Chapter 1: Naraku's Scent

"Naraku!" yelled Inuyasha and sat up straight. The moon was high, surrounded by twinkling stars.

"What?" asked Miroku, Sango and Kagome in unison.

"Huh?" Shippo was still drowsy from being woken up in the middle of the night.

"Damn it! Naraku's scent! He's around. His barrier is weakening." Inuyasha leapt up, fully awake and alert. "He's turning human tonight! Oh, I'm going to bust his damn ass!"

"Inuyasha!" admonished Kagome. "Don't swear in front of small children."

"Keh! Who cares? Well, I'll be back in the morning."

"What? Hey! Wait for us!" But Inuyasha was already bounding quickly away, leaving no one time to chase after him. Sighing, the rest of the group lay back down.

"How much do you want to bet he'll fail this time?" asked Miroku.

"Don't wish people bad luck, houshi-sama," admonished Sango.

Shippo was already snoring, and within minutes, Sango and Miroku joined him in wonderland. Kirara was asleep too; only Kagome stayed awake. She stared up at the starry sky, worrying about Inuyasha. One hour of tossing and turning later, Kagome got up, frustrated. "Damn," she thought, "if I can't sleep, I'd better go and take a walk." Wrapping herself up in a thick furry blanket, Kagome quietly left the campfire.

She followed a small stream, enjoying the calm silence, occasionally broken by the balmy breeze. Suddenly, Kagome sensed a Shikon shard bearing down upon her. She looked up – but before she could react, a large hawk youkai swooped down on her. It picked her up in its gnarled claws, and flew upwards. It cackled with merriment, and flew even faster. "Well, well, how convenient! Some free Shikon shards, as well as a pretty girl for my supper!" the hawk cried.

Kagome squirmed and kicked in anger, but the hawk's claws clamped even tightly, squeezing the breath out of her. Helpless, she glared at the hawk's claw around her. Having made sure that no one was pursuing Kagome, the hawk now flew freely, swooping up and down, occasionally diving in circles. Sick to the stomach, Kagome made no protest for fear she'd throw up. Then, seeing the crow swoop down towards tall trees, Kagome had an idea.

If I can just grab a branch from the trees, mused Kagome, I can probably stab this stupid crow, no, hawk, and get away. Struggling hard, she thrashed about until her arm loosened a little from the hawk's iron-like grasp. As the crow swooped down, ignoring the lurch in her stomach Kagome reached towards the trees... As though nature heard her silent pleadings, the wind blew the tops of the trees towards her outstretched hand. Grabbing the nearest branch, Kagome had barely broken off a branch when the hawk swooped back upwards. Good – it was nicely splintered and sharp. Kagome prayed that her ever-growing miko powers would not fail her, and she thrust the branch into the hawk's claw. The branch glowed a silver-blue, and pierced through the thick skin of the hawk's claw. It screeched in agony, and released its grasp on Kagome just before it exploded. The Shikon shard that had been embedded in the hawk's claw got dislodged, and Kagome quickly caught it. And then she fell from the air, screaming, gathering speed as she fell, into the waiting trees below.

An hour ago...

Sesshoumaru stood silent. Were his senses deceiving him? Surely not... Naraku's scent... it hung in the air like an ominous cloud, as though it was trying to suffocate all living beings.

"Jaken. Stay here with Rin." "

Sesshoumaru-sama? Where-" Jaken looked up to see that his master was gone.

"Why do I always get stuck with you?" he snapped at Rin. The little girl, busy finding small mushrooms she put in a basket she had woven herself, did not hear his malice.

"I'll be back after I feed Ah Un. Ok, Jaken-sama?" Rin asked.

"Whatever. Just don't wander too far." Jaken, on his part, wanted nothing to do with Rin and her crazy human actions. Only the fear of Sesshoumaru's wrath kept him protecting the girl. Let her get those horrid mushrooms, thought Jaken. All the better, I'll get some peace and rest. Assured that nothing could happen, Jaken rolled over and fell fast asleep. To Rin, nothing could spoil her happy mood. Jaken's dislike for her did not escape her notice, but out of respect, she kept silent about it. Now, away from his grudging eye, she was free to do anything without Jaken coming down on her. Gathering up the mushrooms she found, she followed the ever- growing trail of toadstools.

When the mushrooms led her up to the looming blackness of a forest, Rin hesitated. Thousands of unknown dangers lay in the dark shadows. But the thought of Ah Un hungry was more than the little girl could bear. Gathering her courage around her, she cautiously tiptoed into the forest. As she moved forward, with the light of the moon to guide her, she soon lost her fears. Rin moved on in peace for awhile. When she basket was full, satisfied, she stood up straight and looked in all four directions.

It did not take a fool to realize she was lost. I mustn't cry. Sesshoumaru-sama wouldn't approve – Jaken-sama would scorn. Rin's head filled with a billion thoughts exploding into her head at once. But how do I leave this place? Maybe... if I keep walking... I might find someone who would bring me back to Sesshoumaru-sama. Brushing aside branches and brambles that blocked her path, Rin drove deeper into the woods.

Fifteen minutes later, she was tired, hungry, and longed to see someone – anyone – that she knew. Even having Jaken around would be a comfort. Stumbling through the trees, she reached a small closure, surrounded by tall trees. I might sleep here, mused Rin. The trees that canopied the sky overhead were a good protection from any rain that might fall. Glancing at her surroundings, Rin saw a big hollowed tree. Perfect place, Rin thought gleefully. She could climb in and curl up quite nicely. The hollowed tree looked warm and comforting; it seemed like the best place to spend the night in.

Making her way over to the tree, Rin eagerly scrambled over when – THUD! She tripped over something lying in her path.

"Oh my God!" The 'something' sat up, obviously with great effort. "Hey, I know you! You're the girl that follows Sesshoumaru. You're Rin, right? I'm Kagome. Umm... do you know how to get out of here?" (A/N yea, sorry if it sounds totally unlike her... but I was stuck on what to write.)

Rin squinted her eyes to see in the dim light. "Not exactly. I'm lost here." Kagome looked at the little girl, with her cheeks and legs full of small cuts by wild branches. A deep compassion welled up within her.

"You must be cold. Come here," Kagome said, holding a corner of her blanket out. At peace at last, Rin settled in the older girl's lap. Wrapped in a fleecy blanket and safe in Kagome's lap, Rin began to tell her story.

"Kouga's tribe was going to kill you?" asked Kagome incredulously, on hearing her story.

"I don't know... it was wolves, and they had a leader, with these two Shikon shards in his legs."

Kagome abruptly stood up and started pacing. "That – that absolutely evil freak!" she exclaimed in anger. Pacing even faster, she continued, "What happened next?"

"Well, it's a bit fuzzy," said Rin truthfully. "But since then I've followed Sesshoumaru-sama. He's really nice to me, doesn't let Jaken be mean to me, and he saves me if I need help."

The sky was split into two – one part still dark, with stars, and one lightly streaked with the first rays of the morning sun. Kagome was about to answer when she stopped short. "Kagome-neechan?" Rin was puzzled. Suddenly, a gigantic, blue youkai popped out of the trees.

"Uh... will Sesshoumaru save you now?" asked Kagome nervously. I don't have my arrows; I still can't conjure protective barriers like Kikyo and Kaede do. In truth, I'm defenseless, with Rin to protect. Truly, I have no need to protect Rin. She's on Sesshoumaru's – the enemy's – side. I've only known her for a few hours. I would stand a better chance trying to escape by myself. Excuses, Kagome, excuses, she scolded herself. She's only a little girl. Besides, enemy or not, how can you leave her to the youkai? And there would be Sesshoumaru to answer to... Kagome shuddered at the thought of his anger.

"Rin-chan," Kagome struggled to keep her voice calm. "Get behind me."

"Hai!" But before she was safely behind Kagome the youkai struck. It left a long, thin scratch on Rin's arm, dripping with blood. "They say the blood of young humans is the best," the youkai grinned evilly. "I agree. Next best is the blood of young women – I've come across quite a find, don't you think?"

"Rin-chan!" screamed Kagome. The youkai raised its clawed hands to strike again. Kagome threw herself across the younger girl, protecting her from the youkai's blows. She bit back tears as the youkai's claws left three searing gashes on her back. Oh, where was Inuyasha?

Sesshoumaru faintly saw the outline of Naraku's castle, from behind a powerful but weakening barrier. The air reeked of Naraku's smell. Wait... there was a new scent. Some hanyou, who happened to be his ridiculous half-brother, had come, no doubt ready to draw his sword and lose miserably to Naraku.

"Inuyasha," Sesshoumaru drawled silkily. "This is my fight! You will not interfere!" shouted Inuyasha. Sesshoumaru glared at him stonily, until he realized... The air now held another smell... faint... but lingering.

The scent of Rin's blood now tainted the air.

Without a word, Sesshoumaru turned on his heels and flew off in the direction of Rin.

The trees spun in circles. She was dizzy, tired. Kagome almost closed her eyes to sleep. Each swipe the youkai took at her now brought no pain – only numbness. She closed her eyes... she was tired... she would sleep just for a minute, and when she awoke, the pain would be gone. Then realization hit her and she fought to stay awake. Somewhere, deep inside her, she knew the truth. If she fell asleep, it would mean death. But her will to live was ebbing away... slowly, but surely, she was dying.

A blinding light soared across the woods, cutting down trees in its path. It hit the youkai square on its back, slicing it into two. Rin, shielded by Kagome, was still safe enough. Peeking out from Kagome's arms, she saw a tall figure clad in white, sword drawn, standing before her.

"Sesshoumaru-sama!" cried Rin happily. He'd saved her once again, like he had always done before. The taiyoukai's face was an icy cool exterior, but emotions and questions flowed freely inside him. He recognized the girl who had protected Rin, disregarding her own life. She was his half-brother's human friend, called Kagome, if he remembered correctly. Then again, Sesshoumaru noticed everything, and forgot nothing. Kagome - what was she doing here alone? And more importantly, why did she save Rin? He carefully scrutinized her. Never had he been so close to her – he'd seen her only from afar and mostly he was too preoccupied with fighting Inuyasha to notice her.

This was a human of great beauty, decided Sesshoumaru warily. He didn't trust beautiful females – Inuyasha's mother, Kikyo... all had led strong youkai to their downfalls. But though he never let himself fall into its clasp, Sesshoumaru appreciated beauty. His castle itself was the epitome of splendor and elegance; the lands he ruled were the most scenic. He cast a golden eye over Kagome. She was beautiful. She had selflessly protected Rin with her life. She was beautiful, perfectly selfless, and dead.

A/N: Don't freak yet people! I won't give too much away... but Sesshoumaru does have something called Tensaiga. I'm sorry this is a bit short... I promise other chapters will be longer. Also, I'm sorry if people consider this a cliffy... I never meant it that way.

I don't own any of the characters above.

Lemons in later chapters – I promise!

Reviews are appreciated a lot.

Thanks, C.T.