Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or Naruto. The only thing I own is the plot.

Beta: Michelle T.

Chapter 3: Open and Closed

'Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth'

- Buddha Dhammapada -

The newcomer… reeked of old blood.

Blood and sand and heat and the twang of explosive powder and maybe the sharp edge of something metal… maybe that little thing that peeked out from the collar of his shirt. It was a familiar scent, a scent she knew well from years of travel across a war torn Feudal era. The very same scent that hung like an invisible shroud around the many human warlords they crossed path with on their journey… and… occasionally, a few demons too. In the first half year of her journey, this incredibly distinct scent would often drive her to the edge of the road where she promptly proceed to reintroduce whatever she had eaten back to the world.

She was an undeniable city girl in a world where the concept of civilized and squeaky clean metropolitans didn't even exist. And... while she wasn't shy of this fact, the time it took to acclimatize her sensitivity to a historically appropriate level had always been something of a sore point for her. (No, Inuyasha, I do not have to get over it! You stink! Go wash!)

A half year it took. Afterwards, the scent itself became a sign of things that required her utmost attention, a premonition that men who were familiar with swords and the trade of death dealing were close in its wake. This time however, it was a mere ghost on the edge of her senses, most likely a result of her growing power, but it was there nonetheless and she would be a fool to ignore what it usually entailed. So the moment the newcomer entered, he had her full attention.

She sat up a little straighter in her chair and watched him as he came in. The door closed and locked behind him. It didn't really have to. She didn't know what kind of magic these people wielded but for as long as she had been in here, regardless of whether the door was open or not, the only thing she could see beyond them was darkness.

He sat down across from her on a chair, a table between them, paper, pen brush and ink on it. His face was absolutely blank off emotions except for the faintest hint of age on it.

He said something then as he reached for the pen brush. His voice was soft and slow, almost gentle, a clear contrast with the ghostly stink that hung around him. He held out the other hand and slowly brought it across.

When he finally touched her on the wrist with his fingers, he paused and in the ensuing silence seemed to be waiting for her recoil or to yell out some protests. He got none of those reactions however.

"Which one is the real you?" She murmured to herself, but even if he did pick up on it, he wouldn't have understood anyway. This language thing was such a bother. If she were to spend the rest of her life here, she must learn this language "Is it your scent? Or your voice? I cannot tell.". For now, her curiosity was greater than her wariness so she stayed still. She saw something in the newcomer's face then, an expression whose meaning she wasn't quite sure of. For a split second there, it felt as though he was judging her by her lack of protest and the judgement… might not have been in her favor.

He took her wrist fully into his hand, turned it around so that it was palm-up. His other hand dipped the pen brush into the ink fountain to his right and, with a swirl, he began drawing odd symbols on the skin of her palm.

"Ofuda?" She asked, not really expecting an answer. Much to her surprise, he stopped his brush stroke for a moment to utter a single word "Fuin."

She blinked. There was something familiar in that foreign word.

But before she could give it much thought, the tickling of wet pen brush against her palm had already resumed. Within mere minutes, he - in the place of a name she dubbed him Mr. Poker Face - had finished doodling whatever it was on her hand.

He turned it around a few times, inspecting his handy work, before settling the brush down to a side and…

Can you hear me?

The sheer shock of finally hearing something comprehensible to her ears for the first time in many many weeks jolted through her like electric. She almost shot up right from the chair but the man - Mr. Poker Face she reminded herself - 's grip on her hand stopped her dead in her track.

Going by that reaction I would say that you do.

Again, the voice. She studied him intently. Never once did he open his mouth. And the voice inside her head sounded more like…

It is a simple communication technique reserved for those with severe disabilities. Well that was definitely not a man's voice. That was her momma's voice! It transfers my thoughts directly into your mind and speaks to you using your own language, your own memory.

The voice in her head fluctuated from Souta's, then Grandpa's, then her friend's voice.

It's the only way we can communicate with you. There is no one out there who speaks your tongue. It is only one-way, however.

Well… that… blew. For a minute there, she was hoping it would be a two way deal. The past several months had been… tough.

"I suppose if that's the best at the moment, I should not complain." She said, more to herself than to him, before attempting to crack a smile. She was determined to be positive about things. She was done with moping. Her attempt elicited a non-plus look out of Mr. Poker Face.

Because I cannot hear your answers, listen closely. You know how to say yes and no in our language do you not?

"Yes" She said in reply. Based on the reactions she still got these past weeks from various people, her pronunciation needed work.

That will do. Now…

The grip holding her tightened.

Do you know where you are?

"No." There was a lot more she wanted to say but she had no words with which to say it.

You are in… the Village Hidden in The Sand. What are you?

The suddenness of that question seemed to shock her as much as it did him, if that slightest tightening of his jawline was anything to go by. Despite fully knowing that she couldn't answer anything other basic yes or no question, he had asked a question of what. What and not who.

Excuse me. He followed up. His face had gone perfectly blank once again. I forgot myself. Never you mind that question.

Oh, but she did mind. Where did that come from? And it definitely was something Kagome should mind. Questions like that didn't come from nothing. It definitely sounded like Mr. Poker Face cared a great deal about that. Was that a slip of the tongue? Mind?

Frowning, she tugged on their conjoined hands, giving them a look. Fuin, he said. Was it the same with her Ofuda? The warding of demonic things? Something to do with sealing or warding? A technique to transfer one's thoughts to another's mind. Was his curiosity so high that it slipped through… whatever this was?

Was it even curiosity at all?

He was saying something but she kept tuning him out, looking over his shoulder at the staunchly closed door behind him.

It wasn't curiosity, wasn't it? It was wariness. Fear of the unknown. She wasn't exactly surprised. The common denizens of the Sengoku Jidai wouldn't have reacted nearly as calmly to what appeared as unknown magic as these desert folks did. She had seen what the warriors of these people could do. Small trips passed the outskirts of the training area reserved for warriors of the village. Only glimpses from afar, but she had seen them none the less. She had thought displaying her own little spark wouldn't cause such commotion but judging from all the attention (and dead seeds!) she was getting in the past week, perhaps what she could do was not strictly among their capabilities.

Kagome decided then that she wasn't going to let that question go unanswered. But how to go about voicing something she had no word for? How did Miko translate into the Sand people's language?

"Ahh… uh…" She started with pointing, first at the weird 'Fuin' doodling on her palm - hidden by Mr. Poker Face's grip but there none the less—then at herself. He gave her a look.

What are you trying to say?

She pointed again, at the doodle then at herself, swirling her finger once.

You are… a seal master? There was a definite shift of expression on his face, but it was so subtle she couldn't tell what it might mean. She pouted, frowned, and shook her head for good measure.

The duties of a miko did actually entail the creation of ofuda and sutras yes, but… whatever a seal master was, she was sure it wasn't a miko. Ofuda scripting was only a small part of a miko's responsibilities. Priesthood during the Sengoku Jidai was symbolized by the usual Shinpu Ofuda or Omamori though and Miko, when one got down to it, was also a member of the priesthood. She was hoping he would make the connection eventually.

No? Mr. Poker Face went quiet as she kept on her pointing game and their one-sided conversation transformed into an impromptu session of Taboo. It took several more attempts before he hit the jackpot.

Tag maker? Scribe?... Priest?

She stopped and shot him an encouraging look.

Priestess? You are a priestess?

Not strictly. The definition of a Miko was… well. But they weren't likely to progress any further from there, so she gave a definitive nod (thank god nodding and shaking heads still meant the same thing here as they did in her past world).

Interesting. He said… in the voice of her eighth grade math teacher, and regarded her coolly. But that is neither here nor there. Priestess-san…

"Miko" Stated Kagome, pointing to herself then to the doodle again.

Miko-san. He didn't so much as twitch at her request… which she kind of was expecting him to. More and more he was reminding her of a certain dog demon lord before they actually managed to dethaw him from his prior freezing disposition.

For the last….

"No" She said loudly in the Sand people's language as he started speaking to her mind again, putting one finger right in front of his lips for good measure. Something flickered on his face and she thought she might have seen the slightest stiffening of his shoulders. Mr. Poker Face was no doubt a warrior if his 'scent' was anything to go by, but Kagome herself had faced down great demon lords who can level entire mountains with just a swing of their swords. This was the first real interaction she had ever had with another human being in this world, and by the gods she was going to do this the right way!

"Miko." She pointed at herself then turned her finger at him. "Miko…" And again.

He seemed to get it and for the first time she saw something like the slightest ghost of irritation zipping past his face. She might be wrong though but years of travelling with His Highness The Great Dog Demon Lord Sesshomaru had taught her to trust her guts about these things.

There really is not much time. I'm sure you would like to rest….

"No" She said again, a little louder this time, a little firmer, tugged his hand and repeated her pointing. Her effort was rewarded with another blank, drawn out look, before finally…

...The Shadow of the Wind. I am the Shadow of the Wind. He repeated the title in his own language. Kahzair Kahgair?

Now that was a melodramatic title. Shadow of the Wind? How did that even happen? Could the wind actually cast shadows? That sounded a bit like an oxymoron phrase. Was she hearing things right or did Mr. Poker Face's doodle magic have a translation glitch? These thoughts zipped through her mind as she repeated the name.

"Shadow of the… Wind?" It sounded weird rolling out of her tongue. It sounded… boastful… in an incredibly awkward way. It sounded like it would fit right in with the many laughably egotistical MMORPG names Souta and his school pals usually made up for their guides and city raids. Lord_of_the_Universe_1166. Dark_Assassin_King_123. Lord_Fancy_McPants. That kind of names.

Some of her amusement must have shown because his eyes narrowed imperceptibly, as though hissing 'what is so amusing?' at her. She cast her gaze down to her feet like a naughty schoolgirl caught red-handed in the midst of mischief making, then back up. She cleared her throat in an effort to keep the smile off her face before pressing on.

"Miko. Kagome Higurashi." She pointed at herself - "Shadow of the Wind… tatada!" - then at him.

This time, it seemed Mr. Poker Face wasn't going to bother with protesting anymore.

. Satoosa. My name... is Satoosa...

She could almost hear the put-upon tone even through his mind-voice, but she wasn't going to let that deter her. Beaming brightly, she bowed down, chiming.

"Nice to meet you Shadow of the Wind Satoosa-san."

In return, he gave the tiniest of nod, before pressing on.

You have been the talk of town for the last week, Miko-san.

She noted the use of her title and not her name but decided not to push this time.

With all the things you have been doing, our people are grateful. They have also been asking questions. You are… after all… an unmistakable foreigner. He said. Since you can't say anything other than yes or no, I'm going to read out a list of countries. Say yes when you hear the name of your home.

He started off with a bunch of bizarre names then, and every time he pronounced each of them, she responded with dejected silence. When it got to name number eight (or was that nine? She was starting to lose track), she shook her head and said "No" out loud.

He regarded her for a moment, then…

How far away is your home, Miko-san?

She spread her hands in response, wide, wider, like a bird spreading its wings to take flight. He seemed to get it.

Do you think… He said, the blankness of his face engulfed in… something… something sharp and full of thorns… that you can ever find your way back home, Miko-san?

"No." She murmured. What she meant was Never. Not in this lifetime anyway. The phantom pain was familiar, but if she still let it get to her at this point in time she would never have gotten out of that desert alive. More than the pain of separation, her will to persevere and to fulfill her promise endured.

Mr. Poker Face… Shadow of the Wind Satoosa-san... seemed to think it over for a moment, his eyes glued to her face. She knew the question he didn't ask. How did she get here?

"I…" She said, utilizing the few Sand people's words she had been snatching up in the last few days. The pronunciation still felt strange on her tongue, the way foreign things did. The words were slippery, unsure, and at any moment she felt they were going to slid free from her grasp.

"I…" She tried again, licking her dry lips. "... Lost…" That word was a new one. She had caught up on that by accident when the madame at the Homeless Shelter was trying to convey to her that one of the orphaned children had ran off to where he shouldn't, lost and stranded from his pack.

"I… lost…." That was her best effort.

You are lost… from your home.

It wasn't quite a question but she nodded yes anyway.

Are there anyone else from your homeland who are also… lost? He followed up. The voice he used was a mix of momma's and grandpa's voice. They didn't quite fit his face. Are there anyone out there looking for you... Miko-san?

"No…" She muttered, quiet as a mouse.

I see… He replied. Then, would you like to start a new life here.. with us, Miko-san? You have made many of my people very happy. If you have no other place to go, let this be your new home instead. Ours is not as prosperous or beautiful a village as many others are, but we are grateful for what you have done for us and we can be very generous in our gratefulness. You will be provided for, taken care of.

Kagome smiled sadly. There really was no need for him to 'sweeten the pot' for her. Her choice was already made a week ago, when she first touched that dead rice seed and made it bloom. The expression of the people's face and the shame that followed hot on its wake as she realized how far she had withdrawn into herself, to the point that she had subconsciously but also purposefully shy away from the suffering of others. A selfish reaction.

There was never a lack of suffering in this world, never a lack of despair and cruelty. It was a miko's duty to assuage these pains for as long as she lived. It was a miko's duty to live the entirety of her life selflessly, and to dispense with kindness without reservation.

"... Yes…." She said, whispering the word as if it held everything of her inside. In a way, it did. The past she left behind was barred from her forever. The way forward there was only one. "...Yes…"

"I…." another word she had learnt very early on though she had never used it before. "... want…" It felt heavy on her tongue, hot and heady and by saying it at last, for the first time, she felt she had finally committed. "I… want…"

Without needing to hear another word, he seemed to get it.

Very well, I hereby welcome you as one of our own, Miko-san. He said simply, without even a flicker of emotion on his face. He didn't look happy nor did he look… unhappy. For some reason, she felt as though this was a man whose sadness would be concealed in the blankness of his face and within its confines he would drown slowly, silently. Much like another she had known. His face was empty and the voice he used was one among the cacophony made up of the thousand voices of strangers she had long since forgotten. Faceless, nameless. He sounded as if he would have said the same thing regardless of whether she said yes or no. He put his other hand into his pocket then and withdrew from it something that glittered in the weak sunlight that streamed from the single window.

A bracelet made of pure gold, serrated in the middle and inscribed with words she could not understand. He presented it to her, holding it so that the straps hang limply over her delicate wrist.

She shot him a look. What is it?

A gift. He replied. To thank you for what you have done for my people.

That was a lie. She knew it as surely as she could hear the faint scent of old blood drifting about him. The thanking part might not be complete hogwash but that pretty and expensive looking bracelet was more than it seemed. She eyed the unintelligible words etched onto its sides. They looked a little like the doodle he drew on her palm. Were they the same kind? Only with different functions? She had had experience with cursed jewelries before, her being the giver and enforcer of one herself, and by sheer experience, such… 'gift'... was better off as far away from her as it could.

She recoiled ever so lightly.

What's wrong? He asked. Don't you like it? His mind voice was a whisper and in the ensuing silence, his hand over her wrist seemed to grow in weight as it pressed down. She could feel the calluses on his fingers. The kind that came from weapon handling, same as Miroku and Inuyasha's. There was a steel-like firmness to the grip that belied its owner's perfectly calm and collected exterior.

Then it came to her all at once. The wariness of his words. The blankness of his face. This bracelet.

These people were afraid of her, of her power. They coveted its usefulness and was thankful for what she did for them, but they… or at the very least, their leaders… were wary of her all the same, and in their wariness, they did what countless others tried to do.

They seeked to control the source.

If she guessed correctly, which she bet she did. This bracelet with all that 'Fuin' inscribed onto them served that single purpose.

You don't like it. Satoosa's voice in her head cut her thoughts in the middle. If you want… He continued. His voice was so very soft now, as though he was speaking to a child… I can make it different. As he said this, the gold shifted in his hand, changing shapes. The serrated edge disappeared and the simple bangle-like shape thinned and curved into pretty vines and flowers.

In response, she bowed her head, frowning. The fact that her power frightened others saddened her, but she saw no way with which it could be averted. It was in human's nature to fear things they had no knowledge of. The fear of the unknown was deep in their blood, in their bones. But here, now, there was something she could do.

She turned up, smiling tentatively at Mr. Poker Face.

"No" She said and saw the slightest tightening of his jaws. If she so much as blinked… or if she didn't have years of cumulated experience in dealing with taciturn dog demons, she would have missed it. She lifted her wrist invitingly as she eyed their intertwined hands.

She could feel the faint thrum of magic and, while it was no no doubt a different type of what she was used to, there was enough similarity for her to work with. So she gathered herself, reached out… and passed through the weird doodle… into Mr. Poker Face.

As she thought, the wariness, the suspicion, the skepticism was there. So was hate, bitterness, a lust for violence, jealousy, greed, wrath, guilt, pride. They fluttered around her like knives in the dark, but she slipped past them. These were the crust, the thorny outer layer that enveloped every single human being. She touched upon the core then and there she found other things.

Devotion. Loyalty. Patience. An absolutely indomitable will to protect those he held dear. Perseverance. A thirst for knowledge.


In the darkness of his heart, they shone like the moon and the stars... and for the briefest moment she saw the flashing images of a woman with the gentlest of smiles and little children who resembled Mr. Poker Face too much to simply be acquaintances or children of his relatives.

Then all of a sudden she was sprawled out and pinned to the floor. The table upended, the chairs toppled, the ink dish clattered noisily next to her head and the spatters of ink sprinkled the floor and her face. Her arm twisted painfully, almost breaking in his grip, and there was a hand around her throat, squeezing, choking.

She stayed perfectly calm as she looked up into Satoosa's murderous visage. The first time ever he showed such clear emotion in her presence. Her hand where the doodle was drawn on was trapped tight in his grip. She reached out for a second time, but this time, as she slipped past the Fuin, she grasped hold of what was on the other side and pulled.

The magic of these people was strange. When it was under Mr. Poker Face's control, it functioned differently. She might be able to turn and steer it, but in her hands, it transferred something different. Feelings, sensations, emotions insteads of words, dialogue, concepts.

But it was all she needed.

She drew him in, trapped him. She opened herself. She had faced great warriors and demon lords alike and not cowered in the face of their might. She had faced them standing and had not lost herself in the process. She had long since past the fear of mortal pains and she had no shame in the nakedness of her heart.

The first thing she showed him was that she knew. She knew of their fear, of their desire, of their intention, and of what the bracelet meant.

The grip around her throat tightened, squeezed. She gasped, feeling the air being forced out of her. Mr. Poker Face's eyes above her were pinpricks of black and they burned with provoked fear, rage, and loathing.

But she didn't relent. This pain was but an old friend.

"It's… alright, Satoosa-san." She said weakly in her own language, gasping wetly in between the words. The magic she commandeered transferred the emotions - understanding, sympathy, acceptance - across. They were wordless but understood all the same. "I do not… mind." She can see dark spots appearing in her vision and she knew the pain was forcing tears from her eyes. "I… understand. It's alright. It's… not your fault. I know… you are scared."

A quiet but vast compassion ingrained in her since birth and further strengthened with the years.

"I will… wear the bracelet… if it sets your heart at ease." She said through the pain-filled haze, trusting fully that the revised Fuin was translating her will across the language barrier. She showed him her willingness and her desire to help the people then but the grip on her throat still did not loosen. He was growling something through gritted teeth but the Fuin was no longer translating from his end.

She blinked, realizing finally that he was perfectly capable and fully intending on killing her right there. The thought filled her with a deep sadness. She wanted to live, but she was no longer afraid of death. She did not fight even once. Her arms lie pinned and limp under his weight. She may harbor the full power of the Shikon in her soul but her body was just as frail as any young mortal woman. Even if she were to fight, against someone like him, someone who seemed to have been condensed from iron, whose hardness was carved right into his eyes, his face, and who wore the lingering scent of old blood and steel like his own skin, it would probably be futile anyway.

She reached out for a third time then, drew him in even deeper and immersed him with something else, her gratitude. Raw and honest and unfiltered and tinged with the shame of the realization of her own momentary selfishness.

"Thank you…" She whispered, too weak now for anything louder, but this close and with the Fuin still going strong, he heard anyway. "... for taking me in. Thank you… for giving me a home. Thank you… for feeding me." She smiled brightly through the tears and the pain and the sadness, looking him in the eye without fear or remorse. "Thank you… for accompanying me. Thank you… for giving me a chance. Thank you… for letting me help."

Her breath was quickly becoming painful and the darkness started creeping up in her slowly blurring vision.

"Thank you. Thank you… for having me."

She swam, floated in a haze, tethering precariously upon the ledge of an endless abyss, feeling the pressure slowly pulling her over. Then all of a sudden it ceased and an incredible weight was lifted from her as the hand on her throat disappeared.

It took her six minutes to regain her breath, two more for her vision to return, and another full five minutes for the strength to start seeping back into her limbs. When she could finally turn her head around, she saw him leaning against the wall looking down at her.

He was shaking badly and he had his left arm holding his right as if he was injured. His face was pale, bloodless. The blankness he wore for the entirety of their 'conversation' was gone, shattered, and in their absence she saw pure, unmasked, and unadulterated shock.

End Chapter 3

1. Don't jump to conclusion. I can't repeat this enough. Already I have a couple people accusing me of stuffs which… are kinda hilarious. To anyone who know my writing, it is never simple and things are never as they first appear with me.

2. The Kazekage's name in this chapter - Satoosa - is as close as it gets to a canon name. There have been several discussions and debates on the internet regarding his name when Naruto fans found out that in the Naruto trading card game he was given a non-canon name: Satoosa or Sasoosa. This turned out to be a combination of misprinting and mislabeling as Satoosa here is actually the Japanese Sato-Osa which literally means Village Head and is actually the rank/type of his card rather than his name (it was printed in the place of his name or next to it though, which is where the confusion stemmed from). I was searching for inspiration of a name for him, happened upon this, and thought 'Well, why not? It does sound pretty ok and there's a story behind it. That's already better than my other options'. If you google satoosa kazekage, his cards will turn up in the image section.

As for the pronunciation of Satoosa in this chapter/story, it can either be pronounced Sato-Ohsa or Satoooosa. I'm good with both.

3. I really like writing the interactions between the Kazekage and Kagome in this chapter. A lot of nuances and subtexts, a lot of subtle, precise writing. The things I like to play with most as a writer. The characterization of both characters are also something that need a lot of work, attention, and delicate their interactions you can clearly see the people they are. Do let me know what you think of their interactions! Also, what do you think of the 'end' and 'near the end' of this chapter? For a few readers, it will be too much I think. But then again, I have never shied away from the extremes in my writing. What do you think of Kagome in this chapter? And what do you think of the 4th Kazekage in this chapter?

4. I'm a bit surprised at some reader's reservation of the 4th Kazekage. Well.. not really surprised but, I have always thought he was underrepresented in the original series. Fans tend to dismiss him as an abusive, neglectful father who wasn't worth squat in terms of combat because he was killed by Orochimaru. I guess people are prone to simple, one-dimensional thinking when it comes to frontier characters who don't get much screentime and not even a name like him. Me personally I was intrigued when I was first read about him. My instincts as a writer told me that there was more to this character and in the hands of a good writer, he will evolve into a multi-layered, complex characters… the way people (parents) are in real life. I was proven correct when he was resurrected in the ninja war arc (Zombie Kage section). He was not actually without love for his children, Gaara specifically, as fans first thought he was. He loved them but he was also a leader of a military village and perfectly human when it comes to failing things like parenting (I guess for younger readers this will not be easily comprehended, but my writing tends to be for the more mature crowd for the simple reason that I'm… well… not actually that young. And… not-young people understand very deeply how easy it is to screw up at being good parents).

Another thing I like about writing fanfiction: the ability to play and develop characters with lots of latent potential but came and went without fanfare in canon for the simple reason that the pages are limited.

5. I got lots of guesses in the romance aspect of the story. Well, none of them are a hundred percent correct I can tell you that (hahahahahahahahahahahahaha). The answer is so close yet so far and so many of you just don't realize that it's dangling right in front of your face (I'm a big tease I know. My beta complained to me about that. Didn't you Michelle? I really tickled your sensitivities and romantic sensibilities with that 5K thing huh? Also, if anyone can guess what 5K means I will share the rough draft with that person and honestly answer 3 of their questions. No teasing. No lying to preserve the story. No hinting. No manipulating words to make you assume wrongly. Not only the rough draft of From the Garden of Gods but any story in my ff account. Any of them! Honest to god!)