Whirlwind by Sereia

Chapter 01

Kagome wiped the sweat from her brow, lifting her face to the sun and letting the afternoon rays warm her skin.

Working in Jinenji's field was hard, but she enjoyed every minute of it. In the years that she'd been back in the feudal era, she'd found herself wandering more often than not—the four walls of her hut too confining. It was more of a place to sleep and rest after a long journey, but it didn't feel permanent.

It wasn't home.

There was much less pressure with Jinenji, especially after his mother had passed. The woman was lovely, in her own way, but the constant questions about when Kagome would marry her son had grated on her nerves.

Especially since Jinenji didn't feel that way about her.

Shaking off the last of the dirt, Kagome placed the weeds she'd been pulling into her basket. She laid a hand on Jinenji's arm, using him for support as she got to her feet.

"I'm going to call it a day. Shall I get started on dinner?"

The hanyou gave her a short nod, not pausing in his work. The fact that he'd stopped blushing every time she touched him made Kagome smile. She'd been with him for almost a year; their time together hadn't been consistent, Kagome usually stopped in for a few weeks before travelling again, but Jinenji always welcomed her with a soft smile and open arms.

It was nice to be needed.

"Greetings, Kagome-sama!"

But not by everybody.

Stifling a groan, Kagome forced herself to smile, then turned to face the unwanted guest.

"Hello, Akitoki-kun. What a pleasant surprise."

If the man understood sarcasm, he showed no indication of it. "You're looking as lovely as ever!"

"Of course I am." Kagome resisted the urge to roll her eyes. In all the years Akitoki had managed to track her down, the man had failed to realize that she had stopped aging.

It had taken a while for her to believe it herself, but her reflection didn't lie. She knew the jewel was to blame, though she hadn't decided if 'blame' was the right word. Not yet anyway. All she knew was that even though the intent of the jewel had been destroyed, its power remained.

In her.

Things had been different since she'd returned. Vivid. Even after the full range of her powers had been unlocked, she hadn't felt everything like she did now. The sun was brighter, the river clearer, and everything had a tangible life force. Even—

A soft breeze blew through her hair, and Kagome bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing as it swirled around Akitoki, mussing his hair and clothing, and causing him to trip over his own feet. The air was charged, as if creating a barrier between the two of them, and Kagome let her power flare, reiki rolling around with it in tandem.

"There always seems to be a storm on the horizon when I visit you, Kagome-sama," Akitoki said, attempting to right his robes.

The breeze swirled again.

"Seems like it. Maybe you should head home then," she said, pointedly ignoring the crestfallen look on his face.

"But I just arrived," he argued. "And I was hoping—" Akitoki had to brace himself as the wind picked up again, pushing him away from Kagome.

"Look, Akitoki-kun. It's been a long day, and Jinenji and I still have a lot of work to do tomorrow before my next trip."

His expression turned heartbroken. "You're leaving again?"

She'd been planning on staying for at least another week, but Akitoki's visits were starting to make her feel claustrophobic, and she knew it was time to move on. She just wished she could've helped Jinenji out a little more before she did.

"Do you ever think of settling down, Kagome-sama? You deserve to find someone to take care of you and treat you like a queen!"

She couldn't suppress her groan this time. "I have no interest in 'settling' anywhere. Or with anyone. I enjoy my freedom."

"But—"

"No buts. End of story."

His shoulders hunched in defeat. "I just wish for your happiness, Kagome-sama."

Dark brows rose in surprise. "What makes you think I'm not happy?"

"How can anyone be happy if they are alone?"

Kagome counted to ten before answering. "Akitoki-kun, happiness doesn't mean being tied to someone. I like helping people and being able to travel whenever and wherever I want. There are lots of people out there that are married and miserable."

"If you say so, Kagome-sama," he said, unconvinced.

Sighing, she turned towards Jinenji's hut. "Safe travels on your trip home."

Akitoki took a step towards her but was quickly blown backwards, yelping in pain as he landed on his back, the wind flaring up even more and rolling him into a puddle. The muddy water splashed him in the face and Kagome covered her mouth as more laughter threatened to escape.

She would've been the first to help him back when they first met, but she'd learned the hard way that kindness and common courtesy often led to unintentional invitations, and she didn't want to put any of that on Jinenji. It was easier just to be upfront and honest with people. It gave them less to work with.

Plus, it was seen as very unladylike in this time, so it kept the proposals at a minimum.

Not even bothering with a backwards glance, Kagome entered the hut, leaving her basket on the floor before washing her hands and preparing a simple meal of rice and dried meat. Jinenji was usually a vegetarian but had accepted Kagome hunting from time to time. He was such a gentle soul. He always made sure to thank the gods anytime she brought back a kill.

She'd just set the table when his large frame filled the doorway.

"Perfect timing! The tea is almost ready and—" Kagome frowned, noticing his flushed face. "What's wrong?"

Jinenji's blush only deepened, wringing his hands together. "We have a guest."

Her lips tightened into a thin line. "Jinenji, I already told Akitoki-kun that he needed to leave. You need to learn to say no—"

"Kagome-sama!"

Blue eyes widened as Rin barrelled past Jinenji, enveloping the miko in a tight hug. Kagome recovered quickly, greeting the young woman with a bright smile and returning her embrace.

"Rin-chan! I didn't know you were visiting! You didn't mention it in your last letter."

The teen grinned. "I wanted it to be a surprise. Plus, this way Jinenji-kun can't say no."

Kagome raised an eyebrow, her questioning glance sliding from Rin to the gentle giant still standing in the doorway. "Oh? And why would Jinenji refuse your company?"

His large eyes widened, and he gave her a panicked look.

Rin just pouted. "I don't know. But he always says he's busy or that it's not the right time."

"Well, you picked the perfect time to visit. With me being here, he's got a lot of free time on his hands."

Jinenji's squawk was cut off as Rin spun around, the brilliance of her smile lighting up the room. The girl began chattering about how her travels had gone, about how Sango had lent her Kirara for the trip, and how it had taken no time at all, so she could visit more often if he'd let her.

Plates and bowls clinked together as Kagome made a third serving for Rin. "You know, Jinenji could walk you back to the village. I'm sure he knows the best scenic route to take."

"Kagome-san, I don't think—"

"That would be wonderful!" Rin chirped.

The hanyou looked between the two women, burying his red face into his hands. Kagome was torn between laughing at her friend's plight and giving him a gentle nudge towards Rin. The pair was so obvious and yet oblivious. She was sure Rin had some idea of where Jinenji's interest lay but, like herself, refused to force his hand.

Rin spent the evening coaxing Jinenji out of his shell, teasing him with smiles and subtle compliments through Kagome's encouragement. It was nice to see them both so happy.

When Rin couldn't speak an entire sentence without yawning, Kagome finally called an end to the night. Jinenji bowed to them both, offering up his futon to Rin.

Kagome had to stifle her laughter—it was the one time she'd seen him so insistent.

Rin eventually relented, stating that she would bring her own next time.

"There is no need. I don't mind the floor. I slept on it all the time when Mother was still here."

The young woman immediately started fussing over him, intent on finding bruises and sores that had long since disappeared. It took him another thirty minutes to convince her otherwise.

As Kagome pulled her own blankets over her shoulders, she glanced out the window, thankful that it was warm enough to leave it open. Nothing would ever compare to the tranquil lullaby that Mother Nature sang them to sleep with in this time.

Stars twinkled in the sky, encouraging her to close her eyes, and as Kagome finally gave in to exhaustion's gentle plea, she felt the warmth of the breeze envelope her in a protective embrace.

..::**::..

With the weeding finished, they were able to focus on tending to the actual plants the next day, Rin offering to gather water and replenish their reserves from the nearby river.

Kagome pretended not to notice how distracted Jinenji was each time Rin left, a knowing smile tugging at her lips.

"It's so wonderful that Rin-chan came to visit."

Jinenji nodded once, digging up the seeds he'd just planted.

"It's a shame you're so busy that she can't do it more often."

Another nod.

"I can give up my futon. She'd probably be more helpful to you anyway."

Another nod.

"Or she could just share yours."

That got his attention, a dark blush staining his cheeks, his eyes bulging out even more. "W-What? N-No, she would not—"

Kagome snorted. "Oh, I'm pretty sure she would."

Jinenji was stunned into silence, fumbling with the seeds he was attempting to plant. As much as she loved teasing him, Kagome sympathized with him as well. He was so used to people passing him by that he couldn't see genuine care when it was right in front of him.

She placed a hand on his arm. "She likes you too. She wouldn't come out here all by herself if she didn't."

"Hope often leads to disappointment, Kagome-san."

"But without it, we would never find happiness," she countered, smiling when the wind picked up, the air warming in encouragement.

The giant sighed. "It is not my place."

"Says who?" she argued. "All those people who've tried to hurt you? Their opinions can go rot in a gutter! You deserve to be loved too, Jinenji."

"As do you, Kagome-san."

Kagome pursed her lips, playfully smacking him with her shovel. "You are not allowed to use my own advice against me!"

"Advice about what?" Rin asked, kneeling next to Jinenji and digging a small hole.

The stiffness of the conversation melted away into laughter, and they got back to their chore, working in tandem until all the new seed was properly planted.

The sun had just reached its peak when Rin leaned against Jinenji's arm, her eyes closed. Kagome smiled softly as the hanyou panicked for a moment, then readjusted his position to make Rin more comfortable.

"She worked hard this morning."

Jinenji nodded, a wistful expression crossing his face. "She always does."

Brushing dirt from her hands, Kagome picked at the hem of her robes. "Look, I meant what I said before. You—"

The wind shifted to a gust, Rin collapsing forward into Jinenji's lap. He placed a large hand against her neck to right her, then gasped, turning her over.

"She has a fever!"

Kagome took a closer look; Rin's cheeks were flushed, and her breathing was slightly laboured. "Let's move her inside. She needs fluids and a cool place to rest."

Nodding, Jinenji got to his feet, the movement fluid and calm even though his expression was full of concern. He cradled the young woman close, it only taking a few of his long strides before he was laying her down on his futon.

Kagome quickly grabbed some of the water Rin had collected, soaking a cloth and laying over Rin's forehead. It was probably just exhaustion from all the trips she'd taken to the river.

But Jinenji didn't need to know that.

"This looks serious."

Concern was replaced with panic once more. "It does? I thought it was just a fever."

Kagome shook her head. "No, definitely serious. We're going to need some special herbs for this."

"I will go with you—"

Rin's hand shot out and grabbed onto his arm, keeping him from leaving her side. Her eyes were dull with fever, but her small hand held tight.

The prickly thorns of jealousy wrapped around Kagome's heart, barbs digging in as it twisted. She hadn't lied to Akitoki—she refused to allow anyone to dictate to her what she could or couldn't do simply because they were married. But…

But.

To be looked at, to be looked after, once in a while. To be needed for nothing more than herself. Not for her power, skills, or even her resemblance to anyone. That wouldn't be so bad, would it?

The thorns twisted again, and she knew it was time to leave.

Patting Jinenji's shoulder, she began to pack up her meagre belongings. "You're needed here. I'll collect the herbs and send them back as quickly as I can."

Jinenji flipped over the cloth before looking up at her. "You will not be returning?"

She fastened the knot of her pack, then shook her head. "It's time to travel again. Take care of Rin-chan."

"Of course."

"There should be enough supplies to last you until tomorrow. Just make sure to keep her cool and hydrated." Kagome knew the fever wouldn't last that long; Rin just needed some rest and time to recharge. But it would at least give them some time alone together.

"Thank you, as always, for your help Kagome-san," Jinenji's voice followed her out the door. "Safe travels."

The miko gave him a backwards wave, her mind already on the journey ahead. Considering it was already past noon, she decided to travel north. She would reach the next village before nightfall, and there was less chance she'd run into any unsavoury people—human or otherwise.

Grass crunched under her feet as she walked, the weight from her bow a welcome sensation along her back. As she neared the edge of Jinenji's farm, a strong breeze blew through her hair, tangling the dark locks before pushing her forward. Kagome's laughter was light and carefree.

"Are you coming too?" Her robes rustled as she was urged forward again. "Alright, alright, I get it. It'll be nice to have some company." The leaves on the surrounding trees danced back and forth, and for once, she was glad that the jewel had seen fit to bless her with the extra power.

The elements were objective. Balanced. There was no judgement for her actions, no complaints about her choices, and Kagome relished every moment of it. Hand on her bow and head held high, she followed where the wind bade, nothing behind her but fond memories.

"Just don't blow me off a cliff or into a river, alright?"

 

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