SORRY IT TOOK SO LONG! My computer died for a while, and I had to get it fixed, put it's still running really slowly because it gets too hot whenever I use certain programs, and the heat's done something to the circuitry, which is bad.

And of course, I never took suicidal squirrels into account. I was riding my bike home, and I stopped because this squirrel was gonna run across the street. The squirrel just kinda stared at me, so I started off again, and the squirrel took off, right in front of me. I was less than an inch (literally) from running it over, 'cause it ran straight in front of my front tyre. I braked and fell on my hands, and it was the one day I decided not to wear gloves. (Sigh)

And then I had to relaunch Finder and I thought everything got deleted… 24 pages of hard work, gone in a few seconds! I had a minor heart attack.

Anyway…

AAAAAAAARG! SCHOOL! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

(Sob)

Or "S.O.B." depending on how ya look at it.

Well, I've got an eccentric, sweating-prone, constantly late history teacher, a math teacher more wound up than a tightly-coiled iron bedspring with the energy to match, a Biology teacher who actually has a life, a French teacher who gives out the same exact homework that she gave us last year (she teaches 5/6 and 3/4), a Literature teacher who's spends all class time lecturing on psychology (Literally; no joke.), and my piano teacher seems to think that I have all the time in the world and that I'm merely a lazy swine. (Which is true, but you won't hear me tell her that.)

And a little brother who keeps going through my "off-limits" books like a teething puppy after worn leather shoes.

Looks like this year's gonna be… interesting.

Responses:

Inu-ears: Well, it's the last chapter, so… I'll find some way of making it long, I hope. I'm glad the last chapter was okay; I was afraid that I'd made a botch of it.

Lake of Fire: Definitely not. (Writing not being fun when forced) But I pulled it out… slowly… Thanks; I'm not really an insomniac, but it does take me forever to fall asleep. Not fun. XD

Sesshy-chansbestpal: …Thanks! XD

Inuyasha's Mustang: A very very very long time, I do feel pretty bad about that, I admit. Yeah, Kanna 's gone. But of course, none of us expect Naraku to care.

SilverontheRose: Well, I'm touched. To be honest, I'm just glad to be at the end of the story. I was worried that I might not quite make it through the whole thing. One more chapter to go…!

Lacey Beans: Thanks so much for your support on taking my time! It really means a lot to get something like that. Thanks again!

SeeC: Well, I hope it wasn't too long of a wait. My sched's been a bit busy lately… and then I went on vacation to visit my grandmother, so… PLEASE KEEP KAGOME AWAY FROM ME! XD IT'S NOT MY FAULT!

kag101: Eep, indeed. Bu of course, the group couldn't die, could they? I mean, they're the main characters… Wait, Cowboy Beebop comes to mind…. Heh.

Lizz456: Yeah… it's gotta end at some point. When I first started writing this, I was thinking about ending around here, so I've kinda run outta ideas, too. Sorry!

Auxana: Ah! No, not the POCKY! Well, you've convinced me; another chapter, in exchange for the pocky.

Angel 4 life: InuKag/ MirSan fluff? For the last chapter, definitely. Don't worry, I would never, ever stop writing a story at the second-to-last chapter. That would be… more than evil. Loathsome, despicable, ect. I'm not that horrible! XD

Tiamath: Well, I tried to kill them off, but given that they're all so stubborn and set on survival, they beat me down. (But I'll get them next time…!)

Inu Kaiba: Thank you! This chapter might end up being pretty short as well, Maybe when I come back later, I'll combine 'em, or something. (… I would appreciate not being tackled though… XD)

purple-n-hazie: Sorry I took so long to update. Hope the wait wasn't too long!

AkeryouSeshoumarusMate: O.o Fire… It burns! (To be honest, I consider myself pretty lucky, as of now I've yet to receive any flames, despite the fact that my updates have become less than frequent… )

Ardent-Amber: Sorry, but it must come to an end; I have no more ideas left for this plot! (And it's a bit late to change the course of things, anyway.)

f1t1ve: And now it's… finished! Whew! Glad that ya enjoyed it!

Superstitious: "Work experience"? Doesn't sound too fun…

x

Disclaimer: No.

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Haunted

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Chapter Twenty-Three: Journey's End

x

He was free.

Yet, even after being cooped up for the last five centuries, he had nothing that he had to do. Inuyasha and his friends had been killed effortlessly, Tsubaki was gone, Kagura he could care less about. It was a pity that Kanna had died upon his release. She had been a useful servant.

He smiled, an odd sensation after being incorporeal for so long. Perhaps he could go on a walk, first, and familiarize himself with the altered landscape, as well as the odd sensation of walking.

(\ /)

(•. •)

( )

Mushin stared numbly at the board in front of him, disbelief etched clearly in his features. With hands that trembled, the elderly monk began to clumsily dismantle the spell.

Suddenly, the door swung open and a surprised Mrs. Higurashi stared at Mushin. After a few moments of startled silence, the middle-aged woman cleared her throat politely. "Um… What are you doing in my house?"

"Miroku's foster father," Mushin mumbled. "I stopped by to say hi." He didn't feel like explaining himself right now. He was still getting over the shock… "Name's Mushin." He nodded briefly.

Mrs. Higurashi's expression lightened. "Oh! Nice to meet you, Mushin-san. Would you like anything to eat or drink while you wait for him to return?"

"No thank you. Shippo gave me Cheerios."

Mrs. Higurashi glanced at Mushin thoughtfully, then turned away, remarking; "I wonder where they went…"

Mushin sniffed wiped his eyes on his sleeve as she closed the door.

A feeling of dread welled up in the middle-aged woman's stomach as she walked slowly down the carpeted hall.

(\ /)

(•. •)

( )

As the dust cleared, a thin voice rose above the slow drip of water, from stalactite to the ground below.

"… It worked?"

Kagome sat up dazedly and blinked dust from her eyes. "Guys? Hello?"

Miroku's equally awed voice came from her right. "Hello." What else was there to say?

Shippo giggled. "He didn't even see me as I made that circle around him! It was perfect!" He grinned and tugged on Kagome's sleeve. "It was perfect!"

"Yup." Inuyasha stood up on the other side of the circle and brushed off his hakama. "But only because he completely underestimated us."

"You're right," Sango admitted grudgingly as she swung Hiraikotsu over her shoulder. "If it had actually come down to a fight, I think that things would've been different."

"Jeez, you two!" Kagome laughed light-headedly, exhilaration setting in. "Can't you be a little more optimistic?"

Sango smiled quickly. "It's just," she admitted, "for all this time, I've been thinking about revenge. But, I realized that it's really pretty hollow. It won't change anything that has already happened."

"You can't bring the dead back," Inuyasha murmured softly, solemn amber eyes fixed on the white urn in the centre.

Miroku rested a hand on Sango's shoulder. "But we've done the next best thing; condemned the killer, and brought about justice. That's worth something, isn't it?"

Sango's smile sweetened slightly. "Thank you for saying so." The smile quickly became a frown. "And get your hand off me."

"I'm sorry, Sango," Kagome added quickly. "I didn't mean to be insensitive or anything."

The demon exterminator waved away the apology. "It's nothing. But we should probably head back now, shouldn't we?"

"Mushin has probably decided to celebrate by drinking something alcoholic by now," Miroku told the others with a dark look.

"Whoa!" Shippo's tail went bushy as he pointed at the pale urn that was still standing.

A sickly red plume of smoke was issuing from the inside and pouring down the side. Through the thick, cloying stuff, five alarmed pairs of eyes could make out a small, glowing red sigil on the side.

"I suggest we leave. Quickly." Miroku rushed to the exit, with the others not far behind him.

"Faster!" Inuyasha roared from the back shoving them all forward impatiently.

Miroku shot out of the tunnel, propelled by the sheer force behind Inuyasha's push. Sango stumbled out after, followed by a bemused Kagome. Lastly, the hanyou himself emerged, urging them all to keep going.

"But Inuyasha," Kagome protested as they continued down the hill. "What's going o-"

There was a muffled whump from behind them as the subterranean cave collapsed, and a great plume of the red smoke exhumed from the exit. The earth around it sizzled, and grass withered upon contact.

"…oh."

Miroku frowned as he thought, purple eyes locked on the large, charred indent in the ground where the hill had once been. "I'm assuming that the explosion was an after-effect of the spell." He turned to Inuyasha. "You said that Naraku was a hanyou, correct."

Inuyasha nodded.

"The two urns… I'd bet anything that they were holding his demon half in one, and the human half in another, because a different spell is used to trap a human than the one for demons." He was speaking quickly now as his mind raced. "So Kikyo would have to split Naraku into his human and demon counterparts in order to properly seal him. But it didn't work completely because the spells she used are supposed to hold a whole, not a half. But the halves weren't completely split; that's how Naraku managed to bring his mind out of the urn. He wasn't fully contained in either urn, as he should've been." Miroku glanced again at Inuyasha. "I'm guessing that that's how you became a poltergeist- by being hanyou, just the spell for demon didn't work on you, so your spirit escaped."

"What are you getting at, Miroku?" Sango asked, frowning.

"When we sealed Naraku's demon half in the Jewel, they must've split completely. And since one half cannot exist without the other, the urn with the human half blew up. The other half should've blown up, too, which means that the Shikon no Tama has probably blown up-"

"Which means that Mushin is either dead or wounded, or got away somehow, and that my house is probably on fire," Kagome concluded.

"I think that it's definitely time to go back," Shippo said.

(\ /)

(•. •)

( )

Mushin was very lucky.

It was only a very faint pulse that emitted from the Shikon no Tama, and if he hadn't noticed it, and if he hadn't come to the same conclusion as Miroku minutes before, he'd probably be dead.

Of course, throwing it out the window hadn't been the smartest thing to do. Especially with Mrs. Higurashi gardening down below.

"Look out!" he hollered.

The middle-aged woman looked up, confused. "What?" She wiped sweat from her brown and picked up the Tama, which was now pulsing red.

"It's gonna explode! Throw it away!"

Startled and even more confused –why was Miroku's foster father throwing explosives at her?- she hastily obeyed, hurling the mottled brown-and-red sphere far away, towards the opposite side of the house. "Oh!"

Mrs. Higurashi clapped her hands over her mouth in horror. "SOUTA!"

The boy turned the corner, Buyo under one arm. "What?"

Just in time.

The Shikon no Tama exploded in a roaring nimbus of pink light and reddish smoke, taking a fourth of the house with it.

Somewhere in the distance, one of the neighbors shouted in alarm. A startled flock of birds took to the sky, trilling and tweeting in alarm as a great plume of ash-grey smoke rose in the sky. A small portion of the house that was once the library was on fire.

"Mom?" Souta stumbled forward, completely stunned. "What was that?"

"A small, pink thing." She looked up to Mushin. "Would you please explain what happened?"

"Ask Miroku to explain it to you, when he gets back." The elderly monk shook his head, tired. "Do you mind if I go lay down somewhere?"

"Go ahead," Mrs. Higurashi replied faintly. "Souta, would you please call the fire department and tell them that it's an emergency?"

Souta dropped Buyo and took off running.

"Well." The middle-aged woman stood up and dusted off her hands. "I think I need a cup of coffee." She turned to corner and stopped in surprise. "Welcome back." She smiled at the disheveled group of young people.

Kagome was looking anxious and dusty, and Inuyasha was gasping for breath. Kirara was circling lower in the sky, an anxious demon exterminator and monk on her back.

"Is everyone alright?" Kagome asked her mother insistently. "Is anyone hurt, or… dead? Have you seen Mushin?"

Her mother smiled. "He's fine." She frowned slightly at her daughter. "Kagome, what's been going on? Are you okay? What happened while I was gone?"

Kirara landed in a cloud of dust. "It's a long story," Miroku told her with a wry grimace. "Would you like to hear it after we've all cleaned up?"

(\ /)

(•. •)

( )

"…and that's when the Shikon no Tama exploded," Kagome concluded rather sheepishly.

"I see." Mrs. Higurashi nodded solemnly as she stood up. "That's quite a story. I'm very proud of all of you." She gazed warmly at all five of them in turn.

Mushin sniffed loudly from his seat on the couch and wiped his nose on a tissue, apparently overwhelmed.

"It's still a bit unreal," Sango admitted with a small smile. It was a bittersweet ending; now that it was all over, she had time to properly mourn, time to really think about all that had happened. It all hit her like a ton of bricks, and she realized that revenge really wasn't at all satisfying. It was a hollow victory for all the hard work that she put in.

"Oh, Souta!" Mrs. Higurashi called after her son. "Remember what the fireman said!"

"You mean this hallway is unstable, too?" the boy demanded. He sighed and sat down on the couch. "It's a good thing that the part of the house that fireman said was unstable isn't anything crucial, like our rooms or the kitchen."

"Yeah." Kagome turned to her mother. "Did you call the construction workers? The guys who were fixing our house?"

"We're quite lucky," the older woman replied. "They're a few weeks ahead of schedule. The contractor said that they were just finishing up the kitchen. A few more days and we could stay at your aunt's again for a week, and then it'd be done."

"So I should pack!" Souta grinned enthusiastically. "C'mon Shippo! I'll tell ya about our house, 'cause you can stay with us when we go back!" The two of the scrambled off excitedly.

Mrs. Higurashi smiled at Kagome. "You might want to, too, dear."

Kagome grinned back. "Good idea. It'll take me a while to get all my stuff, of course." She hurried up the stairs after them.

Only Inuyasha, with his sharp ears, caught her gleeful "Tokyo!"

He felt like she'd punched him in the stomach.

(\ /)

(•. •)

( )

Mrs. Higurashi straightened with a sigh, her gaze soft and slightly regretful as she inspected the plethora of neat cardboard boxes stacked throughout the kitchen. Hastily scrawled in black marker, labels marked the contents of each box; plates, cups, pots and pans…

But there was one thing that she couldn't pack away and label, no matter how much she wanted to try. The middle-aged woman shook her head. "He has to work this out on his own," she told the stacks firmly.

For the past few days –since they'd decided to leave- a certain white-haired, dog-eared hanyou had been wandering aimlessly through the house, his amber eyes dim and apathetic.

It was horrible to watch.

She could see him visibly reverting to the indifferent, drained poltergeist they'd first encountered. Mrs. Higurashi wasn't sure, but every now and again she thought that he'd seemed slightly… grey.

And there were times when she would've sworn that she could see the light through him. But that was ridiculous, wasn't it? No, he was flesh and blood now. It had to be a trick of the light.

But all the same…

Sharp brown eyes watched sympathetically as he drifted by again, his eyes thousands of miles away.

A clawed hand rested on the back of the couch as amber eyes stared out onto the distant horizon. Was it just him, or was the couch kinda… not there? He looked down at his hand. It was like touching it through a skintight rubber glove. With a shrug- he had more urgent and puzzling matters to attend to- his eyes returned to the horizon, and his mind back to a familiar train of thought.

It was funny, because every time before now when he'd wanted something, he'd just reach out and grab it. It was that simple. But now, it was so much more than that… this was so much more important to him. What if she refused? He couldn't bear that. What if she laughed? It'd tear his fragile, flesh-and-blood heart out.

This second chance. It was a gift, one he'd only received because of her. She woke him up- by accident, he reminded himself sourly- and followed him around –because she was bored, that bitter voice added- and brought him back to life. There was no pessimistic retort for that one, only a question;

Why?

Was it her overwhelming sense of compassion for every living being –from butterflies, to that bird that flew into the window and broke its wing, to Buyo?

Of course not. She'd made her feelings pretty clear, hadn't she? But when he'd spent several lifetimes reliving a betrayal, of getting by purely on his own. Trust had killed him. It could happen again.

How?

How had he become so ridiculously sentimental and soft? It was embarrassing. Really, why was he so, so caught up it this whole thing?

He shook his head wearily and ran one hand through his hair.

"Just tell her."

Inuyasha flinched and whirled. "Where the hell did you pop out from?"

Miroku shook his head, a wry smile curving his lips. "Sometimes, I don't think that your 'superior hearing' is really so much better than ours." He chuckled quietly, then stared out at the horizon with the hanyou. "Why don't you just tell her?"

"Tell who what?" Inuyasha asked in surprise.

"Don't play stupid." Shippo's green eyes glared stubbornly at him. "Oh wait, you don't hafta play stupid, do you?"

Inuyasha's fist came down half-heartedly upon the kitsune's head and he shrugged. "Bug off."

Miroku sighed resignedly. "If you insist." He turned and started to walk out. More quietly, he added, "You're running out of time. If you don't do anything, you'll regret it."

"Hah. I already have more regrets than I can count, thank you."

Miroku turned, purple eyes as cold and hard as flint. "Stop trying so hard; the cool, tortured attitude doesn't suit you." His expression softened into a small grin. "And hearing you say 'thank you' is kinda alarming, too."

(\ /)

(0.0)

( )

"All done!" She shut the bottom drawer of her dresser with finality and inspected the room, the cheerfulness fading from her face. "It looks so… empty…"

The walls were almost painfully bare and white, stark and harsh against the pale carpet and the rolled-up futon that she'd been sleeping on the past few days.

At first, she'd been exuberant to go back. Although she'd never admitted it, she was homesick. It was like a gnawing pain in her chest that never went away, whenever she thought of the old shrine. She missed the way the second-to-last stair creaked slightly, and the way that the tap would get cold whenever someone was running hot water in the bathroom. She missed seeing the leaves fall from the Go-Shinboku and waking up late on Sunday morning, and seeing Grandpa sweeping them up outside. She missed Tokyo and the constant drone of cars as they drove past her bedroom at night.

But this was even worse.

The indecision nagged at her constantly, and part of her wanted to rip open the nice, neat boxes that she'd painstakingly packed over the past days and put all her stuff back. But she knew that that wouldn't help. It'd only make things worse when the time came.

"When the time comes…" she repeated slowly. She sat down on the floor, her back pressed against the wall. Two days. Two more days, and then she'd say goodbye to Sango and Miroku and… and Inuyasha.

"I don't know…" Could she do it? They were all so close, as dear as her family. It'd be like leaving home all over again, but something told her that it'd be so much worse.

And besides, was it really so bad, living here? It was a good thing that the taps didn't leak and that the stairs didn't creak. And there were trees everywhere that would were losing their leaves, just like the Go-shinboku.

She leaned back and banged her head against the wall. There it was again. Two sides, conflicting, arguing constantly in her head no matter what she was doing or thinking about. It was driving her insane. An agonizing game of mental tug-of-war.

"If he wants to, he should come forward about it. Inuyasha knows that he's welcome." Didn't he? She'd made subtle references whenever the topic came up.

"And the skyscrapers just go straight up! You'll see. It's pretty incredible-"

"…I think you'd like it there, Inuyasha. But your nose is really sensitive, so the smell might take a while to get used to. And the sound. It's not as quiet as it is here, because cars are always going by, and people live really close by. But still, I think…"

How could he not get the hint? Or did he not want to?

What was worse was that Inuyasha hadn't spoke to her in days. And she just… couldn't find the words. They were leaving, yes. Leaving him all alone, deserting him after bringing him back. It was clear as crystal, this dilemma. She wanted him to come. Space wasn't an issue.

But what about the city?

It was completely alien to him. Sure, he'd gotten used to cars and dishwashers and vaccums, but what about the endless drone of traffic and the tall buildings that seemed to squeeze you in on all sides. What about all the people, the close quarters, and a constant disguise? And the smell? With a nose a sensitive as his own, it might be unbearable.

And would he even consider it, with all that in mind?

And what if he just decided without thinking?

Would he end up hating her for bringing him to a disturbing, stressful environment that he couldn't stand?

She'd be the one who wouldn't be able to stand that.

All of these dilemmas and emotions swirled through her mind in a hazy and jumbled train of thought, half-completed ideas forming endlessly and dissolving in her mind. It was giving her a pounding headache.

Kagome rubbed her temples and closed her eyes. "Is this what it feels like to go insane?" she wondered aloud. The only sound was the quiet whir of the fan above her head as it turned around and around endlessly.

Two days.

(•.•)

--( • )--

Dinner was a tense affair.

"Look," Mrs. Higurashi blushed in embarrassment. "I know that- as a manager- I did a pretty awful job-"

"I'll say," Sango interjected with a friendly smile. "In the end, you wouldn't accept my money, you washed all of our clothes for us, made us our meals, and let us fight with dangerous weapons in your house. When we broke things, you didn't charge us."

"You treated us as guests, not renters," Miroku summarized. He smiled serenely. "Thank you."

Mrs. Higurashi laughed. "As I was saying, if you wanted to come with us back to Tokyo and stay there, you're more than welcome to. But this time," she added," I'm cracking down on the chores."

"Not the money?" Miroku asked with raised eyebrows, food forgotten.

She shook her head fervently. "No, no. I can't even imagine- Well, you're more like family now than anything else. Having a rental fee would be very strange."

Miroku smiled. "Thank you for your generous offer. However, I would be a freeloader if I did so, even with chores." In fact, he found the prospect slightly… demeaning. "I've wanted to go back to Tokyo for some time now, so I'll accept a ride back, if you're offering one."

"I'd be delighted."

Kagome also seemed cheered by the prospect. "What about you, Sango?" For a moment, the multitudes of chaotic thoughts were far from her mind.

"I'd like to go, too. For the ride, I mean. I have some relatives in Tokyo, and I was thinking of visiting. They were close to my father." She shrugged matter-of-factly. "I'd rather break the news personally, if they haven't already gotten it."

"We were thinking of renting an apartment together." Miroku smiled calmly when Sango punched him in the arm.

Mrs. Higurashi turned to Inuyasha. "What about you?" she asked delicately.

On the other side of the table, Kagome's chopstick froze millimeters above a piece of carrot.

Inuyasha shrugged. "I can't leave the urn for too long, remember?" He was stuck here, and he'd be alone again once they'd left. He should've realize by now that the one thing constant in life was change. People came and left, smiled and frown, laughed and cried.

Kagome's thought began rushing at high speed. Did that mean that he didn't want to come? Was he making an excuse so that he wouldn't be hurting anyone's feelings? Or was it because it was true?

The chopsticks fell from her numb fingers and clattered on her plate. "I'm not hungry anymore," she mumbled, picking up the plate and rushing into the kitchen.

Her feet felt heavy as she dragged herself up the stairs, like leaden weights. Without really thinking about it, she changed into her pajamas, brushed her teeth and collapsed on the futon, brown eyes staring, stricken, at the ceiling fan as it revolved slowly, around and around and around…

(\ /)

(0.0)

( )

He should be used to it by now.

But at the same time… why was it always him? Miroku thought as he eyed the kitchen sink in dismay. "Can't anyone else wash the dishes? Just this once?" he grumbled as he resignedly pushed up his sleeves.

Sango sauntered in, a plate in one hand and a grin curving her mouth. "Here's another one for ya." She set it down and turned around. "Have fun."

"You know," Miroku said abruptly, voice serious, "I wasn't kidding about the apartment." He kept his eyes on the dishes, but he knew that Sango had stopped in her tracks. Now, she was either going to turn around and whack him in the head, or…

… open a drawer and shuffle through it? "Sango?" The hot water continued to run over his hands, but he didn't even notice it anymore.

Face flushed slightly in embarrassment, she pulled a piece of paper out of the drawer and a pencil from the countertop. She didn't reply, but merely scrawled something hastily across the scrap of paper and handed it to him. "I'm going to be staying at my Aunt and Uncle's house for a while. There's an apartment for lease near there, if I remember correctly. Stop by sometime, okay?"

"And if there isn't?" Miroku asked dumbly. In the background, the water continued to flow.

"Then call me." She turned and hurried out of the room, face burning. Something tells me that encouraging him isn't a good idea...

But all the same… "She didn't say 'no'." Miroku smiled slightly. What's more, she practically told him that she was open to pursuing a relationship.

He turned back to the sink. "What're a few dishes, anyway?"

(\ /)

(•. •)

( )

Despite the torrents of thoughts that had been tormenting her for the past five days, Kagome woke up with one thought clear in her mind:

"I'm leaving today."

Maybe it was because she wasn't really awake, or perhaps she'd finally accepted it, but the thought didn't bring any emotional reaction with it. At the moment, Kagome hadn't decided whether that was a good or bad thing.

She rolled off the futon and stared blearily at the boxes towering above her. It was funny, but from down here they rose up into the sky like the skyscrapers of Tokyo. It was almost nostalgic.

There was a quiet rap on the door. "Kagome! Wake up, dear! We're leaving in a few hours!"

The schoolgirl sat bolt upright and struggled with a clinging sheet. "That's it," she grumbled as she raked a brush through her hair and stuffed her pajamas into a box, donning in their place her school uniform. "I'm gonna ask him." But she was so afraid that he'd say no…

She had almost reached the door when it was flung open by none other than Inuyasha.

"Whoa!" She placed a hand over her pounding heart. "Don't do that! You scared me."

Inuyasha didn't respond. His lower lip jutted stubbornly as he stood in the doorway.

"Uh…" Kagome shuffled to the side. "Can I get by? I need to eat breakfast-"

"Shut up." The hanyou's arms were folded stubbornly across his chest.

Kagome temper rose. "What are you doing?" she demanded, hands on hips as she glared.

"You're really selfish, you know that?" Inuyasha retorted. "All you ever think about is yourself, and you think you can just wander wherever you want and people'll be all nice and do everything for you! And then you move on without any thanks or-"

"Why should I say 'thank you' to you?" Kagome's foot was tapping on the carpeted floor.

"Because I saved your life!" the hanyou's voice rose in agitation. "You owe me!" He poked a clawed finger in her face.

"I could say the same to you! It's because of me that you're solid! You owe me, not the other way around, idiot!"

"Idiot yourself! I woulda been fine without your life force thing! You were doing yourself a favor! I wouldn't have been able to save you if I hadn't been solid, stupid! You owe me a fav-"

"No I don't! You're just looking for an excuse! It was because of you that I got involved in the first place, jerk! You know, I can't stand you some-" she stopped when he looked away.

What was that?

Kagome's voice dropped to a whisper. "Inuyasha, I can see through you…" What happened?

"Quit changing the subject!" the hanyou snapped. "You owe me, and I will be repaid!"

"You owme me!" Kagome shouted back. "And I'm asking you-"

"Well, I'm asking you-" Inuyasha interrupted, amber eyes glinting in the shadowed doorway.

"Come-"

"Stay-"

"-with me!"

Miroku, Sango and Shippo quietly backed away from the staircase where they'd been listening, identical grins on each of their faces.

After all, the two of them deserved a little privacy-

"Miroku!" Sango hissed, brown eyes glinting dangerously. "Get down here!"

(\ /)

(•. •)

( )

"Inuyasha!"

Amber eyes turned earthward. Kagome was standing beneath the Go-Shinboku, a smile curving her mouth as her hand waved.

"Come down! It's lunch!"

"Gimme a moment, will ya?" The hanyou looked skywards again as the emerald leaves of the ancient tree fluttered in the wind. White ears twitched as car horns blared somewhere below, and Inuyasha grinned smugly.

So it'd taken a few weeks. At least he wasn't jumping at the slightest noise anymore, and his nose was accustomed to the smell of the city. It wasn't a nice smell-the first few days were unbearable- but he was getting used to it.

He was getting used to a lot of things, like Kagome's friends, cars and busses, and building so tall that they seemed to go on for eternity. And being stuck, surrounded completely by people.

"Inuyasha!"

"I said gimme a sec!"

Kagome didn't reply, and Inuyasha fingered the beads around his neck.

Miroku frowned as he watched Kagome carry Inuyasha's urn into the car.

"Why are you taking that with you, Kagome?"

"Oh. You mean you never saw Inuyasha's urn?" With the utmost care, she place the ancient object in a box filled with newspaper.

"No, I've seen it. But why are you bringing it along?"

"Quit acting stupid, Miroku ." Inuyasha shot the monk an irritated glance. "Or do you wanna leave me behind?"

The monk was unruffled. "I wasn't implying that at all. But you don't need it anymore. Not since the last fight with the demon Naraku summoned."

The others stared at him, agape. Inuyasha in particular looked shocked. "Why didn't you tell me this sooner, Miroku?" he demanded, ears twitching in irritation.

"And how?" Sango questioned as she placed a heavy box filled with her belongings in the trunk of the car.

Miroku rubbed his head gingerly, where Inuyasha had just hit him. "I wasn't sure until a few days ago. I noticed you were slightly transparent. How, when Kagome had infused you with her so-called 'life force'?"

Kagome sighed heavily. "I think you're going to hafta explain this from the beginning, Miroku."

Miroku smiled slightly. "I was hoping someone would say that."

"… damn monk." It would've saved him a lot of trouble if Miroku had just told him in the first place.

"What's wrong with Miroku?"

"Gah!" Inuyasha nearly fell out of the tree as Kagome continued to scale it. "Don't do that!"

"Well, maybe you should pay better attention to your surroundings," the schoolgirl retorted. She shut her mouth and concentrated on making it to the next branch. Huffing, she pulled herself up and settled on the large branch.

"If you fall out down, it's not my fault," Inuyasha warned her.

"But you'll catch me anyway, won't you?" Kagome smiled at him and plucked a swaying leaf from the tree.

"I'll try," he admitted grudgingly, staring hard at the sky above through a gap in the foliage. "Hey, Kagome," the hanyou asked abruptly.

"Yeah?" She continued to twirl the leaf in her hand.

"Do you miss Kouga?"

Kagome laughed. "Of course not! Why would I be?"

Inuyasha relaxed slightly. "Good. He got on my nerves, with all his whining. I wouldn't wanna see him turning up around here."

"We've been sending eachother emails, after all!" the schoolgirl finished carelessly.

Inuyasha spun. "What's an 'email' again?" He knew that it had something to do with the strange machine in the living room that made funny noises, but other than that…

"It's like writing a letter to someone, except you do it on a computer," Kagome explained rather impatiently. "Just talking, you know."

"Hmph."

They sat in silence for a while, and the wind whispered softly through the tree as the cars below droned on. It was Kagome who eventually cleared her throat and asked, "What're you thinking about?"

Inuyasha shrugged vaguely. "Just what Miroku said. About the urn."

Kagome nodded, recalling the interesting account that Miroku regaled during the long car ride "home".

"So tell us already!" Shippo demanded impatiently, squirming in his seat to get comfortable. The car seats weren't exactly designed to accommodate persons with bushy tails, after all.

Miroku smiled benignly. "Patience, Shippo. I'm getting there." He sighed and leaned back in his seat, completely ignoring the others' impatience. "Ah, Tokyo. Pretty girls –though none as pretty as you, Sango- ow! That was a complement!"

"Just get on with it!" Inuyasha snapped, his mind on the urn in the back of the car.

Miroku sighed again. "You suck the joy out of life, Inuyasha."

Kagome cleared her throat impatiently, and Miroku hastily began. "I noticed something odd fairly early," he admitted, staring out of the window as he spoke. The telephone poles whizzed by as he continued. "You were able to leave the urn's radius. I didn't understand it. If Kagome had put her life force into you, all it would've done is made you solid, you see? All normal limitations would've applied all the same. In the end, I just assumed it had to do with Kagome's… unique way of going about things.

"Of course, I didn't know anything about the spell in the first place, so perhaps simply being solid changed things. I wasn't sure. Remember what I said, about Naraku's entrapment? He had to be split in two, because he was hanyou." Miroku turned in his seat.

"Well, what about you, Inuyasha?"

(\ /)

(•. •)

( )

"I dunno if I would've been able to come up with all that," Kagome admitted, tucking a long strand of black hair behind her ear. "I guess when Miroku's mind is on something besides women, he's actually pretty smart."

"Huh." Inuyasha sat back in the tree, the bark rough against the back of his head and neck. "Too bad. He thinks about perverted stuff too much to actually be useful." But all the same, he missed their company; Sango, Miroku, Shippo… but not Kouga. And not Kagura, or Naraku. "But you're right," Inuyasha admitted grudgingly. "He's not completely stupid."

(\ /)

(0.0)

( )

The others blinked at him, confused.

"Whaddaya mean?" Inuyasha ventured, ears twitching.

Miroku looked disappointed. "So, like Naraku, you weren't completely contained." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Do I have to spell it out for you?"

"For Inuyasha, yes," Shippo quipped. "Ow!"

In the front seat of the car, Miroku slumped back into his seat with a resigned sigh as Shippo and Inuyasha began to bicker, Kagome's voice rising in defense of Shippo.

Mrs. Higurashi smiled quickly at him, keeping her eyes on the endless stretch road ahead as it wove away into the distance. "I'm listening, Miroku, go ahead."

He cleared his throat and the others quieted. "As I was saying, Inuyasha, you were never a poltergeist. To be honest, I'm not even sure if you were ever truly sealed away. I've never heard of a spell that turned one into a poltergeist. I'd assumed that it was an old spell that had been quietly buried by time.

"I think, now, that there isn't. I asked Mushin. He'd never seen such a thing, either. No, I think what happened was much more complicated than that. You got caught in Kikyo's spells. They was meant for Naraku alone. Even an immensely powerful priestess couldn't cast four spells at once. Perhaps three, but it would ultimately kill her, which is what happened. The first spell would separate Naraku's demon side from his human side. The second was to seal his demon half. Her third sealed his human side. I suppose the strain was too much, and it killed her.

"If I'm correct, then you got caught in the aftereffects all three of her spells. The first two would be the sealing spells, then the separating one. But that would be in the wrong order. The sealing spells are meant to work on only a human, or only a demon. It sealed away your body, but badly because those spells are incompatible. Then, the separation spell pulled your soul from your body and left you incorporeal.

"Now, you're all probably wondering how I figured this ou-"

"Whoa!"

" Then what exactly were you, Inuyasha?"

" I dunno. Why are you asking me, Shippo? Hey, quit poking me!"

" I'm just checki-! Ow! You didn't hafta hit me!"

" Inuyasha! Stoppit!"

" Yeah, I'm just a poor little kid!"

" Why do you always take his side, Kagome?"

" 'Cause I'm a poor little kid!"

" I wasn't askin' you, stupid!"

" Ow! Kagome, he won't stop hitting me!"

" Inuyasha, stoppit! I'm serious!"

Mrs. Higurashi laughed gently. "I'm still listening, Miroku."

" That makes one of you," the monk replied gloomily, purple eyes staring out the window.

(•.•)

--( • )--

"Sango?"

A kind and wizened face peeked around the corner into her bedroom. "Your friend with the purple eyes is here again." There was a knowing twinkle in her watery brown eyes.

Sango smiled at her elderly aunt. "Thanks. I'll be right there." Her eyes softened as she looked at the small shrine that she'd set up for her father and brother. On her nightstand, an old picture of the three of them, laughing, stood reflecting the sunlight that shone through her open window.

She folded the last of her laudry and tucked it neatly in the dresser before following her aunt downstairs.

Miroku smiled up at her as she came down the staircase, purple eyes alight with genuine affection. "Sango! You've grown even lovelier since I last set my eyes upon your-"

"Stuff it," Sango retorted, red in front of her aunt.

"Anything for you, my dear. Don't worry," Miroku told the elderly woman, "I'll have your neice back in one piece before eleven. That's a promise."

Sango's aunt smiled benevolently back. "Don't worry about that. I know Sango can take care of herself. Just have a good time, you two!"

"Thank you." Miroku bent in a slight, formal bow.

"Of course."

Still blushing at Miroku's behavior, Sango hurriedly slid into her shoes and waved to her aunt. "Bye!" She closed the door behind her and turned on Miroku. "What were you doing?" she demanded, half laughing.

"Saying hello to your aunt," Miroku replied sincerely. "I want to make a good impression, as I'll be seeing a lot more of her."

Sango sobered. "Why do you keep saying that?" she asked softly, her eyes on the pavement beneath her feet. The bright streetlights lit up the dusk and cast distorted shadows across her shoes.

"Because I mean it," he replied sincerely, purple eyes focused intently upon her.

The demon exterminator looked up at him, her expression pained. "Do you really? How many other girls have you said that to?"

Miroku shrugged and ran a hand through his hair. "Only two. Once I was drunk, and the other time I was turned down for someone with dog ears." He shook his head wearily.

Sango's jaw dropped. "You said that to Kagome? I'm surprised that you're still alive. I thought that Inuyasha would kill you."

"He tried, but it was a few months ago, before he could've. Thank goodness." Miroku glanced at Sango out of the corner of his eye. "But this time, I think I've told the right person."

Frantically, Sango glanced down at her watch. Her face felt like it was on fire. "Oh! We're late! The movie starts in half an hour!" I hope you have, too...

Miroku was confused. "But that means we've got plenty of ti–hey, wait! Sango, slow down!"

(\ /)

(•. •)

( )

"So how'd you figure it out?" Shippo asked after the hubbub subsided. Emerald eyes widened. "You didn't guess, did you?"

Miroku shook his head. "Of course not. You offend me, Shippo. It required a great deal of thought. As I was saying, I noticed that when he was corporeal, Inuyasha could leave the urn's radius. Was the spell broken? Not quite. Inuyasha, your aura was still clouded by something. At first, I thought it was Kagome's life force, but when Kagome was able to restore her own form to original and there was no trace of spell left, I didn't know what to think. Her aura was slightly distorted by the spell-thing, but it's nearly worn off now, meaning that Kagome's strange 'spell' simply expelled something from her body. Remember that strange light?

"Kagome did not give you her life force to you, Inuyasha." Miroku paused, and then admitted, "I'm not actually sure what happened there, but I think she altered the spell on you. She weakened it by absorbing some of the effects herself, I think."

"I figured it out when I noticed that I could see through you, Inuyasha, after the fight. You became transparent for a few days. But after Kagome and you had that argument, you were completely solid, and your aura was that of a normal person."

"Wait a moment." Kagome's face was flushed with embarrassment. "You mean you were there?" She glared at him. "That's really low, Miroku. I thought that even you had more ethics than that."

"Well, what about the time he peeked at Sango when she was taking a shower?" Shippo asked innocently.

"I remember that," Sango remarked blandly as Miroku shuddered. "There's still a small scar where my fist hit his teeth. And my hairbrush is still dented from his thick skull."

Miroku sighed. "It was worth every bit of pain you inflicted upon me."

"Anyway," Inuyasha said, looking pointedly to the monk.

" After that, your aura was normal. You broke free from the urn completely. But Kagome, you've still got that weird aura. I don't know what to make of it."

Kagome smiled uneasily. "There's nothing wrong, though?"

Miroku shrugged. "Well, if you feel fine, I guess. It probably won't make a difference." He turned in seat again to look at Inuyasha. "Well, congratulations, Inuyasha. You're free."

(\ /)

(0.0)

( )

Recalling the conversation, Kagome asked, "Is there anything that you really wanna do, Inuyasha? I mean, now that you're free."

The hanyou shrugged carelessly and stared below. Souta was looking for him. "Not really," he replied. "I'm not going anywhere, if that's what you mean."

Kagome sat back contentedly. "Good."

"But…" he ventured, watching in slight amusement as Souta wandered across the courtyard, looking lost, "what's the school thing about? Why do you do it?"

Kagome was surprised that he'd asked. She wasn't sure how to respond. "Well," she began uncertainly, "kids go there to learn. Like math, literature, English –but Eri's taking French privately through a tutor- and sports. You get graded on how good you are at those things."

"Oh." And why would Kagome want to spend her day there? He didn't like math; the symbols confused them, and they didn't seem to be in Japanese most of the time, either. He was a pretty good reader, though, and he'd never heard anyone speak "English"… But at the same time, Kagome was there… Almost shyly, he asked, "Do you think I could try?"

Kagome stared at him, completely taken aback.

"What's with that expression?" Inuyasha demanded. "If you think it's a bad idea, just say so. I don't really wanna go in the first place. It sounds really-"

"That's not what I meant!" Kagome assured him hastily. "You just surprised me." She bit her lip as she thought. "Well, I guess I could show you some of my homework, and Mama could teach you romanji and numbers during the day, because she doesn't work… yeah! Sure!" She grinned, then sobered. "But you'll hafta hid your ears, fangs, claws, and… well, I think you'll hafta dye your hair. And control your temper. And you'll hafta leave Tetsusaiga at home, Swords aren't allowed."

Inuaysha looked doubtful. "Uh… how about your mom teaches me that other stuff first?"

Kagome grinned. "Sounds good."

Finis

(\ /)

(T.T)

( )

THANKS TO ALL WHO READ, AND ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO LEFT A NOTE OR CRITICISM! FEEDBACK WAS ESSENTIAL HERE!

Lotsa motivational stuff in reviews. I owe all of you. I wouldn't have made it through this without you guys. So, again, THANK YOU!

Okay, I lied. The chapter wasn't fluff-infested. There wasn't enough to gag on.

But I'm thinking of doing a short sequel. Like, between five and ten chapters. Very sketchy. I'm not sure if it's even qualified to be an "idea". I'd hafta figure out a lot of sutff first.

Bad idea?

Good idea?

Tell me whatcha think!