Kaleidoscope by Renouveaux

Spiral

Chapter One

Spiral

It is with neither a whimper, nor a gasp, that all of Higurashi Kagome’s senses violently re-enter her physical form.

What the FU–” 

The exuberant sound of birdsong cuts her short, the fresh air of Sengoku Jidai filling her lungs, sudden realization hitting her like a bucket of ice water dumped over her head. Kagome, back pressed to the cool soil of the well, eyes wildly darting about the bit of blue sky visible above her, suddenly feels some degree of the tension she’s carried with her for the last three years dissipate. She can’t help her eyes slipping closed, her hands clenching the fertile soil beneath her, fingers wrapping around bone–bones, multiple bones! Human and animals and

Scrambling to her feet as quickly as possible, Kagome allows herself two heaving breaths before forcibly calming them and herself. Once again her mind is a whirlwind of activity, but now the emotions are excitement and wonder and excitement and her FRIENDS–INUYASHA! SHIPPOU! Sango and Miroku and Kaede and Kirara and Koga and Myoga and thoughts spinning, she begins her climb, instinct finding hand and footholds easily, a smile she couldn’t hope – had no desire – to contain lighting up her face. The familiarity of climbing the well, the sounds and smells of Inuyasha’s forest, the bright sun uninhibited by pollution, all of it combined has an intense sense of déjà vu crashing over her. So much so that as her right hand grips the top of the well, her eyes fixed on the last few inches of wood separating her view from the place she’d spent countless nights recreating with the utmost care in her memories, Kagome hesitates. What if she’s wrong? What if her being back is a coincidence, completely arbitrary, and she’s just spent the last several months pouring over the past to drown out the present? What if everyone has moved on and–

KAGOME!”

Her head shoots over the top of the well without further hesitation, body following quickly enough to land her gracelessly on the grass, all tangled limbs and confusing angles. So much for a dignified entrance, she grumbles. 

KA-GO-MEEE!” Inuyasha’s voice resonates again, the bright red of his Fire-Rat robes signaling his swift approach. Further behind him, still quite a ways out, four indistinct but recognizable blurs are running up the path that leads out of Kaede’s village. Kagome stands, unable to stop her anticipation from manifesting itself in tears and shaky knees, unaware as more of that three-year tenseness loosens itself down to her very soul.

“INUYA–” The last syllable is lost as Inuyasha lands and sweeps her into his arms, his face burying itself in her hair. She holds him tightly and feels the pressure of their embrace click something back into place. For a second, Kagome feels the rush of adolescent longing and the bitter-sweetness of a first love wash over her… and then it’s gone. 

“You idiot, where have you been?” The hanyou demands, his gruff tone a bit too pronounced to be entirely natural. Kagome can’t help but laugh, burying her head in his shoulder. Quickly approaching are the cries of the rest of their group. She gives him one last squeeze and takes a step back, looking deep into his gold eyes. 

“I’ve been completing high school and trying to read about your sorry butt, you big jerk! What have YOU been doing?” 

“What’d ya mean what’ve I been doing?? I’ve been fighting demons and waiting for YOU to show back up after you get done messin’ aroun–” 

“MESSING AROUND?!”

“YEAH–!”

“KAGOME~!” A blur of brown and orange fur barrels directly into her ribcage, any air she’d been holding in her lungs forcefully expelled in a tiny whoosh. The sobbing mess that is Shippo releases a wail loud enough that several flocks of nearby birds flee their nests and Kagome winces, savoring it nonetheless. “Y-You’ve been gone soo long and Inu-Inuyasha’s been SOO mean. Way meaner than usual and, and–” here Shippo draws back to make a long, very wet inhale, snot and tears mingling indiscriminately, “I–,” another sniffle, “I–I didn’t know if you were ever coming back cuz you just DISAPPEARED and I didn’t even know that was possible but I’m just so glad you’re baaack! WAAAH!” As if no time has passed at all, Kagome sets about comforting Shippo, distantly noting he’s now actually standing on the ground, no longer small enough to serve as a viable substitution for her childhood plushies.

“Stop whining, twerp! You’re getting snot all over her!”

“Shut UP, INUYASHA!”

“Leave him alone, INUYASHA!”

“Kagome-chan!” “Kagome!”

Finally, Sango and Miroku crest the hill, and Kagome is certain her heart’s about to burst (from joy, for the first time in a very long time). 

The afternoon is spent in the field surrounding the well, too many hugs shared and tears shed to count. The setting of the warm sun is what finally encourages them to head back to the village, still talking animatedly on their way, Kagome ignoring the distinct impression there’s something she should be aware of, part of the setting that should have more of her attention.

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The group settles in Sango and Miroku’s hut, the two having finally wed, much to Kagome’s unrestrained glee. She ignores the pang of sadness she wasn’t here to witness it. A stew has been simmering over hot coals for most of the day, and it takes all of one minute for Miroku to claim full credit for the mouth-watering aroma emanating from the pot. Kagome giggles and meets Sango’s eyes. The demon slayer merely shrugs, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. As portions are served and they begin eating – well, the humans begin eating, whatever it is Inuyasha and Shippo are doing can hardly be considered the same thing – Kagome can no longer contain her remaining questions.

“How’s Kaede?” 

Everyone pauses, their silence all the confirmation she needs. Kagome looks down at her food, untouched. “Oh…” 

“Don’t worry, Kagome-chan, she went peacefully in her sleep. She said she was ready to move on,” Sango offers.

Kagome nods, setting a mental reminder to pay her respects later at the shrine. She finally takes a bite of the stew, another thought taking hold, “Where’s Kohaku? And Kilala?” 

“They’re traveling together – Kohaku is determined to make a name for himself as a demon slayer and Kilala seemed restless in the village, anyway.” 

Another nod, another bite. “Have you seen Kouga?”

“Keh.”

“Inuyasha and I ran into Kouga-kun not that long ago, didn’t we?” Miroku says a shade too smugly, dark eyes glittering. Kagome can’t help but match the mischievous monk’s energy.

“Oh?” She prods, a little too innocently.

“Indeed. He challenged Inuyasha to a foot race. Inuyasha, assuming it’d be an easy win with Kouga no longer in possession of shikon shards–”

“KEH!”

“–suffered quite the defeat.”

“He cheated and you know it!”

“I don’t see how–”

“HE TRIPPED ME!”

“And how did he manage…”

Kagome let their exchange drift away from her, breathing in the sweet spring breeze– wait. That was it. The thing that was bothering her from earlier. Snapping back to the present, she can’t help the nervous edge of her voice. “Sango, what month is it?”

Brows furrowed, Sango paused. “Uh, the snow melted from the top of–”

“Gah, no, that doesn’t help. When was the winter solstice?”

“Hm, maybe… 120 days ago?”

“Closer to 150, I think,” Miroku added.

Kagome’s entire body pauses, as it’s the only way she’s ever been able to do mental math. A hundred and fifty days… from the end of December… that meant it was now the end of May. The well had put her in the past but also somehow TWO months ahead of the modern era. Now they only had six months to brace themselves for… for… for whatever was undoubtedly coming.

The gravity of the situation is instantly sombering. The urgency to share what she’d actually been up to the last few months sends her pulse racing… but Kagome hesitates. 

The group takes notice of her reaction and quiets. “Kagome?” Shippo puts a clawed hand lightly on her knee. 

She smiles weakly… and chickens out. “Oh, it’s nothing. I just… can’t believe it’s been so long.”

Then Shippo’s hugging her, the others watching warmly, and tears are stinging her eyes. Whether they’re from happiness or the sense she’s about to deliver a new set of trials and tribulations to the people she cares about most, there’s no telling. 

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Much later, while her companions sleep, Kagome finds herself looking up from the base of the set of stairs that lead to what was once Kikyo’s shrine. The village is quiet, only a few distant torches and one or two glowing windows of residences disrupting the sweeping darkness of Sengoku Jidai. A shooting star winks in and out of existence above the dark silhouette of the shrine’s roof. Kagome shivers. 

With heavy feet, she begins the climb. Unconsciously, she’s counting the steps – her mouth forming each number – a habit she’s possessed since childhood. 

Reaching the top, only mildly out of breath, the unlit temple grounds greet her. Spirits trail phantom fingertips against her aura and all her hair stands on end, gooseflesh decorating her skin. This is fine. This is toooootally fine. I’ve been here before. It isn’t so different at night

An owl calls nearby and she shrieks, all but jumping out of her skin. Get it together, Kagome. Shit. As it flies overhead, massive wingspan darkening an impressive amount of sky, Kagome draws herself to her full height and stares determinedly at the shrine. You’re. Fine.

Innate stubbornness keeps her marching through the grounds, beyond the last torii gate, past the surrounding half-constructed buildings casting suspicious shadows in the darkness, and straight up to the yawning pit of the main building’s open doors. Shoes kicked off, one foot raised to enter the inky interior, that stubbornness falters. She wavers, somehow knowing this is the true start to whatever the next few months hold and that after she takes this step… there’s no stopping it. Oh, for the love of– are the dramatics really necessary? Stop stalling you dumb

The same owl from before makes another loud cry. Simultaneously, Kagome jumps, her foot hits the floorboards of the temple, and the four lanterns hung around the interior of the room spark to life with an unnatural, bright blue flame. Dragging her other foot into the space, she shoots her eyes wildly about. Tooooootally fine, perfectly normal, probably a new feature they just had installed! Motion sensors. Or miko detectors! Good stuff

The shoji doors just barely behind her slide shut. 

Cold sweat covers her skin. Designed for prayer privacy, no doubt. Or- or bad foundation! Grandpa always said the place was built on uneven ground. Besides the lanterns, the large room is sparse. Across from her a small altar sits, nothing on it except an incense from which loose coils of smoke rise languidly. Just as Kikyo would want it, mostly dead inside- ACK. The thought slips past her usual barriers with disturbing ease and she can’t help an outward grimace. Of all the times to think ill of the dead, you choose to do it while visiting their symbolic resting place. Continuing to thoroughly chastise herself, she inches towards the single mat spread before the altar. Finally she settles herself on it, releases a shaky breath, and bows low to the ground.

After what she can only hope is the optimum amount of time spent prostrating to convey proper respect, she sits up again. The lanterns flicker, the incense burns, and Kagome shifts a little. Seconds crawl by. She fiddles with the hem of her skirt, eyebrows drawn. A moth hits one of the closed windows. She moves her weight to the right, her left foot having fallen asleep. More seconds pass. A mosquito buzzes near her and she swats at it. Forcing herself to be still, she waits. Nothing. She frowns and focuses on the incense. The lazy smoke drifts up and now her right leg is asleep. Repositioning so that she’s cross legged, hands on her knees, she stares fixedly at the vapor. 

A minute passes… then another. The same spirits she sensed earlier dance at the edge of her aura, their energies a slow, steady pulse. Her eyelids grow heavy, then close. Her breathing is deep and even. She is not asleep but toeing the edge, a warm calm suffusing her. 

Kagome.

 

Hm?

 

You’ve returned.

 

Mm-hm.

 

Do you know why?

 

Mm… approaching evil, imminent doom, inability to successfully integrate back into modern society… ya know…  

 

I am familiar with most of those things, yes. Do you know what led you here?

 

Bibliophiles.

 

… 

 

Book nerds.

 

Perhaps books played a role, but I assure you they were merely a tool manipulated by the hands of fate to pull you back once more.

 

Right. Fate. Trials and tribulations. More pain, undoubtedly. More battles to be fought, assuredly. Listen, Kikyo? Some distant part of her sits up a little straighter, surprised – but also not really – that it is the voice of the undead now dead-dead miko in her head. (Ha! Rhymes. Ack! Sorry!) Wait. How are we talking and you’re now part of me again but like… not. I- I am confused. 

 

After my passing, the part of our soul that animated what I was on the living plane remained with me. I did not see the benefit of you absorbing the same pain and vengeance that made me what I was… at least not at the time. 

 

Oh…kay. I guess I’m following…? 

 

It is why we’re presently able to communicate. I anchored myself here with a talisman. A talisman I need you to start carrying with you.

 

You- ah. A talisman? That’s allowing us to talk?

 

Yes.

 

A talisman you want me to carry with me… so that we can continue to talk…

 

Yes, among other things.

 

Kagome’s eyes shoot open, severing the meditative state she’d entered. She- this bit- she wants to HAUNT me? Like. Even more than before when her memory haunted every. Move. I. Made. SHE WANTS TO HAUNT ME. A distinct buzzing fills her awareness, pulling her back towards the conversation. Stubbornly, Kagome glares at the incense, eyes fighting to close. I am NOT DONE being UPSET.

 

Kagome.

 

GAH!

 

I assure you I do not want this anymore than you do. But you do not have time to learn the skills you will need to wield our power effectively. The coming battles will be hard won, and it is only with my help that you will be able to overcome the evil that is looming.

A deep, generational sigh escapes Kagome. A younger her would argue. Rally against this invasion. Provide multiple – probably wrong – reasons as to why it’s impossible or unfair or just- just mean. But… her anxiety surrounding the events she knows are about to transpire… it stills her. She knows they have scant months to prepare. She hasn’t used her powers beyond instinctual senses in years and even before then her grasp on them was shaky at best. Mikos are trained from birth as healers and warriors, their abilities just as varied and nuanced as the women who hold the title. And Kikyo was one of the greatest of them all. Accomplished, powerful, and devoted to that training. Cut down young, too young, her power had never even reached its potential in what would have been Kikyo’s physical maturity. Kagome sighs again. 

So… where’s this talisman? What is this going to look like?

In the physical world, behind the altar supporting the single stick of incense, a set of shoji doors indistinguishable from the walls surrounding them whisper open.

Kagome’s eyes fix on the space that’s now revealed. In it hangs a set of traditional priestess robes, though the green hakama makes a glaring difference. However, over them lies a samurai chest plate with the skirt and shoulder plates attached – made from a dark steel, almost black in appearance, and decorated with strange kanji she doesn’t recognize that seem to almost glow in the light provided by the blue flames. A double edged sword is tucked into a white and black obi, the hilt adorned with more white and a hint of gold. Yet another sigh escapes our young hero. Any red in there and I’d be Santa’s Miko… 

Santa?

Oh for the love of – can you ALWAYS hear my thoughts now? 

Only because you are in my shrine. After you leave this consecrated ground, you will only hear my voice when wearing the armor. 

Kagome grumbles but can’t help her raised eyebrows and the head nod that is the equivalent of saying “Alright, respect,” outloud.  Why a sword, though? Let’s be real, you and I both know we’re bow people… bit of distance… bad aim can’t take a limb off… can’t trip on it… speaking from my own experience.

It is a distinct amusement she gets in response, one she can only equate to a laugh…? Is Kikyo laughing? What the fuc– 

I have spent years suspended in this place, child. Far longer than what you’ve experienced among the living. I’ve had a lot of time to consider our response to this new threat and have received insight from those that came before us. I assure you, the sword will prove most formidable against our enemies.

Kagome stands. She rolls her shoulders, her back popping, her hands clenched into fists. She glares at the regalia that’s to be her new norm. The mantle about to be adorned that declares her acceptance of this fresh fight, a proclamation against the powers she felt rising even 500 years in the future. She shifts her head side to side, more obnoxious pops released from her neck. “Alright, fine, let’s do this.”

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The inner sanctum's doors open. Kagome steps out, dressed head to toe as the greatest miko warrier this particular Edo period has ever seen. Her booted feet leave the threshold and once more the shoji screens click closed behind her. In the background, a modern black skirt and baby blue blouse hang from a mannequin that will someday leave historians baffled. 

She takes a step off the raised dais–

And immediately plummets forward, completely off-center with the addition of (freaking HEAVY) armor, narrowly saving herself from face planting in the dirt. Arms windmilling wildly until she’s standing straight once more, Kagome pauses. Alright, listen! We can do this. You’ll get used to this! You’ll be a kick ass fighter! You’re gonna save the world again and it’s going to be epic and-and…and…

She takes a deep breath. You don’t really have much choice…

You never have…

Kikyo’s presence whispers against her psyche but offers nothing except a calming sensation of… understanding. 

Duty has driven this particular lineage of mikos since the beginning of time. It is a sensation as dismal as it is comforting. Kagome resets her shoulders, attempts to grab the new addition of the sword at her hip in a way that might be familiar someday, and succeeds. 

Her eyes, deep blue and determined, raise from the black boots on her feet to the distance. The sun is now rising, a detail she barely considers. She begins her walk back to the village, heart beating a bit faster at all that she’s about to reveal to her friends.

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Inuyasha is sleeping until quite suddenly he isn’t. He stands immediately upon consciousness, sniffing wildly. It’s dawn – somehow he’s slept through the whole night and Kagome is gone. Her scent is weak in the common room of Miroku and Sango’s small hut. He pokes at Shippo, who was curled up against Kagome last he checked, and the kitsune offers a weak ‘keh’ in response, turning over to show him his back. Inuyasha smirks momentarily at the learned behavior then immediately gets back to looking wildly about. Not here

He throws the screen door aside and looks instantly towards the path leading to the well. Inhaling, he knows she didn’t go that way, and his head swivels. Facing towards the temple he finds the remnants of her scent. He makes two large bounds over a few rows of huts and stops. 

At the top of the staircase leading to Kikyo’s shrine stands… Kagome? Green hakama, white kosode, black boots and… samurai armor. Hair tied back – no sign of the bangs he’d used in their earliest interactions to remind himself she wasn’t Kikyo, not exactly – she’s making her way down the steps. Even from this distance it’s obvious she’s uncomfortable with the weight of the armor she’s wearing. He can see she’s shifting her body weight back to adjust for each step she takes down, gravity trying to upset her balance. Suddenly she stops, halfway down, and looks him dead in the eyes. His breath catches. There’s something in her gaze that makes him…nervous. His ears twitch. It’s familiar, but there are several expressions shifting over her features in rapid succession. It looks like she’s arguing with herself. Inuyasha, while still fascinated with the costume change, can’t help his eyes rolling. He makes several more leaps towards her. He reaches her a minute later.

“What the hell, Kagome? You make it back ONE day and you’re already disappearing? What’s wrong with you, idiot?”

“Oh, Inuyasha, always so charming,” she grumbles.

He blinks, certain the first part of that sentence had some kind of… reverb. Like another voice, almost? He sticks a pinky in his right ear, trying to clear nonexistent debris. “Oi, what the fuck? You ok? What are you wearing?” His hand lands on a shoulder pad–

Inuyasha!

–and falls away as he lands in a bush to the side of the stairs. Kikyo?? 

Kagome grimaces, struggling to stand straight. “Listen, I have a lot of things I need to talk about with you and everyone else and I just- I need you to trust me. I really only want to do this once so we need to get back to Miroku and San–”

“WHY DID I JUST HEAR KIKYO–”

“If you would just let me–”

“KAGOME. KIKYO’S VOICE. TELL ME–”

“SIT BOY!”

When nothing happens, Inuyasha’s scrunched face and Kagome’s heated pointer finger both slowly relax. They look at each other. Kagome scratches the back of her head, sheepish. “Heh, yeah, right, forgot about that…” See, after that last battle that sent her home, she’d grabbed onto the beads before she disappeared… and shattered them. Perhaps the biggest tragedy of them all.

Inuyasha jumps straight from the bush and gets directly in Kagome’s face, eyebrow twitching in a most dramatic manner. “KAGOME, TELL ME–”

“I WILL YOU INSUFFERABLE BOY! …After we get to the hut, ok? Just. Come on.” 

She continues to toddle her way down the stairs, ignoring Inuyasha’s repeated outbursts, timing them almost exactly to every 3 seconds. Every 3 seconds she wishes desperately for the subjugation beads to exist again. In this manner they eventually reach the hut, Kagome having gained some mild confidence in walking with the added weight of Edo-era armor, Inuyasha having only seven mild conniptions until they reach the door.

With a sigh and the whisper of Kikyo’s energy brushing against her own, Kagome enters the hut, Inuyasha hot on her heels. 

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Wide-eyed, stock still, Kagome’s companions regard her with the same shock and awe she’d probably have herself if it wasn’t for the fact she bore the news. 

“Kagome-chan… are you sure?” Sango offers.

“Kagome-san, how long do we have?” Miroku prods.

“KAGOMEEE!” Shippo’s wail makes itself known.

“...Kikyo?” Inuyasha whispers reverently, eyes transfixed on her armor.

Kagome massages her temples, eyes screwed shut. She wishes for her materials left behind in the modern era, the notes and scrolls and the timeline she’d created, the physical evidence she’d compiled that ultimately led to her wearing this armor and weapon and the dogged defiance she can’t shake that’s dragged her back to this timeline. 

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Three towns over, somewhere in the heavy forestry he’s using to hide his very presence, Sesshomaru pauses. He takes a delicate sniff. Sorting through various smells and their nuances, he’s locked into one – smelling of fresh chamomile and lavender and an unprecedented level of miko energy – he feels mokomoko twitch. 

There is a disturbance in the force

 

 

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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