Chapter 1: Of Warnings and the Foolhardy
Brown eyes sent one last look at the two sleeping figures, resting unaware. Her eyes stung, but she refused to cry. This was not a time to shed tears, so she tore her eyes away from them, slipped out the door, and snuck through the shadows until she reached the edge of the forest. She would allow herself one last look back, not for the village, but for the mother and brother she was leaving behind. They would be devastated, but they would be safe and that was all that mattered to her.
Steeling her nerves, she faced the forest. The dark trees loomed above her, hiding the light from the moon. If she weren’t so pressed for time, she would skirt the outside of the forest instead of going straight through it, but as things were, she had no other choice. As she set foot inside, it was as if the air around her chilled. She wasn’t unaware; she knew what lived in the forest. As much as she should’ve been, traipsing through the forest in the dead of night with no weapon, she was not afraid of the lesser demons that called this place home. No. The real worry came from the white-haired demon with glowing golden eyes that was said to lurk in it. The one who keeps the villagers from ever setting foot in it. The one who is said to have no soul.
She fisted her hands, irritated with herself. It was no good scaring herself before she even got anywhere. That would be pointless. But it was too late. At least she wanted to pretend that the rustling and other strange noises were in her imagination rather than being real.
She had never traveled through the forest before, making her relatively clueless to the size of it. That wouldn’t help her at all, especially if she was already jumping at every noise and she’d been walking but a mere few minutes in it. She didn’t know whether to try to speed walk through the place or walk slowly and carefully. Get out of there fast or try to be as quiet as possible? It was a tough decision.
An eerie noise in the distance halted her movement. Was that…a…chuckle? Screw slow and quiet. She was going to race out of there. Picking up her pace, she kept from full out running just to give herself better luck in not tripping over a root and falling face first into the ground, thus making herself an easier target. If she even was in danger right now. She could’ve just been hearing things and freaking herself out, but she didn’t know what else that could sound like besides a chuckle and a menacing one at that. She’d rather not come face to face with the thing that did it either.
Maybe she was safe. It’d been a decent amount of time and she had covered a lot of ground, yet nothing had come for her. But maybe it was giving her a false sense of security.
No. Paranoia was bad.
Was that a break in the trees? Was she almost out?
She slowed to a stop in what wasn’t the edge of the forest, but instead a large clearing inside it. She would have kept going if it weren’t for the enormous tree that stood out, looming over all the others. It exuded a calming aura and made her tilt her head up to stare upon it in awe.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” a deep voice asked freezing her in place as an arm was placed around her and a clawed hand came to rest on her shoulder, “but surely you didn’t wander away from the safety of your pathetic human village to look at it in the dark of night.”
“Not quite,” she managed to squeak out, curling her shoulders inward in an attempt to make herself smaller.
“But since you’re here,” he trailed off while forcefully tugging her forward.
“Actually, you see, I’m in a bit of a hurry,” she tried to pull away and shrug off his arm, but his grip remained firm.
“Little girl, are you afraid of me?” he chuckled, “why you haven’t even said a proper hello. I am the ruler of this forest after all and you are in my territory. I think it’s only polite, or didn’t your poor mother teach you any manners?”
He stopped and a clawed hand grabbed her chin, forcing her to look at him, into the piercing golden eyes of the demon she had been warned to stay away from at all costs.
“And what’s your name, little girl?” he dropped her chin but he kept his arm on her.
A smirk adorned his features, a fang hanging over his lip. His silver hair fell over his shoulder and a pair of dog-ears twitched atop his head. But she barely saw any of that. It was his eyes that held her, almost like a spell.
“Kagome,” she responded quietly.
“Well Kagome, I hope you know you’ve been causing me a lot of trouble ever since you came to the village. I felt you arrive several days ago and you’ve been drawing many demons into my forest. Even now I can feel the raw power haphazardly radiating off of you,” he paused, studying her before leaning down to whisper in her ear, “It’s going to get you killed.”
Kagome felt a shiver run along her spine. She was going to die here. Maybe that was best. This way she couldn’t bring death to any other innocent people. They’d be safe now.
She felt a newfound confidence at the acceptance of her fate. She stood up straight, no longer curling into herself, and squared her shoulders.
“So why haven’t you killed me yet?” she questioned, her eyes never wavering from his.
He looked confused for a brief moment before responding, “Do you have a death wish, Ka-go-me?”
He said her name almost mockingly and she had to keep herself from frowning. Instead, she quirked her lips upward in an attempt to make herself look more assured. If she was going to die, she wasn’t going to die looking like a weak little girl.
“Maybe I’ve just known what my fate was for a while,” Kagome responded lightly.
“Be that as it may, I have no use for you dead,” he paused before flashing his fangs, “yet.”
That threw her off. She tried to piece together different ideas of why he needed her alive, but nothing seemed to fit.
“What do you mean by that?” Kagome scrunched her eyebrows, eyes searching his face like it would give her answers.
“Now why would I tell you that?” he chuckled, “it would spoil all my fun.”
He winked at her, looking like he thoroughly enjoyed her confusion – it wouldn’t surprise her – before tugging her over to the massive tree. He pointed a clawed finger at mark on the tree trunk, a small hole at the center of it.
“What do you see?” he asked, serious now.
Kagome shot him a confused look before following his finger, “Uh…a scar on the tree?”
He gave her a blank look. “No kidding,” he said dryly, “Now try again. Focus your senses. Use your spiritual powers to look beyond that.”
“Okay delusional demon who rules over this forest, I don’t know what’s with you or why your crazy little mind keeps telling you that I am some sort of priestess with spiritual powers, but I’m not,” Kagome, in one swift movement, twisted out and under his arm, “so maybe you should go find a real priestess and I’ll just be on my way.”
Her escape attempt was short lived, as expected.
“Not so fast there, wench,” he gripped her wrist tightly as she fruitlessly and halfheartedly tried to pull her hand free, “I believe you are the one who is mistaken.”
Sighing heavily, she turned back to him, “Do tell.”
He just stared at her, his eyes sharp. Kagome was starting to get nervous when he took a step towards her.
“How easily you forget who you’re dealing with. If you’re life means so little to you, maybe I should bring your family into this...” Inuyasha suggested.
“No!” her yell was loud and echoed eerily through the forest.
“That’s what I thought, so why don’t you just be a good little human and listen to what the scary demon tells you to do?” his voice was mocking and she resisted the urge to glare.
That wouldn’t help her or her family, but this demon sure knew how to get under her skin.
“So,” he brought her attention back to him, “you really have no idea that you’re anything other than a weak, little, human girl?”
He sounded disbelieving, drawing out each insulting adjective, but she could tell he was serious all the same.
“As far as I’m aware, I’ve been a ordinary human my whole life. No mystical powers here.”
“Huh,” he said quietly, seemingly more to himself than to her, “that’s going to make it a bit harder than I expected.”
She wanted to ask why, but she bit her tongue. He didn’t seem the type to enjoy answering questions, especially for ‘weak, little’ humans.
He let out a long-suffering sigh before freezing, his ears twitching atop his head. Without warning, he was pressed up behind her, one hand wrapped firmly around her waist as he leapt up onto a high branch of the massive tree. She would have screamed in surprise if not for his other hand over her mouth, effectively cutting off her knee-jerk reaction.
“It seems like someone discovered your absence,” he explained as she watched some men from the village come into the clearing, lit torches in their hands as they looked about.
“Kagome!” one of the men called out causing the golden-eyed demon to tighten his grip over her mouth.
“Don’t make a sound,” he warned in a low voice.
She already knew better than to do that so instead, she watched the village men. She hardly recognized any of them, but then again, she only moved into their village a week ago. Besides, she never paid attention to the people. There was no need to get attached. It only made things worse.
The men did a poor job of searching, in her opinion. They held their torches high and looked about, even called out her name a few times, but they really didn’t search too hard. She could’ve been dead in a bush or maybe, just maybe, up in a tree with an evil demon holding her hostage and the men would never notice. She guessed they were expecting her to pop out and say, “Here I am” or something to that effect so they could take her back home and get some rest. Unfortunately for them, that wasn’t going to happen.
Seeing no sign of the girl, the men continued forward, separating as they went around the massive tree to search further into the forest behind it. She just watched them go by, waiting for the demon to finally remove his hand from her mouth.
“That’s a good girl,” he complimented as he removed his hand and used it to give her a pat on head, “Seems like the training is working.”
“Says the dog,” Kagome retorted, cringing after the words left her mouth.
The snap of his teeth near her ear informed her it went over as well as she expected it to.
“Dog demon,” he growled, “And don’t forget it.”
She wisely kept her mouth shut. The silence stretched on for what was probably a moment but felt like much longer before he brought the both of them back to ground level. He promptly let go of her before stalking off in the direction she had originally been heading in, throwing a gruff “Let’s go,” over his shoulder.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked, rooted to the spot. She knew better than to run, but she couldn’t bring herself to follow after him so easily.
He turned back to look at her, a look that told her she was going to get no answers from him anytime soon, before he stopped, most likely noticing her apparent lack of movement. He turned towards her, taking one menacing step forward, but Kagome got the hint and jogged to catch up to him, a frown marring her features.
“Don’t bother even trying to run. I will find you faster than your puny human brain can even comprehend,” he threatened, “this is your last warning.”
With that, he turned and stalked off once more. Kagome followed closely behind trying to understand how she was even still alive after all the things she said to a demon that had no qualms about killing.
But still, no matter that she was in the clutches of the feared golden-eyed demon, she couldn’t help but think that she wouldn’t change a thing that she did tonight because her family was finally safe. They could live in peace now, in one place, and not have to worry so much anymore. That’s what was important. Her family was safe. No one else mattered. Not even her.
Chapter 2: Of Dangerous Demons and Blood
It was when she saw the rising sun through the edge of the trees that she really understood what had happened. She was no longer just trying to get through the forest, trying to find a new place to live where no one would get hurt just because they lived in the same village as her. She was also no longer with her family. Her heart sank as she realized that she would probably never see them again. She would never see her mother's sunny smile or feel the warmth and security of her hugs. She would never be able to tease Souta or watch as he grew up into a young man. She was alone now, though she knew that was best.
At least the plan had been that she was on her own from here on out, except now she was in the hands of the feared silver-haired demon. At least she didn't have to worry about surviving on her own, with no weapon to protect her. This demon needed her alive and that meant he would have to protect her against any physical harm that came her way. She glanced at him in her peripheral vision and decided that things could be worse. She could be dead. Of course, with how things seemed, she would probably die at his hands once his use for her was through.
Kagome shivered involuntarily.
She just wasn't going to think about that. Not now, at least. She would just focus on the present. Speaking of which, she knew next to nothing about the demon next to her except that he seemed unreasonably irritated as they walked along. There was one thing Kagome did want to know.
"Uh…" Kagome started, not sure how to address him without accidentally incurring his anger, "what's your name? You know, so I know what to call you while we go to…well, wherever we're going to."
He glanced at her briefly, choosing instead to look out at the dirt path ahead of them. "Inuyasha. You can call me Inuyasha. But don't bother talking, it'd probably only slow you down even more. You pathetic humans move at a snail's pace as it is."
"Well, excuse me for not being born a demon and just being held captive by one instead," Kagome mumbled, frowning at the dirt path her feet were following.
Inuyasha just shrugged his shoulder, "It's your own fault. Most other humans are at least smart enough to not enter a demon infested forest in the middle of the night."
"What other time am I supposed to run away without being seen?" Kagome griped, mostly to herself because, in all honesty, it was a dumb move on her part. But she felt like she had no other choice.
"Ran away, huh? What, with nothing but the clothes on your back? Real smart one, you are."
Kagome grit her teeth. "I'm starting fresh, okay? At least…" Kagome paused, "at least I was."
They fell silent, though Kagome could tell it didn't bother Inuyasha any. He probably liked it better this way, but Kagome was oddly finding the silence unwanted. It gave her time to reflect, reflect on her decision. She knew it would be hard leaving her family, but she didn't quite understand just how much it would leave her heart aching. What would they think happened to her? Would they understand? Could they ever forgive her for leaving them? Kagome had become lost in her thoughts, so lost that she no longer paid attention to her surroundings, that is, until a voice brought her back. And it wasn't Inuyasha's voice. Kagome shuddered as she processed the hissed words.
"Mm, what a delectable little girl."
Wide-eyed, Kagome looked up to see a snake-like demon slithering over. Horrified, she noted that it was not the size of a normal snake, not by any means. Instead, it towered over her, its tongue flicking out as it rubbed its hands, yes hands, together in anticipation. She looked to Inuyasha who didn't seem to be fazed in the least by the demon eyeing her up. Kagome turned back to the demon, taking a step backward as he neared her.
"Inuyasha? Aren't you going to do anything?" Kagome asked, her voice shaking.
She saw a smirking Inuyasha shrug from her peripheral vision, "I figured I'd let you take care of it. A little fear of death brings out the best in people."
Kagome gaped at him, not sure how to process what he said. The only thing she could really comprehend at the moment was that he was going to let the demon attack her while he stood idly by. Her eyes looked slowly back to the demon who seemed quite pleased to find out what easy prey she would be. And that wasn't going to change just because Inuyasha seemed to think she had some sort of power. She didn't and a life or death situation wasn't going to change that.
Seconds ticked by as they both hovered, frozen, at least she was frozen, unable to comprehend that after all this time, she was finally going to die. The thought sent her heart into a panic, beating at an abnormal rate and sending adrenaline throughout her body. Kagome turned and ran, her breath coming in gasps as she pressed herself to her limit. The sound of the slithering demon approaching her was the only noise that registered in her mind. In a split second, Kagome was tumbling to the ground, having lost her footing in the uneven terrain. She turned to look, knowing the demon was much too close for her to escape now, not like she would have lasted much longer anyway. And it was true, the demon was nearly on her as she turned and she only had a moment before it lurched at her, its mouth open to expose its dripping fangs. Kagome had just enough time to brace herself for impact. But instead of her life flashing back for her like she expected, she was left to watch in awe at her final moments of life, as the creature's jaws spread wider, enough to engulf her. She almost thought she heard Inuyasha sigh as the shadow of the demon blocked out the sun. Except, before its jaws clamped around her, a strangled hiss escaped the demon and time sped up once more. The creature's sides split, blood spraying into the air. Inuyasha flew through the gaping wound, claws extended, his expression a strange mixture of disappointment and boredom. Kagome felt the airborne droplets splatter onto her.
Inuyasha frowned, ignoring her as he shook some of the blood off of his claws. Kagome merely lifted a hand and wiped at her face. Red smeared against her pale skin. Blood, always more blood. Why was it that she was always surrounded by the red liquid that drained away the lives of others while she was left standing? Would it never end? Was she doomed to a life that led to nothing but death? Faces flashed through her mind. No longer was she looking at a demon, but a child. A mother. A whole village. Decimated. Her eyes blurred. How many innocent lives had been destroyed because of her. How many people would pay the price for being near her? And it was her fault. There was no way it couldn't be; no matter how much her mother insisted elsewise. There would always be this river of blood following her; she would never escape it.
It was Inuyasha's apathetic outburst that snapped her out of her thoughts.
"Fuck, woman, stop crying. What's your problem? It's just a little blood."
Kagome blinked. She felt lost for a moment before the situation came back to her. Bringing a hand up, she touched her cheek. She looked at the tears glistening on her finger pads before brusquely using her fists to rub away the wetness. Kagome shrugged off the hands still resting on her shoulder.
"It's nothing. Let's get going," Kagome didn't wait for his answer. Instead, she turned herself around to follow the path once more, grimacing as she stepped around the mutilated demon. Her thoughts were a tumultuous mess.
The rest of the day passed by in a tense silence. Kagome knew she was the source of Inuyasha's sudden increased animosity towards her. It was like he had this expectation for her and she had failed and now things were going to be worse for her as a result. She wasn't sure how respond to that so she pulled into herself a bit more, keeping her mouth shut and simply following him in an attempt to somehow appease her captor's anger. After all, as soon as he realized he had no use for her, she would be killed. Those thoughts and the earlier encounter left her feeling drained. Not to mention Inuyasha didn't stop for lunch and Kagome knew better than to ask or risk incurring his anger. So she picked berries off of the bushes, berries she knew to be safe from what her mother taught her. By the time the sun was setting, her feet were dragging and she was lagging far behind Inuyasha. They had not stopped to rest once, but Inuyasha seemed no worse for wear. And of course he didn't seem to care, or rather, his only concern was that she was slowly him down.
It wasn't until darkness set in that Inuyasha seemed to realize that she wasn't going to make it much farther. She noticed that he kept shooting annoyed glances back at her, but she was too tired to care. Didn't he understand she was only human?
Abruptly, he stopped, kneeling down in the dirt. He stared straight ahead. "Get on."
His voice was commanding, but Kagome's mind was too tired to process exactly what he was ordering her to do.
"I said get on my back unless you want me to just throw you over my shoulder instead," Inuyasha ground out, turning to glare back at her.
Startled by the ferocity of his words, Kagome complied. Her hands gripped his shoulders as he hooked his hands underneath her legs, hiking her up as he rose to a standing position.
In the next instant, Inuyasha had took off running, though to her it felt more like they were flying. The sudden jolt sent her heart to her throat. Her nails dug into his shoulders as she pulled herself closer. The scenery was a blur behind her, leaving her tired eyes blinking as she tried to process the flash of their surroundings as they sped by. Her stomach had been left somewhere behind them.
Inuyasha jiggled his shoulders. "Oi, bitch! Stop digging your claws into my shoulders!"
She just barely caught his words over the rush of air past her ears, but obeyed nonetheless, moving her arms to wrap loosely around his neck and gripping her forearms for security. As much as she disliked the demon that was currently carrying her, her senses were beginning to overwhelm her and so she buried her face into the crook of his neck, closed her eyes, and tried to relax.
Soon, without her even realizing it, the running turned into a steady, lulling motion. Her mind drifted off and she idly wondered where he was taking her at such a speed and why he hadn't just carried her in the first place. Her only answer was the black void that took her as she fell asleep.
Chapter 3: Of a Charming Smile and a Girl Who Stood her Ground
A sudden lurch and pain in her backside was what woke her up. Her head hit the ground and she blinked her eyes open. Disoriented, Kagome looked up at a sour-faced Inuyasha. He crouched down next to her after having dropped her from his back.
“Stay here,” Inuyasha ordered, his voice stern, “I have some business I need to take care of. It won’t take long. And there are no demons in the area so don’t make up some shit like that after I catch you running away.”
Without another word, Inuyasha headed off through a break in the trees. Kagome stayed where he had left her, glaring at his retreating back. She pulled up a fistful of grass as lamely threw it in his direction. The strands floated to the ground not even a foot away.
Blinking up at the trees reaching far above her head, Kagome noticed that the sun barely peeked through the treetops. Squinting, Kagome tried to peer through the branches. Was it really almost midday?
Groaning, she pushed herself up into a sitting position, rubbing the back of her head. She winced as she pushed against a particularly tender spot. She was getting sick of this maltreatment. He could run his mouth off as much as he wanted, but he didn’t need to throw her around. Then again, he didn’t seem to be the gentle type.
Retracting her hand, she glanced around. Did he really expect her to just sit here and wait? How boring. Boring and unsettling. He could be doing anything and she was not there to at least know what was coming her way next. And where exactly where they, anyway?
She tentatively stood up, stretching as her lower back protested. She walked over in the direction Inuyasha had left. Surely she could confirm her suspicions as to the time of day (and perhaps get a glimpse of where he had gone off to). Stopping, she hid herself partially behind the tree that led out of the forest. Looking up, she could see the sun was indeed reaching its peak in the sky, but what interested her more was what she saw beyond the forest. The forest was actually on a hill that overlooked a village, a quaint, cozy looking village. She could make out the people heading about their daily chores and the fields just past the huts. She could see the men working hard in the fields and the children playing games right by the stream that wound around one side of the village.
The sight made her heart ache, a fierce feeling that forced her to avert her eyes to the tree she was leaning against for support. The bark was rough underneath her fingertips, rough and jagged. It felt like her heart in that moment, but then her thoughts turned to Inuyasha. He, no doubt, was rough and jagged; an individual that feared nothing and no one. An individual that screamed danger.
But she was beyond being afraid. Well, maybe not beyond, but tired of being afraid. If he was going to kill her at some point, then she was not going to spend the rest of her days in fear. She was not going to give up either. He had not killed her yet and that was because for some reason, he needed her. Kagome let that thought sink in. She might be able to use that to her advantage, to an extent at least. Inuyasha did not seem like someone who could be pushed around that easily. But she was done letting him push her around.
Kagome’s eyes wandered back to the village. Speaking of Inuyasha being dangerous, why was there no chaos in the village below? Her eyes scanned the village. No. Everyone seemed to be fine. Is that not where Inuyasha had gone? Perhaps not. What need would the demon have to go to a village like that in the first place? And if that was not his destination, then where had he gone?
Kagome’s eyebrows scrunched together as she searched the village for a shock of silver hair or blood red clothing. Nothing. But that made sense. Why would he just waltz into the village? That yet again brought her back to the question of his purpose in the village in the first place.
Kagome’s head hurt. How did she expect to figure out his plans in the village when she did not know anything about him besides his name and that he needed her for some unknown reason? She turned her back to the village and slid against the bark of the tree until she was seated at the base. Running away would do her no good. He would find her. Of that, she was sure. Her hand reached to pluck at the grass in front of her. She would just pull at the weed, counting the strands that she destroyed until Inuyasha returned. Then she would figure out how to get him to watch his manhandling.
At least it gave her mind something to do instead of thinking about silly things, silly things that she had no reason to wonder about. Like how her mother was doing and what she had done when she realized her daughter was missing. Like how upset Souta would be and if he was being strong for his mom or if she was being strong for him. Or if they were both too distraught to hold themselves together.
She closed her eyes and pushed those thoughts to the back of her head. She focused on the feeling of the grass in her hands as she plucked yet another strand out of the dirt.
“Ah, beautiful lady, what could cause you such heartache as to bring you out here to destroy the grass at your feet?”
Kagome blinked her eyes open at the man before her. A monk, she supposed, based off of his garb and gold staff. But what really got her was how close he had gotten to where she sat without her even realizing it. He stood several feet away, but she had not heard him approach at all. Bitterly, she realized she never would have survived on her own after running away.
“A man perhaps?” he continued, “I could help you with that. After all, I am but a humble monk that cannot rightly stand by when I see an attractive woman upset.”
The man oozed charisma and friendliness, something that seemed to draw her in, but his words made her uncomfortable. That and the fact that she was alone. Swallowing she pushed herself to her feet, her back against the tree. She forced a smile.
“I appreciate your kindness, but I am quite all right. Really,” Kagome pressed, “I was just reflecting on some things. If you do not mind, I need to head back to my companion. No doubt he is worried that I wandered off for too long a time.”
“As you wish. I did not desire to trouble you further,” he put a hand over his heart, his head bowed respectfully at her.
Nearly sighing in relief, Kagome turned, ready to amble along the outskirts of the forest in order to get away from the man, but his question stopped her.
“Could I at least get the name of the woman whose beauty has made my day?” he smiled, a charming smile, but Kagome hesitated. She saw his sharp eyes studying her, the smile in place though she had no doubt he had now at least noticed her discomfort. In the end, her manners won out.
“Kagome, my name is Kagome,” she answered, bowing her head slightly in greeting.
“It was a pleasure Kagome,” his smile widened, “If you ever run into me again, you may call me Miroku.”
“It was nice meeting you,” Kagome lied, “Goodbye Miroku.”
“Hold on Miss Kagome,” his hand was held up as if that would keep her there, “No need to trouble yourself. It is I that should be leaving. After all, I intruded on you.” Miroku gave her a short bow, “I bid you a good day.”
A bit surprised, Kagome watched as he turned on his sandaled heel and wandered off, throwing one last glance at her before he did so. The jingling of his staff followed his retreat.
She was still staring after him, lost in thought on the brief meeting, when Inuyasha dropped in front of her. She jumped.
“Oi. What the hell are you just standing there for?” Inuyasha questioned, knocking his knuckles against her forehead.
Kagome frowned, slapping his hand away and rubbing her hand against her forehead. It had not really hurt, per se, but it gave her the perfect opportunity to put her foot down.
“Look here Inuyasha,” she poked his chest at each word (and maybe, just maybe, she was afraid that was overstepping it too much, but she could not stop now), “you need me. You know you need me and I know you need me. And if you plan on me being useful in anyway to you, then you need to back off and stop throwing me around. And do not start with that ‘I could kill you at any moment’ stuff because go ahead. Try it. Then how useful will I be?”
By the end, Kagome had her hands on her hips, her face red from anger as she stared him down, daring him to try something.
Inuyasha blinked, looking startled before his brown creased and his face darkened. Crossing his arms, he stared back at her, clenching his jaw before tossing his head to the side.
Kagome nearly smirked at his lack of response, but held back. That would be too much, like goading him into exploding on her.
After several moments of tense silence Inuyasha turned around and offered up his back, though he looked strained. “Well since you’re so eager to be useful to me, get on,” Inuyasha bit out, his voice gruff.
Kagome did not even hesitate this time.
Chapter 4: Of a Priestess to Be
Inuyasha landed in a clearing in the forest, letting Kagome clamber off his back as she looked questioningly between him and the old woman resting on a fallen log. She wore the garb of a priestess accentuated by the bow and arrow in her hand. A black eye patch covered her right eye, the other left uncovered as it sized her up. Inuyasha did not look concerned at all. Instead, he pushed her forward, telling her gruffly to use some manners and introduce herself. Kagome shot him a quick glare, reminding him she was not going to put up with his rough treatment before turning hesitantly to the elder.
“Um,” Kagome faltered, before performing a quick bow, “I am Higurashi Kagome. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“Aye, it is a pleasure as well, Kagome. My name is Kaede and I am the village priestess,” Kaede introduced, pushing off of the log and into a standing position, her joints cracking as she did so. She gestured Kagome over. “Come here child; let me see you.”
Kagome approached her slowly, wondering what the elderly priestess meant. Kaede grabbed her hand once she was close enough, holding it firmly between both of hers while closing her eyes. The moments ticked by and Kagome wondered what she was doing. She looked back at Inuyasha, but he was intently watching Kaede. Kaede started. Calmly, she opened her one good eye.
“Ye are strong, young one, but yer power is untamed,” Kaede informed her, “I will train ye.”
Inuyasha crossed his arms, “I wasn’t giving you a choice in the matter, you old hag.”
Kagome pulled her hand free and stepped back, “Excuse me. What are you two talking about?”
“The same thing I tried telling you about when I first met you. How long are you going to stay in denial? Fuck. You explain it to her, Kaede. Maybe you can break through that thick skull of hers,” Inuyasha threw up his arms, turning away to jump into the nearest tree. Settling on a sturdy branch, he closed his eyes, but Kagome did not believe he was actually going to sleep for a second.
Huffing at his words, Kagome crossed her arms, looking petulantly back at Kaede. The look was not aimed at the elder, for she had done nothing to her yet, but she couldn’t seem to erase the expression from her face. Besides, who said the priestess was trustworthy? She was an acquaintance of Inuyasha’s it seemed and willing to help him. What kind of priestess helped a bloodthirsty demon?
“Come, sit with me child,” Kaede directed her to the log she had been previously sitting on. “Ye have been blessed. Ye were born with great spiritual power, more spiritual power than many priests and priestesses of our day could even hope to have. Whether through blood ties to an ancestor with spiritual power or just through the Kami’s good graces, ye have all the power to become a priestess to be reckoned with. I hope to train ye to be able to harness and use that spiritual energy to your advantage. It is better to use this inborn power to protect yerself in these dangerous times than to let it lie dormant within ye.”
Kagome’s mind was spinning, yet she could not help but believe the words she spoke. She was a priestess, after all, and Inuyasha needed her. His use for her must be in the power she was born with. But that left one question unanswered…
“And does this power, this spiritual power, attract demons?” Kagome asked, reminding herself about the reason she had to leave in the first place.
“Yes, it could, but the demon must be strong enough to sense it. Most of the time demons do not mindlessly attack those with spiritual powers, unless provoked or for a reason of their own, but they do seek out power and that ye have in spades. No doubt yer life has not been easy, child,” Kaede patted her hand, “And being untrained with this amount of power has left ye an easy target. Yer aura pulses, unchecked, sending out signals that even lower level demons can sense. That will be our first matter of business: controlling yer powers.”
Kagome barely heard her last sentence; her heart had clenched at the words that confirmed what she had already known. It had always been her fault. She had always known it was her. Yet hearing it, listening to it being confirmed struck a chord. But then the last of Kaede’s words registered in her mind, words that she wanted to hold onto.
“You mean, I could learn to control my powers so that no demons would be attracted to me anymore?” It was more than she could hope for. If she did that, if she helped Inuyasha and managed to get away with her life, she could go home. She could find her mother, her brother, and live with them again. Let them know she was okay. Apologize over and over again for leaving. But it would be all right. Everything would be all right.
“That is correct, but it is no easy task so ye must put everything ye have into focusing yer powers,” Kaede warned, “Now let us begin, while the day is still young.”
Twenty-third time is the charm, right? Kagome sighed. She had been trying and failing all afternoon to focus her senses just a little bit. Nothing. She was starting to believe Inuyasha’s muttered curses about her being useless and a waste of the power she was given.
But this was something she wanted to learn. No, needed to learn. Not for Inuyasha, but for herself. For a future with her family. So she did the only thing she could do: try again.
She relaxed, closing her eyes and focusing on breathing. Steady breath in, steady breath out. She let her worries slip from her mind. Instead of pondering any wayward thoughts, it was the rhythmic breathing that kept her attention. One breath in, one breath out. Repeat. She let herself stay in this state until she felt entirely relaxed. It was at this point that she could almost imagine the clearing around her. She felt the wind stir, brushing against her cheek. She could hear the leaves rustling in the breeze. She could smell the mustiness of the forest around her. She could feel the rough bark of the log she sat on and the solid earth that her feet touched. Breathe in, breathe out.
The tricky part was next, the part she had failed to do since Kaede calmly explained it to her.
Breath in. Breathe out. Kagome’s focus turned inward, looking for that power. She had brushed against it before, but had been unable to grab hold. It was slippery and elusive and bigger than she had expected. Much bigger.
In. Out. She could not force it. Kaede had been very serious when she told her that and the look in her eyes had convinced her against that plan of action. Let it come to you, Kaede had said.
In. Out. Instead of blindly groping for that power, she waited. And then Kagome’s limbs seemed to tingle, not painfully, but with a comforting warmth.
“That’s it, child,” she heard Kaede’s excited voice coaxing her to continue, “Let it come to ye and then push it outwards, just a little at a time. Expand yer senses.”
Kagome gave a tentative push. At first she noticed nothing, but as she pushed farther, it was like she could feel the heartbeats of the creatures in the forest. It almost surprised her how many were in just the tiny expanse right around her and Kaede.
At a sharp clash against her powers, Kagome started, her powers recoiling in surprise as she blinked her eyes open. She stared back at Inuyasha as his golden eyes watched her, one corner of his mouth tilted up in a smirk.
“Ye did well, Kagome,” Kaede complimented, patting Kagome on the forearm and drawing her attention away from the demon, “Now let me explain. What ye just felt was Inuyasha’s youki clashing with yer spiritual powers. The two are opposites. Using yer powers in this manner allows ye to sense nearby demons.”
“Oh,” Kagome replied dumbly.
“Try again. This time, do not release yer power when it clashes with any youki, just push past it. It will not hurt ye or the demon,” Kaede instructed.
“Alright,” Kagome agreed, closing her eyes.
It was much easier this time, having figured out how to do it. She still struggled a bit to hold on to the spiritual energy, to expand its reach around her, but she managed and this time she did not even flinch when she felt Inuyasha’s youki. Instead, she just pushed past, reaching farther into the forest. She was surprised at how many demons were in the forest, it almost frightened her, but their youki was relatively small, like a pinprick against her senses. She figured they had to be weak, if not tiny demons that most do not usually notice.
At the touch on her arm, she retracted her powers, drawing them back into herself before opening her eyes once more.
“Ye have done well. Ye have picked it up much quicker than I expected,” Kaede smiled approvingly.
Inuyasha scoffed, “You call that quick? We’ve been here all afternoon sitting around for her to just now finally figure out how to do one of the easiest things for priestesses. That she actually got it is a miracle in itself.”
Kaede sighed next to her. Kagome glared.
“Ye must be more patient, Inuyasha. This process takes time. She did very well, having not used her powers before today,” Kaede explained, calmly.
Kagome wondered why the priestess was even answering him, let alone helping him.
“Well we ain’t got time to dawdle around forever. How long are you trying to say this is going to take?” Inuyasha pressed, eyes narrowing at the elder.
“I cannot say. There is no set timeframe for any priestess. Each person is different. Ye must respect that,” Kaede responded.
Kaede was patient, Kagome gave her that.
Inuyasha gritted his teeth, taking a long look at her before letting out an aggravated sigh. “Just do what you have to do to get her to learn what she needs to know,” Inuyasha told Kaede, running out of the clearing afterwards, clearly restless.
Kaede turned back to her with a smile, “Let us not stop now. We still have daylight left. Then we may return to my home for some stew.”
Kagome’s stomach rumbled in return and Kagome hoped that it wasn’t loud enough for it to be heard.
Things moved much more smoothly without Inuyasha around, Kagome found. She felt less pressure and was encouraged by Kaede’s positivity. By the time the sun was sinking beyond the horizon, Kagome could easily use her senses to feel out the surrounding area. Kaede told her it would become almost second nature for her to do it quite often throughout the day.
Inuyasha had not returned and Kagome had not sensed him, though she had used her senses to search a good distance away. And she did not worry about his plans or whatever he was up to. She had done enough of that.
Besides, she was positive her stomach was going to eat her from the inside out if she didn’t have something to eat soon. She thought Kaede even noticed a particularly loud grumble at one point when they reached her hut and had given her such a large helping as a result.
Kagome blew lightly on the soup as she glanced around. The hut was small and modest. Just one room big, there was room for a fire pit and a raised wooden area in which a single futon was rolled out. A quiver of arrows and a bow were propped up in one corner of the hut and a basket of herbs sat near the entrance. There were a few small chests around, one in the corner near the fire pit where Kaede had retrieved the pot from as well as other utensils. The ingredients for the stew were all in different baskets near the chest.
As Kagome sat across from Kaede, she really noticed her age: the wrinkles of her skin, where it drooped, and just how tired she looked. She seemed like a kind enough person, so how was it she knew Inuyasha?
“Child, yer stew will get cold if ye don’t eat it soon.” Kaede commented, looking up at her.
Kagome blushed, looking pointedly down at her soup with a mumbled, “I’m sorry.” She took a few quick bites of her soup in an attempt to dispel the awkwardness. “It’s very good. Thank you for the meal and your continued kindness.” Kagome bowed her head at the elder.
“It is quite alright. Ye may relax. I do not bite,” Kaede chuckled.
Kagome tittered in response, not quite able to let herself be fully at ease.
When her food was finished, Kaede took the bowl from her, putting it to the side and rustling with some items as she pulled out a thick blanket from the chest, as well as a thinner one.
“I apologize. I do not have another futon, but I hope these will do,” Kaede spread the thicker blanket out in a clear space before putting the thinner blanket on top.
“Please don’t apologize. I am imposing on you, after all,” Kagome responded, grateful enough that she had something a bit softer than the wooden floor to sleep on.
Kaede seemed relieved at her sincere response.
As Kagome got herself comfortable in her makeshift bed, realizing belatedly how tired she really was, Kaede spoke up.
“I know ye are wondering how it is I know Inuyasha and much more, but I am afraid that is a story for another time. But I will say this. He is a rough individual, with many faults, but he has gone through a lot. I do not believe that condone all of his actions, or his harshness towards you, as I expect he has not treated you kindly. And I do not know how you came to travel together, but I ask you to look past his rough exterior. The Inuyasha I used to know is still there and I blame myself for letting him get this far out of control,” Kaede explained, sounding incredibly weary, “Mind ye, he was always a bit tough on the outside, but he still had his humanity keeping him grounded.”
“Humanity?” Kagome blurted out, confused.
“Why yes,” Kaede responded, confused in kind, “Do ye not know child? Inuyasha is a half demon.”
“I just. I mean. He does look human, but I know some demons can look like humans. I’ve heard stories of such demons,” Kagome stuttered out.
Kaede nodded in understanding, “Yes, there are demons who can pass as humans in looks, though they are much rarer than common demons ye usually see lurking in the forests. Normally, ye would be able to tell from his youki, but as yer powers have just awakened, I cannot have expected ye to be able to tell. He would not be one to point out this fact of his heritage either.”
“Oh,” Kagome responded, trying to process everything Kaede had told her.
“Do not worry yerself over any of it tonight,” Kaede told her, lowering herself onto her futon, “Just get some rest. I am sure ye are tuckered out after using yer powers so much today.”
“Yes,” Kagome responded softly, though in truth, as she lay on her back, the wood still prominent beneath her, the unfamiliar room around her, she was no longer tired at all.