It had been difficult. Her chest rose and fell with each heavy inhalation as beads of sweat trickled down her face. Raising a shaking hand, Kagome wiped at her face to keep the salty liquid from falling into her eyes more. Her bow was still gripped within her whitened fingers and the arrow lay within the forehead of a spider youkai. It lay, writhing on the ground for a few moments before the nervous system failed and the legs fell still. "Gross. I always hated spiders." Curious heads turned towards the little miko with odd expressions on each member's faces. Several empty moments passed before Miroku spoke and broke the silence. "Kagome, might I say that you've grown so much and yet you never cease to amaze me with your statements. You just killed a youkai on your own and the first thing you say is how nasty it is?" He smirked a little and looked at her with a knowing gaze. The rest of the group, as if some spell had been broken, laughed. They were laughing at her. Kagome shook her head and smiled, soon joining in their laughter. "It was a little silly, wasn't it?"
Everyone stopped to look at her only to fall into laughter again. Yes, it was true; the Kagome that they had all met was growing up. She had blossomed both physically and mentally and now she was near fearless. For the past six months she had actively taken a role in fighting against youkai during their search for shikon shards. Also, she had taken up practicing with a staff and received training from Miroku during restful times. Everyone agreed that the staff, second to the bow, was probably one of the best weapons for the young woman. She was not extremely strong, nor was she overly brave, but she had an agility and passion about her movements which suited the needs of the staff beautifully. Many mornings they now woke to the sound of her constant practicing. Her power was blooming due to the confidence and energy she now had and because of this she made it a habit to study with whatever miko she could find whenever she could, even just a momentary word or two in the right direction was quickly jotted down into a little notebook for future reference. What had overcome Kagome? Why the sudden shift? Simple. She had graduated High School in her own home time and now felt it was needed for her to study more useful subjects.
It was an interesting change. The group was now entirely devoted to helping her in any way and it seemed that they were gathering shards much faster than before. Today they had even collected three shards. Spirits were high as they marched along after the next. Unfortunately, just when things are looking up... reality decides to bring you down.
Rain poured upon them as a loud crack was heard in the distance.
With a groan and the lowering of his ears against his head InuYasha crossed his arms in an obvious display of discomfort. "Stupid rain. Why did it have to rain today? Why not tomorrow!" The body language of the group seemed to show that they all agreed with him. They trekked on, nobody argued that they might need to stop as they would only be just as wet either way. Then it happened, a sound in the area around them to their left. It was close and coming nearer. InuYasha growled and, trusting his instincts, drew Tetsuaiga and stood in a ready stance. "Whoever you are you can come out now. We know you're there." He growled out low, trying to intimidate. He honestly hoped that whoever it was would just run away. They were all tired and a little depressed from the rain and they didn't need another fight. Who emerged from the shadows was, however, unexpected. Fumbling over his own feet, blind with adrenaline and gasping for breath. InuYasha raised an eyebrow curiously at the little creature and wrinkled his nose in distaste. "Jaken?" He sheathed his sword and looked down at the toad with pity. "What are you doing here?"
In a moment's notice the little green fellow was upon Kagome's feet. "P..p..please!" It was obviously hard for him to say what he had to say, his pride was getting in the way. But he had come so far! Kagome kneeled down to be as close to eye level as possible with him and hesitantly set her hand upon his shoulder. The big beady eyes looked up at her, quaking in desperation. "My lord does not know I am here. If he finds me he will surely kill this lowly retainer!" Kagome was shocked at his outburst and shook her head slowly in confusion. Brow furrowed she asked the question that had already been asked.
"Why are you here?" Her voice cracked a little, showing her uncertainty. "And what can I do for you? I swear to you, as a miko, that whatever you need I will see to it that your lord does not harm you for simply asking."
Jaken shook his head quickly and began to wring his hands together. "Noo, you do not know his wrath! This Jaken will be dead before the night is through! You must make haste, miko! I have come with an urgent mission and sought you as you are the only human with such capabilities that this Jaken knows of!" He threw himself, hands akimbo, into the muddy ground before her feet and continued his begging. "This Jaken will gladly pay as many lives as I must for this is a matter of Lord Sesshomaru's own happiness!"
That certainly got everyone's attention. Sango frowned with confusion and wondered aloud. "Lord Sesshomaru's ..happiness!" Ignoring the lace of sarcasm in the woman's voice Jaken continued to speak, not looking away from Kagome or removing himself from the ground. "Yes! Most certainly! Lord Sesshomaru is a proud and dignified youkai, he cannot openly admit his affections! It is my duty to see to it that he may continue to keep his pride and still keep his joy. As an honored and humble servant I have traveled for days to find you so that you may save what little love is within my lord's life! We do not speak of it aloud as it was so unexpected but it is obvious to anyone that the lord loves the girl!"
Kagome was really confused now. Lifting the toad by the shoulders she grasped him firmly and said in a raspy voice. "What are you talking about!" Jaken closed his eyes momentarily and sighed in defeat, it was obvious he would have to sacrifice more of his own dignity to obtain the services needed.
"The cold times came quickly and we were caught unprepared. Nobody had looked into the matter and so when the slight echo of a cough began to surface in the halls we treated with whatever means we could. It was agreed among all that, as long as he did not notice, we would not mention the matter to our lord. He was burdened enough already! But the cough turned nasty and wet! Now she lays, unable to move from her bed and barely breathing. We fear that she may die! Please, miko, I humbly ask that you save the child Rin, ward of the great Lord Sesshomaru, with your superior healing capabilities. Please!" The last word, spoken with a shrill of desperation broke the little youkai and his head hung low with grief. Everyone stood in shock, mouths gaping. Rin? The little girl that followed Sesshomaru everywhere? She was ill? Kagome couldn't understand all that Jaken had said but she got the gist. With a small smile she sighed and did something unexpected: she pulled Jaken to her and gave him a hug. Her voice escaped her softly and she could tell he was listening intently.
"Do not fear for Rin. I will go with you immediately and see to it that she is healed. If, in the instance that Lord Sesshomaru is displeased with your actions today then you may travel with me. I would be honored to have one such as you to call a friend. Anyone who would risk their life and their pride for someone they love so much is somebody I respect. Please, allow us to go to our village where I can pick up supplies and then we will go to heal your little friend." She smiled when Jaken stopped shaking but she could still feel that he was on the verge of tears. Lucky for him it was raining. Placing him on his own two feet she stood and gathered her pack, motioning to InuYasha with the wave of her hand. "InuYasha, come on. We need to go as fast as possible to the well. I have to get medicine for Rin." InuYasha wasn't sure he really wanted to help Sesshomaru but he couldn't allow a little girl to suffer or possibly die just because of his brother. He sighed and walked over to Kagome, lifting her onto his back. She turned to Miroku and Sango with a smile as they took off towards the well. "We'll see you at Kaede's in a few hours!"
InuYasha looked up for a moment, towards the raven head on his shoulder. "Kagome?" Her eyes were closed and she looked.. worried. "Hmm?" Was her only reply. He turned back to his path and sighed a little. "Do you know what is wrong with the girl?" He felt Kagome fidget a little and then she went quiet. "Kagome?" Her head fell against his back and she grit her teeth. "Yes. She has Pneumonia. In my time they can heal it rather quickly with medicines but here... especially to a child in the hands of unknowing youkai.. it can be fatal. I'm going to get some antibiotics for her and ask my mother for the best recommendations on what helps. Hopefully she will be better in a month or two." She heard his little growl and traced her fingers along his back. "I know. You don't want to be around your brother that long. I was wondering.. well.. I didn't want to ask until I came back from home but I suppose.. maybe you could take Sango, Miroku, and Shippo to Kaede's until I send word that I can return? Rin will not get better if her home life is disturbed by too many individuals and you and Sesshomaru will only be at each other's throats."
She heard him snort a little and she wondered what was so funny. "You forgot one little thing, Kagome. You haven't even had permission from Sesshomaru to stay in his home. Even if it is to heal this girl, I really doubt he's going to jump for joy at the idea of you, of all humans, staying in his home." Kagome frowned and rolled her eyes. "Well I suppose he's just going to have to get over it, won't he?" She said with a smirk.
Sesshomaru was pacing. Everyone who lived within his home was on edge for fear that he, in his state of unrest, might unleash some of that irritation on them. It had taken a while, not that he was ignorant, their lord was just busy very often and did not focus on the pains of those around him. However, as time went on and the raspy coughing of the little girl upstairs continued he could no longer be oblivious. He knew that Rin was sick, possibly to die again, and that nobody had told him. He wasn't angry with them, no. He knew why they did it. He was angry with himself. How could he have allowed this to happen? Rin was now an important part of his household. She provided sunlight during rain and color during drab times. Without her he wasn't certain that the others could go on. He saw how attached they had all become to the child, it was preposterous but real. How could he have been so stupid? She was a child! Human children get so ill so easily. With a sigh he rubbed at his temples with his hand, continuing to pace.
"Jaken! Where is Jaken!" He bellowed out when a young maid entered the room to dust. She quivered and shook her head, displaying wordlessly that she did not know. Sesshomaru grit his teeth together once the girl had fled from the room. Where was that toad? While he didn't really like Jaken he was very happy with the service that the runt provided. Something must have come up for him not to be standing right in this very room, trying his best to console his upset master. Sesshomaru growled slightly when a young male youkai entered, the messenger boy, and spoke slightly. "Sir? Lord Sesshomaru? There is a young miko requesting an audience with you. She says that it is a matter of life and death and.." The boy seemed reluctant to say this part but knew that his lord could tell if he were lying. "And that if you know what is best for you that you will let her in." He cowered away, but did not leave, waiting for a response. Sesshomaru stopped abruptly, hand still on his forehead and shoulders taught with frustration.
What was happening to his tranquil home! "Allow her to enter and bring her here immidiately." He sighed and turned to continue pacing, not even noticing when the strange girl entered the room or that his retainer was following her dutifully.
Kagome stood, Jaken at her side, before the lord of the western lands inside his great room. He was pacing back and forth and would glance at her angrily out the side of his view. "Miko. Why have you come here?" When he asked this his vision jerked towards Jaken and he glared. "And where have you been!" Jaken shook with fear and was about to throw himself to the ground when the girl stepped before him, as if to protect him.
She cleared her throat lightly and bowed low, never removing her eyes from Sesshomaru's face. "Lord Sesshomaru, I thank you for your generosity in allowing me an audience with you. Please, I have heard of the young child within this home and her illness. I know this illness and am here to cure her. Would you allow a miko to do her duty and help the child?" She did not rise nor did her voice waver above a slight whisper. She seemed to be slightly afraid and, glancing at her again, he could not shake that she looked terribly familiar.
Without addressing her he turned to stop and look towards Jaken. "So. This is what you have been up to. You sought out a human to help." He was angry at the toad, how dare he go and ask for such a favor without consulting him for permission first! However, there was little he could do about it, she was already here and willing to assist the child. Turning his gaze to the girl he looked her over, carefully observing any features that might show a potential threat to his household. Obviously, by her clothes, she was a miko and that could be a problem if she decided to turn angry to any of his staff. He would simply tell them to stay away from her. Jaken started this, if he were to get purified that would be his problem. Sesshomaru inclined his head ever so slightly and the miko stood upright again. "You may stay here for the duration of the child's illness. No longer. Once she is better you will see to it that my staff knows how to prevent such an occurrence again. Jaken will assist you with your needs while you are here. You will not be given a room of your own, you may stay with the girl, and you are not to wander about or speak with any of my other staff members. If there is severe problems tell Jaken and he will inform me." He said this while pointedly glaring down at the toad that quickly nodded and scrambled to the girl's side again. Sesshomaru turned his gaze to the girl again, unable to get over how familiar she looked. "Tell me, miko, what is your name?"
A gasp was heard from her and her hand flew to her mouth. After such a list of orders she never expected him to ask a social question. Lowering her hand quickly she smiled. "I am known as Kagome, Kagome Higurashi." Sesshomaru waved his hand in the air, dismissing them and Jaken led Kagome out of the great room. Within his mind he had to wonder... the girl, even her name, was oddly familiar. He shook it off and left to complete his work, satisfied that the horrid coughing would end soon.
Before fully leaving Kagome turned and glanced at the retreating back of Sesshomaru. "You don't know me, but.. I will do all I can to help you." Her whisper was left to hang in the empty room, unheard.