Concordia Discors by Enkida

Prologue: Forgotten

PROLOGUE: Forgotten

Kagome scrambled up the ladder quickly, a dark scowl marring her face. As usual, Inuyasha had put up his argument to her request to return to her family. And as usual, it ended with his face planted in the ground. After all the time their small group had spent together, the half-demon should already have known how her request to return to her family would play out. In a way, she suspected that he did know and trust her; though the annoyed part of her was loudly declaring that Inuyasha was too thick to understand anything, her more rational mind knew that their arguments were more ritual-habitual than anything else. Still, he could at least be a little more polite about it, she thought to herself irately.

Sunlight flooded into the darkened well house as Kagome pulled open the rough wooden door with a slam; she smiled and strolled leisurely across the courtyard to her house. It's so nice to be back home, she sighed to herself. No demons waiting around every corner to ambush me. No jewel shards to hunt down. And Mama's home cooking instead of ramen! The last thought set her stomach rumbling and Kagome skipped the rest of the way up the steps, a happy smile on her face.

"Mama! Grandpa! Souta! I'm home!" she called out loudly, putting her hand to the door and giving it a firm push. It didn't budge. Kagome paused and looked down at the shrine door in frustration. "Hey!" she called out, more loudly this time. "I'm said I'm home! Open up! Why is the door locked anyway?" No answer came. Growing worried, Kagome set down her pack and shading her eyes, looked up at the sky. The sun was still high overhead, and she was sure it was a weekday. That meant that the shrine should have been open, her grandfather toddling around in the back peddling his wares and her mother at home, preparing lunch or dinner. It should have been anything but quiet and empty.

A gnawing sense of fear curling in her stomach, Kagome made her way down the steps and around to the back of the house. The Goshinboku was still there, standing tall and proud as it had always done. The rest of the courtyard, however, was empty. A slight breeze passed through the area, stirring the leaves of the trees. Too quickly it died out, and an oppressive stillness settled over the grounds. Three years of adventuring in the feudal era had long since trained Kagome to always assume the worst, and with a sense of panic, she rushed towards the entrance of the shrine, intent on contacting the police.

Her steps slowed as she saw the thick rope stretched across the gate, blocking her path to the street outside. A piece of paper attached to the string fluttered in the wind. Kagome grabbed the paper, her eyebrows lifting as she read the neat script on the small, impromptu sign.

"Temporarily closed for the day, normal hours will resume tomorrow," she read out loud. Her brow wrinkled as she studied the date scribbled on the bottom of the sign. "It's a weekday, isn't it? Why would Mama and Grandpa pack up the shrine on a day like this?" With a frustrated sigh, Kagome blew her bangs out of her eyes and made her way back to the shrine steps. At least the raw panic had disappeared, and once again Kagome had to smile to herself as she remembered that her troubles in the modern era were a far cry from the dangers that presented themselves during her feudal adventures. Settling herself comfortably on the steps, she leaned back on her elbows and studied the afternoon sky, her mind turning lazily.

What day is it anyway? she wondered to herself. Keeping track of the passing dates was something she was having increasingly difficult trouble doing; time in the feudal era was meted out in seasons, positions of the sun and cycles of the moon, not in calendars and weekdays and minutes. It was hot, and the silence inside of the shrine was broken by the sound of the occasional passing car or a chirping cricket. Early summer, probably the beginning of June, Kagome concluded to herself. I guess school will be over soon. Not that I have much hope of graduating anyway, she thought wryly as her brow wrinkled. I wonder what excuse Grandpa cooked up for me this time. I hope he didn't mention hemorrhoids again, she thought with an angry blush. The thought faded out gradually as she considered her grandfather. Truth be told, she missed him, despite all of his far-fetched excuses; she missed her entire family, even her arguments with Souta. Though she would never abandon her duty to the jewel and felt a real affection for Inuyasha and the rest of her friends in the feudal era, there was nothing that could ever really replace the feeling of coming home and being surrounded by her real family.

A disappointed sigh rose from Kagome's lips before she could prevent it; it would have been easy enough to return through the well and pass her time waiting with her friends at Kaede's village. But another part of her didn't want to leave the steps; she wanted to be there when her family arrived home to greet them. It was the same part of her that was so childishly disappointed that she hadn't received the warm welcome that she usually did when she appeared from the well.

The heat and warm sunlight lulled Kagome into a light slumber, and soon she was descending into the depths of a fleeting daydream. Flickering images and whispers of memory mingled together to form a strange world in her mind. Silver strands of hair and burning amber eyes gazed at her, and reflexively Kagome raised her hands to her chest. Absently, she noticed the fluttering white sleeve of her hakama, and replied almost automatically. "I'm not Kikyou," she whispered.

"I know you're not!" called a cheerful voice, and suddenly it wasn't Inuyasha who was gazing at her, but Souta. Only Souta had two furry white ears cropping out of his head which twitched and turned in her direction.

"Souta!" Kagome shrieked, shocked. "Where did you get those ears from? Put them back this instant!" she growled.

"No!" Souta answered, his face falling into a sulk that she knew all too well. "If Inuyasha gets to keep you, then I get his ears!" he shot back, grabbing onto the little appendages and turning his back to her.

"Souta!" Kagome called out, her annoyance growing. As she reached for him, however, the ground broke open underneath her feet and her stomach dropped out from under her. "But... I'm not Kikyou!" she cried as a lance of pain seared its way across her chest. Suddenly she was underwater, wracked by the heavy cloying pain in her chest and yet somehow able to breathe.

This... this is when I saved her, Kagome remembered, wondering if she would see herself dive into the pool. The water rippled, and a darkened figure descended towards her. Kagome looked upwards, her eyes wide. "Help me..." she tried to yell, but when she opened her mouth, only bubbles and miasma poured out.

The figure came into view, and Kagome did a double-take. It was Hojo, and he was reaching towards her, trying to hand her a bag full of his latest home remedy. "Here, Kagome," he said to her, seemingly undisturbed by the water and miasma surrounding them. He pressed a pair of orthopaedic shoes into her hands. "This should help with your illness."

"Help me!" she tried again, batting away Hojo's useless gift and clawing through the water at him. Hojo laughed, and his face grew dark. Then it was no longer Hojo holding her, but Naraku, and his smile was dark and foreboding.

"Help you?" he said to her softly, his eyes narrowing slightly. "Why should I help you? You refuse to help yourself." He laughed, and Kagome opened her mouth in protest. Again, the heaviness pulled her downwards, away from Naraku's arms and towards the depths of the dark pool. I'm going to drown! she thought, panic overtaking her.

Naraku's laughter reached her ears, dimmed and faint, but still understandable. "It's not water you drown yourself in!" she heard him cackle as he faded from view.

Kagome tried to scream and clawed at the darkness before her. But Naraku was right, and it was no longer water she was floating through, but something thicker and much heavier, and it weighed on her bones like iron chains. And even as she began to wake, and the dream unravelled and dissipated, she instinctively recognized the darkness choking her. She didn't even need Kikyou's whispered confirmation to know it was the truth.

"You are drowning in the past, Kagome."

"Kagome. Kagome!"

Kagome sat up with a gasp, her eyes wide and her chest heaving. "I'm not--! ...Mama?" she said, blinking as her mother's concerned face came into focus.

"Kagome, dear! What were you thinking, falling asleep on the steps like that? You could be suffering from heatstroke right now!" her mother chided gently, helping Kagome to her feet. "You should have warned us you'd be coming home today, Grandpa would have stayed behind to let you in," she added, guiding Kagome up the steps.

Still unsettled from her daydream, Kagome rubbed her arms together and looked around the shrine as if to remind herself that she really was in the present day. "Where were you guys?" she asked after a moment. "And where's Grandpa and Souta?"

Kagome's mother smiled, pushing open the door of the house. "Your grandfather is around the back, re-opening the shrine. Souta decided to stay out with his friends for the rest of today. I think he earned it," she said, her voice softening. "I'm so proud of my little boy!"

Kagome snorted, feeling unreasonably jealous as she watched her mother's face glow. It wasn't that she actually minded her mother's praise for Souta, but it was her first trip back home in almost three months. She knew that as a young adult that she should accept things she didn't like with grace and maturity, but a small part of her wished that her mother would pay attention to her while she was there, and not speak about her little brother. That small note of discontent made its way to the surface in the form of a snide remark.

"He earned it? What'd he do, win first prize at a national video game competition?" she huffed cheekily. She felt a blush rising to her face as her mother pinned her under a stern, disapproving gaze.

"Kagome!" she said, shocked. "I hope your friend Inuyasha isn't teaching you these bad habits! You should be ashamed of yourself!"

Kagome ducked and nodded her head, already embarrassed at her small outburst. "Sorry mom, I guess I was... just a little upset," she mumbled. "I missed you guys these past few weeks." She raised her head and quirked an eyebrow curiously. "What did Souta do today that was so great anyway?" she asked.

Kagome's mother smiled and gave her a small squeeze. "Oh honey, I know you're under a lot of stress from your adventure with your friends. But please try to remember not to take those feelings out on us. Today was a big day for Souta. It was his graduation!"

Kagome froze. "H-he graduated?" she repeated dumbly. "You mean he's moving on to Junior High already?" she asked. Seeing her mother's proud nod, Kagome reached the kitchen table and sat down heavily, folding her legs under her. "But... he was just a baby the last time I looked. How could he be graduating already?" she muttered, still surprised. And why didn't I realize it? she asked herself silently. Has so much time really passed?

Kagome's mother laughed lightly, not noticing her daughter's sudden disorientation. "Well, it has been three months, dear. Souta couldn't stay in the sixth grade forever, you know." Sensing her daughter's anxiety, Mrs. Higurashi stilled and seated herself next to her daughter. "Oh Kagome... I'm sorry, I didn't know you would be so upset." She sighed quietly and folded her hands into her lap.

For a moment, Kagome was filled with a sense of relief. At least mom can still read me well enough to know when something's wrong, she thought. It was a small comfort, and she always looked forward to her mother's words of encouragement. The comfort drained away into a feeling of more abject horror as her mother misinterpreted her despondency.

"Don't feel so bad, honey. Even though you missed your own graduation, you don't have to worry. Your grandfather and I already enrolled you in summer courses at the local community college. With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, you'll still be able to take a high school equivalency exam by the end of the year."

"I-I-I missed my own graduation?" Kagome stuttered, the information slowly processing itself in her brain. I knew I had been spending more time in the past than before, but there was that problem with Inuyasha's sword, and then that other jewel shard... and then I got hurt... it was just never the right time to go home! But I missed graduation? Unable to help herself, Kagome began to hyperventilate. "You mean I f-f-failed?" she said slowly. The thought that she could fail at anything had never occurred to her. But as she looked up at her mother's tiny frown, she suddenly knew it was true.

"Oh honey... I wouldn't call it failing," her mother began softly. "You were just... forced to stop attending due to extenuating circumstances."

Kagome made a small, strangled sound in the back of her throat. She suddenly had images of herself, much older, still wearing her high-school uniform and in the same class as her younger brother. It didn't seem so ridiculous anymore, however; junior high was only a few short years away from high school. "You mean I'm a high-school dropout?" she squeaked incredulously.

Mrs. Higurashi frowned openly at Kagome's outburst. "You're just pursuing an alternative education, Kagome," she said firmly. "You know both I and your Grandfather love you very much. We'll help you earn your degree no matter how long it takes you."

Suddenly Kagome had to resist the desire to leap over the table and shake her mom wildly. She could see her mother was trying to support and encourage her with her understanding and a kind smile, but it was having the exact opposite effect on Kagome. She didn't want her mom to smile and understand at that moment. What she wanted was her mother to stand up and give her the good yelling that Kagome suddenly felt she deserved. Why do you always have to accept my decisions and choices without question? Why couldn't you just be strict for once, Mama? she wanted to yell. Why couldn't you just yell at me for once, tell me I was grounded and had to go to school? Why didn't you warn me I was failing? It was all useless anger, she knew; as much as Kagome wanted to place the blame on her mother, there were no excuses for her poor performance outside of herself. She closed her eyes and let out a miserable little sigh. "What's done is done," she muttered out loud to herself.

Mrs. Higurashi looked mildly disappointed, and then sighed quietly. "Well, if you really don't want to continue, then I'll cancel those classes we signed you up for," she began. "I wish you'd reconsider, though..."

"NO!" Kagome yelled, leaping out of her seat and waving her arms wildly. "No, I'll go!" she added quickly. "I don't want to be known as a high school dropout for the rest of my life!" she said, gritting her teeth. Well, technically, it already happened... don't think about that, Kagome! she told herself quickly. "Just tell me when the classes start, and I'll go, I promise," she said firmly.

Her mother pushed up from the table, looking delighted. "That's wonderful, honey! We'll talk about the details at dinner tonight. Now why don't you go outside and help your grandfather tidy up the shrine while I prepare the food?" she said with a warm smile.

"Sure... thanks mom," Kagome managed to say with a weak smile, though she still felt like reeling from the intellectual sucker-punch to the gut. As she stepped out of the house and onto the shrine grounds, she turned over her mother's revelation in her head. Have I really gotten so caught up in the past that I've completely forgotten about my life here? It seemed true. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen Eri, Yuka or Ayumi. In fact, she couldn't even remember the last time she had seen Hojo, apart from in her dream. If she was honest with herself, Hojo's ancestor from the feudal past seemed more real to her than his present-day incarnation.

"I really am drowning in the past," Kagome muttered to herself suddenly, feeling chilled. I know I can't just abandon the jewel, but how could I forget my life here so completely? To not even watch Souta growing up, to have lost all my friends and my entire high school education without even knowing it? As she walked, something changed and sharpened inside of Kagome, unconsciously growing with each step she took. It was resolve, and by the time she identified the feeling for what it was, it no longer surprised her.

She rounded the corner of the house and saw her grandfather wave at her from the small storehouse. "I'm not going to let the jewel ruin my life, too," she said quietly as she lifted her arm and waved back. "I'll keep my promise to Kaede, I swear. But I won't let go of my life here anymore. I'm going to earn my diploma this year, no matter what it takes." She took a deep breath, cleansing her mind and calming herself. I foresee a lot of "sits" coming up when I tell Inuyasha about this, she thought to herself tiredly. But Kagome was certain she was making the right decision. "I'm not Kikyou," she breathed to herself. "I won't lose my life to that cursed jewel. I'm not her, and I'll prove it."

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