Note: Sooo... I was going to write a drabble but when the plot hit me I realised this kind of setting was way too much fun and then I got all these ideas and my god how can I have been in this fandom for over 10 years and never even consider an AU where everyone is human but STILL in Sengoku era?!?! And so here we are.
Updates will be sporadic, and this hasn't been beta-read, so consider yourself warned. Hope you will enjoy the ride nonetheless!
“This will teach you to steal food you filthy brat!”
Rin flinched, squeezing her eyes shut – but the hit she was cowering from never landed.
After a long second her eyes hesitantly fluttered open. Rin blinked.
A young woman stood by the angry villager, her slender hand firmly wrapped around his wrist to halt his strike.
Rin stared at her in awe, noting the long bow slung over her shoulder, admiring the rich red of her hakama that signalled she was a Shinto priestess.
The woman’s eyes flickered to Rin – their colour a rich blue that had Rin gasping in surprise – and turned to address the aggrieved villager.
“I will pay for the food she has taken. Will that suffice?”
The man yanked free from the priestess’ grip and scowled at her. But he did not dare to raise his hand against a miko.
“Aye.” He voice was still sullen, but he accepted the few copper coins from the miko. His hand curled possessively around the coins and he hurried off, leaving Rin alone with her saviour.
The priestess offered Rin a smile. “There now, the food is yours. Go ahead and eat, before it grows cold.”
Rin clutched at the dumplings she’d stuffed into the sleeve of her tattered kimono.
“Thank you, lady priestess.”
The miko’s smile brightened. “You are welcome, little one. I am glad to have been of help.”
She turned to leave.
Rin lunged forward, her desperate fingers catching the wide sleeve of the miko’s pristine kimono.
The woman halted, glanced at Rin over her shoulder.
“What is it?” Her tone of voice was kind and her blue eyes glimmered with curiosity.
Rin licked her lips and lowered her gaze. Her fingers trembled as she let go of the priestess’ sleeve, hoping she hadn’t left any stains on the fabric.
“I… I do not want to burden you, when you’ve already been kind, and you must have your duties to see to–”
“Speak, child,” the priestess cut in gently. “What ails you?”
“I’ve lost my way,” Rin blurted out.
The priestess pursed her lips. “Come with me,” she said, sounding a little concerned.
Rin nodded quickly, and followed the priestess as they walked out of the village and further down the road.
They stopped at a quiet spot by the roadside, near a copse of trees. The priestess walked towards the trees and sat on the grass in the shade, patting the ground next to her.
Rin obediently sat down next to her, her knees carefully drawn together, her back straight.
“I am Kagome,” the priestess introduced herself. “What is your name?”
“Rin,” she replied.
“Tell me, Rin, how you came to lose your way.”
“We went to visit a shrine to offer prayers. And we were on our way back home but I got tired of sitting in the stupid palanquin so I sneaked out when we stopped to rest. There was this big lake near the road and I went to inspect it and was distracted and they –”
Rin swallowed. “They left without me. And I did not know where I was or how to get home… I continued along the road until I reached the village and I was so hungry…”
“You did well, following the road,” Kagome assured her. “Go on, eat your dumplings.”
Rin nodded and ate, studying the priestess out of a corner of her eye.
Kagome was watching her as well; her gaze lingered at Rin’s battered bare feet, the state of her checkered kimono.
Rin flushed, fighting an urge to squirm. She hadn’t given much thought to her appearance before, but from the pondering look in Kagome’s eyes she realised how dirty and dishevelled she was.
Rin’s face fell. Her father would be so shamed. That villager had probably mistaken her for a street urchin.
“Are you still hungry?” Kagome asked.
“No.” Rin shook her head. “Thank you for the food.”
“I want to aid you, Rin. It is not safe for a young girl like you to travel alone.”
“I would be most grateful,” Rin said, her hands digging into her kimono. “But I could not keep you from your duties, lady priestess.”
“Just Kagome, please.” She smiled. “And I am a wandering miko. Seeing you home safely falls into my duties, surely.”
Rin looked down, her hair falling to curtain her face.
“I would like to go home. I would like it very much,” she confessed in a small voice.
Kagome placed her hand on her shoulder, gave it a gentle squeeze. “Then we shall do that. What is your clan’s name?”
Rin hesitated for just a moment. She was young, but these were turbulent times, and though she herself was well protected, she knew terrible things were happening all around; alliances turning sour, clans warring against other clans, even using women and children as hostages.
But she could not believe Kagome would use her or threaten her clan.
She met those kind blue eyes and squared her shoulders.
“Nishikawa,” Rin replied. “I belong to the Nishikawa clan.”
Kagome’s eyebrows rose, but she didn’t appear otherwise surprised.
“The same Nishikawa clan who rule over the Izumo province?”
Rin nodded. “The daimyou is my grandfather.”
“Your clan’s castle is in Yonago, correct?”
“Then we had better start walking, Rin-hime. We have a fair way to go still.”
Relief flooded Rin. She beamed up at Kagome. “Thank you.”
“You can thank me when you are safe at the Nishikawa castle.” Kagome rose, offered her hand to pull Rin up.
Rin twined her fingers around hers and got to her feet.
Kagome looked at her, a thoughtful frown creasing her brow. “We had best follow the road. Will you be all right walking barefoot?”
“Yes,” Rin replied, squeezing the priestess’ hand.
Kagome glanced at her, offered an encouraging smile. “Onwards to Yonago, then!”
Rin smiled back and held onto the miko’s hand as the two of them started their long walk home.