Disclaimer: Along with everyone else on this site, I do not own Inuyasha.

Chapter 1: Of Sickness

Kagome woke up to a feeling of increased wariness. She didn't know what it was, but something told her that this day was going to be different, for better or worse.

Her grogginess was slow in leaving her, and as she stepped outside she could see why. The sky was completely overcast, giving a gloomy feeling to the day.

She looked to the next hut over and saw Sango come out. The older girl was the closest thing she had to family as Kagome's own parents and brother had died 5 years prior from an illness that swept across the countryside. While the entire village had rallied around her and helped raise her, she and Sango had formed a special connection. No matter what her mood or what had happened that day she always went soft when she saw her friend. Especially lately…

Sango waved good morning to Kagome, smiling at the feeling of being outside in the cool breeze. It lightened her heart and made her feel better for the moment. She turned around as she felt the houshi stepping outside of the hut behind her.

"Miroku…do you think Kagome looks troubled today?" She no sooner got the words out of her mouth than Miroku had grasped her by the waist, quickly spinning her into him to give her a short, passionate kiss. He sighed against her as he broke off.

"I will never tire of hearing my name roll off your beautiful lips, my Sango." At this he admired her growing blush. No matter how tired or overused his lines were she never got tired hearing a single one and could only blush when everyone else in hearing distance rolled their eyes. "Now what were you saying about Kagome-sama?"

"I was saying…I think I'm going to be sick!" With this she was off, pushing him away and hurtling around the side of the hut.

As Kagome saw Sango running off all her earlier thoughts were brushed aside. She knelt down beside her on the backside of the hut where she was bent over some bushes and gently grabbed her friend's hair to hold it back.

"You okay Sango?" Kagome was sympathetic, if not a little jealous. While her friend was sick more often than not now she still had this glow about her that told just about everyone how happy she was with life at the moment.

"Yes Kagome, I'm fine. Thank you."

"Well at least you only have six more months to go," Kagome comforted as a wistful smile graced her face. Already she was 17 years old, far past marriageable age for the Feudal Era. Sango and Miroku had been lucky. She herself might never know what it would be like to carry and bear a child. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she looked down as Sango began to get up.

"Youkai all around and it's a human that brings me down," she said in irony.

Kagome laughed. "Are you referring to your lecherous husband or your baby?" She glanced back at Miroku and smiled at him as he looked at the two of them anxiously, concern obviously written across his features. "You two are going to make great parents."

Kagome glanced over at Sango as they trudged through the forest and wondered when the demon hunter would stop going out on the field with her. Sure, they had to find food and the medicinal herbs that grew in abundance in the area, but the main reason they went out was to patrol the borders of the village against any roving youkai. Sango was a valuable warrior, brave and loyal almost to a fault, but Kagome was beginning to wonder if Sango should be doing this anymore in her condition. Surely even taijiya had stipulations for safe-guarding a pregnant mother and her children's health…

She relented, giving a small silent sigh and shaking her head. The two of them could surely go at it as far as stubbornness was concerned, but no one could beat Sango when she had that look in her eyes, and of course this morning it had been prominent once again. She hadn't been able to talk Sango out of coming and she assumed it would be another couple months before she and Miroku could convince her, if they could at all. Kagome quietly laughed at the image of Sango, 9 months pregnant, still carrying around her hiraikotsu, and probably still kicking youkai ass too.

Sango quirked an eyebrow at her. "What are you laughing at?"

Kagome was just about to answer when she suddenly felt an oppressive presence bearing down on all her senses and came crashing to a halt. At first she couldn't make heads or tails of the direction so she just crouched silently, motioning to Sango who had already done the same as she tried to pinpoint where the feeling was coming from. One thing Kagome could say, the pregnancy had certainly not dulled Sango's senses at all – if anything it had heightened them.

She shook off the distracting thought and once again focused on the presence surrounding them. Quite suddenly she felt it gathering and then moving almost directly in front of them. Kagome shot off like an arrow, Sango following so stealthily even Kagome could not hear her and only knew from experience that she was just behind and to the left.

They had been at a full run for a good fifteen minutes but still the manifestation loomed right in front of them, just beyond reach. Kagome saw Sango in the corner of her eye and was suddenly stricken with such a strong sense of anxiety for the unborn child that she skidded to a halt.

"Sango, you should turn around and go home. I can do this."

"Kagome, you of all people should know that I am strong enough to do this, and that I do not abandon my friends. I will not let you go alone!" To prove her point the normally reserved and stoic warrior let a small hint of her underlying anxiety and hurt into her voice.

Kagome winced at the tone seeing in her eyes not only the sadness of being questioned but also worry at her own actions.

"I know you can do this Sango. I do not question you and I hope you know that I would never do that. That…manifestation up ahead is not normal. I know you can handle it, but what about your child?. I don't know how to explain it, but I feel that whatever is ahead will change his life forever."

"Kagome-chan," Sango started as she placed her hand on Kagome's shoulder, "I know you love this baby and want to protect it, but so do I. I will do everything I can for this child, and try anything that I can't. That does NOT mean however that I will abandon my friends. I cannot tell what the future is, but I am not there. I am here, right now, with you, and I will not leave you to go on by yourself. I will never leave unprotected anyone that I love!" At this she grabbed Kagome into a fierce hug for a split second before backing away, fire in her eyes.

Kagome's eyes widened in surprise. Never had she seen Sango like this; even when her she'd been comforting her over the premature deaths of her parents and brother the older girl had only offered the gesture once. Perhaps she was not the only one getting a strange vibe from whatever lay ahead of them. In any case, as she pulled back and saw the determined set to Sango's jaw she knew there was no talking her out of this.

Kagome couldn't help but smile as she turned around, even as a sigh escaped her lips. "Well, I guess we should be getting on then. Miroku should be getting back from his duty at the shrine right about now and will be wondering what happened to us." That being said, they sped off into the deepening darkness of the forest.

They had been going at a steady pace for a while now. The scenery had changed slightly, signaling the end of the territory surrounding their village; the trees were denser here and twilight seemed to hang eternally in the branches. A faint mist was floating off the ground, small wisps finding escape through the small gaps in between the trees. From the sound of water it appeared that there was a hot spring nearby, or more likely a series of them connected by tiny waterfalls.

Sango paused to take in their surroundings, careful not to let a sound escape even in her awe. She couldn't remember ever being to this place before, which surprised her because she thought she knew all the land in the area. A small breeze passed through the area carrying a strange scent through the air and her hand raised to tuck a stray hair back into her ponytail.

Kagome breathed in deep, the breeze bringing the smells of many flowers and herbs, some strange, some familiar, and something else altogether foreign. As she looked over slightly to her left she noticed at least two different medicinal plants, ones that were typically hard to find. She couldn't understand this area – it was so clean, as if no human had ever stepped foot there before. Almost she wished she could transplant the village right here but just as quickly realized that such a thing would defeat the purpose. To do so would spoil the reason that she loved the place, it would no longer be fresh and new.

Sango's voice broke into her thoughts. "It's such a lovely place, I almost feel sacrilegious just being here."

"Yeah," replied Kagome, almost in a daze. "We should be moving on."

They turned to each other and at the wistful looks in both their eyes they almost laughed, but neither seemed able to force their mouths into the right movement. Instead they turned slowly, almost reluctantly, and started their pursuit again.

The very instant they set foot outside that magical place they came straight into contact with that strange presence, but it was so much more powerful than before, so much so that the two felt like they had run straight into a wall of solid rock. Sango recoiled back, falling back to one knee, but Kagome's miko powers seemed like they were acting of their own accord.

Her entire body seemed to light up ever so slightly, the glow brightening from where it emanated from her head and her hands. Little sparks of pink and yellow light were shooting off her in all directions, crackling as they made physical contact with the ground and forest growth. The majority of them, though, shot off toward the stifling force that had thrown them back and Kagome seemed determined to press through it. She somehow knew to the very core of her that this was not a barrier, that the presence itself was what was barring them from making headway. The problem was the further she fought her way inside the more it enclosed around her until she was finding herself encased on every side by the oppressive aura. Her vision began to black out and she was having trouble breathing. The light flared up higher and brighter, the tendrils of her energy flying out further.

Sango looked up when she heard Kagome's energy come to life. Heard? How could that be right? It would be nearly impossible for someone as untrained as herself in holy duties to physically hear something from the spiritual plane. As she looked up she realized it wasn't her friend who was giving off the sound, but the hideous clash between two opposing forces that was causing the sounds of friction.

Quickly she rolled to her feet and held her hand out to Kagome; she had never seen the younger girl in such a state. It looked almost as if the power was controlling her, rather than her controlling it. Suddenly she pulled her hand back, scalded as a tendril of combined energy snaked across her arm. For a moment she looked on, unsure of what to do, until she saw her friend starting to black out. Then she couldn't take it anymore.

She went bowling through everything, both the oppressive presence and Kagome's own energy in order to reach her. She grabbed onto Kagome's shoulders and began to drag her backwards, even as the energy started to envelop the two of them together. She felt as if she was sharing in everything Kagome was feeling, both the amazing power and consciousness imbued by the miko's senses, and the draining effect it was having on her body.

With one final effort Sango hauled Kagome back another short bit and dropped to the ground, exhausted but glad to see that Kagome was alright and that her energy had flared down completely. She looked normal now and even though she wasn't awake she knew she'd have to be satisfied with that for now. As unconsciousness claimed her Sango realized she had fought them backward into the place they had been standing just moments before. For a short second a flash of worry crossed her mind, she almost hated to soil the place with their presence, but then as she breathed the crisp air, air that she believed had never been breathed before, she was overcome with peace and drifted off into oblivion.

A/N: I'm alive, who knew? I'm bound and determined to finally finish the blasted epilogue to this thing if it kills me! (Which it very well might…) That means going through and reacquainting myself with the story so I figured I may as well do some edits along the way so that I don't mentally cringe every time I think of this fic.

Originally posted 2/3/05, edited 3/15/07