AN::Whistles innocently: Hey, 5 months isn't TOO bad! ...Maybe... Hehe... Sorry guys... :Sigh:

Either way, here's Chapter 17. This is where this fic is going to start getting a little more serious and also where it might end up getting its rating changed, depending on how violent the battles might get and such. There's actually going to be a decent SL forming! Yay! So, enjoy the chapter and try not to murder me for the freakish delay, even though I deserve it!

Chapter 17

"Souta, hold it—No! No, sideways, like—yeah! Yeah, like that! …Okay, now let's see… I think it just… OW! (&#)(! You DROPPED it! You dropped it on my foot!"

"Sorry! I'm just one guy, Sis!"

"Just- just put it down—GENTLY."

Kagome sighed in both relief and exasperation as her younger brother did as she asked, making sure to ease down her own side of the heavy chest onto the floor of the small but spacious apartment complex. That done, she collapsed into the plush recliner shoved against one wall of the living room and pulled off her sandal to examine her wounded foot.

Oh, that's gonna cause a bruise, she grumbled to herself, wincing as she gingerly touched the offending area. The chest had left a rather obvious impression of itself upon her skin, even through the tough exterior of her sandal.

Since early that morning she and Souta had been attempting to move her furniture between the Higurashi Shrine and her new apartment while making sadly frequent trips to various stores for everything between a couch and a new bed frame for the American mattress Kagome clung to from her time in America. Sadly, Queen-sized Americanized beds were not made to fit into Japanese-styled apartments, forcing them to buy a completely segmented box spring frame. Half the day had been spent on the bed itself, which was now snuggly fit into her bedroom and effectively covered in boxes and junk of all kinds.

A month had passed since she had first found the fortunate apartment complex, which was truly more of a duplex—something not easy to find in the cramped streets of Japan, and she was finally able to move in. The previous residents had taken immaculate care of the amazingly roomy living space, and once moving out a week ago had left it cleaner than any apartment she had ever seen in America. Discussing this with her mother, they had decided together that Kagome would only take the most basic and necessary of her possessions from the Shrine and use most of what she had kept and shipped over from college to furnish the new apartment. This left her room at the shrine virtually untouched.

However, the issue with the plan, which Kagome realized far too late, was that they were forced to dig out much of her American furniture from its storage space in one of the larger sheds of the Shrine—a task that was no small feat considering the amount of objects stuffed into a rather cramped space, as well as the size of Souta's car, which was the unsuspecting vessel of their travel. She had already promised her first born to her brother in return for the damage done to her previous vehicle during the move. Not only this, but it seemed that much of the foreign furniture was not suitable for the space of the apartment, despite its generous size in comparison to other Japanese apartments. Much of it would have to be sold –if that were possible—and replaced with more Japanese-friendly substitutes, which was already hurting Kagome's bank account. For now, all of her boxes and belongings were crammed into every possible corner of the apartment, leaving almost no room to maneuver and making it impossible to even see the floor except in patches. Trying to wade through the mess was already a nightmare, and she did not even dare think of the time it would take for her to organize it all.

It was like the Sengoku Jidai ten-fold for all the frustration she felt.

Sighing again, Kagome looked dejectedly around the disastrous room and then up at her brother, who smiled apologetically. Her head drooped in defeat.

"Come on, Souta, I'll finish the rest tomorrow. Let's go find something to eat." Her brother nodded his assent, pushing the boxes still stashed in the outer hallway into the apartment so that Kagome could lock the door behind them. Then, they ventured downstairs and out of the building, Kagome directing them down the street toward a small café and bistro on the corner.

In all, the day had not been a loss, simply exhausting. All her boxes and clothes had been moved to the apartment (save a few she reserved until she could be fully settled), her clothes now trapped in the closet of her bedroom where many of the boxes her stashed. At this point, it was impossible for her to sleep in her apartment. Much of the furniture could be taken care of at a later time, and what was already in the apartment was more than adequate: mainly her bed, couch, kitchen table and chairs. It was enough. Desks and dressers were not wholly necessary as she could always keep supplies stored in their boxes for the time being. Now, it all just needed to be organized and put away within the apartment itself.

Either way, it was a large task and she was only one person. Had it always been this difficult to move into a new apartment? She couldn't remember anymore.

They reached the café and Souta wandered off to find a table in what was a rather busy establishment while Kagome ordered for both of them. By the time she had settled beside him with their tray, all the adrenaline that had kept her lifting and walking throughout the day had ebbed away, leaving her feeling tired and drained. They ate in virtual silence, neither willing to break the comfort of their quiet by exerting any effort.

Finished, they returned to the outside of the apartment and Kagome hugged her brother, sending him off in his car with a weary smile and claiming she would perhaps take the train home to the shrine or else stay the night in the apartment on the floor (if she could clear a patch).

As he drove off, she felt strangely empty.

Night fell slowly, leaving Kagome immersed in the dark and too lazy to try and fish out the single lamp buried somewhere amidst the boxes and plugged into a socket. She had since pulled forth a mass of blankets from one of the many brown prisons and was sprawled out on the floor, staring at the dark ceiling and waiting to simply fall asleep where she lay. Her thoughts wandered away from her as she did.

The month had seemed to fly by, as had her entire time while being back in Japan. Her work at Taisho Corporations had begun to pick up as she met and began to see patients regularly. Most were closed off and loathe to talk about their problems with her at first, but slowly opened as they realized she had no intention of exploiting or mocking them. Much of what had happened to them was usually a result of the dangers of their jobs, their reluctance to speak arising from their resistance to exposing their positions in the company. Kagome had been surprised with the sheer amount of loyalty found among the employees of Taisho Corp. to their employer, but found herself reassured and warmed by it despite the difficulties such a loyalty caused to her.

Other patients were very open about their accidents and injuries toward her, smiling and talking pleasantly with her as she worked them through their background. Though provided with their files, Kagome was finding it much easier to simply scrap the previous notes and start from scratch. Some were eager to jump right back into previous routines they had followed with former PTs, making sessions entertaining and lively for Kagome. With these patients, time flew by and made her new job seem like more than endless paperwork (which is what the first week truly had been). It was relaxing to actually be working with her patients through the pain and irritation of workout regimes and counseling sessions. She enjoyed these patients immensely.

Then there were the patients who were outright hostile: men, women, and children all who were prone to lashing out at her both physically and verbally. These patients she could handle, but at times she had been more than wary of what they could do to her. Fortunately, Taisho-san never seemed to be very far on the days when these patients were present, and more often than not his simple presence put them at ease. It was tiring, if nothing else.

However, despite the personalities of her patients, Kagome had been surprised at the sheer number of them and the rapid increase since she had begun. The influx had been incredible and, she discovered after shifting through old records, almost three times even the highest rates in the past histories of the company in the past three weeks alone. Whatever was going on outside of Taisho Corp. was hitting the company and its employees hard.

Knowing it was doing her no good, Kagome grumbled incoherently to herself and rolled over on to her side, prepared to try and force some sleep upon body when she heard a banding knock on the door. Despite the boxes, Kagome was able to see the sliver of lighting peaking from beneath the front door of the apartment, the light broken by two shadows that were quite obviously feet. Puzzled, Kagome rose and picked her way towards the door in the darkness, managing to slam her shin against a low table just as she reached for the door.

"Ow! For the love of—Oh!"


She startled as she drew back the door, still rubbing her shin before looking up. Surprised brown clashed with curious amber-gold and she blinked, her body freezing as her mind blanked.

"Inuyasha? What are you doing here?" She stared at the hanyou standing before her, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt that she was still not quite used to, her ears hidden beneath a baseball cap. He opened his mouth to speak, jaw working before shutting abruptly. He looked like a deer in headlights. Had she not been so dumbfounded Kagome might have giggled.

"I… uh... Your mother said you were here. Keh, what did you do to yourself now, Wench?" She blinked and glanced down at the same time that he did, realizing she was still rubbing her shin.

"Oh… I… There's a mess and it's dark, so… Do you want to come in?"

He didn't respond, so she moved aside to allow him entrance and watch as the silver-hair boy picked his way into the mess and dark that was her apartment.

The past month had been an awkward time between them. Everything she had suffered through after sealing the well had been revealed to him by her mother, and it had taken Kagome some time to adjust to it all, as well as to the admissions on Inuyasha's part that he truly had thought her better off the entire time. After waking alone that morning, Inuyasha had returned the following day and rather forcefully sat her down for a 'talk' –which, of course, meant a tearful argument that ended in his frustrated yelling for her to stop crying and her leaving his eating the dirt in the shrine's gardens. However, life had suddenly seemed to return to normal with that. Suddenly, Shippou had begun to frequent the Shrine for dinner; introducing himself to her family and acting every bit the kit he had been 500 years ago (except with about five more feet on her height and a sense of humor that proved he had spent far too much time beside Inuyasha). Shippou and Souta had struck up an instant friendship that warmed her heart.

Consequently, Shippou's presence had caused Inuyasha to be dragged along an –on a few choice occasions—Kei and Yuushiko. These dinners more often than not resulted in vicious joking and insults, not to mention constant bouts of physical violence (namely due to Kei's busy hands being too close and friendly with Kagome's backside for either her OR Inuyasha). It was like the Sengoku Jidai had suddenly come home to her, and the presence of her friends –both old and new—kept her happier than she had been in four years.

However, the entire situation left her considering and wary over where exactly she fit in with Inuyasha and this new life of his. He seemed happy, and yet Sesshoumaru's words kept returning to her.

"Inuyasha is not the type to classify as 'happy'. He is still living. He raised the kit. For a half-breed, he has surpassed most of his kind." "…Inuyasha has been restless."

Was he happy? Did he really want to be around her? She still questioned so much, but in the end he was there, beside her, acting as if they had never been separated. In a sense, they really hadn't been.

Following him into the room, Kagome watched the shadowy outline of his back as he searched for a light, grumbling to himself. Involuntarily, she smiled.

Despite what had happened or the years that had passed, Inuyasha was still Inuyasha. He had grown enough to look older than her by perhaps a year or two, the maturity somehow making him even more handsome than he had been as a teenager (in hanyou years, of course). His body as well, thought it had been toned and broad before, seemed to have filled out in a manner that could only happen through the transition of boyhood to a man. He looked good to her, better even, and she was amazed by the subtle yet seemingly inconsequential changes in him. He thought things out more now, was more responsible, but at the same time still held a gentle innocence to his personality that had always endeared her to him. Time had been kind to her hanyou.

She was still watching him as he finally located the sole lamp in the room, approaching from his side as he bent to flip the switch. Unfortunately, she had forgotten the hazards of the unkempt apartment.

"Oh, good, you found it! I had no idea—Eep!" She squeaked in alarm as she stumbled over one of the boxes strewn around the room, pitching violently forward and bruising the same shin yet again even as her arms flailed for something to hold on to.

The light flashed on in the same moment he turned towards her and leapt forward, catching her firmly against him and attempting to steady both of them together. The motion proved to only force them to both tilt backwards and land with a heavy thud against the closest wall, right beside the newly lit lamp.

It was some moments before Kagome yanked herself from the daze of falling, head snapping upwards to find herself staring into the deep pools of his eyes. She could feel the blood rush forward to her cheeks and watched as his own face quickly mimicked hers. For a few lost seconds, they merely stared at each other.

He smelled good, like fresh air and pine trees even after all the years…

Kagome jerked backwards and out of her reverie, startling herself into reality before clearing her threat and looking away to hide her furious blush. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Inuyasha doing the same, his face covered in mute surprise.

"So," she started, the word drawn out and slow, "was there something specific you needed, or…? I mean, it's a long way to get here from your condo and all…" She glanced at him, attempting to bide time for her blood to ease and her racing heart to calm. Tellingly, he crossed his arms and turned his head further away from her, a blush betraying him as it spread across his cheeks.

"Keh… I had something to do. I figured I might as well come see what kind of place you were going to hole yourself up in."

Hole herself—"HOLE myself up in? What do you mean by that?"

Any pleasantness on his features disappeared into a scowl. "Nothin', wench…"

"No, I want to know! I don't 'hole myself up'!"


"Inuyasha…" Her voice dropped, warning him of the consequences. His scowl peaked in depth and he burst to his feet, throwing up his hands.

"I just came to see yeh, alright!" Not bothering to wait for her reply, he attempted to (poorly) wade his way back through the sea of boxes, flustered and red. However, the endeavor only served to entangle him further into the mess that was her apartment until he stumbled and nearly tripped to a halt, his legs closed in by the piles of boxes and belongings. Finding himself irreparably stuck, he simply huffed and stood there, arms crossed stubbornly over his chest, refusing to look at her. Kagome blinked.

"Oh… well… um…"

"Keh…" They settled into an awkward silence. Unfortunately, this seemed to be the result of their verbal battles of late and the silence left Kagome feeling vulnerable and embarrassed.

"Do you want to go for a walk?"


"A walk—you want to take one?" It was the only thing she could think of, smiling sheepishly at him from across the room.

He glanced back, eyeing her carefully with an expression she could not begin to read, before nodding quietly. "…Yeah, sure…"

They walked quietly through the streets, neither speaking, halfway between peaceful and wary. Even in the modern age, it was hard for Inuyasha to train himself to be at ease when walking in the night, and the same was true for Kagome if her constant glances into dark alleys were any indication. It was not that neighborhood was bad, simply that old habits died hard. And, for some reason, this night felt tense and dangerous, even in the mild weather. As soon as they had stepped outside, it was as though the world had shifted and tilted to an unnerving angle. The hanyou felt the sensation of eyes following his back as they walked.

Though the hour was not late, there were only a few stragglers outside with them: a couple walking hand-in-hand; children running home after a day of playing; a businessman arriving home from long hours of work. It was a typical day, and yet…

"Do you feel something… weird?" At the very moment he heard Kagome's voice, the scent of stale, metallic air hit his nose on the wind. He tensed beside her, unconsciously stepping in front of her as he tapped into his senses and began to search the area. The night was deep around them despite the streetlights, almost unnaturally so, and Inuyasha could feel his skin crawl, the hairs on his neck going rigid. Any awkwardness felt in the apartment moments ago was lost to old habits and a sense of responsibility towards the safety of the miko.

"Stay behind me," he ordered in a half-whisper, his arm moving outwards to guide her further back. Kagome obeyed with a silent nod. He knew the look she had in her eyes without ever turning: steely, determined, but worried. He could smell her alarm and feel that miniscule increase of warmth across his back as she drew close to him, a hand reaching out to brush the back of his shirt so that only the very tips of her fingers were in contact. Somewhere inside, his sense of pride and dominance –the need to protect—swelled, heightening his senses until—

"Down!" The attack came almost quicker than he could follow, forcing him to tear them both to the side and down against the pavement as energy erupted around them and tore up the concrete where they had stood like it was paper.

He was up instantly, Kagome with him, and dodging another blast before he could reorient himself to find the source, this time shoving Kagome in the opposite direction. Predictably, the shots continued to follow him as he jumped away, eyes and ears searching frantically. The attacks seemed to be coming from all directions, making it impossible to track one before another nearly skinned his back. The metallic scent hovered, but seemed to surround him more than it wafted in. His mind spun, unable to grab a firm hold. Where was it coming from? Where—

Laughter struck him, the faintest whisper, and Inuyasha pivoted towards the sound, claws brandished as he leapt up onto a high-lipped rooftop.

"Got you, you bast—Argh!" He was crushed to the ground, the wind knocked from his lungs without warning while his face was buried in the pavement. Suddenly, it felt as though his spine was being bent in half, every part of his body pinned down to the ground by pressure. He struggled against the force, only to be slammed right back into place as soon as his chest rose above the ground. He could feel the fabric of his shirt tearing with the exertion, wounds opening along his back.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome's shriek reached the ears of the struggling hanyou like a hundred chimes sounding at once, and from his flattened position on the roof Inuyasha could see pink light explode outwards in the streets below, lighting the evening sky with the brilliance of miko powers. His body tensed, and he struggled harder against his restraints, forgetting his own endeavor in the light that she was in trouble. However, any semblance of rational thought was driven from his mind when she screamed again, his back going numb and blood running in rivulets across his skin and down his sides as he struggled. Gashes began to tear across his sides as he fought, running across his ribs in streaks. Unknowingly, his eyes began to bleed red.

He had promised her long ago that he would protect her. She was his to look after, to guard. He had lost failed that promise 500 years ago when he had let her slip away from him through a portal to another world, and again four years ago when he had let her fall into a depression she should have never faced because of him. He had failed her too many times. He would NOT do it again!

With a third scream, this one of fury, his vision went white, and suddenly Inuyasha was no longer restrained at all, but plummeting towards the street with crimson eyes boring into the back of a dark figure wrestling with the miko in the streets below. Kagome was immersed in the light of her purification powers, teeth grit and cheek scrapped and bloody as she fought against the figure, but her attacker seemed to be unaffected by her abilities, forcing her down to the street with ease. Their hands were intertwined, arms outstretched and palms flat as both fought for control of the situation, but it was obvious that Kagome was quickly losing as something akin the Naraku's miasma dripped from the brandished claws of her assailant, burning her skin as it fell on her face and neck.

That was all Inuyasha saw as he bodily slammed himself into the figure, his own claws jamming forward with all the force he possessed until he felt the satisfaction of flesh ripping and giving way, ribs audibly cracking beneath his thrust and collapsing like dominoes. Together, they tumbled to the side, the figure ripped free from Kagome and now struggling against the hanyou even with his hand buried in its chest.

They rolled, fighting for dominance over each other. At some point, Inuyasha ripped his claws free of the chest cavity and attempted to plunge them into what he now realized was a cloaked face, only to have his wrist caught and crushed beneath an iron grip. He was far too gone in the fight to even register the pain that should have been shooting through his arm. Instead, he jerked to the side, forcing the cloaked figure beneath him and pinning it between his knees, one hand raised to strike as the other clutched what must have been a throat through the fabric of the cloak. He found himself staring down into a black void, with only a fanged, smiling mouth visible to him. Inuyasha froze, and the figure laughed.

Then, he was being tossed away like some burdensome sack, power surging around him, and the world went still and black.

"—uyasha! Inuyasha!"

He opened his eyes slowly, groggily, as though coming awake from a deep sleep, and blinked slowly, eyes focusing lazily on the dark figure above him, the sky looking strangely metallic to his blurred vision.

"Inuyasha?" Kagome's face came into sharp focus with her words and Inuyasha felt himself frown.

"Keh, what is it, Wench?" His gaze wandered until it fell upon the crater not too far off down the street, before the situation rushed back to him and he bolted upright. "Where—Agh!" Pain shot through him as he tried to sit up, feeling like electricity through his body. Instantly, Kagome was closer, hands helping him to rise as he stubbornly continued to do so. He had felt a great deal of pain in his life, but this…

"Gone. He disappeared after you passed out. I couldn't follow where he went. Maybe you shouldn't—" Kagome looked him over, worry swamping her face.

"I'm fine," he snapped, although he allowed her to wrap her arms around his waist for support, leaning more heavily than he would have liked against her. Whatever that energy had been, it had been powerful and destructive, and the cloaked figure wielding it had been no better. Looking down, Inuyasha was disgusted by his own state of defeat: great, gaping wounds arching from his back and down across his ribs, his shirt shredded and seeped in blood that was both foreign and his own. There was blood in his eyes and it felt as though his back had been stripped down to bone, especially by the flare of agony Kagome's light touch evoked. It had been a long time since he had found himself in such a state.

"Let's go back to my place," Kagome offered quietly, pulling him in the direction of her apartment. Inuyasha, however, paused, causing her to stop as well, and took in the scene, letting the wind and sounds of the streets fill his senses. When he could find no trace of the metallic scent or laughter that had first caught his attention, he silently consented. She glanced up at him, then out towards the direction he had been searching, brows furrowed as they began to walk. "…What was that?"

He shook his head, suddenly understanding why his most powerful men were dropping like flies in the face of this mysterious threat. If even he was getting pummeled so easily, this was much bigger than they had originally thought. The thought evoked a low growl to issue from his chest.

"I don't know. But I'll fucking well find out."

Next Chapter: 18, On the Scent, Inuyasha is forced to go to Sesshoumaru with this latest development and more is revealed on the nature of the company run by the two brothers, as well as Taisho Corp. and Kagome's mysterious influx of patients.