Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha

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The gentle tremble and shudder of the body beneath Kirara shook her from the light sleep into which she had drifted. Opening her large eyes and blinking, she twitched her tail and mewed mournfully, turning her head so that she was now staring directly at the young woman upon whose chest she had been restfully settled.

Her mistress Sango was crying in her sleep again. A light sob escaped, one that Kirara was certain only she could hear. No one else was around - she scanned the village building quickly and saw as such - so the others, those people who'd stumbled upon her shortly after the massacre, they must be outside somewhere.

It had been three days since she'd been reunited with the girl, and while she'd smelled about half dead from all her blood loss, the neko youkai had been wrought with joy to know that Sango was still alive. After finding herself unable to save any of the members of the Taijiya village from the ambush of attacking youkai while their best fighters were on a paid mission, her one hope was that said best fighters would return unscathed. Rebuilding the village would be more of a concern of theirs than hers, but she had still hoped to retain the family-like relationship she'd had with the headman and his kin.

It was disheartening to listen to Sango mutter about the two of them being the only ones left, for Sango was but a girl, after all, and while Kirara knew she was just a neko youkai, she was intelligent enough to understand that humans grieved when they lost their loved ones, especially when the loss had been so tragic.

It was just the two of them now.

Kirara mewled mournfully at the remembrance; she wished she could have been able to save at least one person from the village, if only so that Sango wouldn't be alone. But she didn't spend too much time mulling over this. What was necessary for worry at the time was Sango recovering from her nasty injuries. It was a wonder she was still moving when the hanyou boy, the monk, the strange kimono-clad girl and the kitsune boy she was accompanying had stumbled upon the half-dead girl by chance.

And now, as that Naraku creature had been dealt with ineffectively for the time being, everyone, Kirara included, recognised that it was of prime importance that Sango rest and let her injuries heal before any of them went anywhere. Kirara had silently appointed herself as her guard at all times; the others took it upon themselves to sporadically tend to the girl's wounds as needed and leave her to sleep if she was even the slightest bit tired. The neko youkai would make certain not to leave her side so long as no one else was around, simply so that Sango would not be alone. She'd curl up in the crook of the girl's arm or settle upon her chest. There wasn't much she could do except guard her, so guard her she did.

But whenever the others weren't around, Sango often allowed herself to drift into a somber melancholy, going either rigid or almost limp in remorse, and sometimes it was difficult even for Kirara to stay unbothered by the sounds of Sango's broken heart. She'd lost her entire family, not just the ones Kirara had been unable to defend from the youkai who'd descended upon the village. The name she most often heard in the girl's scratchy, almost scraped-sounding voice in between crackling sobs and sniffles, when no one but Kirara was around to hear, was none other than that of Sango's younger brother.

Sango had just uttered his name in her sleep again, trembling in place and only slightly disturbing Kirara's firm position nestled just below her bust and causing her to look at the girl again; she'd just closed her eyes again and had been on the verge of slipping back into a light sleep, but now she was wide awake. The word, mumbled slowly in almost a mantra-like repetition, little more than whispers, sounded as if it were being forcibly ripped forth from the mourning girl's throat. It was like it wasn't painful enough that the boy was gone, that perhaps his name should be taken away from her as well.

She'd been like this for days. Kirara was usually the only witness to this quiet display of raw emotional outpouring. While the others did mother the girl when she was awake, when she was asleep they tended to leave the girl under Kirara's watch. Kirara didn't know exactly why they did this, but she figured the reason was simple. Kirara could protect her well enough.

The neko youkai's thoughts sifted through a quick rundown of the events from the past few days. She let her tail swish slowly from side to side as she contemplated the harshness of reality. A few soft, sad mewls came out, but they had no chance of drowning out the sounds of Sango crying in her sleep for her little brother.

Kirara missed him. Of all the village people who were now gone, she definitely missed him and their father the most. In the time since her reunion with Sango, it was he to whom the majority of her thoughts had drifted.

There would be no more playful romps in the meadows with him. Kohaku would never again slip her rice and fish from his bowl. She could no longer give the two of them rides in the sky, whether for play or necessity. Sango would have to ride alone, alone or with one of their new companions.

Kirara remembered the first time Kohaku actually registered seeing her in her giant form. The way he'd scrambled, shocked and wide-eyed, for the wall a fair distance behind him would have been enough to make a human chuckle. Actually, it had made his father laugh, briefly and inconspicuously. The boy had been extremely young at the time, and Kirara never knew if he'd simply been surprised that there was a giant neko youkai in his home or if it had been the fact that she had transformed from what looked like a tiny, two-tailed kitten into a giant, fearsome and deadly-looking feline. She couldn't exactly ask in human language, nor would anyone be able to understand her in any other manner, and she didn't recall overhearing anyone in the headman's family mention anything which would have clarified things for her. But it wasn't an important detail.

Kirara had pretty much 'chased' him up against the wall until he could go no further, then nuzzled his neck with a loud, rumbling purr until he calmed down, staring at her in wonder, daring to reach a small, shaky hand up to run his fingers along her fur. Young human boys were so impressionable. It hadn't taken long for him to warm up completely to her.

And to think, Kirara thought to herself, that never again would she see that sweet boy's smile grace his freckled, sun kissed face. It was something forever lost.

The neko youkai shifted restlessly in place, trying as best she could to put him and the misery of knowing he was dead out of her mind. Sango's somber, delirious mumblings weren't making it easy for her.

Once the girl recovered many days later she and Kirara continued to travel with the hanyou, the monk, the strangely dressed girl and the kitsune boy, bonding slightly more as each day passed. The neko youkai had managed to keep the young master Kohaku from plaguing her thoughts for quite some time, only sometimes drifting into a mourning state at night when curled up against her self-appointed charge, who occasionally let his name slip, the three syllable word a burning reminder of the tragedy that had befallen the girl. Kirara could only imagine how exponential the pain in Sango's heart must be. She hid it well during the daytime, but it would seep out at night like steam.

So it came as a strange shock when, as her human companions all stood horrified at the sight of the slaughtered village they'd just come across that stank of blood, a familiar scent invaded Kirara's keen nose. It couldn't be. Not if Sango was true in her daily and nightly grievances. Sango wouldn't lie about such a thing.

But there was still no denying what she smelt. Or what she saw. Or, more precisely, whom she saw.

Ghosts did not carry the same smell as their bodies had when they were alive, or so Kirara supposed. She couldn't be sure, never having met any ghosts. But ghosts did not have bodies, were only spirits. If this was so, then the one before them couldn't be a ghost.

It had to be Kohaku.

Kirara mewled happily and stepped forward. Sango wouldn't have lied, but neither would her own eyes or nose.

Sango was panicking, claiming it wasn't really Kohaku. But maybe Sango was still delirious, Kirara thought.

Kirara trusted her senses. She trusted her senses, and this looked like Kohaku and smelled like Kohaku (and death, and he was splattered with the stink of freshly spilled human blood).

It had to be Kohaku.

And she'd be the first to greet him and welcome him back into her life.