Author's Note: Hey ya'll! I'm baaack! Sorry for the delay, been working on plans and first chappies of new stories and never got around to this one! But when friends started blackmailing me with forgotten clothing articles, I thought it was time to put out a new chappie. ;; Shame on me…Well, thanks for checking in and enjoy the chappie!
Tigeress: lol, I didn't even notice the fishy point. I guess you could call that a strange coincidence! I love hearing what the readers get from my story, sometimes it's things I don't even pick up, and I'm the one writing it! ;;
Disclaimer: Inu belongs to me…only in my own little world…
I just noticed that, even though I always used tab, it only shows up half of the time. Hope that doesn't confuse anyone!
The sun was shining brightly through the patterned leaves of the trees, casting flickering spirals on the forest floor. A creek gurgled in and out of the many pines, birches, and saplings in a winding path, completely oblivious to where it ended up. Similar to how Kagome felt.
Wandering aimlessly down a well-worn path, she absently kicked a pebble along in front of her. A light breeze blew through her hair and rippled her dress with the soft caresses of nature.
"S'ppose I shoulda stuck around a little longer. Those two have probably murdered each other…" she thought ruefully, grimacing at the scene taking place in her head: little imaginary Kouga's and Inuyasha's running around trying to beat each other up. She giggled in spite of herself, before erasing the chibi forms of her friends from her mind and coming back to reality.
She really had no idea where she was going. Kagome had always been hopelessly unlucky when it came to directions or finding her way.
But she wasn't really worrying about that at the moment, because she had every faith that Inuyasha would turn up sooner or later and lead her back to their little farm. I mean, if he'd come this far out to save her from Kouga, then following her a short distance into the woods couldn't be that hard, right? Then again, maybe he was tired of tracking her all over the countryside. She was his big future jack-pot, though… Kagome shook her head to clear her thoughts and just dropped the subject all together; it wasn't worth getting a head-ache over. Unless he hadn't caught up with her by dark, that is.
'No!' she thought furiously, 'I'm not going to think of Inuyasha at all! No matter what!' her eyes softened as an image of the dog-eared hanyou popped up in her mind, "Or at least for the next five minutes…"
Ordering her mind to wander, she began picking the wildflowers and weeds that looked nice enough to pass off as flowers, growing abundantly along the path. Pretty soon, Kagome had several yellow buttercup necklaces, a blossoming, white crown, and fragrant, blue gems braided into her hair. She felt like a fairy, flitting in and out of the sunbeams, similar to a hummingbird through roses.
Giggling aloud, she spun in a circle, her arms outstretched and fingers reaching for the wind in an impossible attempt of catching it. Closing her eyes, Kagome slowed her spinning to a gentle swaying, picturing herself young and carefree again. Chasing fireflies with Souta and telling him they glowed because they were really hundreds of miniscule suns. Hunting for wild strawberries and honeysuckle while dodging the bees and gnats that would dart back and forth in front of her face. Feeling a thrilling rush of excitement when she got close enough to a furry, brown bunny to reach out and fondle those long, velvet ears. She held onto those memories like a lifeline, losing herself in them for a few moments, before lowering herself onto the leafy ground.
She had tried so hard not to think about Souta, Grandpa, her mother, and even Kikyou. But realization had just hit her. She missed them. She really, really did.
Meanwhile, Inuyasha was missing someone too. Trees whizzed by in a blur as his mind loitered on a certain someone.
"Crazy girl…" he muttered, racing the wind in an effort to find the runaway girl. Gnats continuously flew into his face, opting to take the more direct route than swerving to avoid him. "Stupid bugs…" Inuyasha complained, again.
Sighing, he crouched down in preparation of an air-borne leap. However, halfway through his would-be graceful flight, something caught his eye. He pulled back from the sky and twisted to get a better look. Well, Inuyasha forgot to factor in gravity. The result was a crumpled mess of hanyou.
Grumbling, Inuyasha untangled his limbs, and propped his chin up with a clawed hand. The guilty object lay inches from his resting point, and he snatched it up with his free hand, examining it closely.
It was a collection of buttercups, braided together to form a simple necklace. Inuyasha sniffed it gingerly, the heavy floral scent almost covering her scent, but not quite. After all, he had become an expert at detecting her.
He grinned smugly, knowing he would catch sight of Kagome in a matter of minutes, as he crammed the make-shift jewelry into his haori's sleeve. Tacky as the traditional Japanese outfit may be, it was very comfortable and he was growing quite fond of it.
Racing off in the direction of her scent, he momentarily enjoyed the nature around him: the wind softly blowing back his hair, the trees swaying gently in time to a silent beat, Kagome's scent mingled with another youkai…
Inuyasha's mind jolted back to reality as the full extent of that last thought hit him. Another youkai! Dropping all caution, he sprinted ahead, concentrating solely on the task at hand…Kagome!
Kagome sang quietly to herself as she trudged onwards through the forest. Her temporary depression had passed, and she had once again pushed her family into the back of her mind. She'd worry about them once she found the farm or Inuyasha, whichever came about first.
Her feet crunched on the tiny sticks and dry leaves, sore as anything, just plodding along. Kagome sighed, not only was she tired, but extremely bored. It wasn't easy, walking since this afternoon, slaving away under the burning sun in an effort to keep her cramping feet moving forward, step after step, in a seemingly never-ending course…rolling her eyes, Kagome shook her head. She could be such a drama queen.
Truthfully, she'd probably only been walking for an hour, give or take, and she wasn't really tired, just bored. Fascinating as the forest had first been to her innocent eyes, the scene had soon grown disinteresting, as each tree grew more alike the next, and every squirrel ranted territorially at her in the same manner as its neighbors.
You'd think that after being kidnapped twice, Kagome would be enjoying her momentary freedom, but she had grown accustomed to the daily adventures, and was eagerly awaiting the next one.
A low, feral growl made her come to a sudden halt. Glancing nervously around, she hadn't noticed how dense the trees and bushes really were, and just how gnarled each reaching branch was.
"Inuyasha…?" she called out softly. A pair of slitted grey eyes with dilated black pupils appeared through a break in the trees. Kagome gulped nervously. She knew for a fact from many sneaky side-long glances that Inuyasha's eyes were a striking gold, as far from this steel grey as could be.
She slowly backed away as the animalistic growl intensified. "Nice youkai…" she cooed softly, not really expecting a good result. There wasn't.
Okay…so maybe she didn't really want the next adventure to come so quickly…
She shot a pleading glance skyward, "Did I say adventure?" she giggled nervously, "Just kidding…" But apparently the youkai wasn't, because she heard its slow trudge moving towards her.
Each thunderous step rustled the trees which seemed to bend away from the monster in an escape attempt, but to no avail, as their roots held firm.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the youkai made its appearance. An enormous badger, its head resting four feet in the air on a big, thick body, stomped towards Kagome. Its oversized canines hung over its lip as it growled ferociously at Kagome. Stout legs worked ferociously, bringing the creature to her at an alarming speed considering they're lack of height. Three inch claws curled out from under each paw, dirt caught under each, jammed under from everyday use, ending in deadly points that could easily cut through flesh.
Two angry black stripes cut down the badger's back in jagged lines, meeting at its nose and, for all appearances, giving it a fearsome glare to match its vicious attitude. Its eyes sharpened over their previous glaze and now bore into Kagome with intense hunger. The youkai radiated power - one swipe of its paw could smash a man's head in - its brute strength clearly shown in the way it moved and the confidence it sported.
Kagome stumbled backwards, her back thumping into an unrelenting tree, effectively ending her retreat. The badger youkai howled angrily at her as it reared up onto its hind legs and stood up to its full and considerable height. Kagome shrank back from the raging badger, flinching away from it and into the tree.
"Inuyasha…" she called, her voice quivering from nerves and not carrying very far. The badger crashed back to earth and resumed its previous stalking towards Kagome.
Kagome was paralyzed with fright as she mouthed Inuyasha's name over and over again, but no sound ever left her lips, each attempt more pathetic than the last.
Finally, the youkai was close enough for her to reach out and touch it, had she held such a desire to fondle the course, bristling fur. As it was, she didn't.
Human emotions are like a chain, one leading to the next. What starts as anxious butterflies and a faster pulse quickly becomes extreme fear which eventually leads to sheer panic, which was the stage Kagome dwelled on as the menacing youkai pulled its clawed paw back for the strike which would bring death to Kagome's unprotected, fragile body.
However, sheer panic brings bravery to even the most cowardly beings. The same held true for Kagome who let out an ear-splitting scream that left the badger faltering its blow and Kagome rolling to her left in a temporary escape.
"INUYASHA!!" she shrieked desperately, hoping against hope that her hero would come to her rescue just like in all the fairy tales.
And he did.
A blur of red announced his arrival as he bowled into the badger, knocking it off its feet and slashing its shoulder. The youkai let out a howl of pain and flung itself at Inuyasha who easily dodged the attack. Sliding from momentum, the youkai swung itself around, casting its mean eyes around for its red and silver target.
Inuyasha, who had used the distraction to his advantage, had leaped up into a tree and chose this moment to fall down upon the back of the unsuspecting badger. Slashing at the youkai's neck, Inuyasha prepared to, once again, spring away, but this time he wasn't fast enough. Whirling around, the badger youkai sunk its powerful teeth into Inuyasha's arm who cursed loudly, flinging the badger with all of his might and slamming it into a nearby tree. A sickening crack resounded from the collision and the badger slumped to the ground, its neck twisted in an unreasonable direction.
To Kagome, it was as if a camera had just been switched off from slow-motion and she rushed to Inuyasha's side. He had sunk to one knee, clutching his arm, but grinning ruefully.
He smirked at Kagome, even though his eyes shined with pain. "Got him."
Kagome wanted to shake him for being so stupid, yell at him for scaring her, hug him for saving her. She chose the third option, and flung her arms around his neck, sobbing onto his unwounded shoulder.
"Oh, I was so scared!" she sniffed.
He awkwardly patted her shoulder. "Keh, you should know that I'll always protect you!"
Kagome's eyes widened slightly as she wiped away a tear, before softening and smiling. "Thank you. But I wasn't scared of the youkai," He raised an eyebrow skeptically at her and she narrowed her eyes and blushed slightly, "Well, not as much as I was scared for you!"
Now it was Inuyasha's turn to blush. He quickly turned from her and keh'd.
Kagome, sensing his embarrassment, got down to business. Reaching for his arm, she pushed up the haori's sleeve and examined the wound, ignoring Inuyasha's persistent swears that he was perfectly fine. Two bleeding holes marked Inuyasha's injury where the youkai's more prominent teeth had punctured. Luckily, they weren't deep.
Reaching behind her, she ripped off part of the obi-like ribbon encircling her waist and tied it tightly around Inuyasha's arm in make-shift bandage style.
Inuyasha screwed his face up in a grimace to cover his embarrassment at her close proximity. "Keh! You call that tending a wound?! That flimsy thing wouldn't help shit!" he growled, turning his head away and hoisting himself to his feet.
Kagome only shook her head and smiled knowingly, standing up as well, and brushing off the seat of her dress. Stepping in place behind the hanyou, who had his nose turned up and his arms crossed in true Don't-Mess-With-Me style, Kagome couldn't hold back a smile.
He had come back for her!
"Are you sure you know where you're going?" Kagome asked for what seemed the tenth time.
Needless to say, Inuyasha wasn't too happy with her lack of faith.
Sending her an exasperated glare, he ground out, "Look, girl, just because you were going in the completely wrong direction, and now we have twice as much ground to cover and it happens to be taking awhile, doesn't mean I don't know where we're going!!"
"Well excuse me, your highness, just because you know everything about these woods, doesn't mean I do! And it's not like you're exceptionally eager to clue me in or anything!"
"I don't have to tell you anything, hostage!" he pointed out, not even breaking strides or turning around to face her.
Kagome threw her hands on her hips and pouted, before realizing he wasn't paying any attention to her and, rolling her eyes, dropped her angry stance. "Let's play a game!" she suggested.
Inuyasha sent her a sidelong glance, and grunted in response.
"How about…" Kagome trailed off, thinking. She looked around and spotted a huge oak tree about thirty feet, give or take, up ahead. "See that tree?" she asked, catching hold of Inuyasha's sleeve and pulling him to a halt, gesturing to the tree.
"You know this is only going to make the trip take longer," he grumbled, scowling down at her. Kagome ignored him.
"We're gonna race! First one to that tree wins."
Inuyasha scoffed, "Ha! Why bother, you know I'll win!"
Faking a glare at him, Kagome continued, "Well, that's where the game part comes in! We do rock-paper-scissors," she demonstrated each symbol for him, "And whoever wins each round gets to take a step forward! Eventually, one of us will get to the tree!" She beamed at him happily, and Inuyasha couldn't help but smile slightly in return.
Catching him by the hand, she pulled him over to a boulder. "We'll start here!"
"Yah yah, just don't cry too much when I beat you by a mile!" Inuyasha exclaimed cockily, his manly arrogance kicking in at the prospect of a contest.
"Right, as long as you don't have a tantrum when you're beat by a girl!" was her retaliation as she elbowed him lightly in the stomach.
Both held out a fist and banged it three times on their palm, chanting 'rock, paper, scissors, shoot!'
"Aha!" cried Kagome excitedly, as she cut through Inuyasha's paper and took a step forward.
Inuyasha frowned, "I'm just warming up!"
"Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!"
"Woohoo!" Kagome yelled again, dancing around on the spot and leaping forward again.
Seven rounds later, Kagome was halfway to the tree, while Inuyasha had only moved twice.
"You better catch up soon, Inuyasha! Or I won't even be able to see you anymore!"
"Hey! Shut-up, you! I'm gonna have a great comeback!"
Kagome scoffed and prepared for the next round.
"Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!"
Both flicked their hands out, and quickly scanned the opposite's fingers for their sign.
Inuyasha smirked, waving his paper-hand at Kagome's rock-fist. "Ha! Take that!"
"You're still way behind Inuyasha! You'll never catch up!" she shouted back confidently.
However, eleven round later proved differently. Inuyasha was one step away from the finish line, and Kagome had at least five to go.
Laughing evilly, Inuyasha shot an arrogant smile to Kagome. "I got this one in the bag!"
"Well," she scrounged for an excuse, "You're legs are longer! It takes you less steps to get there!!"
"Yeah right! You're practically covering three steps with your ridiculous leaps!"
Sighing, Kagome shook her head. "Shouldn't have suggested this game," she mumbled to herself, "This is all gonna go to his head!"
"Ready to lose?" he called. A muscle twitched on Kagome's forehead, and she clenched her eyes shut.
"Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!" they chorused, one with enthusiasm, one resentfully.
Cracking open an eye, Kagome slowly looked over at Inuyasha's hand.
Grimacing, she glanced down at her own hand, just to make sure.
Yep, that was definitely paper.
"Dang it," she muttered to herself, noting Inuyasha's victorious screeches as he danced victoriously about the enormous oak.
"Who's the king, Kagome?! That's right! Can't touch this!" he turned to smirk at her, only to see her dashing at him. "What the-"
He was cut off, rather brutally, as Kagome crashed headlong into him. They rolled across the forest floor, finally coming to a halt.
Kagome was pinning Inuyasha to the ground, one of her hands tangled in his hair. Laughing out loud, she brought her second hand out from under a pile of leaves to help herself up to a sitting position on his chest.
Inuyasha grinned up at her. Propping himself up on his elbows, he gave Kagome a fearful look. "Please, Kagome, let me go!"
Kagome mocked a glare at him, and deepened her voice. "Never! You're my prisoner until you can complete the impossible task!"
Feigning a gasp, Inuyasha begged, "What task could I possibly do for you?"
"Hmmmm," Kagome looked around, thinking. Snapping her fingers, she pointed to a tree overflowing with pearly white flowers. "You must bring me the most fragrant flower from the highest point on that tree!"
Putting on a brave face, Inuyasha picked Kagome up, nestling her to him. "I'll do my best," he whispered, before bounding into the tree, Kagome clinging to his haori in delight.
"I'm flying!" she squealed as Inuyasha leaped higher and higher. Surrounded by soft blossoms in the tangled web of the ancient tree, Kagome felt like she was in heaven. She closed her eyes blissfully, feeling more content with the world than she had in a long while.
"Well, is this one good enough?" Inuyasha asked gruffly, immensely embarrassed, judging from his scarlet face.
Kagome's smile spread from ear to ear as she accepted the gorgeous flower and slid it behind her ear.
"Thank you, my savior," she smiled shyly, continuing the game while looking up at her hero.
"Am I free now?" he murmured in her ear in a voice that sent shivers down her spine.
She nodded, still grinning. She had never felt so safe and happy in her life, held close in Inuyasha's arms like a puzzle piece.
"Then let's go home." And he bounded off through the trees, the sunlight pouring down on him as he clutched the fragile girl to him. She had accepted him as he was. Not looking at him as half-human or half-demon. Just Inuyasha. And for that, she was more his savior than he could ever be hers.
Author's Note: Whew! Longest chapter in awhile! I'm actually very satisfied with the way this turned out. We had some action and fluff! Hope you guys enjoyed! Please remember to review!!