Haunting by Chie
I wrote this story for Freya Ishtar’s Haunted challenge. Hence the very original title of this piece. It will be told in 3 instalments.
Summary: After her grandfather’s death, Kagome returns to her childhood home at the Higurashi shrine, as well as to the half-forgotten memories that seem to be awaiting her.
Genre: Dark, Drama, Romance, Suspence
Disclaimer: I own no rights to either the characters or the setting used in this story. Inuyasha and its characters belong to their creator, Takahashi Rumiko. I am nothing but a fan-writer and will not benefit in any way from writing this story.
Chie: I hope this lil’ story will be scary enough for you. You see, I’m very easily scared myself - which is probably partly why I wanted to enter the challenge, it’s a good practice for me to step out my comfort zone on an occasion.
Part One – Home
It was pitch black.
There was no source of light. She could not see a thing.
There was nothing, only darkness.
She trembled. She was so very afraid. She was alone in the dark and it was cold. So very cold…
She was trapped in the darkness. Trapped in a cell of cold stone.
She felt the panic. Her laboured pants for breath hollowly echoed in the small, dark space.
Then, all of a sudden, there was a light brush against her shoulder.
A small voice spoke right by her ear in an urgent, hoarse whisper.
Kagome startled awake, just as her roommate spoke again.
“Kagome, you’re going to be late if you don’t get up now!”
Kagome raised a trembling hand to brush away the bangs that had been glued to her forehead because of the cold sweat.
There was sympathy in the brown-haired woman’s eyes when she spoke next.
“The nightmare again?”
Kagome nodded, there was no need for her to say anything, Sango knew all about the nightmare that had been plaguing her for as long as she could remember.
“It’s been a long while since you last had it, hasn’t it? I wonder why it recurred now of all times,” the woman wondered to herself.
“I have no clue,” Kagome said. She was still feeling a bit edgy after waking up from the nightmare. But the dark terror of the dream soon faded in the light of the radiant spring sun that flooded the room when Sango pulled the curtains open.
“Do you want me to come with you?” she offered gently.
Kagome shook her head.
“I think I’ll be fine. After all that what’s-his-face friend of Miroku’s is coming with me, to go over the will.”
Sango huffed in mock anger.
“It’s nor what’s-his-face, Kagome! It’s Endou Sesshoumaru. And you should be nice to him, he’s one of Miroku’s best friends.”
“I’ll be nice to him if he’s nice to me,” Kagome promised, but Sango still regarded her friend dubiously.
Then, the brown-haired woman’s features softened. Her dark eyes shone with worry as she fixed a telling look at her friend.
“Are you sure you’ll be fine?”
Kagome stayed silent. No matter how hard she tried, the “yes” seemed to be stuck in her throat. In the end, she shook her head.
“I don’t know,” she admitted softly, hesitantly. “I haven’t been there since… Well, you know.”
Sango nodded slowly, concern still residing in her eyes.
“I never thought I’d be going back at all,” Kagome confessed.
Sango pursed her lips. She was not quite sure if it was a good idea for Kagome to return to her childhood home. The memories of that time were still haunting her. But it was Kagome the shrine had been passed down to now that her grandfather had passed away. It had come to her as a complete surprise, but apparently the old grandfather still hadn’t forgiven Kagome’s mother for moving away.
“Well, I have to hurry,” Kagome sighed.
“I made breakfast,” she said, trying to reassure her friend with a smile. Kagome was already hesitant enough to begin with. It would not do to add fuel to the fire by confessing her personal doubts about the matter.
“Thank you, Sango,” Kagome said delightedly and returned the smile.
An hour later Kagome was sitting on a train, looking out the window. She watched the world rush by her as she tried to get the chaos of her mind into some kind of a semblance of order. She didn’t really know what she should think about the whole situation – about her grandfather’s death, about his will, about the shrine, about returning to Tokyo. It was true that nothing was keeping her in Yokohama anymore, nothing but friends and family at least. While she still had not graduated college, she had finished most of her courses and now it was all down to finishing up her thesis. And even for that she had already done most of the research, and had written at least a quarter of it already. There was no reason why she could not finish the thesis in Tokyo, she could always e-mail her teachers if she had any problems with the paper, and even if a worst case scenario were to happen, there was only 28 kilometres between Yokohama and Tokyo, such a short distance took no longer than 30 minutes to travel by train.
Still, even though she could name no logical reason why she couldn’t return to the Higurashi shrine in Tokyo, the idea of moving back there made her feel uneasy. Maybe it was because of the nightmare this morning… It was not the first time she had seen that dream, and a nagging feeling in her gut insisted that it would not be the last time, either. It had been years since she had last had the nightmare, but she could still recall the many nights as a child when she had woken up in the middle of the night, sweating and shaking after that dark, oppressing and disturbing dream. But why had it recurred this morning, after so many years? The very morning she would visit the shrine for the first time since the day they had left to Yokohama 16 years ago. That unsettled her perhaps more than the return itself.
With her mind so troubled and full of thoughts, the 30 minute train ride seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye. She got off the train at the station and then hailed a taxi, giving the driver the address of the law firm her grandfather’s lawyer was employed at. The visit made her feel apprehensive. She had never met a lawyer before – at least not in business. Her roommate’s boyfriend Miroku was a lawyer. It was an odd coincidence that the agency her grandfather had employed happened to house one of Miroku’s classmates from law school. Kagome chewed on her bottom lip thoughtfully, as she gazed out of the window of the cab into the busy Tokyo traffic. If Mr. lawyer was anything like Miroku, Kagome was certain they’d get along just fine – she had instantly liked the easy-going and somewhat perverted man.
The taxi navigated the streets of Tokyo and soon enough stopped. Kagome paid the fare and then stopped to look at the building. Steeling herself, she walked in.
The lobby seemed like a regular one. She walked straight to the reception, behind which two female employees were welcoming and receiving customers.
Kagome smiled to one of them after they had greeted her with their welcoming chorus.
“Hi. I’m here for the 11 o’clock appointment with Mr. Endou.”
“Miss Higurashi, is it?”
“Mr. Endou is ready to see you. His office is in the second floor. Walk through the glass doors. Mr. Endou’s office is the second door on the left.”
Kagome set out. She tried her best to curb her anticipation or ignore the nervous way in which her stomach was knotting, as she waited for the elevator. The walk was very short, and soon she found herself standing in front of the door to Mr. Endou’s office, hesitating and fidgety.
Telling herself it would all be fine, she took a deep breath and raised her hand. She had not even managed to knock yet, when a deep, smooth voice beckoned her to enter.
She frowned to herself, but obeyed. Kagome opened the door and stepped in.
“Sit.” the commanding word would have been extremely rude, had not his tone of a voice been detachedly courteous.
Kagome obliged again and sat down. She clasped her hands in her lap and shyly peered under her bangs at the attorney who was sitting behind his desk directly in front of her.
Her eyes widened as she took in the sight of him – mr. lawyer was nothing like what she had been expecting.
He was clad in an impeccable black suit that complimented his surprisingly tall frame. His long hair had been tied on a neat tail, and its colour was so pale that it took on a silvery hue. He had a pair of most captivating, piercing golden eyes which were silently scrutinising her.
She did not realise that she had been staring until she noticed the dryly amused way in which one of the handsome man’s expressive silver eyebrows was pointedly arched.
Kagome’s cheeks flushed in embarrassment and she quickly averted her gaze.
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Higurashi,” the man murmured, the faintest of smirks tugging a corner of his lips.
The sight of that slight hint of a smile made her wish for the ground to swallow her up as her embarrassment instantly swelled. Miroku ought to have warned her that his friend was a drop-dead gorgeous specimen! Ohh, the damn pervert would so be hearing about this later…
“Pleased to meet you too, Mr. Endou,” Kagome managed as soon as she was done mentally berating and scolding herself.
He replied to her with an amused “Hnn”, and Kagome felt just a little bit more of an idiot.
“I suggest we overview the paperwork first, before going to inspect the property.”
“That sounds good,” she agreed.
Then, the lawyer proceeded to go through the various papers and documents. Despite his aloof manner, he was surprisingly good at explaining the gist of the documents to her. He refrained from using too much of legalese, and was good at spelling everything out in terms she could understand. He was very good, she could understand that much. The only bad thing about him was that his handsome and attractive looks offered much distraction to Kagome’s wandering and drooling mind. And his deep, smooth baritone was so delightful to her ears that she had to struggle to concentrate on the actual words he was saying.
It took a while for them to go over all the paperwork. Mr. Endou was very thorough.
Kagome did not mind the slightest, it only gave her more opportunities to steal glances at the handsome male and to listen to the divine tone of his voice. Besides, she was in no hurry to return to the shrine. She had always believed she would never go back there again.
Eventually, however, his stream of explanations ceased, and he compiled all the documents into a neat stack, which he carefully stored in the folder.
“I propose we will now proceed over to the property. If you find the terms I have just explained to you acceptable, you can sign them after the inspection.”
A curious emotion flashed in the man’s eyes as he stood up and straightened the suit jacket he was wearing.
“Shall we?” he prompted her with that familiar arch of an eyebrow.
Kagome nodded, and followed the man out of the room.
The nervousness swelled within her with every step she took. She had been so young when they had moved away from the shrine. There were not many memories that she had, tied to her old home, but the few that were the sharpest in her mind very painful to confront, even now after so many years. Fighting to stay in control of her emotions, she ascended the shrine steps in silence, her gaze locked on the red torii gate that stood over the hill, at the end of the steps.
The lawyer remained silent as well, much to her comfort. At first she had thought that confronting the painful memories of her childhood would be awkward as a complete stranger would bear witness. Instead, she felt oddly comforted by the tall man’s presence. The aura surrounding him exuded confidence and power, and somehow it seemed to give Kagome strength on the very moment her steps were on the verge of beginning to falter. Finally reaching the top of the stairs she stepped into the courtyard. Her heart clenched at the familiar sight as her eyes immediately landed on her childhood home. Nothing had seemed to change, even though it had been so many years from the day her mother had packed their bags, taken her hand and walked away from this shrine that had been her ancestral home.
She let her eyes wonder and her gaze soon came to rest on the enormous sacred tree. Her expression softened when she recalled the many times she had climbed the ancient tree together with her little brother. She could remember all the joyous summer afternoons when she had played in the shade of the God tree with her childhood friend Kanna.
Kagome sighed softly and turned to the attorney, only to find his eyes on her. She had to fight a blush when she noticed the calculated look in the man’s intense golden eyes. It was almost as if the man was evaluating her.
“Do you want to inspect the house first? Or would you rather start from the outer buildings?” the man asked.
“The house,” Kagome replied at once.
Sesshoumaru nodded and then strode over to the house, the woman following his steps. He pulled out the keys he had received from the real estate agent and opened the door. He held it open and motioned for his client to enter. She did so, timidly, hesitantly.
She took her shoes off at the entrance and walked into the house, her blue eyes taking in the place she had once called home.
Nothing much had really changed, as far as she could see. She could imagine her mother standing in the kitchen, humming to herself as she made pancakes. She could picture Souta sitting in the living room floor and laughing at the cartoons airing on TV. She half expected to see her grandfather come down the stairs, grumbling.
But the old house was empty now, and the family that had once lived in it gone.
Kagome walked slowly from room to room, inspecting them in silence. She felt the attorney Mr. Endou trailing her steps at a respectful distance.
For some reason, his presence gave her courage.
Ascending the stairs, she lingered a moment in the doorway of her mother’s bedroom. She passed by Souta’s room without even opening the door. At last, she stopped in front of her old room. Feeling the stirrings of curiosity, she opened the door and stepped in.
“Wow,” Kagome breathed out as her gaze wandered, taking in every detail of the room. “I didn’t remember it was quite this… pink.” she wondered aloud to herself. She smiled fondly when she remembered how her mother had allowed her to pick the curtains and the covers of her bed herself.
The lawyer acknowledged her statement with a neutral “Hn.”
“Well, this is pretty much all there is to see to the house,” the woman muttered, as she turned and walked away from her room.
They made their way outside, and Sesshoumaru locked the front door before carefully pocketing the key.
“Would you want to inspect the outer buildings now?”
Standing on the porch, Kagome’s eyes were drawn to the well house. She saw the weathered ofuda that had been plastered at the heavy wooden doors, sealing them. She shuddered.
“No,” she said in a soft tone.
“Are you sure?”
He strode across the yard towards the well house. He was just reaching his hand to the doorknob when Kagome cried out.
Sesshoumaru halted, and turned to look at the woman.
She shifted uncomfortably, her pained blue eyes seeking his gaze, pleading.
His curiosity rising, Sesshoumaru turned his back to the well house and walked back over to the woman.
“That building is the well house. That is all there is inside, this old well that has been there for centuries. My… My younger brother drowned in that well when he was five. It was an accident, but I don’t… I… My mother took me and left, after that. She couldn’t stay here, and I haven’t been here since…”
Kagome suddenly fell silent and let her gaze sink down, an obvious signal of embarrassment.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I don’t know what came over me. Here I am, spewing out sob stories about my personal life. I promise not to bore you any further with unnecessary details.”
Sesshoumaru’s intense gaze weighed the woman before him.
Frankly, the woman’s sudden opening up to him had not felt unpleasant at all.
“You did not bore me, Miss Higurashi,” he spoke in his smooth voice, reassuring his intriguing client. “In fact, I found your “unnecessary details” to be quite the opposite.”
Kagome looked up in surprise, just in time to see the smirk that made its way up to the attorney’s lips.
“If you feel comfortable about sharing any other stories about your personal life with me, I believe that might be more comfortably achieved over a dinner. What do you say?”
Kagome blinked a few times. Then, her face broke into a ridiculously wide smile.
“Are you asking me out?” she questioned, feeling very much flattered at having such a handsome man’s attention.
“Yes, I am,” Sesshoumaru replied without batting an eye.
Kagome shook her head slowly, still smiling.
“You really are a friend of Miroku’s, huh?”
“Was that a yes?” he countered, his eyes glinting with amusement.
The woman deliberately winked at him.
Few weeks later, Kagome moved from her and Sango’s apartment in Yokohama, to her childhood home at the Higurashi shrine in Tokyo. The moving was quickly done, since because her new home was completely furnished, so there were only a few pieces of furniture that needed to be moved. Besides, she had help from Sango, Miroku and Sesshoumaru.
She had met with the attractive attorney several times after their dinner, and though they had only known each other for mere weeks, they were already in a relationship. Sango and Miroku had been more than a little smug when they had heard about the unexpected romantic development, somehow taking credit for the match even though neither of them had been involved.
Kagome was absolutely delighted and also a bit relieved, for even though it was way too early to predict where hers and Sesshoumaru’s relationship would go, at least it gave her a reason to move to Tokyo. Of course she would miss Sango, but she knew that her best friend would still be less than an hour away, such a distance felt like nothing!
“Wow, there is so much room!” Sango exclaimed as she stepped in, carrying a cardboard box in her arms.
“I know,” Kagome grunted, setting down another box that was full of plates, mugs, bowls and other dishes.
“Probably too much room for me alone,” she replied.
“Well, that only means I need to visit often,” Sesshoumaru grinned as he walked past her, carrying a box filled with books.
Kagome smiled fondly at him in return and then hauled the box she was carrying into the kitchen.
Her friends stayed until the early evening. After everything had been carried into the house they helped to unpack the various boxes – filling in the kitchen cupboards, hanging her few paintings and photographs on the empty walls, stacking her books and DVDs to their respective places.
Kagome settled in her old room. For some reason she felt the most comfortable there. While putting her clothes into the dresser, she made a mental note to get new curtains, something more toned down, something, that would make the room a bit less pink. Well, she thought to herself, it was no surprise her room appeared to be so childish. She had been only eight years old when she left from the shrine with her mother.
A yawn broke her out of her musings. Even though Sango, Miroku and Sesshoumaru had stayed to help her unpack, it still had taken most of the day to get her settled in. Now, she was left alone in her old – and yet new – home. Unpacking the rest of her clothes, she changed into a tank top and pajama pants. She grabbed one of the books Sesshoumaru had carefully put into her empty bookcase earlier and curled under the blankets, relaxing after the eventful day.
Kagome was soundly asleep when the door of her room suddenly opened. Soft footsteps padded across her room before they came to a halt right before her bed. She slept on, blissfully unaware of the presence standing by her bed. A small weight settled on the edge of the bed and then Kagome shuddered in her sleep as ghostly fingers brushed the exposed side of her neck in passing.