…"

"Ichigo…" she muttered before drifting off into a peaceful slumber.


A week passed before Masaru was able to leave the confines of Kaede's hut. The wound on the back of his head hadn't completely healed, but he was more than eager to get out. Ichigo often had to be his walking stick since the elder male hadn't used his legs in over a week. Kaede commented on his swift recovery and Masaru pompously stated he recovered fast. The teen then gave a perplexed look as he put his hand to his mouth, as if confused as to why he said that.

Ichigo called him a snob, which earned him a rock thrown at his head the next time he wasn't looking.

Currently, both Masaru and Ichigo were sitting along the banks of the nearby river, drinking tea made by Kaede. Ichigo yawned loudly as he finished the drink, tired from the previous night since it decided to wreak havoc in his dreams again. Masaru glanced at him before returning to his own cup. Ichigo rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, uncomfortable with the silence. Masaru wasn't much of a talker.

"So…" Ichigo began uneasily. "Does your head still hurt?"

"That's a stupid question," Masaru stated. "What do you think?"

"Yes?"

"There's your answer, fool."

"I may be a fool, but at least I don't act like an ostentatious ass," Ichigo retorted. Masaru glared at the carrot-top, who was grinning smugly.

"So, that's how you want to play it then?" he said. "Fine."

Ichigo gave a confused look to the elder teen.

"From now on, you will be 'Strawberry'," Masaru said.

Ichigo fumed. "Don't you dare!"

"Oh, I dare, Strawberry."

The two shared heated looks, sparks flying between the two. The carrot-top pointed his finger in Masaru's face. Masaru blinked in confusion when a determined look crossed Ichigo's face.

"This means war," he said. "It's on now."

"Do you imply that anything was off in the first place?"

Ichigo's eyes widened. He then blushed and began forming incoherent sentences while Masaru calmly drank his tea again. Ichigo swore he saw a ghost of a smile grace his face. That made the berry-head even more agitated.

"Why you…I'm gonna…" he growled. "Fuck you!

"I had no idea you were that foul, Strawberry."

"Stop it! I didn't mean it like that!"

"Then what did you mean?"

Ichigo palmed his face. "I'm just gonna shut up now."

"Good."

Ichigo sighed. He mentally made himself a note to never have verbal fights with Masaru again lest he end up embarrassing himself. He looked back at the elder teen, deciding to take in his appearance again: missing left arm, short uneven black hair, lightly-tanned skin, and sapphire blue eyes. He hadn't seen eyes that blue before. In fact, he rarely ever saw people with lighter colored eyes. The closest in color he could place was Grimmjow's. Ichigo inwardly sighed at the thought of the bloodthirsty Arrancar. He was a worthy opponent; one he'd probably never face again. He knew nothing of the Hollow's fate after he stormed off to rescue Orihime during the Winter War.

"What are the odds? They both have blue eyes, they both lost their left arms, and they both act like total assholes," Ichigo mused.

He was brought out of his thoughts when he heard someone scream. He jolted up, quickly trying to find where the noise came from. Multiple crashes and the sound of wood snapping were coming from the village. Ichigo sent a look to Masaru. It said, "Stay here or I'll kick your ass."

He stormed off to find the cause of the noise. The houses around him became blurred figures as he increased his speed. He soon found what was causing the massive destruction. It was the biggest centipede he had ever seen in his life. It had to be at least as tall as his school back in Karakura! The massive insect went careening through more houses, screeching at an inhumane pitch about "Jewel shards". Inuyasha was swinging his giant sword at the creature, chopping off bits and pieces of bug guts in sync with Miroku as Sango readied a giant boomerang. She shouted something and threw the weapon at the centipede. The boomerang cut through the bug's body before it arched and came back to the girl. She caught it skillfully, despite her focus remaining on the twitching remains of the insect.

"Ichigo!" he heard Kagome call. He turned and found Kagome rushing to the scene, her bow and quiver in hand. Shippo was riding on her shoulder, a scared look evidently showing on his face.

"Kagome?" he said in confusion.

He heard Inuyasha cuss and he turned around to find the giant centipede had formed back into one piece again. It charged straight towards him and Kagome. Kagome readied an arrow, pointing the projectile at the demon. She never got the shot off, since Ichigo had grabbed her bridal style and jumped out of the way of the rampaging demon. The centipede crashed into the spot where they had just been moments before. Kagome squealed in shock.

"Put me down right now!" she screamed into his face. "I totally had him!"

"If I had waited any longer, you'd have been insect chow," Ichigo noted to the blushing Kagome. She then gasped.

"Where's Shippo!?" she cried as she frantically searched for the fox child.

The two heard a scream, bringing attention to a rapidly moving dot on the ground. Shippo was crying as he ran to get away from the centipede, which had apparently decided he would make a good snack. Ichigo landed on the ground, setting Kagome on her feet before charging after the centipede. Inuyasha was already chasing the demon when Ichigo appeared next to him. Ichigo mockingly waved to the half-demon before using Flash Step to get in front of the demon. Inuyasha growled as he rushed after Ichigo, not wanting to be one-upped by him. Ichigo grabbed Zangetsu's hilt. The cloth unfurled revealing a large, butcher-shaped sword. He brought the sword to his side, charging the blade with his spirit energy. Ichigo's eyes glowed brilliant white-blue along with Zangetsu. He spoke two words and everything went to hell.

"Getsuga Tensho!"

A massive wave of energy rippled through the air, striking the centipede and everything that was in the general vicinity. The insect's body crumbled into pieces and, out of the corner of Ichigo's eyes, something small and pink flew out of the explosion. A large fissure now marred the soil as Ichigo skillfully landed on the ground, Zangetsu hoisted over his shoulder in a practiced way. He failed to notice the twitching legs of Inuyahsa, who had landed in a disgruntled heap and had barely managed to avoid the blast. Inuyasha cursed under his breath as he righted himself and glared at the retreating form of the berry-head.

"The hell did you do!?" Inuyasha yelled. Ichigo deadpanned at the hanyo.

"I blew up the bug," Ichigo explained bluntly, pointing a finger at the smoldering remains of the centipede. "What's it look like, Puppy?"

Inuyasha said nothing as he stuffed his hands into the opposite sleeves of his kimono, inwardly cursing Ichigo with every swear word he could think of. Ichigo scanned the field for the frazzled tuft of fur that was Shippo's tail. He heard whimpering behind a nearby boulder and the sound of chattering teeth. Ichigo peeked over the rock and spotted the auburn hair and tear-stained face. Shippo fearfully looked up as Ichigo placed a hand on his small head. His eyes were filled with unshed tears. He let out a strangled cry as he hopped into Ichigo's chest and began bawling. Ichigo nearly jumped at the unexpected action. He held onto the small body, making sure he didn't squeeze the child too hard.

"Don't worry," Ichigo said in a soothing tone, trying not to frighten the fox demon. "You're okay."

"I-I-I was so s-scared!" he cried.

"Easy," Ichigo said as he pat the kistune's head. "You're safe now."

Shippo's cries eventually died down to sniffles. He looked up at Ichigo with bleary green eyes. Ichigo gave a kind smile to the child. He tightened his hold slightly to offer reassurance. Tear-filled bright green eyes looked into Ichigo's comforting brown ones. Shippo smiled lightly, sniffling all the while. He wiped his nose on his sleeve before jumping out of Ichigo's grip.

"Shippo!"

Kagome rushed to the fox demon and scooped him into her arms. She nuzzled his head as Shippo cried into her shoulder. Kagome whispered gentle coos into his ear as she ruffled his hair. Shippo repositioned himself on her shoulder once she stopped. Both of them looked at Ichigo with genuine bliss.

"Thank you for saving Shippo," Kagome said as gave Ichigo a bow.

"Don't mention it," Ichigo said in a somewhat strained voice. Kagome blinked at his sudden shift in attitude.

Ichigo bit his lip as he scratched the back of his head. The rejoining of Shippo and Kagome reminded him of a mother finding her lost child. It brought back recollections of his own mother, comforting him when he was a kid. He hated being reminded of her; it only brought back memories of the day she died, the day he failed to protect her. He sighed as he focused his attention on the ground.

"That was amazing!" he heard Shippo say. "I think that attack did more damage than the Wind Scar ever did. It just goes to show you that Inuyasha isn't as powerful as he thinks he is."

The sound of a fist making contact with a skull came soon afterwards. Shippo cried out in pain before hitting Inuyasha's head in retaliation. Inuyasha brushed off the assault as he grabbed Shippo's tail and held him aloft. The kitsune started whining about wanting to be let go, but the stubborn hanyo ignored them. Kagome then ordered Inuyasha to "sit", causing the half-demon to be forced to the ground and creating a human-shaped crater. Shippo stuck his tongue out at a seething Inuyasha before nuzzling into Kagome's shoulder. Ichigo deadpanned at the fight while a sweatdrop ran down the back of his head. It reminded him of the pointless scuffles he had with his father. He vaguely wondered if Shippo even thought of Kagome and Inuyasha as parental figures.

Speaking of Kagome, she picked up a small pink crystal from the ground and placed it in a small container. A couple more of the same crystals were in the container.

"Are those shards of the Sacred Jewel?" he asked her.

She nodded in reply. "The demon came here searching for the Jewel Shards that I have. If I had never shattered the Jewel, all this suffering would never have happened. People get hurt because of my mistake…"

"It's not your fault," Ichigo said. "You have no control over what those 'demons' do. Don't blame yourself for something like that."

"Actually, she does have the choice over where she stays," came a voice nearby. "In the end, all the destruction still comes back to her."

Kagome and Ichigo turned to the voice's owner. Masaru was looking at them with certain contempt and superiority, as usual. Kagome puffed out her cheeks in displeasure and Ichigo narrowed his eyes at the elder teen.

"Ah, go suck a dick, you bastard!" Ichigo yelled, pointing a finger at Masaru.

Kagome sputtered at both males' reactions. She placed hand over her mouth as she resisted the urge to burst out laughing. Ichigo had his arms crossed, a triumphant smirk adorning his face and Masaru had flushed a deep red, his expression contorting in disgust at the crude comment.

"That got a reaction out of ya, you arrogant prick," Ichigo said haughtily.

Masaru fumed as Ichigo turned back to Kagome, who were both sniggering slightly. Ichigo yelped when something hard smashed into the back of his head. Rubbing the abused area, he looked at the ground to find what had been thrown at him.

A rock.

Ichigo had a bad feeling that he would get well-acquainted with rocks during his stay in the Feudal Era.


Last fully completed chapter. Now you'll have to wait for me to write the rest of it.

Color me shocked; I wasn't expecting this story to be as popular as it is. I was actually very hesitant when I first posted it because it would be my first attempt at writing a Yaoi story, it's a relatively crackish pairing, and I feared it would be one of those stories that gets looked over because Kagome isn't the main character. You guys/girls and all the favoriting and reviews you've been giving this story...it makes me feel fuzzy inside to know that it wasn't a foolish fangirl's idea and it's generally liked. I'm still confused as to WHY it's liked so much, but to each their own reasons, I guess. Please review!