It was over. It was finally over, and yet, now they had to start all over again. Oh thank goodness because Kagome did not want to be spirited away back to her own time as she had known for months now the jewel would do to her if she completed her wish on it.

Kagome looked at the blood-filled battlefield, taking note of all the injured people, all of their allies who had fought this final battle with them – who had helped them destroy the evil hanyō that went by the name of Naraku. Kōga and his wolves. Sango and Kohaku. Miroku, staring in wonder at his hand that no longer had the kazaana. Kirara, laying down and looking around the battered bunch protectively – Shippō had been asked to help protect Rin, and he had done so eagerly, even though he knew that they were really just trying to keep him away from this final battle so that Kagome didn't have to risk losing the kit that she was coming to see as her son. Or perhaps it was because of that, that he had gone so easily with Jaken and Ah-Un.

Ginta and Hakkaku were currently fussing over one of their tribe-mates and staring warily over at Sesshōmaru-sama; he had warned the pack that if they ever came near his ward without the presence of either himself or Kagome, their lives would be forfeit, and ever since then they had been hesitant (read: refused outright) to go near the daiyōkai. Considering the fact that they killed (ate; Kagome did not like to think about that) Rin to begin with, Kagome couldn't find it in her to blame Sesshōmaru-sama or be upset with the threats. Rin was the sweetest, most precocious little girl she had ever met, and she loved the child with something veering close to like a daughter, something that Sesshōmaru-sama was well aware of and even seemed inclined to moderately encourage.

Apparently he thought that if Rin was going to have a mother, Kagome was somewhat better than other females he knew, which was beyond flattering. It meant that she had two wonderful children to care for and look after and had she been forced to leave them she would have been heartbroken.

Finally, Kagome took a look over at her first love, the hanyō who she had given her life for so many times – and who she had slowly and quietly let (made, although that sounded so much meaner) herself give up on, because they both deserved better than each other. Regardless of whether he loved her for herself now (Kagome rather doubted it, the poor boy was so mixed up inside that he didn't know what he was doing or how he felt about most things), the only reason he had ever given her a chance was because she looked similar to Kikyō. Kagome deserved someone who wanted her for herself from the beginning. Besides, hadn't he abandoned her every time the dead woman came around? Hadn't he fought for Kikyō's golem, defended her, loved her, even after she tried to kill Kagome? And himself?

Kagome had closed the book on her first love, even though she still cared deeply for him – Inuyasha was like an annoying, overprotective younger brother that she loved dearly, and he deserved someone to love him that had a personality closer to his, that had been through things more like he had, that knew what it was like to be hanyō. Kagome couldn't give him that. Kagome was sixteen now, physically, and mentally she was even older, having grown up and matured during her experiences in the Sengoku Jidai, as wartime often did to people. Mentally – or emotionally, rather – Inuyasha was still a brash youngster compared to her, and after finding out how hanyō aged, Kagome realised that he would stay that way for a very long time. Longer than she was willing to wait for anyone. And longer than, if she had been normal, she could wait for anyone.

Inuyasha was currently kneeling on the bloody, gut-covered ground, staring at where Naraku had been mere moments before with a look of desperation and loss on his face. Kagome could understand why – he wanted to be done, he wanted to be finished; they had killed the big bad and everything should be over now...

But it wasn't. As soon as Kagome, Inuyasha, and Sesshōmaru-sama let loose their final attacks, joining them together to destroy their enemy, Naraku had re-shattered the nearly-finished jewel, sending it flying off into Kami knew how many pieces, all over Nihon. Apparently if he couldn't have it, he didn't want anyone to have it. All the work they had done was for naught, and Kagome knew with a quiet certainty that this time it would take much longer to gather the shards, without Naraku there to control all the yōkai into handing them over to him.

Thankfully, she still had the three shards around her neck. She wasn't sure exactly how that managed to happen (Sesshōmaru-sama probably had something to do with it – for all he detested the Shikon and it's promises of false power, he recognised her as the only person capable of getting rid of the damn thing), but it had, so they had a head start, at least.

Sighing, Kagome stood up and walked over to the edge of the clearing, heaving up her backpack – no longer filled with books, but with more important things: first aid kits, medicine, bandages, food, clothes. The month before last Kagome had firmly decided to stop wearing her school uniform; they were expensive and in this time period they were indecent anyway. Once she had given up on Inuyasha, she had wanted to begin wearing a miko outfit, but she knew that the hanyō wouldn't allow it, so instead she wore t-shirts and jeans, making sure that her body was covered decently.

Kagome's skin suffered far fewer scrapes now than it used to.

She walked over to Kirara first, unpacking some of her herbal mixtures and, after cleansing the wound on her right foreleg with sterile water, packed some of the herbs that Kirara had begun pointing out to her months ago (by way of teeth or claws, generally; the nekomata was incredibly observant and smart) into it, before wrapping bandages around the slash, expertly tying it off. Then she worked her way around the field.

Miroku; two deep cuts on his arm – one needing stitches, which she did with a neat precision that would have shocked herself a year ago – and a shallow slice in his side. Sango; her leg was completely torn up, and her back needed stitches as well. Kohaku; a small cut on his face, one on his stomach, and a broken wrist that she calmly re-aligned and set, using straight sticks that she kept just for such a purpose to splint it. "Don't use this wrist for at least three weeks, Kohaku, and after that, only begin using it very slowly, for small things, until another couple weeks have passed. Be glad it isn't your right hand; at least you can still do most things and won't be too hindered."

Her adrenaline was still running through her, so she didn't mind that there was blood in places she normally couldn't stand – battle aftermaths and doctoring people up were the only times she could really stand the substance, even if she had to firmly not think about it to do so.

Little did she know, she was being observed.

Sesshōmaru, Lord of the West, most powerful living daiyōkai, and enemy of Naraku, watched the onna as she moved around the bloody, body part filled clearing, obviously not caring that her odd hakama were getting covered in blood, guts, and grime. Not caring that she was bleeding rather badly from a wound on her hip. Apparently, she didn't even feel the pain, from the way she was acting. The strange onna from "the future" was a talented miko, moreso than even the powerful ones in his land that he kept tabs on. None of them knew to sew deep wounds closed, or the different kind of herbs that yōkai needed to treat illness and wounds compared to what ningen needed – he noticed easily that she had given the nekomata that travelled with her the proper herbs to promote healing, rather than the herbs one would use for ningen.

And still she moved around the clearing, now arriving at his half-brother and treating the despondent male, doing her best to cheer the hanyō up – to Sesshōmaru's surprise there was no sadness, despair, or loss in her scent. She was taking the loss of that cursed jewel incredibly well; much better than his idiot half-brother was, most certainly.

And now she was off treating the ōkami – again, packing the wounds with the right herbs, and only packing them after asking whether the yōkai in question had a reaction to any of them. Sesshōmaru knew of many beings that had adverse reactions to common herbs and foods, but most miko, monks, and healers did not take such things into account, simply using what they were familiar with and expecting it to work. Even yōkai healers did things that way – surely where the miko came from must be a very knowledgeable place for this onna to take such care.

Or perhaps the miko was just strange on her own; he knew for a fact that her heart was larger than any other being he had ever met, which might seem unusual for one such as him to notice until it became clear that his curiosity was every bit as great as his honoured father's had ever been, and after being unable to kill the miko – twice – she had completely and wholly roused his curiosity.

Finally, she arrived at him, and Sesshōmaru was tolerantly inclined to allow her to treat his wounds, despite not needing her aid, before lifting a claw under her chin and looking at her face intently. Yes, no sign of pain. How delightfully unusual, although really, he should have expected such with her. Everything about her was unusual. "Miko, you are wounded. Deeply, at that. Is the wound not painful with your insistent movement?"

Her sapphire eyes widened and she blinked, looking down at her body to search for wounds and spying the deep gash along her hip. "Eh? Oh! Shit! That's going to be hard to sew up. Dammit, why me? Ugh, stupid adrenalin making me not feel pain."

Well, Inuyasha had certainly affected her vocabulary over time. At least that was generally the only way in which his personality had affected hers. The young woman plopped down on the ground – ignorant of the puddle of blood she was kneeling in, despite the fact that he had seen her have incredibly negative and violent reactions to having blood on her person before – and looked through her bag as Sesshōmaru suppressed a low chuckle at her antics. Really, this onna was very entertaining and incredibly contradictory. "This Sesshōmaru can close the wound, if additional pain and permanent scarring does not bother you."

She looked up, wide-eyed and hopeful (what kind of being was this onna that she would be hopeful over something like permanent scarring and severe pain?), before standing again, dropping the bottle of water and the needle and thread back into her bag. "Would you please cauterise it, Sesshōmaru-sama? I'd rather not leave it half-stitched because I can't reach the back, and frankly I don't trust anyone else here to finish the job – plus I'd just rather get the stupid healing over with anyhow, I have a job to do and don't need some stupid fucking injury holding me back."

He raised an eyebrow at her—well that explained her hope—and at her language, that was a bit farther than he'd expected her to go – which made her flush softly, closing her mouth, before peeling her top up and away from the wound, pushing the side of her hakama down as well, so that nothing was in his way. Sesshōmaru nodded and lifted a claw to the deep gash, and made sure that he was watching her face simultaneously with the wound. The awe on it as one of his less deadly poisons – really, this one was an acid – began to make the claw glow was satisfying, and while she bit her lip at the feel of his acid cauterising her wound, she did not even so much as whimper, although her eyes showed that she was indeed in pain. However, her pain was much less than he expected it to be, and the daiyōkai was silently impressed with this ningen, as was becoming common.

Most of them might be useless, but Rin and his half-brother's miko were definitely worthy of his respect, despite being ningen – even the monk that travelled with the miko's group was surprisingly powerful and polite.

When he was finished, he withdrew his claw, and she let go of her lip, bowing low to him. "Thank you very much, Sesshōmaru-sama."

She looked at the cauterised wound and grinned wryly, chuckling softly. "Yet another battle scar. I think I'll wear this one with more pride than the rest though. It's a sign of how much I've grown in the past year, and a reminder that even though my mission isn't over yet, I helped to defeat a dangerous enemy today, and that I refuse to give up on my duty even when things appear to be hopeless."

Then she was smiling at him, and bowing again, "Thank you again, Sesshōmaru-sama. Would you please take me to my son once I have talked to my friends again?"

He tilted his head forward with a soft "Hn," and her smile brightened as she ran off to his half-brother, crouching down and talking to the hanyō. Sesshōmaru could hear everything, of course, not that he actually cared what was being said or listened to the words filtering through the air. The onna had power over Inuyasha, so she would always get her way in the end. His idiot half-brother might fancy himself in charge of the group he travelled with, but it was incredibly obvious that the miko was the actual alpha of the group, and the only alpha, at that.

Miroku grinned as he watched the daiyōkai that had allied with them for the past six moons (admittedly only very loosely, before the past moon), noticing that those icy golden eyes never left his comrade from the future. He was well aware that Kagome had peacefully given up on Inuyasha – he had helped her make the decision, after all, even though that hadn't been his intent with that conversation. But it was for the best, in the end. Miroku had a talent that he kept from everyone, and that was the ability to see connections forged between people – although not, unfortunately, soul-bonds, however, he was aware that Kagome could sense those. When she finally fully grew into her power she would be able to see them, as well.

Kagome and Inuyasha could have been moderately happy together, most certainly, if she hadn't matured so much, and were he not blind when it came to her... But Kagome was right that she deserved more than what she was getting, and so did her best friend.

The monk had just witnessed the birth of what was effectively a brand new connection, despite that there had already been a connection there before now, one glowing so strongly and brightly that he realised that the new path they were wandering was going to change all of their lives completely and wholly. This was a connection that would grow slowly over the next year or two, and opportunity would be there for it to grow, because the respected and feared daiyōkai had just become interested in Kagome – with something far more potent than the simple (albeit incredibly intense) curiosity in her existence that he had exhibited over the past year. Miroku knew better than to assume he would abandon that interest or deny that it existed, too. Sesshōmaru-sama never lied, especially to himself. Sure, there was a chance that he simply wouldn't act on the interest, but now that Rin was in his life, Miroku rather doubted that would happen. He wondered how far this connection would change the stoic daiyōkai. How much it would change all of them.

Kagome was already like a mother to Rin, and Rin and Shippō were best friends – Sesshōmaru-sama consistently brought the young girl over to visit them a couple times a moon for the past few moons, so that Rin could see "Kagome-ne-san" and Shippō.

This was bound to be an intriguing experience, for sure. And had a high entertainment possibility, as well. Miroku was looking forward to the future, now.

A/N: Here is a blanket statement; some words other than yōkai, hanyō, ningen, and taijiya will be in Japanese, because it just fits better that way. I tried to use their English counterparts and it was really just blegh. FYI: Nihon – Japan. Onna – girl; and Sesshōmaru for the most part stops using it after this chapter. Hakama – very loose and billowy trousers, Sesshōmaru uses that word, since her jeans are kind of baggy rather than tight.

I will be including what the Japanese words mean either in the author's notes or in the chapter itself.

JUST TO LET YOU KNOW, this story is already almost fully written. I always make sure my stories are nearly complete or fully complete before posting them to fafinet. The author's notes herein were written as the story was, although I might edit them before posting chapters if any reviews necessitate it. That said, hope y'all enjoy this fic!