Worth One Thousand Words
Shippo's loud squealing cut through the peaceful morning air as he and his comrades walked slowly into the markets. After weeks of endless battles and travel kagome had managed to convince the little group that they all deserved a bit of rest and relaxation, thus they had decided that their day would be best spent shopping for the bare necessities which they had been denying themselves for many months.
"Kagome, can I buy some sweet ice?" asked the miniscule fox-demon, his eyes brighter then she had ever seen them. Kagome smiled a little and directed Shippo towards Miroku who was the only one amongst them with any money.
Compared to any of the village markets they had passed before, this one was absurdly large; it took until noon to even see half the stalls. Little after mid-day, once the group had secured their supplies everyone broke off to explore on their own, Sango found an old-woman willing to trade trinkets in exchange for hearing the young slayer's tales. Shippo was talking with the village children demonstrating a series of tricks for them, resulting in varying amounts of applause. Miroku had disappeared entirely, although there had been whispers floating down the streets that a man in dark robes had been seen trying to sneak into the geisha house. As for Inuyasha, kagome was currently dragging him towards every stall she could see.
"-The hell do you want want with a bunch of cheap, tacky paintings?" asked the half-demon, his tone loud enough to be insulting to the artist, and earn him Kagome's displeasure.
"Sit boy" she uttered, just loud enough for him to hear. "For your information there is nothing tacky about these, I happen to think they're amazing."
Sensing a sale the artist walked towards the duo, a large smile plastered to his face. "Do you see anything you like?' he inquired. The priestess nodded whilst the hanyou voiced a non-committal "keh" still highly uninterested, but humbled slightly by his sitting.
"you haven't even looked at anything yet" the girl implored "I'm sure you'll find something you like" at this kagome started showing Inuyasha the artworks which she had most liked, the merchant artist standing close behind them, giving insight into his subjects and techniques. All of the works on display had been looked at and explained, none of them managing to capture the apathetic hanyou's attention.
Worried that the half-demon's disapproval would affect his only possible source on income today, the artist spoke up. "My lady, I believe I have something that may be of more interest, if you would both follow me…"
Kagome had by this point spent many years in the feudal era, and couldn't help but stiffen slightly at the innocent request, fearing that this artist may be trying to lure Inuyasha and herself into a trap, but Inuyasha merely shrugged, so she swallowed her suspicion. They were lead around the back of the stall and into a hut the man obviously called home, there was no mistaking what artwork he had been referring to.
Hanging against the wall of an otherwise barren living space was large canvas, its colours were far brighter then what had been used on the public works, and it dwarfed even the largest of the outside portraits.
Instantly Inuyasha's jaw fell open, a look of shocked curiosity that kagome so rarely saw adorned the boy's face
"This was a commission painted by my great great-grandfather, almost 150 years ago, I don't know how true the tale is but according to my father a great demon from the western lands called upon his great-grandfather to paint this portrait as a wedding gift to his new wife. My great great-grandfather was slightly un-easy with the idea for entering a demon's territory but he found comfort in the idea that the man had wed a human, and therefore was unlikely to slay any of her kin. He made the week long journey, drew up the sketches and then brought it back here to be completed, telling the demon it would be finished by the conclusion of the week and it could be picked up then, but the demon never came for it."
The hanyou blinked dumbly for a moment before looking towards the artist.
"How much more do you know about this demon and his wife" he asked, his voice low and his tone somber.
"I have very few details" the artist admitted "having not been there myself. But from what I know the woman came from a certain nobility of her own, and was at the time heavily pregnant, from the portrait you can see she would have given birth within days, infact that was initially thought to be why the portrait had not been retrieved.
Inuyasha nodded "…how much do you want for it?'
The artist seemed flabbergasted, he had only intended to use this to garner interest in his own work, he had hoped that when the half-demon saw the acceptance his family had for demon kind the boy might be more inclined to let his lady buy from his collection.
"I'm terribly sorry my lord, but it would take an astronomical amount to make me part with this artwork, it has become something a family heirloom."
Inuyasha growled savagely and walked out of the hut, dragging kagome along with him.
Signaling to Sango, Shippo and a rather contrite looking Miroku along the way the duo left the market to make camp on the out-skirts.
"Inuyasha…" kagome questioned once a fire had been started in a relatively safe looking clearing. "that man, he was speaking about your parents wasn't he?"
The hanyou refused to meet her eye but he inclined his head in a way which she generally took as an affirmative. "Well in that case if you just ask him, technically it is yours, I'm sure he'll understand". Inuyasha snorted in his usual uncivilized fashion before sauntering into the forest "I'll catch dinner" he called over his shoulder, disregarding the fact that Miroku had bought more then enough food to last them the week.
Kagome couldn't help the overwhelming feeling of sympathy that flooded her as the hanyou departed, although he often disregarded the feeling kagome knew from experience how much the loss of a parent could hurt, she also knew that his situation had been far direr, and therefore must hurt far worse. Kagome had only ever lost her father, but she could still recall spending time with him and had an album full of photos so she would never forget his face. Inuyasha had lost both his parents when he was still so young, one of which he had never really lain eyes on.
She could scarcely imagine what it would feel like to hear stories of his father from Myouga and Toutousai, even from Sesshomaru, and have no way of knowing if they were true. She doubted whether or not he had ever seen a picture of the Inu no Taisho before today. Inuyasha had just had his first real link to his family ripped away before he had even been able to touch it. Kagome felt her heart break.
Nightfall brought with it the return of their friends, each arriving just a little before Inuyasha himself, three freshly killed boar slung over his left shoulder, his right hand wet with their blood. Sango looked from Inuyasha to their large boxes of food, to Inuyasha once more, her eyes finally settling on kagome who gave her nothing more then a shrug.
Needless to say the night's meal had been above and beyond all expectation and Inuyasha's catch (though unnecessary) had been a taste much savoured. However the hanyou's mood had not improved over the course of the evening and kagome was very aware of the reason.
Long after everyone had fallen asleep kagome slipped out of her sleeping bag and over to Kirara, waking the fire-cat as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the others. Whispering her intentions to the creature it transformed in an instant and together they flew back to the bone eaters well.
Kagome sighed heavily, looking down at the box she hadn't managed to fill after an hour of searching, it would be light out soon and her friends would be worried when they realized she had left her bed in the night. Just as she contemplated giving up she heard a voice behind her. "Kagome, what are you doing home at this hour?"
Turning slowing kagome spotted her mother standing at the foot of the stairs her face calm if not a little curious.
"Why don't you sit down kagome, and tell me what's going on"
It only took a moment to recite the whole story, and telling it made the situation seem more hopeless to the girl, how was she supposed to find anything fine enough to tempt the artist into parting with his prized possession? Silence ruled in the living room, and several minutes passed before Mrs. Higurashi stood and beckoned for her daughter to follow her outside.
"Mom, it's beautiful" kagome exclaimed letting her hand run across the hand sewn kimono. Her mother nodded happily smiling at the girl.
"It has been at this shrine for hundreds of years. It once belonged to a young priestess, given as a courting gift from a handsome merchant. She was unspeakably flattered but, as she explained to the man, already spoken for. Although she had broken his heart he left the kimono with her. Sadly the priestess felt so bad about the gift that she folded it up into a box and never let it see the light of day again… I always thought it was a terrible waste"
And a waste it was, the kimono was made of the brightest and finest of silks, woven in china her mother explained. It was elaborately decorated with a series of small jewels which kagome could have sworn were diamonds and embroidered with Chinese characters which she couldn't decipher (but imagined to be beautiful poetry)
"Put it to good use" her mother said softly, giving her daughter a kiss on the head "and remind Inuyasha to visit soon."
She and Kirara flew back at top speed, kagome could see the first rays of sunlight over the horizon and knew she was too late; her friends would be stirring right now. Inuyasha would already be wide awake.
They arrived at the camp to find it uninhabited, it could be assumed that everyone was looking for Kirara and herself, she felt horrible for making them worry but the fact that their newly acquired supplies were littered around the still smoldering fire gave the impression they intended the return shortly, she wouldn't have them worried for long. Taking the fastest strides she was capable of she reached the artist's stall just as he was opening.
"My lady, what a pleasure it is to see you again" he smiled, surprise evident in his voice. "May I assume you are here to buy?"
The priestess nodded "yes infact, the portrait you so kindly showed my friend and I yesterday, I was wondering if perhaps you had reconsidered your position regarding it?"
The artist's face turned stony, he had realized that the half-demon had no interest in his own paintings but he had through the girl might have had her eye captured by one of his landscape paintings.
"I do not mean to be inhospitable my lady, but I really must decline, I will never own anything worth more then that portrait."
A glint came to the girl's eye and a wide smile covered her face. Kagome reached for the ribbon which was holding her package closed, tugging on it lightly letting the box fall away and the kimono fall into her waiting hands.
"A family heirloom of my own" she explained "made of the purest silk, it was brought from the continent, covered it real diamonds, tell me… have you reconsidered your position?"
"Stupid wench" Inuyasha growled running back to the camp to see if the others had yet found her. He had been able to track her scent for less then mile before her and Kirara had taken flight, having his suspicions about her whereabouts he had sprinted the whole way to the well, only to find her scent stale and Kirara long gone.
"Inuyasha!" the girlish shrill reached his ears long before he could see her, but there was no mistaking that voice.
"Where have you been?" he called out, standing by her side a millisecond after "we've been looking for you all morning.
"I'm sorry" she sighed with utmost honestly "but, there was something I had to do." Kagome yawned deeply and pointed to a brown sack sitting next to her large yellow bag.
Inuyasha reached for it tentatively, his fingers pushing aside the rough fabric to reveal the only known portrait of his parents.
His father stood tall and strong. His long silver hair shining radiantly and his warm golden eyes, so like his sons, glowing with adoration as he looked down upon his petite wife. She herself was glowing but for a different reason, her left arm was linked with her husband's, her right arm resting across her large stomach.
"They look so happy" kagome observed quietly from her place behind the hanyou "so in love"
Inuyasha nodded "I would have been born a few days later, my father didn't pick up the work because he had already died" the blunt fashion in which he stated this made kagome cringe, kagome knew for a fact that she could never speak about her fathers death is such a simple manner, it was eerie to hear how detached Inuyasha was from a man who should have been the world to him.
"I wished I'd known him better… thank you kagome."
3 hours later Sango, Miroku and Shippo returned from their search, exhausted but glad to see their friends safely back at camp. Inuyasha staring down at kagome adoringly, while she slept in his lap, her left arm linked with his own, her right resting against her stomach.
Authors note: and thus ends the longest story I have ever managed to write. Personally I'm rather proud of it, but please feel free to disagree, my ego needs deflating. As for the three hours that passed before the other joined them again… well I'll let you decide what they did with those.
Omake: The young artist looked sadly at the bare space on his wall, the years having stained all but where a grand portrait used to hang. He was very sad to see the heirloom go, but it had not been a total loss. he looked over the fine silk kimono he had received as payment and couldn't help but think of the future. He would give it to his fiancé to wear on her wedding day, and one day when their yet to be born son grew up and found the woman he loved the kimono would be given to her, a courting gift of sorts.