Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 50 of 60

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"It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more 'manhood' to abide by thought-out principles rather than blind reflex. Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind." -Alex Karras

Kagome watched her brother set the last box down next to the door, smiling at how tall he had grown over the last few years. He was just about to finish high school and recently was in the throes of what the family affectionately dubbed the Great College Search, which consumed almost every waking minute. It was so epic that she had to call in some serious big sister favors to get him to abandon it long enough to help her move.

"There, that's the last box, Sis," he said rubbing his hands on his shirt.

"Thanks," her smile was genuine and she heard him sigh with relief.

His eyes traveled around the small apartment, "Are you sure you want to live here?" She nearly groaned as his face showed plainly that he found the tiny space lacking.

"For the last time, yes. It's close to school, perfect for one person, and most importantly, I can afford it without having to get a full-time job." She felt lucky to have found the tiny place, regardless of how concerned her family seemed to be about her safety. Joining her brother in perusing the space, she put her hands on her hips. They all knew that she couldn't pass up the amazing scholarship that seemed to drop out of the sky and into her lap. When would she ever have an opportunity like this again?

Grabbing a lamp from behind a couple of boxes, she took it to the nearest outlet. Flipping the switch, she crossed the small distance and gave Sota a tight hug. "I'm going to be fine. I promise." Letting him go, she leaned back and looked up to meet warm brown eyes. She couldn't believe how much he looked like their father. A familiar pang of sadness mixed with pride jerked her heart at the reminder. "Tell mom everything is great and that I'll come for dinner tomorrow night, okay?"

Reluctantly, he nodded and went to the door. "You promise that you'll be careful." Inspecting the doorframe, he turned the handle a few times before meeting her eyes with a fierce stare, "And you'll lock this every time you're here, even if you aren't alone."

She snorted, "Who's going to be here with me except my school books?" Her laughter died out at his glower. "Yes! I promise it'll be locked every minute of the day except the two seconds it takes me to physically walk in and out the door, okay? Geesh."

He only nodded solemnly at her before leaving, closing the door behind him. When she didn't lock it fast enough, he opened the door and raised his eyebrow at her with pursed lips.

He didn't notice the hitch in her breath or the slight hesitation before she rushed forward. "Just go!" she cried as she pushed him through the door and locked it with a huff. A muffled "Thank you," came through the door before the thump of his footsteps disappeared down the hall.

Turning to face the 600 square feet that was now home, she sighed tiredly. Boxes covered almost every inch and she had no idea where she was going to put everything. Pushing away from the door, she set about the task of organizing the cardboard chaos that defined her desperate attempt to throw herself into a modern existence. She was going to ignore the stabbing pain in her heart at the memory that tried to surface when her brother raised a single eyebrow in that infuriatingly haughty manner. That life had no place among the boxes and chaos. It had been four years, and she refused to look back.

Digging out her stereo, she turned on her favorite song to drown out everything but the task at hand. She had mastered the ability to compartmentalize her feelings, more for survival than anything else. It was this skill, coupled with the need to constantly keep busy that helped her complete high school and finish college in record time. Cold-hearted determination to throw herself into school after years of wasted disinterest had puzzled her friends and family, which ended up being the hardest thing to deal with after her return. The old Kagome was no longer, and in her place was a focused woman that decided to pursue life with gusto. She picked a life that was the farthest from her old one, the world of academia. It was easier than she thought, especially now that the distractions of her youth were left on the other side of the well. Excelling from the start, she quickly became a promising new star in anthropology, focusing in social anthropology and the social sciences. If she had slowed down long enough, she would have been just as surprised as her friends and family at the seemingly sudden change in character.

Her acceptance into a prestigious program at the University of Tokyo heralded work on a graduate degree that would immediately dovetail into a doctorate. In the past, studying had been a love-hate relationship for her, bringing both fascination and pain. Now it was the best way to escape, filling every available space in her brain with new knowledge and effectively neutralizing that part of herself longing to analyze events from her past. Her solace came in finding a field of study that helped her comprehend and contribute to the understanding of human relationships and the development of programs to assist those in need. It was a way of carrying on her responsibility as a miko while not diving too deeply into a past she needed to forget. Even with her field of study sometimes requiring intensive immersion in the topic of history, she used her new-found ability to compartmentalize in order to push the memories of her time at the House of the Moon firmly under lock and key.

Grabbing the first box, she dragged it over to her massive bookcase and began the slow process of unpacking and placing each book chronologically. Some of her books were new, but many were old tomes that only a nerdy bookworm would find interesting. Hours passed and her growling stomach was the only thing that pulled her out of the meticulous trance. Glancing at her watch, she was shocked to realize that it was past ten and that most restaurants would be closed. Deciding quickly that her stomach would not stop, she rifled through another box and found her wallet and keys. Shrugging on a light coat, she wrapped her favorite blue scarf around her neck to ward off the autumn chill that had settled over the city.

Locking the door behind her, she rode the elevator down to street level and walked in the direction of the convenience store a block away. A group of young men passed her and she overheard a couple of comments that made her blush. The street was dark and eerily quiet so she picked up the pace, making it to the brightly lit store in record time.

A short time later, she was carrying a small bag of groceries back toward her building, her mind wandering over how to set up her new home and all the things still left to do before the term began in a few days. The night was darkening quickly as rainclouds moved to cover the moon. She jogged across the street hearing distant thunder rumble through the sky. Walking with her head down, she tried to beat the rain that gathered in the air, making it thick and oppressive. A sound to her right had her head snapping up just as a hand came out and grabbed her from the side. The smell of alcohol hit her nose as she realized quickly that she was surrounded by the same young men that had passed her earlier. They must have seen her coming and waited. Silently she cursed her lack of attention.

"Hey there cutie, where're you heading?" said the one that had a hold of her. Another pressed forward and ran a finger along her cheek, "Can we come along?"

She was just about to sock the guy in the face with her bag of groceries when a shout from across the street had the men pulling back slightly. The moment they were distracted she shoved the one holding her and ran, leaving them yelling and stumbling behind. Kagome kept running; a part of her panicked mind realized that whoever shouted from across the street was still bellowing and it sounded like the man was confronting the others angrily. Without turning around, she skidded to a stop and slid her key into the lock, slipping inside and slamming the door behind her in a rush of wind and rasping breath.

When the door was solid behind her, she looked down and realized that in her haste she had lost her blue scarf. "Oh, man! That was my favorite." She grumbled. "I hope those guys get their butts kicked." Stomping angrily to the elevator, she made her way to her new apartment, wondering if the decision to move away from home had actually been wise. This neighborhood wasn't exactly the best, but it wasn't the worst either.

Entering her apartment, she shut the door and locked it. Dropping the bag onto the small counter, she shrugged off her coat and threw it over a box. Still grumbling about stupid drunk men, she popped some ramen in the microwave and set about finding kitchen supplies. After thoroughly making a mess, she found a bowl and some chopsticks. Settling on the floor, she glared up at the massive bookcase in front of her and tried to turn her mind away from the desire to reminisce. Luckily, her phone rang at that moment and she scrambled to the counter.

"Hello?" she huffed.

"Just checking to see if you're still alive."

"Yes, Sota. I'm fine." She tried to sound annoyed, but instead found herself smiling.

"Good. By the way, you got a letter from that scholarship society."

Knitting her brow, she stabbed at her ramen absently. "Why'd it go there? They have my new address."

"I don't know." He sounded distracted, already moving on from his momentary concern over her safety. "It'll be here when you come for dinner. You're still coming, right?"

His tone dared her to disagree. "Goodnight Sota," she answered with a grin.

She hung up and tossed her phone onto the counter. If it wasn't for her family, she wouldn't have survived the last four years. Their constant love had soothed the loss of her previous life and helped her see that no matter what, family was the one constant that would never fail. They were truly her soft place to fall.

Deciding to call it a night, she cleared off her couch and pulled out a mismatched pair of pajamas that she had uncovered on her quest for kitchen supplies. Curling up on the plush cushions, she listened to the thunder and let her mind drift along a sea of to do lists for the next day until exhaustion finally claimed her.

Kagome drove her small car up the single lane that led to the shrine. As she pulled into the half-moon courtyard, a black limousine drew her attention as it slowly rounded the curve and rolled down the drive toward the main road. Watching curiously, she turned back to see her mother tuck a piece of paper into her pocket and smooth the worried expression from her face.

Kagome stepped out of the car as the black limo slipped out of sight. With a frown, she crossed the gravel drive to her mother. Something wasn't right causing Kagome's senses to prickle hotly along her skin. If she didn't know better, she would swear there was a youkai nearby.

"What was that all about, Mom?" she asked, worry prevalent in her expression and tone.

"Oh nothing dear. Only a visit from our benefactor who came to check on some recent repairs to the shrine."

Kagome was stunned. She had never known about a benefactor for the shrine. To be honest, she never thought to question how her lifelong home had come into her family. Slightly embarrassed, she realized that she had never once thought to question her mother about how they paid for anything. It was made worse by the fact that her mother and grandfather had never worked anywhere other than in the shrine.

"Benefactor? Who is that?"

Her mother seemed uneasy and turned toward the small house, "No one you know, dear. Come inside and tell me about your new apartment while I make dinner."

"Mom?" she asked, confused at the obvious hedging. Her mother had never once been anything but open and sincere. Alarm bells began ringing and she grabbed her mother's hand to pull her to a stop.

"Mom, what's going on?"

With a sigh, her mother met her eyes, "Our benefactor wishes to remain anonymous. It is a request that I'm bound to keep Kagome. Please don't ask me to dishonor myself."

She released her mother's hand with a stuttered blink. It was so uncharacteristic she almost rubbed her eyes to make sure that she was indeed speaking to her okasan. Without pause, the older woman left her stunned daughter in the courtyard as she entered the home, leaving the door open for Kagome.

Shaking her head, Kagome stepped up and into the house as confusion swirled through her head only to melt away with the shrill voice of her grandfather turning her thoughts from the puzzling mystery.

Her grandfather had fallen in the storeroom of the shrine two years before and broken his hip. He had only recently returned from a rehab facility after a second surgery to repair the damage and was slowly recovering his previous health. He gripped his walker firmly in papery thin hands, demanding loudly that she come to the living room to tell him all about her new apartment and classes. Her grandfather's condition was the only reason her mother had not also helped with her move. Instead she remained at home to ensure his recovery was not compromised.

"How are you feeling Grandpa?" she asked as she helped him settle into a chair. Tucking a blanket around his lap, she kissed his cheek lightly before sinking into the chair across the way. She patiently waited while he lamented extensively about the process of getting old and how unfair it was to helplessly watch the body decay.

Grimacing, she looked up with relief when Sota came in and flopped down in a chair nearby. He grinned and tossed her a sealed envelope with a wink. She stared at the elegant script from the scholarship association that was funding her entire graduate degree and doctoral research. Slipping a finger along the edges, she pulled the heavy paper out and unfolded it carefully. The Lotus Foundation had selected her from hundreds of applicants and the letter only seemed to be wishing her luck, ensuring that the foundation would be available to her should she need assistance in her research or with additional funding. A phone number was handwritten at the bottom, almost as an afterthought.

Blinking, she took a deep breath and wondered for the hundredth time how she had been fortunate enough to stumble upon a scholarship that was little known and even harder to get. It was only after she received an award letter that she was told by the professor who recommended her that to be recognized for the full scholarship was almost unheard of, and that the foundation committee was notoriously picky. Such an honor was not to be squandered. Tucking the letter away, she spent the rest of the afternoon listening to her brother and grandfather squabble over the last of her mother's delicious dinner.

As the sun dipped toward the horizon, she made her farewells and headed back into the city to get ready for the first day of classes the following morning.

Kagome walked out of her last afternoon class with a feeling of tired accomplishment. Her semester was going to be challenging to say the least. She was just about to round the last corner toward the exit when she heard a deep voice calling her name from a short distance away. Turning, she found the anthropology department chair coming toward her with a determined expression.

She bowed as he came to an inelegant stop and pushed his glasses higher on his nose with labored breath. "Higurashi-sama, I'm glad I caught you. You will need to come to my office tomorrow morning for your research scholarship."

Frowning, she nodded. "Of course. Is there something wrong?"

"No, no. The Lotus Foundation has requested some additional information about your intended focus. The committee is sending some representatives for a meeting."

She relaxed and bowed again. "I'll be there first thing. Thank you."

She left him and crossed campus to the library where she spent the rest of the evening pouring over dusty tomes. Whether it was battling youkai or staring down stuffy businessmen, she prided herself in being able to handle anything life threw her way.

The next morning, Kagome settled into the chair across from the two imposing gentlemen from the Lotus Foundation. Both were large and seemed more like bears than humans. They watched her intently as they asked question after question, grilling her over what she hoped to accomplish with her research. She couldn't help but notice the identical gold rings with mother of pearl lotus blossoms each wore on their hands. 'What are they, the mob?' she thought bemusedly.

Biting back an exasperated sigh, she tried to keep her voice even. "As I mentioned in my scholarship essay, I want to study the history of healers and priestesses from Edo to present. I think that they play an important part of Japanese history and should have their cultural influence documented. Then I'd like to institute a program in schools that mentor young girls into keeping that ancient tradition alive." Her personal reasons for wanting to pursue this line of research was private and something she guarded fiercely.

The larger of the two narrowed his eyes slightly. "I see. Is there any reason you feel so strongly about this particular faction of Japanese society?" His question seemed innocuous, but Kagome could hear the curiosity underneath.

She shrugged and smiled benignly. "Well, I did grow up in a shrine."

The smaller giant slid a sidelong look at the other and cleared his throat. "Yes, we're aware of your background."

Kagome blinked at the secret humor they seemed to share. "Well, it shouldn't come as a surprise then, huh?" Grabbing her small stack of folders, she pulled one out and passed it across the table, continuing in a cool tone. "Here's my latest paper being published next month. This should give your committee enough reason to continue my scholarship without concern." Standing, she raised her brows with anticipation. "Will that be all? I have class in ten minutes."

Taking the folder, the larger of the men had a twinkle in his eye. Turning to his companion he nearly smiled. "It makes sense to me now."

She was confused, but her mind had already drifted to her next lecture and the excitement of the subject matter. She waited impatiently as the two men lumbered to their feet and bowed stiffly.

Within minutes she was scurrying through the maze of hallways until she reached the large double doors that led to one of the smaller lecture halls reserved for upper level classes. The technology in this room was cutting edge and she was excited to finally be able to learn from experts that were literally half way around the world. She settled into a seat just as Professor Takahama began class, sweeping her away on a tide of history. Listening in rapture as he stirred buried memories into the distant past, calling to mind the sounds and smells that she had experienced first-hand.

Studying the past had become a way of keeping a connection to her friends and a past that she missed like crazy. But this time it was on her terms. She kept firm control over her emotions, blocking out entire people in order to keep her fragile heart from splintering into pieces again.

A woman entered and quickly crossed the front of the room to hand an envelope to the professor. The lights came up all too quickly and Kagome glowered at the offending brightness, but felt her curiosity pique when the professor began talking.

"Well class, we've been offered an unexpected honor." He glanced down at the paper again and his excitement was clear. "We have been invited to tour one of the oldest estates in Japan next week. It's only available by invitation and I can tell you, I have been trying to see it my entire career." Takahama smiled as a buzz of anticipation filtered through the air.

"Which castle is it?" a student in the first row asked eagerly.

"Well, I've found several references, but it currently is called House of the Mountain. It's owned by the distinguished Yamamoto family." The man's giddiness was nearly palpable.

He dismissed the class after a few moments and Kagome packed up her lap top and books, groaning internally at the thought of lugging her heavy monstrosity of a book bag across campus to the train station. She chuckled quietly at the irony. This never was a consideration as a young girl, trekking across Japan with a backpack full of supplies. She was just getting to her feet when she heard Takahama call out to her. Hurrying to the bottom of the steps she drew up as the man came forward and bowed to her excitedly.

"We have you to thank for this honor." He bobbed in several bows as he smiled like an idiot. Kagome shook her head, not understanding what he was talking about. When she only looked confused, he babbled on animatedly, "It's surely your ties to the Yamamoto family that has allowed for this once in a lifetime experience."

"Professor, I think you might be confused. I don't know anyone from the Yamamoto family."

Takahama paused, his confusion suddenly as great as her own. "What are you talking about? You grew up in one of their shrines, didn't you?"

Shaking her head, she answered, "Well, I grew up in a shrine, but…" she thought back on her mother's words. She had mentioned a benefactor, but never actually said who owned the shrine. Kagome had a sinking feeling.

"The Yamamoto family owns nearly half of the shrines in Japan, and all of them in Tokyo. They fund the upkeep of those shrines and the livelihood of the families that care for them." He hurried on without pausing, "That association and the fact that you received a full scholarship from the Lotus Foundation proves to me that you're the reason for this special invitation!"

Kagome stepped back, her brows drawn down fiercely. "How does my scholarship have anything to do with the Yamamoto family?"

Takahama looked dumbfounded and fairly shouted at Kagome, "Because they're the founders of the Lotus Foundation and distribute it at their sole discretion!" He spoke to her like she was a complete idiot, and maybe he was right.

Hands shaking, Kagome felt her world tip on its axis. How could she not know that the benefactor providing her family with their livelihood was also the same source funding her entire education? What were the chances of that being a coincidence?

Bowing quickly, she left the agitated professor and hurried across campus to the train station. She boarded and was halfway home before she finally pulled herself out of the daze that had held her captive. Her mind reeled at the strange information, gut twisting with worry, knotting it up in confused apprehension. Impatiently, she jumped through the door as it opened at her stop and walked briskly the two blocks to her door. She pulled the front door key from her bag and lifted it to the lock and paused, heart in her throat.

Hanging from the knob was her blue scarf. Turning quickly, she scanned the area but didn't see anyone nearby. Swallowing the uneasy feeling that settled into her chest, she shoved the key into the lock and threw her shoulder into the heavy wood as it opened. Yanking the key from it, she grabbed her scarf and slammed the door shut, practically running the remaining stairs and halls to her apartment. She didn't stop until she was safely standing with her back pressed against the door. Sliding slowly to the floor, she stared at the blue material fisted in white knuckles on her lap.

'What the hell is going on?!'

Two weeks later, Kagome was on a large bus climbing through the winding roads that led into the mountains. She hadn't traveled outside the city limits since coming back through the well and as they ascended, she remembered why. Everything conspired to make her remember.

In a desperate attempt to block out the unwanted memories, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. The sunlight flickered through the trees as they climbed along the narrow road, sparking red fire behind her eyelids. The journey seemed to take hours and Kagome was just nodding off when the bus lurched to a bumpy stop. With a sigh, she pulled herself up and glanced around at her excited classmates who were chattering about the coming tour through the grand estate.

Shrugging her messenger bag over one shoulder, she stepped out into the aisle and shuffled slowly to the front of the bus where she hopped down the steep steps. Dropping down to the finely crushed dust, she blinked as her eyes adjusted from the heavily tinted windows to the bright sunlight. As the scene before her came into focus, her breath caught and held. Standing tall and beautiful, like a ghostly apparition from her deepest memory, was the House of the Moon. It looked exactly as it did four years ago. 'No,' Kagome thought wistfully, 'it was really 500 years ago.'

The person behind her made an annoyed sound and Kagome shuffled to the side to let the rest of her classmates by. Frozen, she reached out and braced a hand on the side of the bus as dizziness threatened. Her heart raced as she reached out with her senses.


Tears burned behind her eyes as she couldn't help but leap to conclusions of what might have happened. The door opened and Kagome watched a small woman descend the steps and approach the professor. After some murmured words, Takahama turned to the class.

"I need everyone to gather round." He waited until the twenty odd students circled him anxiously. "We will stay together and follow Ms. Nagani as we tour. Please do not wander off or touch anything as this is a great privilege being extended to us by Yamamoto-san and we must be respectful."

They started toward the door and Kagome had to pull herself together quickly. She followed along at the back, recalling just how much this house had imprinted itself on her soul. It was almost identical, though she could tell some of the less hardy material had been upgraded over the centuries.

Starting at the front of the house, they worked their way through the maze of hallways. Passing by the tea room, Kagome smiled at the thought of Rin until she realized that the little girl was long since gone from the world. Anxiety buzzed through her limbs as they made their way toward the back of the castle and the expansive view that she knew spread out like the horizon of heaven over the mountain range. They entered the small entrance hall that led out to the main back garden and paused as the small woman guiding them explained the garden's history. Kagome listened with wry humor as the woman told tales of how the garden had to be rebuilt several times after battles with warring clans. 'Yeah, warring clans made up of dragons and spiders all fighting over a stupid necklace.'

When they began down the hall, Kagome realized how close they were to Sesshomaru's quarters. Her curiosity skyrocketed and she glanced around as the group turned the next corner. When she was sure no one was watching, she darted in the other direction and padded silently along the smooth wood surface until she found the door of her old room. She glanced further down the hall to where his door sat inconspicuously, but nostalgia won out as she faced the door in front of her again. The arching cranes were still there, reaching for each other elegantly over the doorframe. Carefully, she slid the door open just enough and slipped inside. The room was dark and musty. It seemed as though it had not been opened since the day she left. She waded her way through the room, noting the heavy drop cloths that covered all of the furniture. Pausing in the middle of the room she let out a slow breath. She was just about to move to the door that led to the back garden when a sound in the hall made her stop. A deep voice reverberated, filling the entire room with a familiar cadence.

Heart in her throat, she rushed to the door and opened it. Peering around the corner, a squeaking sound slipped from her lips. The lumbering mass of a man stopped, frozen like a statue in the middle of the hallway. Kagome stepped out and faced him, her small hand outstretched as if he might disappear.

He turned and met her surprised stare with a shocked one of his own.


He looked different, human. He was still a giant, but his eyes held the same kindness that had shone back at her 500 years ago. A split second of indecision riffed through her mind, questioning the intelligence of acknowledging something that she had spent almost four years pushing away with both hands. That momentary doubt was swept away when she realized that part of her determination to move forward and put it all behind had been the direct result of fear. Fear that she would try to find them 500 years in the future and there would be no one left. It was easier to think that they had simply parted ways, never to see each other again than to learn they died before making it to her time. Now, standing in the House of the Moon in the afternoon light, she let that fear slip away like a strip of satin over polished marble.

A smile as bright as the sun split her face and she rushed forward. Throwing her arms around him she cried, "Oh Hiraiku, I'm so happy to see you!"

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 50 of 60

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