The bag was folded twice around the small object within. Sessho Maru opened it slowly (with a bit of difficulty undoing the blasted knot). He let the wax paper fall to the floor.

It was just a simple little box, not the least bit ornate.

But to be kept under a young girl's mattress…

A young Miko's mattress…

With as much reverence as he would ever be able to muster, Sessho Maru lifted the lid.

Inu Yasha grumbled to himself as he stomped the half mile from the mag lev station to Kagome's house. Kagome and the rest were practically running to keep up with him, but at the moment he didn't really care. After all, if Kagome was content to have a knock-down, drag-out fight with him (in front of their dead-and-reincarnated FRIENDS no less) and then yap cheerfully to everyone else as though nothing had happened, why should he let it bother him?

Nope, he didn't care. Not a bit.

Kami, with the way the stupid (wonderful), cruel (kind), stubborn (strong of mind and spirit) bitch was behaving, he might as well just DITCH the girl and let Kouga have her. The thought made him stop short and Tamiko, obliviously chatting with Kagome, bumped into him.

"Something wrong, Inu Yasha?" Shippo jogged a few steps from where he and Kanta had (purposefully, Inu Yasha suspected) been lagging behind.

Inu Yasha stared intensely at the Kitsune, "No. Nothing."

Kagome's (breathtaking) eyes swept over him with just a hint of suspicion. The next moment, however, she was again absorbed in her conversation with Chiyo.

"I'm so looking forward to meeting your family, Kagome," Chiyo breezed by where Inu Yasha was standing without so much as a glance, "I've wanted to see your family for centuries! I think I have, anyway…"

When Shippo moved to follow them, Inu Yasha stopped him by grabbing his arm, just above the wrist.

"WHAT is the MATTER with you?" Shippo hissed. "You're being even ruder than usual!"

"Shippo," Inu Yasha's eyes felt as though they would burn out of his skull, "You MUST promise me-"

"Inu Yasha, what-"

"If it comes down to it… if something… happens, you must protect Kagome."

Shippo's shoulders relaxed, and he looked slightly abashed, "Of course I will- I mean, I WOULD, if it came to that. Which it's not going to," he added quickly.

Inu Yasha shook his head, "You don't understand. Kanta will be able to care for herself; she's a demon. I need you to promise me that you will care for Kagome, above all else."

Shippo's eyes hardened at the mention of the wolf demon, and for a moment Inu Yasha thought he would refuse, but the shorter man merely nodded his head.

"Good. Now, just so that you know, Kagome is my sole beneficiary. I want you to see that she never wants for anything, you understand."

"Of course, Inu Yasha," Shippo's voice was soft.

Inu Yasha nodded. "Right then. Come on, let's catch up." This time it was Shippo that halted their progress- by pulling Inu Yasha into a bone-crushing hug.

Inu Yasha disentangled himself hurriedly. "Come on!" he ordered, irritably, slipping uncomfortably back into his bad mood and trudging after the others

Shippo watched him, "I thought I was your heir…" he muttered moodily. Shrugging, he hurried to catch up with his companions.

Sessho Maru held the shard- the final shard of the shikon no tama- in the palm of his hand thoughtfully, gazing at it as though it were a living creature, small and helpless.

He could almost hear it, begging him to unleash it's power, so neglected for half a millennia…

Almost as though he were following orders, he closed his clawed fingers around the shard till his knuckles were white with the strain.

'Yes,' he thought, 'yes, of course. This power should be mine. It was always my right. I could ensure that Rin would be kept safe, I would be able to defend my honor-'

"Inu Yasha has the rest…" he whispered. "So easy, to take…"

A gong sounded, quiet at first but slowly increasing in volume. With one hand, the great demon of the West removed his cell phone from a fold in his black cloak. The sacred jewel shard was still clenched in the other.


"Well, hi-dee-ho to you too."

Sessho Maru closed his eyes, "Rin."

"Where are you, my love?" he could hear the smile in her voice. Her tone was light and airy and always.

"At the Sunset Shrine, the Higurashi family home."

"Is Kagome there now? Or Inu Yasha?" She approved of Inu Yasha's plan to use the completed shikon no tama as a focus for his soul binding with Kagome. What would she say if she knew what he'd been thinking?

"No. However," he had glanced out the window to view the arrival of the aforementioned Miko chatting happily with the young girl from the day before- the one claiming to be the reincarnation of that abominable old woman. They were followed by the usual assortment of bizarre characters, with two new women added in, and each bore the unmistakable aura of a full blooded demon. Interesting…

"That seems to be changing as we speak," he informed his wife.

"Oh, good. With the lot of you there together I won't worry. I do love you."

"Don't… Worry." Sessho Maru closed the phone with no further protocol, as was his tendency. He opened his hand. The jewel was still there, half-circled by the crescent moon marks made by his claws in the soft pad of his palm.

"Do not worry," he whispered again. He returned the shard to it's soapstone box, but did not hesitate to put it into his own pocket.

He remained expressionless as he turned from the window and walked from the bedroom.

It was time to greet his brother.

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