AN: edited and complete for your viewing pleasure… Hopefully, soon I'll be able to get to actually writing the next chapter. It's already handwritten, just need it typed and perfected to an adequate level. Enjoy.
Warnings: none. Fluff
As the darkness began to enshroud the inhabitants of the forest, two of its wild creatures raced along the tree tops. The stark contrast between the two was easy to see, the yin and yang of the forest. Balance in every form. Man and woman, black and white, good and evil. The distant sounds of animal calls enhanced their harmonious run with the beat of the wild. They were one, whether or not they knew it.
Inuyasha drew up along side Kagome, his silvery hair streaming out behind him. He was at ease with this simple run, feeling free and relaxed in the elements. He ignored the fact that he was getting a rush from the run with this midnight dweller of Kokoro. He also ignored that if he just reached out slightly he could capture her for his own. He would capture her eventually, he vowed silently, watching her form through the corner of his eyes. He decided that he needed a change of subjects, and therefore changed his directions from her side. With a motion of his hand and a slight bark, Inuyasha directed her to follow him.
She turned her warm brown eyes toward him. She had warred with herself when she let him catch up with her. Why was she allowing him follow her, and furthermore, why was she so willing to follow him? With a slight shrug of her shoulders she stopped her direction and followed him. She could deal with those thoughts at another time. Right now she wanted to know where they were headed. She drew to his side, and growled out a question to him.
His smirk was all the answer he gave her, before they burst from the forest. The moon shown brightly, and illuminated the vast pasture before them. With a sniff of his nose, he swiftly and quietly, stalked toward a wooden fence.
"Why are we here?" hissed Kagome. She could smell the cattle long before she could make out their shapes in the field. This was a human settlement on the outskirts of the city to the East. There was no reason for them to be here, not to mention that they could seriously get into trouble if anything went wrong.
"You want to learn how to hunt, don't you?" he snapped back quietly.
Her eyes widened. "Bu- but these are human owned animals! We can't hunt them!"
Inuyasha snorted. "You can hunt, but you can't kill." He lifted himself up onto the wooden fence, his eyes scanned the field, wary of danger. "You have the ability to hunt down small critters, but in order to catch the larger ones, you need practice. These won't hurt you, much, and they are easier to catch than their wild cousins."
Kagome growled. "Anyone can catch those lazy mongrels."
He smiled, a knowing glint slipped into his honey colored eyes. "Well then go ahead. We'll be off to a real hunt as soon as you catch one." He brought his clawed hand to his face, willing himself to not laugh. The girl was in for a real surprise.
She growled and leapt over the fence. A moment later she disappeared into the gloom, heading toward the sleeping cattle. Her approach was loud and reckless, like a human trying to approach the beasts. Not even animals would have been so stupid to be that loud.
He lost his will power to suppress his mirth and chuckled softly. "Stupid girl. Even docile animals know how to evade such an open and obvious attack." He settled himself down on the fence to get comfortable for the long wait.
She never knew what happened. One moment the herd rested and lazed about in their sleep and the next they stampeded a retreat. She had never observed cattle in a stampede, and thus had no idea they could run that fast. She cursed and gave chase. Just as she was about to catch one, they changed directions on her and she was left to trip and fall on her face.
She cursed, picked up her abused body, and chased after the herd again. This time they charged at her which caused her to jump and roll away. This chase-charge game played for several more rounds, that allowed the poor hanyou several trips into the watering hole. It finally was to the point that she was too sore to adequately chase after them any more. She was bruised, muddy, smelly, and water logged.
Inuyasha could be seen silently laughing at the girl upon his perch. It had been worth it to bring her here, if only for a good laugh. It had been a long time since he had been so amused... long before the migration had taken place. This slip of a woman had somehow wiggled her way beneath his barriers and into his life. If he had been told a year ago that he would meet such a girl, he would have scoffed at them.
Kagome stumbled over to him, her head held down in defeat. She collapsed against the fence trying to get her energy back up after her 'exercise.' She felt like she'd been dragged through the mud for a solid week straight. She looked like it too, not to mention the smelly manure scent covering her body. "Why?"
He looked down at her, but before he could reply he heard the sounds of cars. Humans had arrived, and only then did he realize how much noise they had made. "Kuso! Come on bitch, time to go." He hopped off the fence to face her. She was tired and a bit unsteady on her feet, he realized, as she tried to keep her balance by placing her arms upon the fence. He sighed inwardly, his nose wrinkled at the smell. She was in no condition to run out of here.
He reached over and picked up the startled hanyou and tossed her over his shoulder. A loud squeak was followed by several loud but muffled rants from the girl, momentarily letting him forget that she smelled like cow manure. He wrapped one arm around the back of her legs and leapt out of the enclosure, and raced for the woods. A few weak pounds on his back were his only indication that she really didn't like that take off.
Back in the safety of the trees, he sprinted toward the nearest watering source. His sure footed movements were silent enough that one could pick up the soft sounds of night created by crickets and various other animals of the dark.
The silence was golden that is until an annoyed Kagome broke it. "I can walk, Inuyasha."
His reply was a tighter grip on her legs, silencing any further protests.
She sighed, lifted her arm up to her chin, and pressed her elbow into his back. She was tired of the blood rushing to her head, and the blurry scenery made her a bit ill. She shivered slightly as a cool breeze brushed her flesh. It was darker and colder now, especially in her still dampened state. She focused on all the things she had to do, like hunt for some food for her clan, to help her ignore the chill. She also mused over the being that carried her, and wondered where they were going and what he thought. He, however, didn't seem to be in a very talkative mood to tell her anything about their current destination or what was on his mind. Not that he ever appeared to be in a 'talkative' mood, she realized.
Her thoughts and attention were suddenly scattered as she plunged into cold water. She surfaced in a silent scream, her lips blue and her body shivered uncontrollably. Her blurry eyes finally fixed upon a mildly entertained Inuyasha, standing on the shore line. She narrowed her eyes and leveled him with a murderous glare.
"There's some warm water behind that rock ledge," he stated and pointed a long fingered claw in the direction behind her. "Make sure you clean off here first." He pulled at a small root and tossed it at the startled girl. "I'll be back soon." Then he was gone into the night.
Kagome fumed for a full minute before she turned her gaze to the root which floated in the water. This plant, when rubbed against a stone, produced a soapy film used to clean off smells, stains, and dirt from clothing and body. How had he known what this was? As far as she knew, this particular root was only native in this area. She sighed but decided to make the best of her alone time. She started rubbing the root against a flat stone upon the shore, and her thoughts floated back to the hanyou.
What in the world was going on with him? With them? He treated her just like a mate. She couldn't even begin to fathom what went on in his head to make him act in such a way. Still, she could hardly complain. After all, he had carried her away from danger when the humans began to arrive. He also had been thoughtful enough to let her clean off the smell on her clothes and body. And yet, why was he so willing to teach her to hunt, and then turn around and laugh at her? His motives stunk worse than a mink.
A soft shuffle in the bushes brought her back to reality as a small squirrel ran from the bush and up into a tree, an acorn in his teeth. She smiled, before she realized that the male said he would be back soon. Not wanting to be caught bathing, she rubbed the root harder against the stone. There was no way she was going to have him come back and watch her bathe. Quickly, she scrubbed down her clothes and exposed skin and thus eliminated the awful smells and stains. If she worked quickly she could also get out of this cold water, and then warm up in the hot water behind the spring.
Rin and Kouga remained close to each other as they sat beside a large fire with their host and upper members of the white wolf clan gathered around. Sesshoumaru had tended not to stray far from the pair, and instead was perched upon a large stone boulder behind Rin's right side. Ayame chatted animatedly about various things the Moya Clan had procured and done on their forced migration. Her efforts to ease the tension helped and relaxed the two to some extent. However, Kouga was still on edge due to Kagome's and Inuyasha's simultaneous disappearance, while Rin had a difficult time with Sesshoumaru practically breathing down her back.
When they had first arrived at the camp, they had been instantly surrounded by the curious onlookers. Rin had noted that very few members were older than their leader. She also noted that there were no true pups, the youngest no more than six years old. Either the human hunting or the journey had caused such a decreased number. Even more surprising was the lack of males. Out of thirty-six wolves, less than half were male.
She Decided to distract herself from her unease, and she pulled out a small piece of hide and a black charcoal. Earlier they had walked the perimeter of the camp, which was spread out quite a bit around the clearing. A good and bad thing. Good because the more scattered, the less likely they were to attract unwanted attention. Bad because it spread them out a bit too thin to keep them safe. Nevertheless, they had utilized the space in the best possible way which showed great leadership and wisdom. The overall layout of the land, however, was rather poor and weak that left openings for attack and holes in defense. She jotted down these notes on the hide.
Kouga currently talked about the winter months here with Ayame and the other Moya wolves. It had been colder than usual where diseases polluted any and almost all food they could find. Half of his tribe had been lost by famine by the start of winter. By mid-winter only three of his tribe remained after starvation. Humans had made a trek through the forest areas and hunted for animals and cut down trees as well. As a result, the animals had fled, and left them with little to nothing to eat. Before he could move the tribe into migrating with the food, too many of them had become too weak to travel. That was when Kagome and her small pack arrived, but even her skills could not save the pack from its downfall.
Rin faded out from the conversation, and her eyes flickered over the members of the clan. She tried to recall how many people she had seen, when a shadow fell over her. She glanced upward to see that Sesshoumaru stood behind her. Rin opened her mouth to ask something, but was cut off by his one worded answer, "Come."
She nodded her head, rose from the ground, and alerted Kouga of her departure. At his curious look, she answered, "I'll be back in a few. I need to get the rest of the information Kagome wanted."
He looked a bit unsure, but nodded his head for her to depart. He turned his gaze back to the sweet female he had been talking to. She was vibrant and enthusiastic about telling her clan's stories. Apparently, her father had been the clan's recorder, and had once kept stores of books on their history. Ayame was just as attentive to the history, and wanted to know everything there was to it. It was a subject he knew little about, but now found it to be fascinating. He didn't know then, but that was the night when he stopped viewing Kagome as his future mate. It was also the night that this slip of a woman he had just met, would start to haunt his very thoughts and dreams.
Rin stepped away from her friend and followed the regal looking Sesshoumaru. She felt very much the child when she walked beside him. Whatever had made him so distant from others, was hard to say, and it made her heart ache to see him so aloof. Still he was a clan leader, which meant that the very survival of his people were his responsibility. A difficult and hard task. Having watched Kagome take care of their small bunch, it was little wonder how she bared up under the stress. But the hanyou hadn't lost any individuals under her command, unlike this man who walked beside her. Could she ever have born that weight if she had stayed with her father? More than likely, her mate would have taken her place at the chieftain, but nonetheless, the thought was still there.
"Huh?" She paused, and glanced at the youkai, who know stood in front of her. She shook her head slightly before she remembered why she had wondered off with him. "Oh, right... questions." She flushed profusely, and glanced down at her paper. "Kagome-sama asked for the statistics of your clan."
Sesshoumaru nodded and motioned the girl to a seat beside a smaller fire. The other wolves around it had quickly fled at the look their leader bestowed upon them. "There is a grand total of thirty-six wolves. Five are below the age of twelve and six over the age two hundred. Kaede is the oldest at two hundred and forty-seven. Our youngest is Mizudori at six years of age. Sixteen males, four not of age, twenty females, five not of age. Seven permanent mating couples. One youki healer, one baboon youkai, and one toad youkai."
She jotted the numbers down. "How many... umm... died on the journey here?"
"Before the hunts started six years ago, our clan had been divided into different sects. My father ruled over two hundred white wolves. Several clans were totally annihilated by human militia."
"Militia?" She looked up at him in horror.
He nodded his head. "The area to the south is a bit less civilized, and we had lived there for such a long time that most of the clan knew nothing more and feared change. After the death of my father and his human mate, I gathered what remained of the clans and left. We picked up a few stragglers on the way too."
Her shoulders sagged as she slightly nodded her head. "I'm sorry."
Sesshoumaru gave her a cool look before he began to list off other statistics about his clan. He talked fast, and forced the poor girl to fall behind several times. As the fire became too low to adequately see the paper, he stopped and motioned for her to stand. He kept his gaze fixed away from the girl with difficulty as he warred with his more primal instincts.
Her scent was getting to him which, in turn, had caused him to talk fast so he could ignore it. He stood there now and waited for her to follow, that he was reminded of her affects upon him and made the feelings to come back full force. Sure he could have any woman he choose considering that most of the clan women, if not all, followed his orders without hesitation or question. They were practically mindless and intimidated by his power. This slip of woman, however, had fire to her. Such instances, as when she had constantly interrupted him to get the facts straight during his monologue and she took her time following him, were just a few of the instances that placed her in a bracket far above the rest. Most of the clan would not have dared to interrupt him, nor would they take forever to gather their things and follow him. Those such examples even excluded the conflict he had seen in her from their previous more private encounters.
He thanked the wood smoke that covered most of her scent, as they walked back to the main fire in silence. She had rushed off upon spotting Kouga and yanked him off his seat by the fire. Together they bowed toward Sesshoumaru and quickly gave their thanks. Kouga thanked Ayame, before Rin dragged him off, back to their den.
Sesshoumaru watched them leave, an amused look on his face. Rin's cheeks were slightly pink, but why they were, was a mystery to him. When the pair had disappeared from the group, a presence beside him caused him to turn his gaze. Ayame looked at him with a knowing gaze, a small smile on her lips. He tipped his head slightly, which made Ayame jump up and scream in joy. That was the closest she would get to a positive answer from him.
He turned his gaze away from the girl, and his eyes drifted over the slowly rising crowd. It was almost time for dinner, which would bring the tribe and its people together. Soon, the remaining members of his clan would return. Well, most of them. He had no idea where Inuyasha was or when the stupid pup would return. Apparently, his dimwit, little halfling of a brother couldn't stave off his instincts as well as himself. His eyes drifted, spotting an annoyed bitch with long straight black hair, who glared at the forest.
Now that he thought about it, Kikyou did look a whole lot like Kagome, but with one major difference. Kagome was innocent, untrained, and pure while Kikyou had already been used many times. She had yet to produce a pup, but he suspected that her temporary mates made sure of that. It wasn't really his problem. If Inuyasha was going to do what he suspected he would, Kikyou would be without a mate this year. She would be fair game- nice for the males who wanted fun, bad for the females who wanted faithful mates. His gaze flickered to the male sitting behind her a ways. But if Naraku wanted her, he could allow such to occur. He wasn't wolf, but the baboon wasn't all that bad. Frankly, he suspected he treated the girl a lot better than her past 'owners.' Something else to contemplate before the spring festival.
When Inuyasha returned, he placed a large animal on the ground beside the stream. The cold water was empty, but he could hear the soft sounds of Kagome's voice drifting over the rock ledge that surrounded the warm water. The movement of water told him that she was still in there, which made him grin lecherously. Just imagining the water as it dripped down her smooth curves, like it had earlier this evening...
He shook his head of those thoughts. Now was not the time to lose his control over a mere girl. A pretty luscious body that belonged to an out-spoken wench. He shifted himself to lean over and catch her scent that still hovered over the pool of water. The sweet scent had returned full force, and for that he was glad. He wasn't sure he could stand the other smells to cover up her natural one too much longer. "Oi, Bitch! I'm back!"
A soft feminine squeak, placed a very large smirk on his face. He loved it how he could startle her so easily. He pulled up another root, and entered the cold water. His white shirt became a sheer plaster against his skin as he scrubbed off the small stains. He would have to visit Kaede again to get some of the blood stains removed completely from the garments. Might as well change clothes when he got there too, since his brother and others in the tribe might give him a lecture about running around with other females. The solstice was coming soon and since he was of age, Sesshoumaru would pick a suitable mate out for him from the tribe for the season. His mate would have to be a white, much to his dislike since he didn't want Kikyou or Ayame- the few available females- to be his.
"So you went to hunt?"
Startled, he turned his honeyed gaze to the dry Kagome. She stood beside the kill, and looked at him with a hooded gaze. What he would give to break the rules and choose this raven beauty for his mate than one of his own. He should probably talk to Kaede about this situation. He could do it while he got the stain remover as a logical reason to seek the old woman's counsel. "Aa, I did."
She averted her gaze as her eyes lingered far too long on the smooth ripples of muscles on his chest and arms that were exposed from the water. She had little doubt that he noticed how exposed he was to her gaze. She quickly turned her head, ran her claws through her unbound hair, and began to braid her hair. It would be a dangerous idea to become aroused around this male specimen. She wouldn't stand a chance running away.
Inuyasha saw her averted gaze, and glanced down to see his see-through shirt. He smirked and bowed his head, and scrubbed his claws more thoroughly than needed. His cheeks burned, but secretly he was beyond happy. He decided that he would make her his mate, with or without Sesshoumaru's consent. He carefully dipped down further into the spring, and lowered his mane of hair into the water.
He froze, his head barely above the water to keep his ears dry, when he felt small hands upon his head. Smooth and soft rubs fell upon his ears, followed soon after by small amounts of water. It told him all he needed to know that said female was washing his hair. He blinked, held his breath, and forced his eyes to remain open. A gentle nudge from her and he raised himself out of the water some as he obeyed the silent command. He turned his head slightly to look at her.
Intent on her work, she missed the heated gaze the hanyou shifted toward her. She washed and scrubbed out the blood and dirt from his hair. She was having a hard time believing that his hair was a whole lot softer than hers. Why did males always seem to have nice hair, and yet never take care of it? She poured some more water on his hair, and washed away the soap.
A moment later she felt his gaze, and looked to the male hanyou. She gulped slightly just as she realized what exactly she had been doing. "Sorry." She moved quickly away from him, as if she had been burned. She stood on the shore, and a swirl of her youki dried her clothing once again.
Inuyasha shook his head and glared at the girl. "You should be!" he snapped. He was extremely embarrassed, and looked away to wash out his hair more thoroughly. Finally, he stepped out of the water, though his gaze was now turned down and refused to meet hers. The chill of the night was a surprise to him, after such heated interactions. He move toward the kill, when a hand on his arm stopped him. He turned to see her eyes closed and the soft pink waves of energy flowing from her to him.
She released him a moment later, his clothes dry. "It would be better to be dry." She turned her gaze away, to look at the surrounding forest.
His eyes softened slightly, before he returned to his gruff mannerisms."Let's go." He picked up the kill and placed it over his shoulder. "I need to collect my people and return to camp."
Kagome nodded, as she lead the way back toward her cave dwelling. They didn't comment again, deciding that tonight was enough of a ride to not need any further complications to be added to it. No doubt they would be having some interesting arguments with their brains for the rest of the evening and possibly the rest of the week.
Translation and Pronunciation Guide:
Mizudori- (me-zoo-doh-ree) Waterfowl.
Oi- (oy) Hey.
Aa- (ah-ah) Yes. Usually only used by males.