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The Burden of the Past by shinkonokokoro

New Beginnings

"Kagome," her mother said over the phone. "We have a present for you!"

A present? "What?" she said dumbly, the unexpected gesture breaking her out of her reverie.

"Yes," her mother continued doggedly, sounding nervous, but attempting excitement. "We've all decided discussed this; Souta, your grandfather, and I. We would like to send you abroad for the year. In America. To a college there. We all agreed that we think it would be a wonderful experience, and hardly too expensive."

America. So apparently they thought separating her from Japan was a good idea. "What?" She said again dumbly, probably sounding harsher than she intended.

"Don't worry about it, Kagome. Everything is worked out. The college is extremely good, and they have a good exchange program; your credits will transfer, and you can take your archeology and mythology classes. This is very far away, but perhaps you'd like to go to graduate school there. Your grades..." her mother babbled on.

"But... Mom... What about..." Kagome trailed off. What about what? Her friends? She didn't really have any. Her friends from high school moved on, and any friends she might have made were always pushed away by Kagome's constant melancholy, and something else, if asked, they couldn't identify. "What about you guys," she concluded lamely.

Her mother's laugh sounded very far away over the phone line, despite the fact taht the college was close to home. "Kagome, we've been dealing just fine for the past two years while you've been away at school." The fact that she had been gone during a lot of high school through the well was left unspoken. "Don't worry about it. Really, honey, this will be an excellent opportunity and experience."

So push me away from everything else that is familiar. Kagome sighed, her reasons all weak. "Alright, mom. Thanks!" And it was thus, with forced cheerfulness that Kagome was to spend her next term abroad in America.

Frowning at her computer screen, she jumped at the knock on the door. She unfolded herself from her chair and walked over to answer the door. "Hai? Ah... Hello?"

"Hi! I'm Katy! I'm your neighbor. I just through I'd say 'hello.'" A blonde with red streaks and green eyes held out her hand.

Kagome shook the offered hand. "Hello. It is nice to meet you."

"So where are you from?" she peered around Kagome to look at her name tag on the door. "Oh, from Japan? Wow, you're a far way from home. I'm from about an hour north of here, somewhere you've probably never heard of."

Kagome frowned slightly, not sure if she should be insulted, struggling to keep up with the girl's fast speech.

"So what are you studying?" Katy asked before Kagome could say something.

"I am studying Asian archeology and mythology," Kagome replied politely.

"Hey, your English is really good. I'm impressed. That's totally what I'm studying by the way. Or well, my minor. What classes are you taking?"

"Um... I was just looking at classes..."

"You should totally take AAM 239 with me! The professor is Japanese; he's really smart and absolutely gorgeous." She sighed happily, clasping her hands. "I've taken another class with him, Professor Inukami. He's brilliant and tells the best stories too! He's got amazing English."

"What is the class about?" Kagome asked, amused and repelled by the girl's flakiness, but also wanting to have a friend in America.

"Oh, right. Sorry." Katy laughed. "It's Ancient Asian Mythology. 239 is about lesser-known myths and the feudal times, or something like that. You should take it with me!"

And it was thus, at the hands of a wily cheerful neighbor that Kagome was enrolled in entirely different classes than what she had originally planned.

"I'm so excited," Katy said, having invited herself into Kagome's room. "You're going to be in my classes! It'll be fun!"

Kagome nodded, finishing the email to Souta who would relay the news to the rest of her family. Katy had practically forced her to take the other two classes Professor Inukami was teaching. They were small classes, Katy had explained, so the discusses was better and more in-depth.

"Who's the email to?"

Kagome glanced at her, annoyed. This was her room, and her email. It was none of Katy's business. "It's to my family," she said shortly, letting her miko powers flare up in a way that, as previous experience had shown, could make people uncomfortable.

"Man... Cool breeze..." Katy commented, bouncing up and closing Kagome's window.

Kagome just barely managed to repress a growl of displeasure. It was going to be a long year.

Kagome and Katy found seats at the front of the class on the first day. "Oh man," Katy babbled. "I'm so excited! He's so amazing. Wait till you see him, Kagome!"

Saying nothing, Kagome sighed, tensing suddenly at the flair of yokai energy. Odd. It vanished quickly, however, so Kagome dismissed it. None of that mattered anymore.

Katy was chattering on about the professor and how gorgeous he was. Kagome mentally rolled her eyes. He sounded like some professor. What kind of name was 'inukami' anyway. 'Dog god?' Really? Was he really even Japanese? He sounded suspicious. He sounded like--

"Good morning. I am Professor Inukami, and welcome to Ancient Asian Mythology 239, Lesser Known Myths and the Feudal Period," a familiar voice said softly and briskly.

Kagome paled, Katy's words (oh my gosh, isn't he gorgeous!) passing right over her. Grabbing her book bag, Kagome stumbled to her feet and hurried out of the room, ducking her head, grateful for the lack of school uniform, and her short-bob-like hair cut. Panting, she made it to a bathroom, sinking to the floor in a corner. "Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit!" She gasped for breath. Him! Of all people! Him... Surely the universe hated her. Why him? Why now? Why here, of all places!? Shit! And she had two other classes with him too! Damn Sesshoumaru! A professor!? Of all the professions...!

"Kagome...?" Katy's worried voice called as the door opened..

"Hai...?" Kagome replied weakly. "I'm here."

"Are you okay? Omigod, what happened?"

"I--" She paused. I what? I knew him more than 500 years ago, when he was a cold killer demon, who wanted me and my love-interest (and friends) dead? "I... just felt nauseous. I am fine now. Sorry." Shit, she had to face him. She struggled to calm her breathing. Developing panic attacks at this stage would be no good. "Anou... Would you please tell Professor Inukami--" She almost chocked on the name "--that I felt ill and had to go home, if he asks?"

Katy looked concerned, and Kagome felt a tiny twinge of guilt for lying to her, but was very relieved when the girl replied, "Sure. Feel better. Do you need me to walk you home?" Katy helped her to her feet, but Kagome shook her head.

"No, thank you. Go on; I'll be fine." Gathering her book back, Kagome left the bathroom and hurried home to her dorm room, thankful her room-mate was still at class.

Finally giving into her panic, she sobbed wildly into her sheets, sobbing for her past, her new level of self-pity which disgusted even her. Two other classes with the elder brother of her old flame, dredging up memories of everything she had been sent to America to forget. Damn him! Her dry sobs hurt her chest as she hated every detail of her former enemy: his same stone-cold face, markings covered up by make-up or enchantment, hair seemingly platinum blonde, though very close to his original silver and pulled back into a short pony-tail, she could only assume the same amber-golden eyes, and his deceptively human ears. Again, they were probably changed by some illusion. She doubted surgery. He would never change them permanently; he was too vain. His image was burned into her mind.

Sitting suddenly, Kagome gasped. That was her answer! If he could disguise himself, so could she. It was so simple. Sunglasses would be a must. She would suddenly realise that she was 'very sensitive to light,' even indoors. Kagome had never been one for perfume, but now it was essential. It would effectively mask her scent. Thankful for her short hair once again, Kagome debated dye. Blonde? Definitely not. Probably red. And hats would definitely become a fashion statement. That would be perfect. She hurried to the bathroom and washed her face, gathering her books again, sliding a pair of sunglasses on and borrowing a spritz of her room-mate's perfume, hurried to her next class, with plans to buy red hair dye at the earliest convenience.

Three weeks passed, and Kagome had acquired a variety of hats, quite a collection of perfumes, and enough sun glasses for a different pair every day of two weeks. The days she didn't wear hats, her newly dyed red hair made her look different enough that she was sure old friends wouldn't recognise her. And, there was no reason for him to notice her since she sat in the back of the room and never spoke up. She quietly answered 'here' when he called her name for roll. He probably didn't even remember her anyway. However, she wasn't taking any chances.

Katy continued to plague her with her constant presence, so Kagome accepted her with a martyred sigh. The girl even grew to be almost a comfort, talking away her loneliness. Kagome sometimes even had a conversation with her, instead of being talked at.

It was almost a disappointment though, Kagome thought, wandering into the second of the three classes she had with 'Professor Inukami.' If he noticed, he didn't say anything. If he didn't notice, that was almost boring. Had he really grown so dull? What a disappointment. So she turned it into a game. Today, for example, she sat in the second row, with sunglasses and perfume. A week ago, she had been in the very back row, wearing sunglasses, hat, perfume, and clothing that didn't remotely resemble a school uniform.

As class started, he paid her no more or no less attention than any other day. She had been gradually moving forward, and even tempted fate every once in a while by not wearing sunglasses. He noticed nothing.

"Kagome Higurashi," his smooth voice called, glasses riding on the bridge of his nose. Ridiculous things. He probably didn't really need them anyway.

"Here," she replied almost boldly. Look at me, she dared him mentally, disappointed (and surprised to find herself so) to find nothing happened.

He was so... ordinary... she mused as he began lecture. He had a gift for it, she admitted, but he was so painfully ordinary that she began to wonder if 'Lord Sesshoumaru: Taishou of the Western Lands' existed in that sorry husk of a fake human. Kagome almost laughed at herself. even now, there was still nothing 'ordinary' about him. He was incredibly gorgeous and had an incredible presence. His classes were 95% hormonal females and 5% men of questionable preference. Compared to her Sesshoumaru, however, he was quite ordinary.

'Her,' she mused. Interesting... 'Her' Sesshoumaru was from the feudal era, and she often spent time in other classes than his making up his pas and how he had come here. Perhaps he too came to America to escape Japan.

The bell rang.

"Kagome," Professor Inukami's voice called blandly as she packed her things.

"Yes?" Her heart leapt and fluttered. He was right next to her. Had he noticed?

"I'd like you to come to my office hours to discuss your paper."

"Oh." She couldn't help but feel disappointed again. How ordinary. Some small hope remained. Perhaps he did notice though, and this was just an excuse to see her alone. "Sure. When?" she asked, feeling bold.

"Does later today at say, 4:30 work?" He had moved away and was packing his books and notes into his brief-case.

"Yes. That's fine." Kagome nodded.

"Good. I will see you then." And he left. It was only until he was out of the door that she had realised he had spoken to her in Japanese.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Sesshoumaru walked briskly to his first class of the new semester, new year. Ancient Asian Mythology 239 was his favourite course. Since he had free reign over the lessons, he taught the stories he knew best: the old tales of the feudal era, witches and demons, miko and humans. The books he taught from had all been written by himself at some point or another, under a variety of pseudonyms of course. None of them traced back to himself.

Pulling open the door of the chemistry building where the administration had seen fit to place the class, he hurried on to his classroom. He'd slept late, which was slightly unusual, though more forgivable in recent years. In fact there were a lot of thing tha--

He cursed under his breath as a student flew around the corner, nearly crashing into him.

"Oh, sorry," she murmured, never stopping.

His temper flared in irritation, but he stomped it down, <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> lest his youkai energy flare and bring attention to himself. Sighing, Sesshoumaru hurried to his classroom, his thoughts on other things. "Good morning. I am Professor Inukami; welcome to Ancient Asian Mythology 239: Lesser Known Myths, and the Feudal Period," he began.

A cursory whiff of his students told him they were mostly females with a few hopeful males. Something faintly familiar caught his attention, but the girl was already half-way out the door before he could focus on the scent. He frowned, looking after her. Wrong class?

"Excuse me, Professor Inukami," a blond stood. Katy. He'd had her in class the previous semester. "I'm sorry, that's my friend. I'll be right back. I'm going to see if she's okay."

Sesshoumaru nodded. "Go ahead, Katy."

She blushed and he could tell she was pleased he remembered her name. He sighed inwardly. "Alright. This class is about the old fables and mythic history of the feudal era." The class stared at him raptly as he continued his synopsis of the class.

Katy returned shortly. "Hey," she whispered as she re-entered the classroom. "My friend doesn't feel good right now, so she went home."

"It's the first day," Sesshoumaru dismissed. "Now, here's the syllabus, and yes, you do need all of the books listed. They are not 'suggested,' they are mandatory. You will want to read through the first chapter of Ancient Myths and Folklore by a week and a half from now."

Class went by and even finished early. The students left, trickling out the door, throwing glances over their shoulder. Sesshoumaru sighed. Every semester. Sometimes he wondered if it were more trouble than it was worth. No matter where he went, the students always reacted the same way. He had taught for quite some years by now, also under aliases and falsified records. He could not afford to let people become suspicious, thus he moved around frequently and kept to himself. It had probably been four years he'd been teaching at this university. After next semester, perhaps, it would be time to move on. He'd been in America, however, for about sixty or so years.

Reaching his office, he set his briefcase down in a familiar pattern, loosened his tie and then headed to the bathroom. As he gazed in the mirror, washing his hands, he sighed. Honey-brown eyes mocked his reflection. They were soft eyes, human eyes. They were flat and dull. Sesshoumaru turned away from himself in disgust, returning to his desk to review the notes for his next classes, noting with interest as he looked over the class rosters, that the girl who had run out of his first class, presumably, was also in two of his other classes. She was Japanese. Kagome. Higurashi Kagome. He flipped the paper over. He had left Japan behind.

Sesshoumaru sighed and stood, grabbing his wallet to head out for a cup of coffee.

The days crawled by, blurring one into the other, and before long, it was three weeks into the semester. As he sat grading the papers on his couch in front of the tv, Sesshoumaru lifted his fork and took another bite of the take-out Chinese food. He'd actually come to like the americanised version of the food. Of course, he only ever ate it in the privacy of his own home. What a sad state for the tai youkai... Former, he corrected himself, former tai youkai of the Western Lands. That was another world ago anyway. He sighed.

Changing the channel on his TV, he picked up the next paper. Kagome. He frowned. It was hard to get a feel on that girl. She was very strange. She was apparently a student from abroad, though she spoke English pretty fluently. It was hard to tell what she was actually getting from any of his classes, seeing as she hardly ever spoke in class, except to answer roll. He had been interested to see how she fared in paper-writing. As he shifted her paper, the strong scent of one of her many perfumes wafted to his nose causing him to sneeze. He wondered idly why she wore so much. They smelled nice, but, to his sensitive nose, they were rather over-powering. And all of those hats and sunglasses... He shook his head. Were they truly necessary? Was she trying to be incognito?

Shaking his head again, he picked up her paper and began reading. The prompt he had assigned concerned the reliability and the folklorish properties of such myths and their importance in culture. It was rather abstract and difficult to answer, yet Kagome, in her paper he discovered as he read, had answered the question brilliantly. She had chosen to focus her paper around the myth of the Miko and the Half-Demon, his brother's story. She wrote well, Sesshoumaru observed. Apparently she just didn't speak in class. She--

Sesshoumaru abruptly stopped ceased reading, looking back over the paragraph he'd just read. The Boneater's Well...? That hadn't been mentioned in the myth. Shaking his head, he went back and reread the paragraph, paying closer attention. Where had she gotten this material? It was all correct, but he hadn't mentioned it in their assigned reading. He knew what he'd written, and some of the information she mentioned concerning the people involved just hadn't been mentioned. Plagiarism? The thought floated uneasily to the surface of his mind as he frowned, pursing his lips. It was an ugly idea. He'd have to speak with her about. He didn't think her the type to do that sort of thing... But the quality of her paper and the information in it.... led him to believe otherwise. He shrugged. One could never be too sure. He finished her paper anyway, liking it overall, but holding off on the grade until he spoke with the girl.

He entered the classroom, the girl's perfume assaulting his nose; he took a deep breath through his mouth. Setting his briefcase down, he organised his materials in preparation for class to begin. She was wearing sunglasses today, he noticed as he sat. And the strong perfume. No hat. She was very strange, yet her habits intrigued him. Perhaps he would be able to speak to her about it when she came to his office. It was unusual that she never seemed to be able to pick a seat and stay there. Humans were creatures of habit. She, apparently, was different.

The bell rang, so he left his musings alone and got the attendance sheet out, calling roll. "Kagome Higurashi." She replied loudly, and he could feel her intense stare. Shivers fluttered down his spine at the sensation. He didn't look up. His own cowardice astonished and disgusted him.

He cleared his throat, adjusted the glasses (just for show), and began class, ceasing to speak only when the bell rang.

"Kagome," he called quietly, impulsively speaking Japanese. It had been a long time since he'd spoken the language. He almost chuckled as her heart beat faster. In that respect, she was no different from any of his other students.

"Yes?" She looked up at him, her face a mask of calm, despite the worry and other emotions roiling beneath the surface.

"I'd like you to come to my office hours to discuss your paper." The disappointment, however, shown clearly on her face. What did that mean?

"Oh. Sure. When?" Clearly, she was disinterested.

"Does later today, at say, 4:30 work?" He moved away to begin packing his things, confused by her reactions. She seemed relatively unconcerned.

"Yes, that's fine."

"Good. I will see you then." He watched her leave and then left himself, heading to his next class, the only one of which she was not a student. He sighed in relief. It would give him a good chance to organise his thoughts.


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