The next day, there is a bruise on her wrist in the shape of fingerprints.
It makes her mother furious.
"I told you to be careful, dear."
Her mother's hands are gentle as she wraps the ice, the woman's usual serene expression clouded at the sight of her daughter's swollen flesh. Kagome shrugs over her bowl of seasoned fish, chewing the leftovers for breakfast.
"I know, Mama, but this school… remember when I said it was crazy?"
Ms. Higurashi scoffs. "I thought you were exaggerating."
"Nope." Kagome shrugs again and takes another bite. Her cell phone beeps a happy little tune and she swipes it to stop the alarm. It's time to go.
"We can pull you out; do homeschooling." Her mother insists, brown eyes serious as she pulls the ice away. She walks around the counter to the fridge, dumping the ice in the sink before pulling out a premade bento wrapped in red cloth. A scrap of fire rat weave, torn but serviceable enough to never get rid of. "I hear they're more lenient in the Americas too, so-"
Kagome pauses in slipping on her shoes; made for running long distances but cleverly styled to look otherwise. She exhales, exasperated "Mama, we've talked about this."
The older woman is wringing her hands in a rag acquired from one of her aprons' many pockets, pacing the foyer. "I worry, Kagome. After everything that's happened and now this- this school-"
Small hands rest over worn ones, stopping the fidgeting. They are slender and deceptively fragile, the bruise stark against smooth skin. Kagomes' smile is tender and breathtaking.
"I can handle it."
Ms. Higurashi's gaze softens and she links their identical hands, old against new. She speaks gently, supportive, a pillar of faith. "I know, love, and I believe you." Then her features tighten, turning fierce. "It's just that I can't stand seeing you hurt."
Kagome lifts her abused arm between them and the air hums, heavy with power. The mark had been fading quickly on its own; now it disappears in a wave of light, the pinkish glow warm and familiar. It feels like joking laughter and campfires and cinnamon mixed with cloves; like silver against red. It feels like home.
"I'll be more careful." She assures, quietly.
Mama sighs, subdued. Then she nods.
The hug is quick and tight, the kiss quicker.
Sota stumbles sluggishly down the stairs a moment later, blinking blearily at his mother. She turns away from the closed door with a thoughtful look in her face, pausing at the sight of her disheveled son.
Laughter breaks through the air like the ringing of many bells, the teasing and its answering whine like music to the listening ear.
On the steps leading down from her family shrine, Kagome hums a childhood tune, smiling.
Her smile drops three blocks from campus, the unmistakable tang of yoki in the air.
Kagome steps tentatively off the bus, reeling in her reiryoku like a spool of thread. Her experiences with demons in the present time have been nonexistent, a fact she has Sesshomaru to thank for. His tightly controlled power was a thing of beauty, all precision and excellence. He had expected the same from her, scathingly calling her untrained state a 'disgraceful waste' and her teachers 'foolish incompetents'. His best insults were reserved solely for her inadequacies, egging her on, pushing her to tears. When the training became too much, he would make her sit for hours in meditation, strapped to Ah-Un's back as they walked to kami-knows-where. That year had been the hardest year of her life, hellish even, but well worth it. She'd always been able to stand beside the two inu brothers in sheer power, but now she had some of the skill to prove it.
So she pulled her spiritual energy deep into her body, compressing it into a tiny ball. It created an uncomfortable tightness in her chest, right beneath her heart, but it wasn't anything she hadn't felt before. The rest of the walk to school was cautious; slow. She could feel something on the edge of her senses; close enough to burn and wild enough to start forest fires. It was a powerful, painful sensation after months of dull emptiness, the energy like a vibrant splash of color against a monotonous grey background.
Maybe that's why she was so unnerved when she saw the baby clinging to Tatsumi Oga's back, why she flinches when it turns to her, and why she ran when its tiny hands reached, arms straining to be held.
She didn't know why there was a daiyokai pup wandering naked and in the care of a human of questionable conscience. Oga was on THE LIST. Come hell or high water, she would damn well stay away.
Kagome sighed, stepping into yet another unoccupied, graffiti-stained classroom.
And the morning had been going so well, too.
Super Senior. That's what they called people like her. An encouraging term turned derogative. It was supposed to mean a second chance. But for most, it meant failure and shame. Someone who couldn't cut it, who slacked off or skipped school.
It means her.
It meant twice the work, for half the amount of time.
She was technically a third year, seventeen going on eighteen, but because of her, shall we say, absence, she was placed a year lower. Cram classes where taken in the hopes that she could test out and bring the time spent in this high school down to only one year. Working on her studies over the summer helped her get her feet, and then there was the reading she'd done while in the Feudal Era. It was another thing Sesshomaru insisted on. If she was going to be educated, then she was going to be well educated. The dog wouldn't take no for an answer either, exhausted or not. And despite everything, it helped.
With the coping.
With adjusting to the shambles of her twenty-first century life.
It was hard to learn in an environment like the one she was exposed to on a daily basis, hard to find teachers willing to help her. She was lucky her cram school instructors liked her enough to tutor her on the side.
Which is why all this mayhem was entirely unnecessary.
The next three weeks see Kagome skulking through the halls, avoiding everyone on THE LIST (which seems to be getting longer in the ensuing insanity), and keeping her spiritual energy under tight wraps through all the commotion. With all the gangs up in arms over the usurper, Oga, and his friends, things have been pretty tense, especially for those who try to stay uninvolved. She supposes she is lucky for the distraction; Himekawa has yet to get back at her for her little stunt, and with the way things are going, she only hopes he forgets entirely.
Aoi seems to have disappeared only to be replaced by a lovesick school girl, and Kagome feels like she is developing a permeate tick on her forehead from all the unstable bouts of demonic energy spiking the air.
Never before has she wanted to beat someone as badly as she used to beat Inuyasha, but this freshman was pushing it. What really gets her, though? Oga doesn't even know what he is doing: upsetting the delicate balance of power in Ishiyama like it's nothing; giving the Tohoshinki a beat down. The boy is like a hurricane, without direction or thought; leaving only destruction in his wake.
Perhaps that is why the baby loves him so.
Her one solace in all this mess is Tōjō. Their quiet study sessions at the bus stop are a reprieve from all the stress, his easy going, laidback attitude a breath of fresh air. He never talks about fighting like the other boys do, not to her. It's sweet. And frustrating. But mostly sweet. They have an unspoken agreement to ignore each other on school grounds. It's easier that way, for the both of them. It helps that she makes herself scarce, but she doesn't want to find out what would happen if people knew. After all, 'studying' isn't exactly a normal pastime for the students of Ishiyama. But mostly…Kagome just wants to finish the semester. Hopefully her scores have pulled up far enough come midterms that she can test out of the junior classes and move on to the senior ones.
"No, see, it's like a gang war, with both sides of the equation being two different factions. This is the Reds and that's the Blues. They can't fight until they've got the same amount of guys, so you've gotta make them equal on both sides. The Reds steal some of the Blues and then the Blues-"
Kagome rambled on; school dress swinging as she acted out the imaginary battle. Tōjō, watched, head tilted, lips twitching. Her animated movements almost hit him once or twice, but somehow manage to avoid him all the same. She moved like a dancer, all grace and flexibility. It was slightly distracting.
"-and that's how you solve the problem!" She finishes with a flourish and bow, puffing with exertion from her actions. She plops on the bench next to him, blowing loose bangs from her face.
"…thanks." He says finally, unable to keep the amusement from his voice. She pouts, huffing as she looks away, and Tōjō's gaze keeps falling to her lips. They are rather nice, especially when she nibbles on them like she is doing now.
"…you work tomorrow, right?"
He shifts at the change of topic, joints popping as he grabs some loose papers before they can blow away in the late summer breeze. It's ridiculously hot out and sweat keeps slipping down his back. Tomorrow he'll wear shorts and a loose button down with his favorite pair of sandals. Maybe he'll stop by the beach after work. He glances over at the girl at the opposite side of the bench. Her skin is flushed from the heat, but she's wilting, slumped ever so slightly against the backrest. It's too uncomfortable outside. Soon they will have to move to a different location or stop meeting all together. Tōjō frowns at the thought, answering.
She's staring off into the distance, looking at something he can't see. Her lip biting is making his throat dry, so when she speaks, voice hard and serious and devoid of its usual laughter, it's like being dumped in ice.
"Something's coming. It's gonna happen any day now." She looks at him then with old eyes, eyes that have seen too much. He straightens, gaze narrowing. Then she grins a crooked grin. The abrupt change is slightly dizzying.
"I know. I'm weird, right?" She rolls her those same eyes, laughing softly, the sound almost bitter. He shifts again, awkwardly, though his attention stays fixed on her form. The girl is biting her lip once more, clutching a notebook to her chest.
"Just…" She pauses, uncertain, "be safe, ok?" Then a teasing grin shoots towards him. "I need someone to do my homework for me."
He shakes his head, mouth quirked. "You worry too much." The bus arrives as he gets up, swinging his duffle over a shoulder and running a hand through his hair to fix some wayward spikes. They fall back into place and he sighs in annoyance. Tōjō looks down at her with a raised brow. "See you day after?"
A nod and smile is his answer, a thin hand waving. "Bye, you."
Tōjō waves back as he stalks away, hunching and flipping his jacket over a shoulder to ward off the heat.
Kagome lingers for a moment, gathering her books to the bus's rattle and hiss. "Yeah." She whispers to herself, eyes following his broad back, "I worry."