PROLOGUE

*

I'm gonna be late! Kagome thought, looking at the clock. School had ended fifteen minutes ago, but she was still cleaning the windows. She scrubbed harder, sprayed faster, and finally dropped her cleaning rag.

"Done!" she called as she raced out the door. "I'll see you next week!"

"Wait a minute," Eri called. "You're supposed to scrape the gum off the desks!"

Kagome almost tripped on a janitor's mop. "Eri, do it for me please -- I'll pay you back next week!"

"That's what you said LAST week!" Eri's voice faded away as Kagome raced out the door, almost running into a boy on a bicycle.

Inuyasha's impatience had a tendency to peak if Kagome had spent more than a few hours on her side of the well. And when his emotions climaxed, he usually shot out of the well like a half-human cannonball and came running across the rooftops of Tokyo to find her.

He needs to learn how to WAIT, Kagome thought, running down the steps. She'd more or less calculated when Hojo left his last class, and could avoid him if he tried to ask her out again.

"Hey, Kagome!"

Most of the time.

Kagome forced herself to look cheerful as she turned around. It wasn't Hojo's fault -- he just couldn't take a hint, that was all. "Hi, Hojo," she said.

The boy stopped his bike just beside her, smiling warmly. "I saw you rushing off from school. I hope that stomach problem isn't coming up again?"

"No, no, it's fine," Kagome said weakly. "But I really need to run now. I'm... um... I have to go."

Before Hojo could say anything, she turned and ran. If Inuyasha had turned up while she was talking, she could never have gone back to that high school. Explaining why a dog-eared boy in feudal-era clothing had leaped off a rooftop, raced down the road at superhuman speed, and carried her off? Kagome had gotten used to white lies, but explaining that away was way beyond her skills of imagination.

She was openly panting as she ran up to the shrine. Inuyasha was just climbing out of the well.

"I made it," Kagome gasped, dropping her backpack. "Don't get huffy with me, because I DID make it."

Inuyasha shrugged, and dropped off the edge.

He was waiting on the other side when she materialized in the well. Without another word, he grabbed her and leaped up and out.

We've really gotten comfortable, she thought as he carried her on his back toward the village. I don't even need to say anything. Kind of a far cry from when he'd insult me for absolutely no reason.

"Sango's been off lookin' for rumors about more jewel shards," Inuyasha said suddenly. "She said somethin' that didn't make sense right before she left."

"Didn't make sense?"

"A mountain that eats people." Inuyasha leaped over a stream. "To be honest, I wasn't paying attention."

"Am I hearing this correctly? Somebody said something with the words 'jewel shards' in it, and you didn't pay attention?"

"I was busy hitting the runt." Inuyasha bounced off a tree branch, and landed lightly on one of the village rooftops. He hefted Kagome higher on his back. "Besides, it sounds stupid to me."

"And now you're getting skeptical?" Kagome said. "Weren't you the one who used to lecture me about all the weird things that go on here?"

"Yeah, so I should know a stupid rumor when I hear one," Inuyasha retorted. "If there's anything there, there's just some demon like we've fought a thousand times before."

"You're getting kind of complacent, aren't you?" Kagome looped her arms around Inuyasha's neck.

"Am not." He ended the conversation by bounding down to Kaede's house and letting Kagome slide off his back.

TO BE CONTINUED