To everything its season. It's been winter far too long.
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She barely moved the rest of the way. Her feet lifted and set back down as this rusty-headed asshole led them around by the nose, but the skin of her arm was cold underneath Inuyasha's fingers, and eyes stayed flat as still water the whole way.
And that was another thing. Inuyasha flexed the fingers of his free hand. Blunt, useless human nails, but... His hands hadn't been this smooth since he'd been a child in his mother's arms. Even when he'd turn human for the night, the layers of hardened skin that had materialized under his healing blisters had stayed right where they were. At first blunt and formless from a life of random slayings and skinnings, and then in stripes after he'd begun training with Tessaiga.
His hands hadn't been the only part of his life to take shape that day.
Inuyasha's eyes fell back to the glossy armband encircling the wrist that half-held Kagome upright. It had done well enough. Using it against those metal demons had felt good, fucking good, but it wasn't the settling of his spirit like another part of his own body on his arm. It wasn't a legacy, proof of his father's favor.
The half-demon swallowed hard. If all of this wasn't a trick, in this body, was he still the son of the Inu no Taisho?
A growl should have built in his throat, but didn't. Fuck Naraku, fuck Noi and fuck the whole world if need be. He was Inuyasha and no one else.
Kagome's foot dragged in the dust on the road and in his thoughts. He shifted his grip and slung her left arm over his shoulder.
I can't carry you.
Noi ducked his chin in their direction and just kept walking like nothing was happening, like her being sick was normal.
The thing was, Inuyasha realized as the dirt road gave way to gravel and then pavement and then the walls of a village, it was starting to look like normal was exactly what it was.
"The plague started in my grandfather's time," said Noi. His voice dimmed. "At least ...this particular one did. In its earliest form it caused... Let's just say we're all very grateful for what we have."
"I didn't ask, dickhead."
Kagome blinked. The world had gone from shades of gray to all gray. It only rippled with the suggestion of depth. She realized that if she'd been feeling better, the ache of her left shoulder over Inuyasha's smooth neck would have been comforting.
"It's treatable, of course." She couldn't even see ash-color in Noi's hair this time. "Half the people alive in the world today walk around with it sleeping in their blood."
"Whatever, fucktard. Just tell me which way next."
The stale half-images in front of her formed slates and cones, like the area illuminated by a streetlamp. It could have been real or it could have been her imagination casting light on an unknown step. They could have been underground still for all she could tell on her own. Her hearing was working fine, however, so when the rustling, she turned her empty eyes to the right, feeling Inuyasha's rib cage shift against her side as he did the same.
"Don't worry about it," Noi explained.
Kagome opened her mouth to ask what it was that shouldn't make her worry, with the swish of cloth and skin. Nothing came out. Her throat didn't hurt and her voice wasn't tired. She'd gone blank.
Inuyasha's throat flexed loudly. "Who is..."
"She's not going to come closer," the boy kept saying. "It's... It isn't what people do."
Whoever wasn't coming closer either couldn't talk either or didn't wish to, swirling in front of Kagome like gravel in a whirlpool. She shouldn't have to... She'd only meant to... Kagome reached out one hand, palm out, toward the soft-cloth sound.
Noi's shoe hit the pavement very quickly, and his hand jerked hers back. How she knew it was his and not Inuyasha's...
"It's winter," Noi said, as if that could explain it or anything. "The cold can make things worse." His sigh was almost reverent in its distance. In her mind's eye, which was still bright, Kagome saw him take two steps in front of her, holding on hand vertically between his eyes and his heart. "To everything its season," he breathed, "and a time to every wickedness under heaven."
The soft-cloth rustle sounded again, thread-on-thread and too threadbare.
"It's treatable if you can get your medicine." Noi said quietly.
The rustling moved on. A moment later, so did they.
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