Settle the Score
by Chri

There will be spoilers if you didn't see the anime past episode 60 or read the manga until chapter 192. The story is taking place after the Ryuukotsusei-incident, so Inuyasha knows about his transformation and the Bakuryuuha, but his Tetsusaiga can't cut barriers yet.

Disclaimer :
Inuyasha doesn't belong to me. Instead he belongs to Rumiko Takahashi who has invented everything and therefore has really earned to own everything :).

Special thanks to :
Kat Morning has agreed to proof-read my chapters. As this is the first chapter I've ever written, there were a whole lot of typos in it. Pointing them out all must have been really enervating :) Thanks a lot!
The chapter epigraph is from a song of Linkin Park.

Chapter 1

Everything you say to me
takes me one step closer to the edge.
And I'm about to break.

One Step Closer

Inuyasha stared at Kagome's back while running behind her. She was riding her bike with Shippou sitting in the basket. As it was going slightly downwards, the bike had gained quite some speed and the child obviously enjoying the free ride and the wind in his hair. Inuyasha kept his eyes on the bike to rescue Kagome should some kind of accident happen. Although she seemed very experienced with it and nothing had ever happened while she was riding the bike, he didn't trust the frail looking invention she had carried over from her time, especially when it was going downwards. He had witnessed himself how easily it could get out of control. And, Kagome would surely appreciate his jumping in to rescue her...

"Oi Kagome! Don't you think the brat could go by himself?" Inuyasha called after them. The kid would never grow stronger if Kagome kept spoiling him. When he had been Shippou's age he definitely had been able to do more than just some lousy illusions.

"Aaaah, spring is wonderful! Inuyasha, are you sure you don't want a ride with us?" Shippou asked politely, grinning at the hanyou. Inuyasha had been banned from going anywhere near the bike after he had almost ruined it in his secret tries to learn using it. He had lost control of the bike while driving down a hill and had crashed into a tree. Although he had saved himself by jumping away, the bike's front tire had been broken, forcing Kagome to buy a new one. 'She was quite upset about having to use her money,' Shippou remembered.

"Don't listen to him, Shippou, he's just jealous," Kagome told the child, without letting her eyes wander off the path through the forest to prevent a crash like Inuyasha's. If some accident happened, she wouldn't stand the embarrassment. ´Kagome, can't you even ride your metal cart? Kagome, you're always so clumsy! Kagome, aren't you supposed to sit on the bike?´ She could almost hear him sneering. ´No! Definitely not!´

She had been rescued enough in the seemingly endless quest for the Shikon no Tama, she didn't have to add to that in her spare time. Kagome made a wry grin. ´Do I already think of anything not involving killing evil, Shikon-enhanced youkai as spare time?´ she mused. Although Naraku had been in hiding in the last few weeks, there were enough youkai to make up for the fact that their sneaky enemy wasn't showing himself.

"Feh. Why would I want to if I can go faster myself?" Inuyasha was quite pleased with this reply and chose to mouth his concerns. "Kagome, if you keep spoiling the brat he will never grow stronger. When I was his age I could fight for myself." He noticed Kagome giving him a short glance. "What? Even you are more help in our fights than Shippou."

Although Shippou put out his tongue at Inuyasha, the comments hit home. Shippou didn't like to have to depend on others, but he hadn't much choice. ´I'm only a child!´ His parents had defended him, and later this task had been taken up by Inuyasha and Kagome. ´How should I be able to kill giant youkai, who are even powered up by Shikon shards?´

But Shippou knew Inuyasha wasn't completely wrong. He had to grow stronger so that he someday even could help out Kagome or Inuyasha. ´I'd like to see Inuyasha's face when he needs my help.´ This thought brought the grin back to Shippou's face; the hanyou wouldn't like to have to depend on him, would he?

Meanwhile, Kagome's thoughts had wandered into a different direction. She was sure that Inuyasha telling her that she was stronger than Shippou was as close to a compliment she would get from him, at least when others were around. But what she found more interesting was that Inuyasha had let a detail of his past slip, which was happening more often lately. She took the opportunity and pressed further into the matter.

"What did you have to fight when you were Shippou's age?" Kagome tried hard to keep the curiosity out of her voice, but wasn't too successful. "Didn't your mother keep you out of harms way?"

Inuyasha was thinking if he should answer the question, and decided to stay to the truth without giving away too much. "I'd like to know how Haha-ue should have fended off some dimwitted youkai? Anyway, they weren't a problem until we had left Sesshoumaru's protection."

"Sesshoumaru was protecting you?" Now Kagome was beyond curious and didn't even try to hide it. "Hasn't he always wanted to kill you?"

"If Sesshoumaru had been trying to kill me as a child, I wouldn't have stood a chance against him. Try to picture Shippou fighting Sesshoumaru, even if the brat is much weaker than I was, it would have ended with the same result," Inuyasha told Kagome. Although, he shouldn't wonder, he never told them anything relevant about his past, so they wouldn't know of Sesshoumaru protecting him and his mother. ´Sort of, at least.´ He noticed that he was more open about it lately and didn't even think much of it. But it was enough for today, editing his past for her was damn complicated, so he changed to the original topic. "But the point is, Shippou should be able to use at least his claws by now."

"It's not my fault that I never learned how to!" Shippou defended himself. Even if he also was a bit curious about Inuyasha, defending his honor - or what was left of it - was much more important to him. "And you never leave me something to give them a try. It's your fault!"

"I can imagine what you would do if I left you a youkai. And why don't you try your claws on a tree or hunt a rabbit in the fields? Are you afraid of little bunnies?" Inuyasha shattered Shippou's excuse. "I'm sure we'd all appreciate roasted hare. Well, besides Miroku with his stupid Buddhist rule to not eat animals."

Kagome didn't object, her stay in the Sengoku Jidai had taught her that self-hunted - or better said, Inuyasha-hunted - food was much better than stuff from the supermarket. She didn't want to be actually involved in the process of preparing the poor animal, but she told herself that at least it had had a better life than the animals which ended up as a steak in her time.

She heard something and turned around, noticing Sango and Miroku behind her. They were riding on Kirara and catching up, mainly because she had slowed down on her bike to concentrate on the conversation. Kagome stopped, also to grant the cat a pause, and watched the youkai land.

Shippou decided to drop the matter to avoid further embarrassment and addressed the monk, "Miroku, where have you been so long? I hope you didn't try anything funny with Sango."

The monk grinned and held up his hands in an innocent gesture. "Of course not."

Kirara gave an approving growl. They both got down from Kirara and joined their friends. Kirara transformed into her smaller form and hopped onto Miroku's shoulder, who patted her on the head.

Sango gave both of them a suspicious look. "You seem to be very familiar with Kirara lately." The other day she had searched for Kirara and wanted to ask the monk if he had seen her cat, only to find that Miroku seemed to have disappeared too. After a while Kirara had reappeared, Miroku only five minutes later.

"It has to be my charming personality," Miroku countered. "Kirara seems to have good insight into human nature."

Inuyasha snorted. "She is just relaxed because you don't grope cats. Or do you?"

Kagome couldn't stop a giggle.

Sango joined forces with Inuyasha. "Maybe I could incite him to bother Kirara, so my behind would be safe."

"The more the merrier." Miroku's comment silenced Sango, who didn't know how to counter that statement.

"Pervert," Sango muttered under her breath.

Suddenly Inuyasha tensed. "I smell blood," he stated, breaking the relaxed atmosphere. He sniffed to gain more information from the smell. "It's not much, only from one human, but I think I also smell that of a youkai."

Miroku had almost seen it coming. He had noticed the change of Inuyasha's face from bored annoyance to concentration – an event always followed by a statement of such sort. "Do you sense Shikon shards?" he asked Kagome.

Kagome shook her head. "No."

"We should still look into the matter," Miroku said.

"Right," Kagome said and went to climb on Kirara. She took place behind Sango, leaving place for Miroku to sit between them. 'Sango knows better how to deal with the monk behind her.' she thought. She felt safer from the monk's hands if she at least saw where he put them.

"We're always wasting time like this," Inuyasha grumbled, but dashed off into the woods when they were all ready to go. He heard Kirara behind him, following.

"Inuyasha, how far away are we from the source of the smell?" Miroku shouted down to Inuyasha.

"We should reach them in one or two minutes if Kirara can keep up the speed with all of you sitting on her." Inuyasha sniffed again. Slightly altering his direction, he shouted up to them, "I can make out two human and a youkai. If I'm right, it's the smell of a bear youkai. I don't notice any blood from the other human."

Sango put her hand on Hiraikotsu. "The humans must be pretty skilled. Bear youkai are not to be underestimated," she explained. "They are not only strong, but also quite agile, although they look a bit clumsy. The best course of action is to wear them out, because they don't have much stamina."

This moment the group arrived at a clearing that seemed to have served as the battleground. They could see the youkai leaning against a tree to steady himself, bleeding from some cuts. The youkai looked more like a tall and rather heavy man than a bear. His clothing wasn't extraordinary either, the only things giving him away were his pointed ears and maybe his unusual characteristics. Kagome thought that he looked like a basketball professional who had eaten too many hamburgers, or maybe a really tall wrestler.

His two opponents were staying out of his reach. Each was armed with a katana, their blades were already bloodied. Both men looked a bit out of their breath. The taller one looked unharmed, but the other had three gashes in his upper arm, blood soaking his shirt. If the blow had been a bit deeper, his arm would have been ripped off; even like this, it looked painful enough.

Inuyasha interrupted the silence. "What is going on here? Why the hell are you fighting in the middle of nowhere?" Upon hearing him, both parties moved away from each other and surveyed the people who had interrupted their fight.

"Stay out of this, hanyou!" the bear youkai shouted and launched himself at the wounded human.

"Perfectly fine with me! Like I would be interested in helping you," Inuyasha snorted.

Like Sango had said, the bear youkai moved faster than expected. But the human seemed to have learned from past mistakes and ducked under the blow that would have shattered his skull, and slashed at his enemy's upper arm, inflicting a wound similar to his own. "Payback, bastard!" he laughed, getting out of the youkai's reach again.

"Something isn't right here," Sango explained. "First, the swords must be unusual, or they wouldn't be able to hurt the youkai through his thick hide. Second, bear youkai usually stay out of the way of anybody and only attack if provoked."

"You should get out while you can, or we are going to capture you too," the taller human interrupted her.

The other one turned to speak with his partner. "Brother, the girls look really pretty..."

The bear youkai examined his arm, then used the distraction to escape. "Good luck, hanyou. You'll need it!"

"I'm not a weakling like you!" Inuyasha shouted after the youkai who had vanished into the wood. ´Coward! Leaving me with the work...´

"You can surrender peacefully," the taller one offered.

Inuyasha drew out Tetsusaiga, but didn't transform the blade. "... or we can finish things this way", he finished the sentence. "You really think you stand a chance? There are more of us, not that I couldn't take you on alone." His face turned more serious. "Tell me why you'd want to capture us and I might let you live."

"What could two girls and a monk do to stop us? We battle youkai, so humans and hanyous are no problem for us. Especially ones as poorly equipped as you," the tall one commented on Tetsusaiga and chose to test his blade against the rusted one. Inuyasha blocked the attack and pushed him back.

Sango and Miroku attacked the wounded human and tried to disarm him while Kagome aimed an arrow at Inuyasha's enemy. She didn't let the arrow fly, not wanting to hurt him unless she had to.

Inuyasha was holding himself quite well and landed a few punches, not wanting to kill his enemy either. ´At least until I get an answer to my question,´ Inuyasha thought grimly, evading a sword stroke.

The wounded one offered more resistance, although it was the force of desperation - Sango and Miroku were overpowering him. He always jumped back when one of them could have landed a hit, but his panting proved it was quickly draining him of his strength.

Noticing his partner's problems, Inuyasha's enemy broke away and joined his brother, leaving Inuyasha behind. The hanyou jumped over them and landed between the two parties, facing his two opponents.

"Don't mistake me for some low level youkai! I won't repeat myself another time: Why did you want to capture us?" The last question had a menacing undertone. Kagome noticed the strangely calm look on Inuyasha's face. ´He looks distant, as if not paying attention. But his eyes are focused.´

After a look between the two humans the tall one started to talk. "We make money catching youkai. You're better, let's just call it -" The rest was cut off when Inuyasha attacked all of a sudden and slashed at the tall one's carotids. Inuyasha held the other human up by the throat before his mortally wounded partner even started to collapse.

I know, I know, it's an evil cliffhanger. But the second chapter won't fit otherwise, please believe me. The next chapter also will be longer than this one, to make up for it :)

December 22th, 2002: When it all began.

October 29th, 2004: Last revision of the chapter.