A Connection

Chapter 02: A Connection

Up the sun-dappled trail, Kagome hiked, her boots akin to lead beside the feathers tickling her insides with excitement.  So inebriated by zeal, she hardly noticed her panting breaths or her racing heart pounding in her chest.  They were almost there.  They, being a loose term as she made a rare stop to yell back down the mountain.

“Mama!  Souta!  Hurry up!  It’s only a little farther!”

Far below on the steep, wooded slope, her two companions rested on a fallen tree, their water bottles tipped to their lips.  They eyed her with a cool regard as she continued to yell, in no hurry even when she abandoned them to climb further.

“I can’t believe how much energy she still has,” Souta muttered as his sister disappeared around the bend.  “We’ve been hiking all morning and now it’s the afternoon.”

Mama smiled and ruffled his hair.  “I’m just happy that she has energy, aren’t you?”

“I guess.”

“Besides, she’s used to hiking up mountains.  She was doing it for some time not long ago.  Remember?”

He nodded.

From beyond the thick wall of trees, they heard Kagome yell again, her persistence spurring them on.

“Come on, Souta.  She said it’s only a little farther.”

He grumbled, but slid off of the tree and tucked his bottle back into his bag.  Mama joined him, putting hers away as well and then patted his shoulder as they began their hike yet again.

Ahead, Kagome giggled as she tromped up the leaf-choked trail, the way worn by passing animals rather than by people.  It was complete wilderness now, but even without the familiar roads she remembered, the mountains were still the same.  A sprawling range, the forested slopes looked like a slumbering tiger and they were climbing its head. 

Kagome glanced down at the sheltered field at the beast’s side, hunting for the last vestiges of an old fortress hidden there.  Black beside the rich greens, she spied the rotted stumps of hewn wood and the regular angles of decayed foundations, their presence a faint echo of the proud band of exterminators that had once thrived there. 

Early that morning, she had guided Mama and Souta to it, the place where Sango and Kohaku had grown up.  They had explored through the remnants of the different buildings until they had found the courtyard.  A blooming meadow now, together they burnt incense to honor the many that had died there.

A pang of guilt struck deep, hitching Kagome’s breath.  With Miroku by her side, she wondered if Sango was buried there somewhere among the flowers.  Then the schoolgirl shook her head, driving the upsetting thought from her mind.  She had promised herself that she wouldn’t think that way.  They were alive and happy in the time that they belonged.

A dark shadow caught her eye through a veil of trees and her regret sank away as she was overwhelmed with excitement.  They were at the tiger’s eye.

“Mama!  Souta!” she shouted, “I found it!  We’re here!”

Without waiting for them to answer, Kagome disappeared into the dense foliage.  Headed toward the shadow, she tromped over beds of pine needles and brushed supple branches of undergrowth out of her way.  Out of breath, Mama and Souta finally made it to where she had vanished.  After exchanging wary looks, they too entered; following the path she had forged. 

Leaves rustling and twigs snapping, Kagome weaved her way through the last of the trees to stumble out into a clearing.  Edged with a face of craggy rock, she wandered through it, puzzled.  She was at Midoriko’s Cave, wasn’t she?  Hardly eroded at all, the mountainside looked right, but where was the cave?  Her eyes pouring over the rock, she was soon joined by her family.  In silence, they stood together, each equally perplexed.

“So where’s the cave, o-nee-san?” Souta finally asked.

“I don’t know,” Kagome mumbled.  Then her expression brightened and she walked toward the face.  “It all looks familiar except for this spot.  There’s a boulder here that wasn’t here when I visited years ago and I think it’s exactly where the opening is supposed to be.”

Stepping in close, she began to inspect the massive rock.  Gliding over its rough surface, her fingers searched until they found something soft and fibrous.  Dusting the dirt away, she revealed the weathered remains of a hemp rope.  Curious, she gave it a slight tug and the thick cord began to disintegrate in her hands.

“It looks like an old seal,” Mama spoke up as she leaned in for a look.  “Meant to keep people out…”

“Or to keep something in,” Kagome finished.

Mama nodded.

“Looks like something already got in,” Souta added.  The two women turned to find him kneeling beside the boulder.  With a stick in hand, he prodded at a clump of pine needles, brushing them away from a large hole dug between the rock and the mountainside.

Joining him on the ground, Kagome peered into the gap and at the scratch marks that carved it.  “It looks like it was done by an animal,” she mused aloud.  “Caves make popular dens.”

The others agreed.

“Well, I hope it’s still not in there.”  Slinging her backpack from her shoulders, she set it down on the ground by the mouth of the hole.  A moment later, she was on her hands and knees, shoving her bag through the burrow while she crawled in behind it.

“Is she crazy?” Souta asked, dumbfounded.  “Who knows what’s in there?”

“Then you can keep an eye out.  If any animals come, make sure they don’t go in the cave after us,” Mama said with a gentle smile and then took off her backpack.  “Kagome, wait for me!  I’m coming too!”

“All right, Mama!” her daughter answered, her voice muffled by the rock

Souta stuttered, his eyes flashing from his mother to the encroaching forest that surrounded them.  When he looked back, she was gone.

Shrugging off his backpack, he cursed under his breath.  “Damn it.”

“I heard that,” Mama announced cheerfully as she crawled.  Reaching the end of the hole, a beam of white found her.  She smiled.  Kagome had already gotten her flashlight out.  Unzipping her bag, she fumbled through the pockets until she felt a metal rod. 

“Have you got it?” Kagome asked.

“Yeah,” she replied, pulling out her flashlight and clicked it on.  Rising to her feet, she dusted off her knees and looked around.  A void of black where the lights didn’t touch, she was astounded by how dark it was.  Then she smiled again at Kagome, admiring her fearlessness.  Then behind her, Mama heard scuffing and took a step away so that Souta could get through.

“Do you need any help?” she asked.

“No, I’m all right.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am!”

Kagome giggled.  “Souta’s fine, Mama.  He considers himself man of the house.”

“Does he?  Your grandpa might have something to say about that.”

His flashlight flickered on.  “Let’s go.”

“I don’t think you need your flashlight, Souta.  You can just go by the glow of your blush.”

The girls laughed and Souta grumbled.

The tormenting finished for now; they began to walk down the cave.  Refreshing against their skin, the cool air brought relief after trudging through the summer’s heat outside.  This weekend vacation had been quite a surprise for all of them.  With the tending of the shrine for the season’s regular influx of guests, they were often too busy for a break, especially when they needed it the most.  Mama looked at Kagome, her daughter’s flashlight beam flitting all over as she chattered on about the cave’s history.  She hadn’t seen her this energetic in months, not since the way through the Bone-Eater’s Well had closed.  It had hurt to see her child so depressed and even more so when she realized that she didn’t know how to fix it.  Then last week she thought that perhaps if Kagome could share and revisit someplace in the past, then she wouldn’t feel like she had lost something.  It was all still there, just a little faded now.  Her daughter’s friends had jumped at the chance to help, agreeing to look after both the shrine and Grandpa.  As a result, they were now delving into the sacred cave where it had all began, sharing the adventures and creating some of their own.

“Being a little insulted, Midoriko tossed Inuyasha out.  I swear, sometimes he was such a… Mama, are you listening?”

“Yes, of course,” she replied.

Kagome paused, unsure of its sincerity.  Her mom was so difficult to read sometimes.  Eventually realizing the futility, she walked on instead, her beam settling on the path and the stalagmites she had to step around.  Soon the thrill of finding the cave subsided and an unexpected ill feeling began to weigh on her.  As familiar as it was, there was something out of place about the cave.  It lacked the soothing presence she remembered, leaving her to wonder if it was still Midoriko’s cave.  Had she vanished completely with the destruction of the Shikon no Tama?  Was she finally at peace?

Sparkling white, something on the ground caught her eye.

“I see something,” Kagome called out as she walked over to it.  Stooping to a crouch, she set her flashlight down.  Then with a finger, she prodded the pile of white dust before scooping up some into her palm.  “It glitters.”

“Yes, it does,” Mama agreed as Kagome poured it back and forth between her hands, the grains dazzling in the light.  “What is it?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t remember it being here before, but it reminds me of sand.”

“Only brighter.”

“Yeah, and it’s finer and lighter too.”

“Like glass?”

“Crystals,” Souta said.

The two women turned to face the boy.

“This is a cave,” he added.

Kagome frowned.  He had a point.  “But, I don’t remember any crystals let alone their dust.  None of this seems right.”

Shining her flashlight down the tunnel, their mother pointed to the scattered drifts ahead.  “Either way, there’s more of it deeper in.”

Dumping the dust back on the ground, Kagome stood up.  Then with a sense of trepidation that would slow their steps, they walked on.  Glimmering against the stark, black earth, islands of white swelled into branching peninsulas until the last of the ground was swallowed up.  The blanketing dust was firm under their feet, sinking only enough to create fine imprints as they passed.

Soon, the tunnel opened up into an enormous cavern.  Overcome with awe, the adventurers gasped as they entered.  Rippled in waves before them was a shimmering sea of white flooding the cave.  Imagined currents of crystal broke against dark monuments of rock and through a crack in the ceiling, the summer sun shone down, reflecting nuances of lavender amid the white.  Warmed directly beneath the pristine rays, a stone pillar stood.

Smooth but for a strange shape at its fore, Mama squinted, trying to make out the features on the pillar.  Still baffled, she leaned forward to whisper to Kagome.  “What’s that over there?  Is that where the priestess is?  Is that Midoriko?”

The schoolgirl shook her head.  “It can’t be.  Midoriko was suspended by the demons she battled.  I don’t think she’s here at all anymore.  I can’t feel her presence.”

“Many years have passed.”

“I’m sure she’s free now and, because of that I’m happy that she’s not here for me to show you.” 

“Then this can only be something new.  Something that happened after you left.”

Kagome nodded and then took the first tentative step out into the cavern.  Expecting to sink in it as if it were snow or wade through it as if it were water, the deep pool of crystal dust remained solid as she walked across it.  Close behind, her mother and brother followed, relying on her experience to keep them all safe. 

As Kagome neared, she realized that it was a human that stood transfixed to the pillar.  Then a moment later, she knew it was a naked man.  No blush of embarrassment came to her cheeks though.  Paler than alabaster, it was a statue, a breathless marvel of art that would be wasted in a museum display surrounded by fluorescent lights and plaster walls. 

Arriving at the stone platform beneath it, Kagome stepped up, leaving her family below as she went on to investigate.  Washed clean of dust, she looked up at the blue sky through the crack, thinking of the rainwater that must pour down on it with every storm.  Then her sight drifted back down to the statue and her brow furrowed.  Protruding from its chest was a rusted sword.  With slumped shoulders and a drooping head that hid its face, the statue seemed to hang from the blade.  Cascading around its head were long locks of hair as brilliant as the crystal dust.  Lured by them, she reached out to touch the hair and then gasped as her fingers glided through the strands, leaving them to sway languidly in the air.

“He’s real!” she blurted out, her voice awash with giddy excitement.  She had found someone from the past.  She had a connection.  Caution fleeing, Kagome moved in closer and clasped his head.  Cold, but soft, his skin was smooth and just beneath it; she could feel his flesh and bone.  Slowly, she lifted his head up, his hair parting as his face saw light for the first time in hundreds of years.  She finally had a connection.

A terrified gasp escaped her and Kagome stumbled back.  Losing her balance as her foot slipped off the edge of the platform, she fell and landed hard on the dust.  Caught between coughing and groaning, she struggled to sit up as Mama and Souta rushed over to her side.

“Are you all right?” they asked collectively, her mother helping her to sit up.

Kagome nodded fervently, her coughs subsiding, but her face still white with fear.

“So, what’s wrong?  Do you know who it is?”


“Who is it?”

“It’s… It’s Sesshoumaru.”

Mama and Souta looked at each other.  “Who’s that?”


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