AN: Well, I do believe this is the first time I've ever come out with an update so quick. Yay! Anyway, thanks to everyone who thinks this is worth reading and especially those who reviewed. I always enjoy reading them even though I don't really take the time to respond. Sorry *hangs head* I'm just impatient that way. *sigh*

Also special thanks again to my beta-readers Alexis and Claudia. Now, on with the fic! (^^)

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CHAPTER 6: Near and Far Apart

"Here," Miroku said, offering Inuyasha a hand.

"Feh," Inuyasha snorted. "I don't need your help."

Miroku and Sango exchanged amused and exasperated glances as Inuyasha released the boulder he was clutching like a lifeline in an undignified manner as he rose from the ground until he was standing on his feet, glaring viciously into the distance. Through the sunset colored skies, Kagome's presence upon Kirara was a tiny pinprick on the horizon that became even smaller until it completely vanished from sight.

"Bitch," he muttered when even his sharpened gaze could no longer make out her form.

"Inuyasha," Miroku sighed, shaking his head.

"It's your fault she left." Shippou glared. "You better hope she comes back soon or I'll never forgive you!"

"As if I care what you think!" Inuyasha growled. "And what do you mean it's my fault?! She's the one who got angry for no reason!"

"Funny," Sango mused. "That's not how it seemed to me."

Miroku and Shippou nodded in agreement.

"You!" Inuyasha glowered. "You're all against me! What did I ever do to you?!"

"Calm down, calm down." Miroku made placating gestures with his hands. "In any case, we'd better leave. There's no telling when those youkai will be back looking for the Shikon shard their leader lost."

"He's right," Sango commented.

"Bah!" Inuyasha snorted. "I'm not afraid of them. I can take on that wimpy wolf and his pack any day!"

"I don't think Kagome would like that," Shippou said wisely. "Not after she helped them escape like - OW!" he yelled as he clamped his hands on the top of his smarting head. "What was that for?!"

"Feh." Inuyasha crossed his arms. "You deserved it. Mouthing off about things you don't know!"

"Well, in any case," Sango interrupted. "We'd better start after Kagome- chan. Without Kirara, it'll take us longer to catch up." She frowned. "Where is Kagome's home anyway?"

"Ah!" Shippou leaned towards her conspiratorially. "That's the interesting thing. You see-"

Inuyasha tuned out Shippou's excited babbling explanation about Kagome's home as he stared off into the distance, face settled into a sulky expression as he grumbled to himself about the injustices being done to him today. Everyone was treating him like he was the villain when Kagome was the one who was in the wrong! After all, it was obvious that she had to have done something to get that wimpy wolf to declare that he loved her in less that a day's time, wasn't it?

It grated on his temper every time the image of Kagome clutching that wolf in her arms flashed through his head, which it did with annoying frequency. And the mental replays of the way that wimpy wolf addressed her so familiarly - and the way she addressed him!



He gritted his teeth as a fresh wave of rage washed over him, obliterating whatever calm he might have possessed. How dare that bastard make a claim on Kagome? And her - why had she taken up his side? Had something happened between them after all while he was going out of his mind with worry about her? Did she actually feel something for that jerk? Did she want to be with him instead?

And what if she really were going to look for him instead of going home?

A low growl rumbled through the air, causing his companions to shoot him surprised, and wary, wide-eyed stares. He turned his glower on them, paying little heed when they flinched at the fierceness of his expression.

"I'm going ahead," he snarled.

He leaped into the air and down the cliff in large bounds as the three left behind gazed after him.

"What was that about?" Shippou wondered.

"Ah, the fires of youthful blood," Miroku sighed, shaking his head.

"Houshi-sama," Sango said absently as she kept her eyes thoughtfully trained on Inuyasha's rapidly retreating figure, "don't speak as if you were an old man."



Kagome muttered under her breath as Kirara sliced through the rapidly darkening skies as she approached closer and closer to the well that would take her home.

How could Inuyasha doubt her like that?

Hurt and anger welled within her just thinking about it. She couldn't believe his nerve! If anyone, she was the one who had the right to doubt what with the way he always became consumed in thought with Kikyou after every encounter with the undead miko. The way he took off to be by her side whenever she was nearby, leaving Kagome behind without another glance, always hurt to see even though she put up with it as best she could. So, things being what they were, what right did he have to be suspicious of her? And after she'd tried so hard to escape, afraid she'd never see him again, and make a way back to everyone else too!

A part of her knew that there was more to consider, that she was being unfair to Inuyasha, but her temper was all consuming and cared little about how reasonable she was being. All she knew was that she didn't want to see him again until some common sense was knocked into him and he was ready to apologize. So she'd go home, enjoy being back in a world of modern convenience where she wasn't being hunted because of anything to do with Shikon shards, and stay there until he came to her and took back what he said.

And he'd have to if he wanted her to continue to be his Shikon shard detector!

So absorbed was she in her unkind thoughts towards Inuyasha that she almost didn't notice a familiar feeling that tingled through her.



He gazed upwards just as they dropped from the air with a sudden whoosh, landing a short grassy distance away in the familiar poolside clearing. Though the large cat bristled and growled threateningly, he paid scant attention to it, his senses more focused on the one upon its back. He observed with interest the various expressions that flickered so openly over her unguarded features - relief, wonder, wariness and perhaps even happiness. However, he couldn't be too sure of the last as what possible reason would she have to make her happy to see him?

"You're alive," she breathed. "Toutousai said you probably would be but even so," she shook her head, "it's still hard to believe."

"It would take more than the likes of a hanyou to bring about my end." He tilted his head imperiously. "I, Sesshoumaru, am not so easily defeated."

Annoyed at his tone, Kagome slid off of Kirara's back. "Oh, can it. Though I can't say I approve of what happened, I can't help thinking you partly got what you deserved. Honestly, what were you thinking of tormenting an old man just so he'd make you some sword? Where's the honor in that?" She placed her hands on her hips. "Is your quest for power really that important? Obviously, it hasn't done you much good so far - one would think you'd have learned your lesson by now. But you sound just as condescending as ever so that couldn't possibly be the case."

Sesshoumaru stood with well-concealed amazement at her tirade while his annoyance grew with each word uttered by her and how she called his honor into question, not to mention berating him as if he were a child! How dare she, a mere human, lecture him - him, the Great Lord of the Western Lands who had seen more years at least twice as long as she'd been alive? And she showed no remorse for her words, either, even after she, the lowly being that she was, insulted his superior intellect!

"There is no lesson that I, Sesshoumaru, need learn," he said frostily.

"Oh, really? I think your father would be of a different opinion."

"And what knowledge would one such as you have of my father's mind?"

If possible, his tone grew even colder. It was menacing enough to have the great cat beside her give another rolling growl as it crouched as if preparing itself to leap in attack or defense. The cat finally succeeded in attracting Sesshoumaru's attention since he did not appreciate the unwelcome interruption to his discussion. He turned his icy glare upon the beast, registering the scent he'd picked up before among those with his last encounter with Inuyasha and his party though he did not recall seeing a youkai of this size. No doubt, the cat youkai had the power of transformation and could shift its shape. However, youkai or not, its power was not at a level sufficient to face off with him and win.

Kagome's gaze nervously bounced from one glaring figure to the other. A fight was eminent, she felt, and that was something she wanted to avoid at all costs. As much as she appreciated Kirara's fighting abilities, she knew that they wouldn't be much of a match one-on-one against Sesshoumaru. It was best to get Kirara away before she attempted to do something fatal like try to attack the youkai lord. She had more hopes that she could remain alone with him unscathed, though she wasn't sure why she felt that way, than if Kirara stayed with them.

"Kirara, thanks for getting me here," she rushed. "But you should get back to Sango-chan and the others now. Really."

Kirara growled, never looking away from Sesshoumaru.

"Please, Kirara? He won't hurt me." She glanced at Sesshoumaru questioningly. "You won't, will you?"

She waited until now to ask him that? He gazed back at her, wondering at the odd workings of her mind. Nevertheless, he did recall the reason for his presence here and inclined his head.

"There, see?" she addressed Kirara. "I'll be fine. And I'm sure everyone will be trying to follow after me and since it was kind of a long trip, I'm sure Inuyasha wouldn't want to try carrying both Sango-chan and Miroku-sama on his back. They're going to need you to bring them here if they don't want to take their time about it."

Kirara gave another rumbling protest.

"Please?" Kagome pleaded. "If you do, I'll bring you back a special treat when I get back from home. Something any cat would love."

Kirara contemplated her a moment and what ran through that feline mind, Kagome couldn't say. However, when Kirara butted her lightly with her furry head, Kagome took it as consent and lightly scratched behind one pointy ear in approval.

"Thanks, Kirara."

Kirara took a few steps away and, with one last warning growl at the youkai lord, launched herself into the air.

"Most humans are not so popular with youkai."

Kagome turned at the sound of his voice. "You have no idea," she said dryly, memories of her recent brush with wolf youkai fresh in her mind. She shrugged. "I guess it has something to do with these weird powers I seem to have - like some sort of bonus that I don't really want."

Sesshoumaru regarded her thoughtfully, masking his interest well as her words played in his mind. It was unusual in his experience to come across one who seemed to have no desire whatsoever with acquiring more power, and there was a taste of honesty to her words that said that she was such a one. And yet it was apparent that there was certainly some sort of power that attracted youkai for she had acquired another such companion to her group. Was that not a sign that her powers were growing in strength? Was that not why he felt some odd draw towards her? It certainly gave him more to ponder.

"You know," Kagome spoke up, "though I'm glad to see you alive and well, I can't help wondering what you're doing here."

"You are glad to see me?" Even he could not completely mask his surprise at her revelation.

"It's just a figure of speech," she muttered, flushing as she suddenly felt uncomfortable beneath that penetrating gaze.

She had a flash back to the last time she'd seen him battling with Inuyasha and the moment of fear that caught her in its grips when it seemed he was about to be blown away with the Kaze no Kizu. It was odd how, in that moment, her worry for him had been nearly as great or just as great as what she felt for Inuyasha when the situation had seemed reversed on occasions. There was no logical reason for it and yet it didn't change the fact that it was. It wasn't a comforting realization and her discomfort suddenly channeled itself into blossoming irritation.

"You're crazy!" she suddenly burst out, her temper getting the best of her as her gaze fell on the sword at his waist that was the cause of some of her frustrations. "I wonder if insanity runs in your family. Why else would siblings constantly try and kill each other as if it were the perfectly acceptable thing to do." She threw up her hands in an irritated motion. "And for something as stupid as a sword, too!"

She was doing it again - insulting his intelligence. "Do not speak of matters that a human could not possibly comprehend." Golden eyes flashed with building fury. "That I, Sesshoumaru, am being reprimanded by a lower being is an insult beyond measure."

"Insult?" She bared her teeth in a vicious grin. "Oh, believe me, this is nowhere close to insulting. There are much, much worse things I can think of to say to you."

"Beware," he growled, low and dangerous. "I can kill you before you utter another word."

"But you just said you wouldn't hurt me." An inner voice screamed at her to stop taunting him but, for some reason, she just couldn't seem to make herself stop. "Are you going to be dishonorable and go back on your word?"

She stepped closer, unmindful of the furious warning in that golden gaze.

"Use that great youkai strength and eradicate another human for the good of the world."

She took a few more steps.

"Killing a poor human girl - bet that would really do wonders for your reputation, wouldn't it?"

She was almost directly in front of him, his infuriated figure.

"So what are you waiting for?" she challenged, chin tilted defiantly. "I dare you!"

She took another step, only to let out a gasp of surprise when she stumbled over an uneven patch of ground. She let out another gasp when she began falling - only to be halted in her descent when he caught her in his arm.

They froze.

For one unguarded moment, she stared up into eyes that reflected a surprise and confusion as great as her own. Then, just as suddenly, it was over as he quickly released her and she found herself standing unsupported on her own two feet as a careful blank mask settled on upon his features.

The silence was awkward.

What had possessed him to help one who had so recently been insulting and challenging him to temper? Each word she had spoken had stoked his anger until he nearly had decided it would be best to just reach out across the short distance she had foolishly diminished between them and simply snap her neck to gain blessed silence. And yet, even with thoughts of slaying her overcrowding his mind, he had reacted automatically to stop her fall, to help her.


Perhaps it was as she said and there truly was some form of insanity in his family. Why else did the men of his line, even him apparently, take up the role of protecting worthless human women?

His mind flashed on the image of a little human girl who had tried to help his wounded form despite the fear he had detected from her at their first meeting. She smiled at him for no reason, was happy to see him when he'd done nothing to warrant it, was not afraid of him even though he was youkai and could kill her in an instant if he so chose.


When he had found her lying like a broken doll on the dirt path, he had saved her, telling himself that it was merely to test the power of the Tensaiga. But the thought was at odds with the strange sense of relief he'd felt when heart began to beat once more. Even more uncomfortable was the memory of how his dealings with Rin always seemed to recall images of the one standing before him now and the realization of how similar they were in both appearances and actions - although Rin did not try to incite him to anger.

Inexplicably, he found himself amused as he pondered the similarities and differences between the two. However, he knew it was no laughing matter, not when his strong stance against humans was being tested by two females whom appeared to be linked somehow within his mind.

Was that why he had saved Rin?

True, when he'd first seen her lying dead on the path, he'd had a sudden disturbing image of an older girl in the same situation flash through his mind. He hadn't liked it - neither the image that crossed his mind and what it implied nor the reality that was before him. It was a reality that made him detest the mingled scent of blood and wolf.


Kagome berated herself for being such an idiot. What was it about these dog youkai that made her act so unreasonably? Obviously, there was something wrong with her for trying to goad a dangerous youkai lord who was hardly known for his gift of mercy. Though she'd emerged unscathed from previous encounters with him, that didn't guarantee she would always do so. Common sense, which tended to fly out the window when she was dealing with youkai of the canine variety, demanded that she couldn't just mouth off to him like that. It was definitely potentially fatal and she was positive that even she wouldn't be safe if she had managed to snap his temper.

Wouldn't she?

It was confusing, throwing her emotions in a tumultuous flux, but he had stepped in and saved her from a bruising tumble even after all the things she'd said that had been foolishly geared towards inciting his anger. He'd been unexpectedly chivalrous and made her think better of him as she well knew his dislike of humans.

Still feeling the imaginary warm press of his arm against her, she felt some remorse roll through her for the words she'd unleashed upon him. She opened her mouth to apologize, but he spoke up first.

"You have the scent of wolves upon you."

The observation caught her off-guard. "Uh, yeah." She blinked. "I guess that's what happens when you get caught in a wolf den."


"Yeah, I got kidnapped by a wolf youkai," she found herself explaining. "Not too far from where I last saw you, actually. It was definitely a harrowing experience - I think I'm still a little shaken from it, and everything else that happened afterwards too."

It didn't take long for Sesshoumaru to add all the pieces together, and he didn't like what it meant. He knew wolves avoided human populated areas under usual circumstances. But the scent of wolves had been strong upon Rin and the path he'd found her on, which his senses had indicated being very near to a village. For wolves to make their presence known as strongly as that, there either had to have been a dire food shortage to send them seeking so close to humans or they were being controlled by some stronger force. And from what he'd just learned, it was obviously the work of wolf youkai - an unmannered and barbaric lot in his opinion. And also vicious.

"How is it that you are unharmed?" he asked sharply. "Wolf youkai tend to devour humans."

"I know." Kagome grimaced. "I thought I was going to be eaten too."

"And why were you not?"

"I was too important to be a mere snack." Kagome shrugged. "Youkai wants Shikon shards, I detect Shikon shards - you do the math."

"And where was my half-brother in all this?" Unaccountably, he felt suddenly irritated. "He is supposed to be your protector, is he not? But he allowed you to be stolen away - how worthless. No doubt, such failure is only to be expected from a hanyou."

"Hey!" she cried defensively. "He couldn't help it! It happened too fast, especially since his opponent was equipped with Shikon shards that boosted his power up. And, besides, we didn't even know Kouga-kun's objective was me until it was too late."


"My kidnapper." She blushed.

His strange irritation grew. "You address him rather familiarly, do you not?"

"Oh, brother." Suddenly she became angry at his tone. "Don't you start, too!" She glared furiously. "I've had enough of both you and Inuyasha saying things like that. I did my best to put Inuyasha's jealousy to rest but, God, I'm sick of everyone acting like I'm the one at fault!" Her voice rose in temper. "It's not my fault if some prince of wolves develops a crush on me when I didn't even do anything to encourage it - he decided it on his own! Can I help it if some wolf youkai gets carried away with whatever crazy idea possessed him to declare his love in public - and in the middle of a battle no less? No! No! NO!"

She huffed angrily, glaring daggers at him as if he were the cause of all the banes that had decided to plague her existence lately. Becoming increasingly irritated as well as bemused by her tirade, he might have responded if his attention hadn't been caught by something else.

"He's coming," he murmured, staring off into the distance.

Kagome stiffened as she caught on. "Inuyasha? Great," she muttered. "I really don't want to deal with this again." She whirled away. "I'm going home!"

Temper still high, she tramped further into the darkened forest as quick as she safely could without a backwards glance while Sesshoumaru stared after her. He briefly toyed with the idea of stopping her but, in the end, he let her go, even though he had not gotten to do what he had come here for. Nevertheless, she had given him other things with which to ponder and, because he also had no desire to deal with the approaching hanyou this night, he left, the descending dark quickly enveloping his departing figure.



Inuyasha bounded over treetops as he headed in the direction of the village. He'd passed by Kirara a ways back as she went to rejoin Sango and the others whom he'd left behind. It meant she was either there or back in her own time and he hoped he caught up with her before she left so he could giver her a piece of his mind. And he would too, no matter how angry she was with him. He wasn't afraid of her - and he'd show her too!

A low, irritated growl rumbled in his throat as he quickened his pace.

So intent was he on his angry thoughts that he paid scant attention to a quick flash of white, nearly too fast for eyes to register before it was gone, that brought with it an oddly familiar scent that would have raised his hackles if he took the time to acknowledge it. But Inuyasha ignored all else, only concerned with the human girl who occupied his thoughts and the things he'd say to her when he finally caught up to her.