Chapter 5: How To Return Home

"Here," Sango said softly. She handed a cup of hot tea to the motionless taiyoukai sitting on the roof before her. "Drink this."

"Human food does nothing for me."

The taijiya frowned. "I climbed all the way up here just to give this to you, so you better drink it!" she exclaimed fiercely.

Sesshoumaru glanced at her through the corner of his amber eyes. "Go away." She did not move, and soon his hands reached out and snatched the cup from her.

Sango smiled. "It's been two days since we defeated Tohyama," she said softly, staring out at the waning moon.

Sesshoumaru snorted. She glanced at him in confusion, and he sneered, "We defeated Tohyama? I defeated Tohyama, human. You did nothing but sit on the side, in the arms of that man."

Sango thought she caught some hidden emotion in that sentence, but his expression did not change. Turning away from the taiyoukai, Sango said, "Well, it's true." He really is like his brother, Sango thought. She sat down next to him and didn't notice him stiffen.

Sesshoumaru stole a peek at the woman beside him. What was she doing? What right did she have to sit next to one such as him? "Don't you have things to do?" he asked stiffly. "Like being with that houshi."

Sango glanced over at him. "It is late, Sesshoumaru, and houshi-sama—I mean, Miroku—has gone to bed, along with Kagome and Shippo."

"Where is my brother?"

"He is watching over Kagome in the hut, as he always does."

"Like father, like son."

"Sesshoumaru?" Sango asked softly. He didn't respond, but she went on anyway. "Did you hate your father?"

Did I hate him… did I? Sesshoumaru pondered her questionThere was a long pause before the taiyoukai, dancing away from a direct answer, said flatly, "I was destined to defeat him, but Inuyasha and his worthless human mother… they caused his miserable death."

"Why were you destined to defeat him?" Sango asked suddenly, chin resting on her knees. "Do you wish for supreme power? To rule?"

"I want to be the strongest," Sesshoumaru explained. He glared at the sky. "I need not to tell this to you."

Sango was silent. He was right; she was intruding by asking such a question. Now wishing that she could take it back, the taijiya stared fixedly at her toes.

"It was what mother wanted."

Sango's head flew up. "Mother…" she repeated slowly. "It was what your mother wanted? She wanted you to defeat your father? Why?" Immediately Sango once again wished she had not said it. Wasn't it obvious? Sesshoumaru's mother had wanted Sesshoumaru to defeat his father because the great dog demon betrayed her!

"It was his fault she died."

Died?

Sesshoumaru sensed her confusion and also her hesitance to ask. He opened his mouth to explain, and then promptly shut it. What possessed him to tell this worthless human wench of his past? Very few knew of it, for it held many still healing scars.

Sango looked over at the taiyoukai, and saw his mouth tighten into a thin line, and his eyes narrow to slits. She wanted him to continue, but she had a suspicion that he had said all that he had wanted to.

Many minutes passed in silence before Sango stood up. Sesshoumaru had made it clear that he was not going to explain, and she was tired, so why stay awake? Mid-yawn, Sango stood and bade him goodnight.

"Goodnight, Sesshoumaru. See you in the morning."

"No, you shall not."

Sango stopped from where she had been about to jump to the ground, turned and glanced back at him. "Why not?" she couldn't help but ask curiously.

"I shall be gone by the time you wake tomorrow morning." Sesshoumaru had not moved at all, and if she had not seen his mouth move a fraction, she would have thought him a beautiful statue. "But," he looked back at her then, "we shall meet again soon, taijiya."

Sango nodded, and jumped down. "Farewell," she called softly as she disappeared inside the hut.

Sesshoumaru, looking after her, thought, Farewell indeed.


The next morning, Sango found Sesshoumaru had spoken the truth; they found him gone, along with Rin and Jaken.

"Good riddance," Inuyasha muttered darkly when they discovered the three missing.

"Don't be so horrible to him!" Sango chided. "Inuyasha, you're only mad because Sesshoumaru was the one to defeat Tohyama!"

"I am not!" Inuyasha retorted indignantly.

"You are too!" Sango said accusatively.

"You are doing it again, Sango," Miroku said levelly, out of nowhere. "Protecting Sesshoumaru."

What followed Miroku's statement was absolute silence in the hut where they were gathered.

Sango coughed, and stood. "Well, he was the one to defeat him, wasn't he?" she said, certainty strong in her voice. "I'm only stating the truth. How is that protecting the… the… nasty demon?" Sango felt a twinge of guilt at calling Sesshoumaru nasty after he had so kindly resurrected her, but she brushed it aside, knowing she was only calling him nasty for the benefit of her friends.

"It wasn't that," Miroku clarified softly. He didn't bother to explain; instead he fell silent, looking at his hands.

Sango frowned and strode out the door. She observed the calm outside and walked over to where Tohyama had met its end. There was a deep, dark stain in the dirt from where the demon had been obliterated that would probably never disappear. She smiled grimly. At least he was gone, now. But how horrible to place your soul in the form of a small child! He knew that we would never have suspected.

I guess I was not so useless, after all…

She glanced up at the sky, and shielded her cinnamon eyes from the sun. Sesshoumaru destroyed the child's shell with such cruel indifference. It was truly typical of a demon. Inuyasha had been loath to attack the child, even though he knew it was evil. She had discovered that one evening, when Inuyasha and Kagome had thought to be the only ones awake.

"Inuyasha?" Kagome questioned softly.

He glanced up to see her leaning over him, linen blanket in hand, smiling. "What?" he replied sullenly, still upset about his brother's victory.

"Do you want a blanket?" She offered the coverlet to him, but he waved her away with a shake of his head.

"You take it. I don't need it."

"How about we share it?" Kagome suggested. Inuyasha didn't seem particularly opposed to that idea, so she sat down next to him and draped the warm cotton over them both.

"Thanks," Inuyasha said, absently throwing an arm over her shoulder and pulling her closer. He had no idea what effect this had on her; he simply did that so he could wrap the blanket around them more securely.

"Y-you're welcome," Kagome stammered, red in the face. She was grateful for the darkness that concealed her blush. Hesitantly resting her head upon his shoulder, she closed her eyes.

"Kagome."'

"Hmm?" Kagome responded sleepily, not moving.

"I… are you disappointed?"

"Disappointed?" Kagome repeated, raising her head to look at Inuyasha curiously. "What do you mean?"

"That I wasn't the one that defeated Tohyama," Inuyasha explained with some difficulty. It was obvious that this was not easy to say.

But Kagome chuckled, surprising Inuyasha. "Are you serious? Of course I'm not disappointed!" She laughed again and snuggled closer to him. "Why would I be disappointed of you? You did all you could, and it was great! Just because Sesshoumaru was cold-hearted enough to attack that child doesn't mean you had to be! In fact, I'm glad you didn't!"

Inuyasha sighed in relief. "Good, because I really didn't want to attack that kid's head."

Sango, supposedly asleep in a sleeping bag she had borrowed from Kagome, smiled and closed her eyes as the talking ceased.

Sango smiled to herself as she recalled the incident and pondered over Kagome and Inuyasha's relationship. They had certainly progressed, that much was sure. But how soon would they really be together?

"Sango," came a voice.

The taijiya turned to find Miroku standing before her, an apologetic smile on his face. "Miroku," Sango said in greeting.

"I'm sorry for accusing you of defending that demon," the houshi said sincerely, coming up and bestowing a comforting hand upon her shoulders. "It just seemed like… like you were protecting him, though."

"Well," Sango said uncomfortably, "you see…" She gulped. Should she tell him of her resurrection?

"Well, what? I see what?" Miroku asked, slightly impatient. He cocked his head to the side in confusion.

"You see, after Tohyama killed me," Sango noted Miroku's flinch when he mentioned the incident, "when Sesshoumaru took me away…" She paused, and Miroku nodded, so she continued, "Well, he… resurrected me, Miroku."

"He what?"

Sango winced at the loudness of his voice. "He resurrected me," she repeated mildly. The taijiya looked at her toes and avoided his glance.

"Why didn't you tell us before?" the houshi yelped, thoroughly shocked. "Sesshoumaru resurrected you!"

Sango didn't look up. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you."

Miroku dashed forward and enveloped the taijiya in a hug. "I suppose you had a reason to protect him, huh?" he said, squeezing her tighter. The houshi buried his face in her shoulder. "If it was he who brought you back to us, then I am very thankful."

Sango smiled. "Tell him, not me," she said amiably.

Miroku snorted. "No thank you." Choosing to not recall the painful vision he had experienced of Sango and Sesshoumaru together, Miroku smiled into the crook of her neck and let her go.


"I have decided to go to my village for a little while," Sango exclaimed the next day over lunch.

Miroku stopped mid-chew, Kagome paused, chopsticks halfway to her mouth, whereas Inuyasha and Shippo did not pause.

"Must you go, Sango?" Kagome asked sadly.

"How long will you be gone? When will you be back?" Miroku pestered anxiously.

"I don't know; but I need to fix Hiraikotsu. I am practically defenseless without it." The taijiya sighed miserably. "I never thought I'd be reduced to this after losing only a weapon."

"But Hiraikotsu is special to you," Miroku said reassuringly. "Sango, you are not weak."

The taijiya smiled at him and stood up. "My bags are outside," she said softly. Smiling, she bade her friends good-bye and disappeared out the door. Grabbing her bags and her broken boomerang on the way, Sango walked off a little way with Kirara by her side.

"Are you sure you don't want me to come with you?" Miroku called after Sango, appearing in the doorframe of the hut and walking toward her.

Sango paused, and looked back. She was smiling. "That's very nice of you, Miroku, but I'm happy to go on my own." Kirara was by her side, now large, and Sango mounted her. "Farewell," she called as Kirara leaped into the air.

Miroku stared after her, hand outstretched toward the fading figure of the young woman riding on her pet demon. The sad expression plastered upon the young monk's face faded as she disappeared, and was replaced by a smile. "Ryomi awaits," he announced to himself, with an element of sadness in his voice, and sprinted off in the opposite direction from both the cabin and where Sango was heading.

Kagome, who was peeking at him from the doorway, let out a string of uncharacteristically ghastly curses.

Inuyasha looked up from his delicious ramen and glanced at Kagome with apprehension. "Kagome," he said, "what's wrong? You step on something?"

"She's wearing shoes, Inuyasha," Shippo reminded his hanyou friend with glee, happy to expose such a stupid mistake.

Inuyasha shrugged off his error and focused on Kagome, who had not yet answered.

Without any warning, the schoolgirl suddenly whirled around with an expression to match a demon's: eyes afire, mouth fixed in a hard line, brows drawn together.

"Wh-what's wrong?" the hanyou stammered nervously, scurrying backwards, more afraid than usual of the young woman.

"Damn that Miroku!" she cried. "He let Sango go without giving her a kiss!" Her hand fisted furiously in her green miniskirt. "Or he could have insisted that he should go too! Argh!" she grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest and plunking down next to Inuyasha. "Stupid houshi!"

"You're so meddlesome, Kagome," Shippo sighed maturely, causing his friends to look up in surprise, shocked that he actually knew of the word 'meddlesome.' "What are you looking at me like that for?" Shippo squeaked, immediately reverting to the little, immature Shippo that his friend knew when he saw their amused faces.

Kagome let out a giggle and allowed her arms to fall into her lap. "I suppose I was being nosy," she mused. "But… I don't know… he could have done something!"

Inuyasha shrugged and suggested bluntly, "Maybe he's… cheating on her, or something."

Surely he knows that saying such a thing is suicide; it going to definitely earn him a frustrated sit from Kagome! Shippo thought, shaking his head. But to the little kitsune's surprise, Kagome did not sit her hanyou friend; instead, she shook her head wildly in horror.

"Inuyasha!" Kagome gasped. "Don't say that!"

Inuyasha shrugged boredly in response. "You know him."

"Yes, well," Kagome said desperately, "I don't care! Think of how sweet he has been to her! It's not possible; he can't be cheating on her. If he doesn't love her, why did he kiss her during the battle with Tohyama?"

The room fell into uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, but she broke it by murmuring, "But, I can't help but wonder where he was going when he left…"


"Father," Sango greeted softly, kneeling next to the grave. A collection of wildflowers was clutched in her pale hands, and she slowly placed them on the dirt. "I have fallen in love." She smiled, and let out an unceremonious snort. "I hardly think you would approve. He is a young, womanizing houshi, but he says… he says he loves me, father."

And so she smiled once more, and turned to the grave beside her father's, placing another bunch of wildflowers atop that mound.

The taijiya moved slowly along the graves, placing flowers on each other until all of them were covered. Then she bowed respectfully and stood, making her way back to the hut where her broken Hiraikotsu lay next to the fire, ready to be put back together.

Stepping inside, Sango walked over and grabbed her tools from the bench beside the fire. Hiking up the sleeves of her kimono, Sango squatted down next to her trusty boomerang and set to work.


A couple of hours later, Sango stood and wiped sweat from her brow. Pulling her weapon out of the fire with tongs, Sango dumped it in a bath-sized container full of cool water. The bone hissed as it connected with the liquid, and a thick steam rose up.

Sango reached in and grabbed it, hauling it outside to cool. She tied up her long black-brown locks in a high ponytail to keep the hair of her neck, and looked around the village.

Besides the lack of people, it looked almost… normal.

"Mew!"

"Hey, Kirara," Sango cooed, holding out her arms so that the cat demon could jump into them. "Thank you for carrying me."

Kirara only meowed in response.

Sango, with Kirara in her arms, walked back to where Hiraikotsu lay, and showed the boomerang to the demon. "What do you think? Did I do a good job?" Sango asked playfully.

Kirara let out a string of enthusiastic mews, then suddenly sniffed the air and jumped down, surprising her owner. Fire enveloped the demon and she grew bigger. Fur bristling, Kirara snarled menacingly at the woods opposite the bamboo hut.

"What's going on?" Sango exclaimed, whirling around to squint into the woods in the direction that Kirara was facing. "Who's there?" Have I been so out of it that I haven't noticed someone's presence? the taijiya wondered.

This does not bode well, a figure, shrouded in darkness, thought. Sitting in a tree, one white and puffy pant leg hanging down, the man—for it was obviously a man—exuded confidence. Silver hair whipped around his figure in the wind, also blowing a white sleeve with a red design on the end into Sango's vision.

Below, the taijiya gasped in surprise as she looked up and caught sight of a rather familiar sleeve. At first it appeared to be floating, but then a figure seemed to materialize before her, and she recognized him immediately. "When you said we would meet again soon, I didn't think you would mean this soon, Sesshoumaru!" Sango shouted up to the figure.

Piercing amber eyes glowered at the human below, and his deep voice rumbled, "What gave you the authority to speak to me so familiarly?"

Sango tittered lightly, and beckoned for him to come inside the hut. "Bring Rin and Jaken too," she called back. "I'll make lunch."

"How did she know we were here?" Jaken screeched, his head popping out from behind a thick tree.

"Rin doesn't know, but she said to go inside!" Rin exclaimed, coming out from behind a neighboring tree and skipping gaily toward the hut. Jaken yelped at her to come back, but she ignored him and bounded inside Sango's home. "Besides," she called back to her toad-like friend, "Rin is very hungry, Master Jaken!"

"You impudent child!" Jaken cried after her, his face red with frustration. He glanced up at his lord. "Milord, what are we to do with that human? All she ever does is cause trouble." To himself, Jaken mumbled, "I don't even know why Sesshoumaru-sama lowers himself to traveling with a human, anyway."

A rock connected with the toad's head.

Jaken let out a loud yelp of shock, and fell over. His lord landed next to him a second later, and swept gracefully toward the hut. Without looking back, Sesshoumaru said darkly, "Do not speak badly of Rin, Jaken. I thought you would have learned this by now."

Picking himself up, Jaken pleaded, "I'm sorry, but did you see? She would not listen, milord!" Sesshoumaru had already disappeared inside.


"Here, Rin," Sango said softly, handing out a portion of freshly cooked food to the little girl.

The human took it with a toothy smile of gratitude, and began to shovel the food down her throat. "Fank joo," Rin garbled mid-chew. She swallowed. "Thank you," she repeated.

Sango's eyes crinkled in merriment, and a content grin lit up her face. "You are welcome."

Sesshoumaru watched this act with a bemused smirk upon his face. Never had he seen Rin so happy in the company of others, and Sesshoumaru could only remember one time when he had felt so content…

The last time he had felt this way, it was before his mother died.

His mouth tightened into an angry little line, and he glanced away from the scene.

"Do you want some, Jaken?" Sango asked, offering a bowl to the imp.

"Why would I take food from you, a filthy human! I can get my own food, thank you very much! Do you think me not capable? Do you think me not worthy of serving under the great Sesshoumaru-sama? Well, I have served milord for many generations, and you are very wrong!" Jaken screeched, spittle flying from his mouth with each word. "I am very useful, and did you know that Sesshoumaru-sama himself bestowed upon me this staff? So, human, you—"

"Do you want some, Jaken?" Sango repeated wearily.

Jaken bristled, and, his face bright red against the dull green of his hands (which were placed stubbornly on his hips), opened his mouth to rant once more, when a word from his lord stopped him.

"Answer, Jaken. Delay no longer. I grow tired of watching your idiotic banter."

Jaken gulped nervously and stared at the floor. "I do not want anything."

"Are you sure?" Sango asked. She was not saying it to be courteous. This was the last of it, and if he didn't want any, she would give it to Kirara, as she knew Sesshoumaru would not accept it.

"Yes," Jaken spat out.

"Okay," Sango said, standing. She called for Kirara and the cat demon came running. Squatting down, Sango offered the bowl to the cat demon, who took it hungrily and went off to eat it in a corner.

Jaken looked after the creature, and stared at his toes. It does look good, he admitted to himself. Without glancing up, he mumbled, "Is there any more?"

"What?" Sango exclaimed. "Are you joking? After all of that nonsense, you say you want some?"

When Jaken nodded mutely, Rin giggled and earned herself a glare from the imp, and Sesshoumaru shook his head at his accomplice's idiocy.

"Well," Sango said, plunking herself down next to Rin, "I'm sorry, but that was the last of it."

Jaken, inwardly cursing himself and the troublesome taijiya, nodded again, not moving his eyes from one particular spot on the floor. Now his face was red from embarrassment.

The taiyoukai, leaning comfortably against the wall of the hovel, fought down a derisive snort of laughter at his companion.

He then busied himself with looking around the hovel. His sharp golden eyes traveled slowly over everything in the hut. The boomerang the taijiya always used was hung up against the wall (she had brought it inside earlier), and some other weapons made of bone were cluttered messily on a wooden table. Tools lay on the floor next to the fire, and a mat was left out in one corner for anyone to sleep in.

Obviously, the taijiya was not the neatest of people.

Such is one of the flaws of the human race, Sesshoumaru thought absently.

"So, Sesshoumaru," Sango said, interrupting the taiyoukai's thoughts, "how did you come to my village?"

"Sesshoumaru-sama wanted to see—" Rin began innocently.

"Rin."

The girl stopped mid-sentence, understanding Sesshoumaru's meaning: what had gone on that morning, and how they got to the Sango's village was to remain between Rin, Jaken and Sesshoumaru.

However, what happened was…

Early in the morning, before anyone had woken up, Sesshoumaru strode away from the abandoned village where he had spent the last couple of days, and thought of his words the night before: "But we shall meet again, taijiya."

What had possessed him to say that?

Such foolish words…

It was true, though.

He had found himself stalking purposefully to the east that morning, and though it took days, they traveled by flight, and ended up at Sango's village. He had left his territory, rather foolishly, on a whim that had not become clear to him until, days later, stationed in that tree, he saw Sango appear out of one of the huts.

Once again, Sango was plaguing my mind to the extent that I wanted to see her, and see her I did, Sesshoumaru thought as he avoided answering Sango's question.

Sango, having absolutely no idea what Sesshoumaru was thinking about, closed her eyes and leaned back against the wall. Fatigue had suddenly overcome her, and she would not mind having a little nap. But she had guests, so she could not.

Sighing tiredly, the taijiya opened her eyes again and started in surprise when she saw Kirara bounding out and Sesshoumaru already gone.

Rin and Jaken were by her side, though Jaken was rather tense. Was it just the fact that he was sitting with two human women, or was he tense for the same reason that Sesshoumaru and Kirara had left?

Sango jumped up and bounded toward the door.

Rin glanced up. "Where are you going?" the little girl asked curiously.

Sango smiled reassuringly down at her. "I'll be right back, Rin-chan." With that, she leaped out the door to where Kirara, big and bristling, and Sesshoumaru, sword drawn, were standing motionless in front of a large, dragon-like demon.

That scent—! Sesshoumaru thought. Instead of voicing his thoughts, though, he ordered at Sango, "Go back inside."

Sango glared at the taiyoukai. "I will do no such thing." She reached behind her for Hiraikotsu, to find it gone. Sango remembered that her boomerang lay inside. It would not be wise to use it when it had only been put back together a few hours earlier.

Sesshoumaru turned slightly toward her, having anticipated that she had reached behind for her weapon. "Exactly. Go inside."

"You go inside!" Sango shot back immaturely.

"Don't presume to tell this Sesshoumaru what to do," the taiyoukai snarled, turning back to the dragon.

Sango scowled at him and reached for her wakizashi, lying against the wall of the hut. Grabbing it, she unsheathed it without pause and brandished it at the demon.

"You will only be in the way," Sesshoumaru said bluntly.

"Hmph!" Sango exclaimed indignantly. Wanting to prove her skill, she leaped bravely forward with a cry and ran past Sesshoumaru, short sword bared confidently at the pompous olive dragon…

… but she was pulled back by the neck of her kimono, and thrown back against the wall of the hut.

She gasped for breath and rubbed her neck. Standing up shakily, she barked at Sesshoumaru, "What the hell was that!"

"I told you, you'd only be in the way!" Sesshoumaru roared as he charged forward and brought his sword down upon the head of the bored-looking demon.

But at the last second before the strike connected, the dragon opened its mouth and to Sesshoumaru's surprise, an icy substance flew out and covered the startled taiyoukai from head to toe. Upon hitting him, it turned at once to ice, freezing him in place.

Sesshoumaru was stuck.

Sango bit back laughter. "Now who's in the way?" she called to him boldly, leaping upon Kirara and flying toward the angry dragon. It blew the weird water at the two, but they dodged and Sango thrust out her wakizashi and decapitated the creature with one clean swipe.

Sesshoumaru, furious but still frozen, gave her a mental glare but couldn't help but admit that it had been nicely—if not a little crudely—done.

Sango jumped off Kirara and landed neatly on the ground. Walking back to the hut, she wiped at her short sword with a cloth that was found stuck to the bamboo, and sheathed her katana. Then the taijiya walked over to the ice-covered Sesshoumaru and mulled over how to unfreeze him.

Even she could not help but notice how humorous the taiyoukai looked, stuck in a position where his Tokijin was raised above his head.

Just then, she noticed Sesshoumaru's stare (for his eyes could still move) fly to the woods where the dragon had first appeared from, and heard Kirara's snarl. She turned, and groaned aloud as two more dragons appeared.

They must have smelled the blood, Sango thought.

The scarlet and the azure dragon bent over their fallen olive companion and both let out a roar of fury—or pain, depending on how one would interpret it—when they found him dead.

Sango winced at the noise and grabbed her sword. Then she looked at the furious Sesshoumaru. What should she do, unfreeze the taiyoukai or simply take them out herself and prove her strength?

Sango decided on the latter. It looked like Sesshoumaru was beginning to thaw, anyway.

The taijiya drew her sword and charged towards the cobalt demon, assuming it had the same power as its fallen friend, and that she could dodge it.

Fool, Sesshoumaru thought.

To her surprise and horror, as Sango brought her sword down the blue demon opened its mouth and out floated black mist that covered all.

Soon she could see no better than if she was blind, clumsily feeling her way around. When she connected with something icy, and, not realizing it was the annoyed Sesshoumaru, her hand traveled up to the top and her fingers ran over the cheek of the taiyoukai, feeling the slight ridge of the marking.

Sesshoumaru would have sighed, had he been able to. But, frozen in that position, the great inuyoukai could do nothing.

Though he would never admit it, Sesshoumaru was enjoying the feeling of her fingertips running over his face. But this could not go on forever. Surely the dragons could see past this darkness, and would come for Sango soon.

Then Sesshoumaru found, to his surprise, that the frozen feeling was wearing off slightly. He could move, if only a little. Using this to his advantage, when Sango's fingers accidentally passed over his lips, he bit them. Hard.

"Ouch!" Sango yelped, pulling her finger back. She paused. Thought. And then realized what she had been feeling. Her face reddened. "Sessh-Sesshoumaru?" she gasped, rubbing her sore fingers.

She didn't get a response, but she didn't expect to, as he was still mostly frozen. The taijiya pulled away and muttered embarrassed apologies before squinting into the blackness for the dragons.

Stumbling forward, Sango drew her sword, and chopped at air, hoping to strike the dragons.

Whoosh.

When Sango whirled around in confusion at the noise, which had been like someone exhaling strongly, she felt something very hot collide with her side, and she cried out, dropping the sword and clutching the burn.

The darkness lifted, and Sango saw the crimson dragon that had burned her. Its mouth was smoking; it had obviously breathed fire. Sango let out a furious shout. But, instead of charging toward the red demon that had caused her such pain, she charged toward the blue demon. She wanted to dispatch the darkness-themed demon first.

She did not want to have sight taken from her ever again. It had not felt good to be completely helpless, constantly feeling like she was about to bump into something or fall.

Or touch something without knowing what it was.

Sango blushed again and looked back at Sesshoumaru for a second. Still embarrassed, Sango once again focused on the blue demon.

She ran toward it, and though it reared up to attack her with its claws, she swiped her wakizashi along its middle, and it let out a scream of pain and dropped to the ground, lifeless.

Sesshoumaru watched this with apprehension. Something was bound to happen soon…

And it did.

Sango, confident she could kill the last demon, the fire-breathing one, turned toward it and was faced with a wall of fire that scorched her. Mind reeling from the heat and from the pain, Sango began to fall backwards.

Sesshoumaru struggled against the ice that held him. If the taijiya hit the ground she would be completely defenseless and at the demon's deadly mercy. And Sesshoumaru did not want that.

The ice was melting, but not fast enough for Sesshoumaru's liking. Then, using all his strength, the taiyoukai let out a roar and broke free of his icy bonds, wanting to catch the fallen slayer before she hit the ground.

He succeeded, but barely.

Rushing forward, Sesshoumaru caught her and found the taijiya in a pain-filled stupor. She could not fight like this. The taiyoukai sighed and raised Tokijin. The power of the sword alone shredded the dragon, and it limped off into the woods, broken and bleeding. Then he sheathed Tokijin, picked Sango up, and carried her inside the hut.

Rin gasped upon seeing Sango's condition: she was burned raw; her whole body was a shiny red color. "What happened to her, Sesshoumaru-sama?" the little girl gasped worriedly, accidentally dropping the empty bowl she had been holding in her hands.

"Dragons," was Sesshoumaru's cold answer. Rin, dissatisfied but not about to say so, watched attentively as Sesshoumaru placed the young human woman on her mat.

The taiyoukai turned to Jaken. "Search this hut and the huts around it for remedies, Jaken."

Jaken spluttered for a second about the unfairness of it all, but a cold glare from his master sent him on his way.

Sesshoumaru knelt beside the young woman. Her hair was splayed out around her face, and there was a pain-filled expression on her face. She should be smiling, Sesshoumaru thought suddenly. He frowned. No. Don't think like that.

A few minutes later, Jaken returned with a bundle of medicine in his arms, breaking Sesshoumaru away from his self-berating. The taiyoukai snatched them without a thank you and handed them to Rin.

"I trust that you know how to apply these," he said. She nodded, and Sesshoumaru stood. "Good. I will be outside."

"Is there another dragon out there, milord?" Jaken asked.

The taiyoukai shook his head and ordered Jaken to stay put. With that, he strode out the door to where the remains of two of the dragon trio lay dead by Sango's hand. He sniffed the air and his brow furrowed worriedly.

That scent… the dragon's scent is the same… as Tohyama's.

But how could that be possible? He shook his head. Impossible. I disposed of that demon; he cannot be alive.

After a few more minutes of strange smells and anxious confusion, Sesshoumaru returned to the hut. Rin was sitting by Sango. By the looks of it, she had already applied the cream and now was waiting for the girl to awaken.

"That human will not wake for a while, Rin," Jaken told her sullenly.

"I will stay with her until she does, Master Jaken," Rin insisted sweetly.

"I do not understand humans," the toad grumbled, turning away from the child.

Sesshoumaru watched this indifferently, and walked over to Sango. "It looks like you have done a fine job, Rin."

Rin looked up, face lit with happiness. Never before had her lord bestowed upon her a compliment! "Thank you, Sesshoumaru-sama!" Rin squealed gleefully.

Jaken looked on jealously.


"Sango-sama!"

Sango let out a soft groan and stirred. Her whole body ached and tingled. She opened her eyes. Rin was hovering over her. She could see Jaken mumbling to himself in a corner. Sesshoumaru stood against the wall, looking on. The taijiya turned back to Rin, and smiled slightly. "What… what happened?" she croaked hoarsely, and coughed.

"Jaken," Sesshoumaru ordered, "bring her water."

It did not seem unnatural to be this kind to a human, though it would have a couple months back…

Jaken grumbled but obediently fetched the water and handed it to Sango in a cup that had been left on the floor.

"Thank you," she said to Jaken. He didn't respond. Sango put the cup to her lips and drank from it like it was an elixir to keep her alive always. Refreshing and cold, it woke Sango up properly and she sat up. Immediately regretting her decision, Sango lay back down, wincing at the pain of her burns.

"The dragon burned you."

She glanced at Sesshoumaru. "That's right," she said slowly, and cringed at the memory. But then she smiled. "And you had been frozen…"

The taiyoukai glowered at her.

She chuckled and said, "I am assuming it was you who brought me here, Sesshoumaru?" When the demon nodded grudgingly, she sighed. "This is the second time you have saved my life, for I would surely have died if you had left me."

"Indeed you would have," Sesshoumaru agreed monotonously.

Relaxing on her mat, Sango fell silent and decided that she would rest up for another day or so, and then return to Miroku. She had been missing him.

When Sesshoumaru saw Sango smile after she had fallen silent, he was tempted to say, 'Thinking of the houshi?' but he stopped himself, and glanced away.


After a few days, Sango bade Sesshoumaru, Rin and Jaken good-bye, smiling and saying, "Well, I promised Miroku I'd be back soon, so I'd better go." She bowed. "Thanks again."

Sesshoumaru did nothing as he watched her get on Kirara and fly away, his face blank and cold as usual while he inwardly churned with anger. That houshi, that degenerate, womanizing houshi—how can she trust him? He scowled slightly at her departing figure, and watched as she faded into nothing.


A couple days later, as the trip was a long and tiresome one, Sango's friends finally came into view, and, thrilled, the young woman bellowed down, "Kagome! Inuyasha! Shippo!" She searched for Miroku, but found he was gone. Her smile faltered.

"Sango!" Kagome yelped joyfully when Sango and Kirara descended from the skies.

The taijiya gave an energetic wave and she and Kirara touched down on the ground. Hopping off, Sango grinned at the three friends who stood before her; still hurt and slightly amazed that Miroku was not there to greet her.

"Hey, Sango!" Shippo squeaked happily. Turning to Kirara, who was small again, he squealed, "Kirara!" and raced over to where the cat demon was.

Sango crossed her arms over her chest and smiled fondly at the young kitsune, who was now embracing the purring two-tailed demon. She didn't fail to notice that Shippo had been much more happy to see Kirara than he had been to see her. But it didn't bother the taijiya; he was small, and Kirara was his best friend.

"Welcome back, Sango!" Kagome said, rushing forward and enveloping her friend in a quick hug.

Sango chuckled at Kagome's hyper ways, and greeted Inuyasha. "Hello, Inuyasha."

He nodded, and managed to say, "Took you long enough."

Sango snorted. "I was only gone a couple days," she said. Inuyasha didn't say anything more on the subject, so she decided to ask a certain question, which had been whirling across her mind since she first saw her friends in the distance that day. "Where's Miroku?" she inquired.

"Oh…" Kagome looked at the ground.

Sango took this to mean something bad, and she exclaimed anxiously, "What happened!"

Kagome immediately glanced up, worry etched on her face. "Oh, nothing! I'm sorry, Sango! I didn't mean to scare you. He's fine." The schoolgirl saw Sango relax, and continued, "He went out early this morning, and hasn't been back since."

"Really?" the taijiya asked softly. "He's been gone a long time, then."

"Yeah. And he's been going out every day since you left," Inuyasha said carelessly. "Gone before even I wake up, and back after Kagome and Shippo have fallen asleep."

"Inuyasha!" Kagome said sharply. She turned to him and hissed so that Sango didn't hear, "Shush! I thought we just agreed that we wouldn't tell her that!"

Inuyasha turned. "Tell her what?" he asked dully.

Kagome stared at him, appalled.

"Maybe I should go look for him," Sango mused.

"No, no," Kagome insisted, taking Sango's arm and leading her to a comfortable spot in the grassy sun. "He'll be back later. Don't worry, Sango." She smiled and sat down next to her friend. "So, I see you fixed Hiraikotsu," the schoolgirl said, totally changing the subject.

"Yeah," Sango said absently, staring at her hands. She wondered where Miroku was.

Inuyasha walked over and leaned casually against the tree opposite where Sango and Kagome sat. He took in a whiff of the fresh spring air, and, suddenly alert, he straightened and sniffed the air once more. "Sango… you smell like… like…" He sniffed a final time and his mouth dropped open. "My brother!"

Sango stiffened. This hadn't even occurred to her. But now, faced with her worst nightmare, Sango let out a very fake, very squeaky giggle. "Yeah, I ran into him on the road. Literally," she lied, trying to laugh it off.

"Feh," Inuyasha said, obviously unconvinced and eyeing her suspiciously.

The rest of the day passed pretty much without incident. Shippo and Kirara went off to play, Inuyasha went off in a sulk after Kagome said 'sit' for some unknown reason, and Sango waited patiently for Miroku's return.


By nightfall her patience had run out. Kagome and Shippo were going to sleep, and Inuyasha was stationed in a tree, looking after them all.

"Sango," Kagome said, stifling an exhausted yawn, "you should go to bed. Miroku will be back when you wake up; I know he'll be thrilled to see you."

Sango shrugged and pointed out, "But what about what Inuyasha said? 'Gone before even I wake up, and back after Kagome and Shippo have fallen asleep'? What if I don't see him? What if he doesn't even stop to say hi?"

Kagome didn't have an answer to that, so she said a half-hearted goodnight and curled up next to Shippo.

Sango sat, still and waiting, for the next hour and a half. Inuyasha listened to the sighs that emanated from her every few minutes, her restlessness disturbing him so much that it was impossible to get to sleep. Soon the taijiya got up and paced around the camp as quietly as possible, in order to not wake Kagome, Shippo and Kirara.

"Sango," came Inuyasha's hiss half-an-hour later. It sounded exhausted. She glanced absently up at the tree that he occupied, and he, peering through the leafy branches, noticed that she had deep bags under her eyes. She too looked as if she was about to fall asleep. "Go to sleep," he ordered hoarsely.

Sango shot him a glare to freeze the soul. Her eyes were narrowed, and she demanded, "Where is he? Where could he have gone?"

"I don't know," Inuyasha sighed, sitting up slightly and yawning. As he watched, Sango turned away from him and strode in the direction of a village not too far away. "Where are you going?" he asked sleepily, trying with all his might to stay awake.

"To find him," Sango said furiously. And with that, she was gone.

Inuyasha squinted after her. He shrugged and relaxed against the trunk of the think tree, and yawned once more. "Idiot," he grumbled, closing his eyes and immediately falling back asleep.


Where the hell are you, Miroku? Sango asked mentally, running at full tilt through the darkness. She kept tripping over roots and stray branches, and countless sharp leaves and small, spindly twigs scratched at her face and her body.

She burst out of the forest a moment later, into a dimly lit village. A candle was lit in one of the hovels, providing the slight yellow glow. She wandered toward it, curious about who would be up and this time.

When she glanced in the window, she didn't see anyone, so she shrugged and moved on. She wandered toward the opposite end of the village and Sango squinted through the darkness, calling out for the houshi. She bent over and looked in all places possible. Note that I did not say probable.

After glancing under tables and in bushes, Sango straightened and cursed under her breath. Damn it, Miroku! Where are you? she thought angrily. Obviously he wasn't anywhere else, unless he was staying in one of the huts. But why would he stay in someone's home? And if he was, why would he keep it a secret? That would not be like him… She sighed. But why would he be here anyway?

"Don't be silly," came a soft, cheerful boyish laugh from inside of the lit up hut. Sango glanced over in confusion, brows raised. That had sounded like…

"Promise me, houshi-sama," pleaded a sullen voice.

Sango bristled. 'Houshi-sama'? Then it had been Miroku who had spoken. And that surly voice; it had been a woman's! Sango's bright cinnamon eyes widened in horror at the possible betrayal, but she shook her head, refusing to believe it.

Then, soft, padding footsteps made their way to the rough straw curtain that was used as a door. Sango drew back into the darkness as a man in a long robe ventured out of the house.

"Houshi-sama, I haven't seen you in years. Promise me you'll be back!" begged a woman, appearing in the lamplight after the man. She was pretty, with short black hair and wide blue eyes.

There was more talking, but the only thing Sango caught was a comforting word by a voice that was obviously Miroku's: "I'll try, Ryomi." Little did she know that what he really said was "Thank you for comforting me. I promise I'll try, Ryomi."

The woman smiled through fresh tears, and Miroku kissed her forehead.

"Good night, Ryomi," Miroku said.

"Meet me tomorrow?" questioned Ryomi cutely.

After a pause, Miroku said, "Yes…"

Sango, still hiding in the darkness, clapped a hand over her mouth to keep from crying out. But then her chocolate eyes narrowed, and when the woman had disappeared inside her hut and Miroku had turned to go back to the campsite, Sango stepped out of the darkness behind him.

"Hmm? Who's there?" Miroku said, instantly alert. His black fringe swung over his dark violet eyes as they focused on the figure.

Sango looked away for an instant before sneaking up behind him. She put her hands on his shoulders whirled him around. "Miroku!" she hissed, and his mouth formed a small 'o' at the sight of her. He stepped back.

"S-Sango," he stuttered, "H-hello. I didn't know you were back."

"You wouldn't," she snarled. "You've been out all day."

"Y-yeah," he agreed. "Out… getting food. For Kagome and Inuyasha. I got lost, and this kind woman"—he motioned to the hut he had just ventured out of, knowing she had been watching—"helped me find my way back."

"You two got very close," Sango growled conversationally. "No, wait. What was it she said? 'I haven't seen you in years', was it? So you two had met before, huh? Old friends?"

"Sango," Miroku said urgently, scratching the back of his head in a desperate attempt to look adorable, "no need to get upset."

"Of course not," Sango said, anger dissolving into despair.

Miroku blanched at the broken sound of her usually strong voice. "Uhm… Sango…" The monk started in surprise when tears began to race down the taijiya's face. He instinctively rushed to comfort her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. "D-don't cry. Please don't cry, Sango."

Sango threw Miroku's arm off her and pushed him away. "I-I was foolish to ever believe I was the only one in your heart, Miroku, no matter how many times you told me so!"

Miroku extended a hand out to her, but she recoiled at the thought of his touch. "You don't understand, Sango!" he said desperately, arms flying back to his sides and hands curling into white-knuckled fists.

"Give it back!" Sango demanded suddenly, thrusting a hand out toward him. Miroku's miserable and confused face was her answer, so she clarified her answer with another: "My heart! Give it back!"


Since Sango's departure, Rin had noticed that her lord had been rather sullen, so at precisely the time that Miroku was discovered by Sango, Rin crept up behind Sesshoumaru and exclaimed, "Sesshoumaru-sama?"

Sitting propped up by a tree, he responded, without turning to face the little girl, "Yes, Rin?"

"Do you like Sango-sama? Do you think she's pretty?"

"Yes, Rin," Sesshoumaru responded distractedly, his thoughts of Sango returning from where they had been banished to the recesses of his mind. Rin squealed in delight at his answer, and he turned, realizing what he had just admitted to. He prepared to deny it when he realized…

…that it was true.

Fin


Summary for the sequel, Tactics of Revenge (up now):

Tohyama is alive, and has teamed up with Naraku. Sesshoumaru's past is finally revealed, Takeda Kuranosuke returns and Miroku tries again to convince Sango of his undying love. For the first time, Sesshoumaru feels threatened.