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The Cost Of An Education by kb

Chapter 1

Kagome sat beneath the sacred tree where she met Inuyasha two years ago. Her textbooks were scattered along the ground around her, and she poured over notes her friends had made copies of so she could study the material she missed in her classes. In two days she would take her final exam before the summer break and if she didn’t pass she would have to repeat the entire year.

To say she was worried was an understatement. Math was her worst subject, and as a result of her crossing into the feudal era she was forced to attend remedial math which she still struggled to pass. Kagome was unbearably overwhelmed with stress and Inuyasha’s incessant pestering had driven her out of Kaede’s hut to the solitude beneath this familiar tree. She knew he wouldn’t bother her here, mostly because she had threatened to ‘sit’ him into the center of the earth if he did.

Math equations filled the note page she read over, but it might as well have been written in a foreign language. Frustration burned her cheeks and she felt she might scream, she didn’t understand any of it! Kagome’s temper flared, her hands twitched, and before she knew it she crumpled the page into a ball and threw it as hard as she could.

Kagome sucked in a sharp breath and leaned her head back with her eyes closed against the tree in utter defeat; there was no way she was going to pass this test. A moment later Kagome felt something drop onto her lap. “Go away, Inuyasha,” she mumbled without opening her eyes.

“You shouldn’t be littering, Miko,” said a deep voice from above her.

Kagome’s eyes flared open when she realized the voice did not belong to her beloved friend, Inuyasha. Towering above her stood a handsome youkai with long flowing sleek white hair that gently blew in the cool forest breeze.

“Sesshomaru,” his name left her lips breathlessly, his unexpected appearance frightening her, “what are you doing here?”

“Passing through.” As always Sesshomaru spoke as though he couldn’t care less of anything around him, perhaps that’s why he intimidated Kagome so much. He could kill her without batting an eye if he chose and not feel a single ounce of remorse afterwards. However dangerous he may be, curiosity claimed Sesshomaru’s interest every once in awhile and he was certainly curious why this miko was throwing things.

“What is frustrating you?” Kagome’s eyes widened in shock from his question. Sesshomaru turned his nose up, “I don’t care, I was merely curious.”

The wadded up ball of paper still sat in Kagome’s lap. She picked it up and turned it over in her hands, “I have an important test in two days and I don’t know how to use these formulas.”

Sesshomaru glanced over the notes strewn around her which were filled with complex equations. As he looked Kagome threw the crumpled paper once again. To her surprise he turned on his heel and picked up the paper before dropping it back in her lap, “You’ll never learn if you keep throwing it away.”

Kagome’s brows knit together as her anger bubbled up to the surface and burned away her insides. Her voice came out louder and more shrill than she intended it, but she had bottled away her resentment for two years and now the cork was exploding out of the bottle. “I’m not going to learn it period!” This time Kagome stood and threw the note with more force than she had before. “For the last two years I’ve had to ignore my education to recollect the jewel shards. I’m only seventeen! I’m supposed to be studying and trying to get into a good college, instead I have to be here fighting demons! Would you stop picking that up, I’m not playing fetch?!”

Sesshomaru’s eyes narrowed at the word ‘fetch’. He watched Kagome carefully as he righted himself after picking up the ball of paper once again. The girl was as hot headed as rumored, but he always assumed her outbursts were because of his annoying half-brother, Inuyasha. He could understand why she was thought to be ill-tempered when she was constantly surrounded by Inuyasha. However, now he understood that even though her quest for the jewel was important, it was a necessary obligation and nothing more. What she deemed important was her education, even he understood the importance of that, though very few in these parts would comprehend just how important it was to be able to read and write.

It was impressive how desperately this young woman tried to teach herself such complicated arithmetic without a tutor. Sesshomaru walked back to Kagome with the paper in his grasp. When he finally stood before Kagome, who still seethed with frustration, he held out the balled paper, but she refused to take it. Upon her refusal Sesshomaru reached out, took her hand in his own, and pressed the note into her hand.

Kagome’s heart hammered in her chest. The last time Sesshomaru was this close to her he almost killed her. His hand felt warm on her own, odd, she always imagined he would feel as cold as he acted. Her anger melted away as he pressed the paper into her palm, and butterflies filled her stomach as his golden eyes looked down on her from his towering height.

His left brow rose slightly, “Stop throwing it. Study.”

It wasn’t a suggestion. He commanded her to learn. Suddenly she felt foolish as Sesshomaru’s eyes bore into her. Kagome realized how privileged she was to even be exposed to this kind of math when the people of this era would never be able to learn more than basic survival skills. She knew Inuyasha couldn’t, but it dawned on her that even Sesshomaru might not know how to read.

Looking down, Kagome turned over the paper in her hands and uncrumpled it as best as she could. She sat back down beneath the tree and pulled out a clean sheet of paper to start over with her lessons. The last sheet had become so riddled with incorrect fractions that she felt it to be a waste of time to review them anymore than she had already.

Sesshomaru watched her as she immersed herself in her notes. He was not the slightest bit bothered when she did not acknowledge he was still standing next to her, he even welcomed the silent presence she offered as she studied. Yes, Sesshomaru nodded to himself, an education is important. An idea came to him as he watched the girl writing down equations on the whitest paper he had ever seen, and gracefully sat himself beside the miko.

Disturbed by the sudden close proximity and aware that Sesshomaru would not be leaving anytime soon, Kagome looked over to him questioningly. Stone faced, Sesshomaru only said, “You will teach me.”

“T-teach you?” The quiet of the forest amplified the silence that followed Sesshomaru’s demand. Teach Sesshomaru? The very idea seemed absurd, why would he want to learn from her? Surely there must be more suitable tutors in this era.

“Hn.” Sesshomaru looked at her rounded eyes, where they always blue? No matter, he remained serious as ever. “An education is something only the foolish undervalue. I’ve traveled all of Japan and some of the continent, there has never been another who could come close to comprehending this kind of mathematics.”

Kagome’s brows pinched together, “I’m no scholar, Sesshomaru. This is required course work, but I don’t understand its applications.”

“You can read and write, yes?” He waited for Kagome to respond, but only received a quiet nod. “Then you can teach.”

Sesshomaru’s intense seriousness paired with his intimidating nature pressured Kagome into agreeing to teach him. She wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to learn or even where to begin, but she knew she couldn’t teach him anything until after her test. Right now she needed to maintain focus on her exams. If she failed them there would never be a hope or prayer that could get her into a good college.

Her eyes glanced over her course work. What if she did agree to teach Sesshomaru though? Inuyasha would be furious, his jealousy would inevitably rear its ugly head like it did any time another male came near her. Kagome never could understand Inuyasha’s jealousy, but she knew he would never be able to accept her tutoring his older brother who treated him like trash.

Kagome remained quiet as she thought, but finally said, “Why should I teach you? You’ve tried to kill me on a number of occasions, and you treat your brother, my best friend, horribly. Surely you can find a tutor that does not have such conflicts of interest.”

Sesshomaru nodded and stood to leave. The girl wasn’t wrong, she was under no obligation to tutor him. Nor was there anything he could currently offer her in return. Still, an education, even an unstructured one, was priceless and he needed to learn certain things in order to successfully build his own empire.

“There is nothing I can currently offer you in exchange for your services, but having me indebted to you is not a bad thing. Should you change your mind you can find me in the western lands.”

Without another thought Sesshomaru left Kagome alone beneath the tree. A gentle breeze wrapped around her causing her to grow cold. The filtered light through the canopy was beginning to grow dim causing Kagome to realize how much time had passed since she first came to this spot. Night would be creeping up soon, and she did not want to be caught alone in the forest at night. Plenty of demons lived within these woods, though none would dare to interfere with the Shikon Miko in broad daylight.

Quickly, Kagome gathered her study materials and dumped them into her backpack. She realized yet another day of studying had been wasted due to the interruptions on this side of the well. She only had one more day before her test and she wasn’t sure she would ever be able to concentrate enough to study. Perhaps it was time for Kagome to go home so that the endless distractions would not keep her from passing her exams.

Kagome slung her trusty yellow backpack over her shoulder, her knees buckling under the immense weight of her textbooks, and decided it was time to go. Instead of making her way back towards the village, Kagome walked straight towards the well. Inuyasha would probably come looking for her if she left without saying goodbye, but hopefully he would catch the hint to leave her be for the time being.

It would be much easier to leave a note for him explaining where she went, but Inuyasha never participated whenever she showed Shippo how to read different characters. There were plenty of times Kagome privately offered to teach Inuyasha to read. However, each time she offered he scoffed and acted as though he could not care less. It was only after she caught him hiding the children’s books she bought for Shippo that she realized Inuyasha wanted to learn to read, he was just too proud to admit it outloud.

Kagome couldn’t imagine why Inuyasha was too embarrassed to ask for her help when no one else from the village could read either. The only other person Kagome knew of that could read was Miroku, but he would never look down on anyone for not being able to read. Despite his lecherous ways, Miroku was quite intelligent and wise for his young age. It was actually endearing to see the monk trace characters into the dirt with a stick while he taught the village children about Buddha and the importance of a peaceful heart. Kagome also learned a thing or two whenever Miroku spoke which eventually helped her with her world religions project in her history class.

A warm bright blue light sparkled around Kagome as she fell down the well that took her between her home and the past. When her feet landed on soft dirt and the sky had disappeared behind a wooden ceiling she knew she was safely home.

The remainder of her weekend in her own time flew by in a blur without a single disruption from Inuyasha, and soon she found herself standing in front of her school in a freshly laundered uniform. Her nerves were on edge as she tried to mentally prepare herself for the test in her last class of the day.

Then she was in her classroom with her favorite teacher. Despite failing miserably at math, her teacher made her enjoy coming to class. Unlike the other teachers at her school Tanaka-sensei cracked jokes during his lectures, told fun stories, and worked with each student until they thoroughly comprehended each lesson. He did everything he could to help Kagome, but her constant absences prevented her from being able to complete the course work. Still, he seemed understanding of her situation even if he did not actually know she was time traveling every week.

Tanaka-sensei placed Kagome’s test on her desk and gave her a reassuring smile that somehow seemed familiar to her. She had never seen him before her classes with him, but something about his smile always reminded her of someone she just didn’t know who.

An hour ticked by as Kagome desperately fought to remember formulas and how to choose what number goes where. She worked each problem until she arrived at an answer, but her confidence shrunk into nothingness each time her answer did not match one of the multiple choices. Kagome had worked through half of the test questions when the school bell rang to dismiss her from class.

Frustration caused a painful lump to grow in her throat, and tears threatened to spill from her cerulean eyes. She had only worked half, HALF!, of the problems, and she was pretty sure none of them were right. Kagome placed her incomplete and incorrectly answered test on Tanaka-sensei’s desk with her head hung low. She didn’t need to meet his gaze to know he looked at her sympathetically.

Tanaka-sensei watched commiseratingly as Kagome ran from the room with her disappointed tears began to trickle down her cheeks. Out of curiosity he picked up her test and glanced at her work and sighed. Every problem she had been able to work through was incorrect.

It’s never easy for a good teacher to see their students failing, it was even harder to see ones who were clearly trying their hardest failing. Tanaka-sensei knew better than anyone how hard Kagome was trying, he had watched her in his childhood attempt to study while simultaneously taking on demons, her education was always so important to her. She deserved a break.

Scooping up the tests, Tanaka-sensei placed them into his brief case and headed towards Higurashi shrine. Most days Kagome would stop by WacDonalds with her friends after school, but on days like today he knew Kagome would have headed straight home to receive comfort from her mother. The thought of Kagome needing comfort reminded Tanaka-sensei of all the times he ran to Kagome when he was scared or upset as a child. It was not until Kagome had stepped into his classroom seven months ago that he realized just how young she had been when their quest started all those years ago. He had never realized she had been a child when she cared for him the way a mother would care for her child.

An enormous red arch appeared at the top of a long set of stairs, and Tanaka-sensei knew he had arrived at Higurashi shrine. He climbed the stairs, walked across the shrine grounds, and knocked on the sliding glass door nearest the kitchen. Kagome’s mother answered and eagerly ushered him in upon his introduction.

Kagome sat in the kitchen with a red splotchy face that he knew all too well. The girl had been crying, and judging by the bowl of ice cream on the table in front of her, her mother had tried to console her. Kagome’s bloodshot eyes looked at him in surprise.

“Miss Higurashi,” he never called Kagome by her first name, “I know you can do better than this, and I don’t want to see you fail your school year. So, I would like for you to retake this test and when it’s done I will grade it and then we can go over anything you might have missed. Rest assured, I know how diligent you are. I will not be leaving tonight until you have passed my class.”

Kagome could not believe what she was hearing. He was giving her a second chance? Why? Does he do this for every student, and if not why only her?

Seeing the questions in her eyes, Tanaka-sensei placed a blank test in front of his pupil and handed her a pencil. “I don’t do this for just any student, Miss Higurashi. I know how exceptionally bright you are and I know you would not even need to take remedial math if you were not forced to miss so much school due to your… illnesses. Now, please begin.”

Hesitant, but not willing to miss this strange and rare opportunity, Kagome took the pencil and began working through each problem to the best of her ability. It took her two hours to complete the test, by which her whole family and even Tanaka-sensei had enjoyed a lovely home cooked meal by her mother, but she did complete it and felt more confident in her answers this time.

Tanaka-sensei marked through her test and wrote her new grade at the top of her paper. Fifty-nine percent; failing again. However, Tanaka-sensei held true to his word and went over every incorrect answer with her to show her where her mistakes were. Then when he felt she was ready he handed her another blank test with different but still equally challenging problems for her to work through. This time her test only took her an hour and she got all but two answers correct.

Waves of relief washed over Kagome when Tanaka-sensei placed her tests inside his case and gave her a playful wink, “Very well done, Miss Higurashi. I look forward to not having you in my class next semester.” He then turned towards Kagome’s mother, thanked her for the meal, and made his way for the door.

Before leaving Tanaka-sensei gently called out, “Have a great summer holiday…” he paused before adding, “Kagome.” At the sound of her name leaving his mouth Kagome realized why Tanaka-sensei seemed so familiar. She quickly rushed to catch up with him, and she could have sworn she saw a little fox tail twisting behind him as he walked out the door.

 

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