Yes, I am finally back, hopefully to stay. As my writing style has matured in the past four years (the time since my last update), you may notice a lot of changes starting with this chapter. Some of these changes also include fixing some discrepancies (such as now writing 'Kirara' instead of 'Kilala'). I never knew which was the more correct spelling, but recently discovered Kirara is the Japanese spelling and Kilala is the English spelling; so I'll be trying to honor the original as much as possible. Kaede will also not be saying 'ye' anymore as it annoys me. Hope you enjoy the improved quality of life of my writing! It's good to be at it again.

Kagome woke up the next morning to the smell of cooking food. She was confused when she felt a comfortable mattress under her instead of the ground jabbing her through her sleeping bag. Then she remembered she'd run home in the middle of the night. She felt like such a coward. After everything Kaede had spoken to her about, she just ignored it all and came crying home to safety. She drug her self-loathing body out of bed and headed downstairs to tell her mother she was home for a while. Her family didn't even know she was back yet since she'd gotten in so late and hadn't wanted to wake them. Kagome didn't know exactly when they had returned from visiting her uncle, but it had only been four days since she'd last traveled through the well so they were sure to still be tired from the trip.

When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she poked her head into the kitchen where she found her mother busy stirring something on the stove. "Hey, okaa-san, I'm home," Kagome called out, fully entering the kitchen. Her mother turned to look at her with a surprised expression on her face.

"Kagome, I didn't know you were back. When did you get home?" she asked with happiness as she walked over to welcome her daughter.

"I got in late last night. I didn't want to wake you guys."

Mother's intuition told her that something was upsetting her daughter. "Kagome…what happened?"

Kagome gave her mom a brief review of the recent events and complained about her cowardice.

Meanwhile, back in the Feudal Era, Inuyasha was sulking around the village. Things just never seemed to go right between him and Kagome. He just couldn't ever say the right thing. He was pacing underneath the God Tree pondering his troubles. "It's not like it's all my fault," he muttered, talking himself into feeling less guilty. "She always overreacts and goes running home. Wench…" He stopped pacing and stared toward the well clearing. Inuyasha heaved a heavy sigh, knowing deep down that he was just trying to make himself feel better and that none of it would change anything.

"How long will you stay away this time, Kagome?" Inuyasha wondered to himself.

After calming down and eating a hearty breakfast, Kagome and her mother sat down to finish their talk.

"Kagome dear, you know you must return, right? You owe that to Inuyasha, Kaede, and yourself," Kagome's mother began. "You can't just run away every time things get tough. You're such a strong girl. You've already taken on so much, but you must try to make amends and get your emotions and powers under control."

"I know…thanks Mom. I'm going back in a few hours. I'm just going to take a bath and gather some supplies." She got up from the table to walk away only to realize how incredibly self-centered she was being. "Oh, here I am worrying all about my problems and I completely forgot about Uncle Haruo, how is he doing? And what happened anyway? Your note just said he was in the hospital."

Mrs. Higurashi looked up in surprise at the sudden outburst of questions, concern over her daughter ebbing into thoughts about her brother and sister-in-law and all they were going through. Although Haruo was her husband's brother, the families were still very close even though Mr. Higurashi had passed away many years ago. "Oh he's doing just fine now, though things were a little rough there for a while. Haruo had a heart attack." At the look of horror and worry passing across her daughter's face, she quickly added, "but they managed to catch it early on and get him to the hospital. He didn't have to have surgery, but he stayed in the hospital for almost a week waiting for everything to return to normal and for the medicine to break up the clots. He was released a couple of days before we came home. Your aunt's been worried sick ever since of course, but we couldn't stay away any longer. Souta was staying with a friend so he wouldn't miss school and I didn't want to impose on them too much since it seems your uncle is going to be just fine."

Kagome let out a sigh of relief but still felt guilty for some reason. "I just feel bad that I wasn't here…they've always been there for us, especially since Dad isn't with us anymore." She thought about all she missed here while she was in the feudal era. School she could catch up on…hopefully. Her friends…well in all honesty she was closer to her friends in the feudal era anyway; all the petty high school drama paled in comparison to fighting off a hanyou seeking world domination. But her family…that was different. They were the only one she had and even though her feudal era gang was like a second family to her, she couldn't turn her back on her real family. "I think I should go visit him, would you take me to see them Mom?"

Mrs. Higurashi looked at her kind daughter with nothing but love. "Honey, if you're really set on going I'll take you, but I don't think it's the best time. Haruo just got out of the hospital a few days ago and he and Aya are exhausted. I think it's best we let them get things figured out and recuperate before we go see them again." Kagome looked absolutely downfallen, but she understood. "Besides dear, you have your own problems to worry about right now. They may not seem life and death, but they could end up that way if you continue putting them on the back burner. I promise next time you're home and it's convenient we'll go see Haruo and Aya okay?"

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Next time you talk to them, will you tell them I'm glad everything is okay and that I'll come visit as soon as I can?"

"Of course, now you better run upstairs and start getting ready. You know Inuyasha isn't the most patient," Mrs. Higurashi chastised.

Kagome gave a nod of acknowledgement before dashing off towards the stairs, muttering to herself, "that's the understatement of the year."

It took three hours before Kagome had finally readied herself to return to the past. She was clean and her mother had replenished her bag's food supply while she was bathing. Her uniform was clean, as was her back up uniform. She also brought with her some pants and a couple of shirts for training, that way she hopefully wouldn't have to wear that priestess garb all the time. Even though she knew things had for the most part been resolved with Kikyo, she still felt weird dressing just like her. Apparently Kagome's reincarnation complex was going to stick around for a while. Finding she had no excuse left to continue her stalling, she headed downstairs kissed her mom, grandpa and Souta goodbye, gave Buyo a good scratch, and made her way out to the well.

Inuyasha perked up from his mental musings perched in his usual sulking tree. He thought he smelled Kagome's scent, but was unwilling to let himself believe that she had really come back after only one night in her time. Deciding he may as well go find out for himself if he was imagining it or not, he bounded off toward the well clearing just in time to see Kagome flailing about as she not so gracefully ascended from the well. He grabbed her by the back of her shirt and hauled her the rest of the way out and onto safe level ground before she could fall back in and hurt herself.

Her look of slight disdain told him his methods were not exactly appreciated, but when she went to reach for her yellow pack, he simply grabbed it and slung it over without so much as a word. She didn't speak either as she stepped around him and headed off towards the village, him falling into step beside and a little behind her. Neither spoke as they walked but it was not an awkward or angry silence. Both realized they had overreacted last night and were content to be reunited, though neither would say it.

It was almost time for lunch. "Was Kaede mad when she realized I wasn't here for training this morning?" Kagome suddenly inquired, startling Inuyasha out of his silent celebration at not getting yelled at or sat.

Inuyasha eagerly replied trying to be helpful, not even realizing that he was digging his own grave. "Not that I could tell, she probably thought you wanted some time to think after y'alls chat." He missed the narrowing of her eyes, but he did feel the slight flare in her aura, causing him to shift his eyes her direction ever so slowly. 'Ah fuck…I gave myself away again damnit!' he thought to himself while preparing for the inevitable sit.

Kagome opened her mouth to scream her head off at Inuyasha for being caught eavesdropping again…before she remembered her training. 'Okay Kagome, deep breaths. You can do this; just picture he's not the biggest annoying idiot in the world.'

"Inuyasha," Kagome began as calmly as she could manage though it sounded forced even to her own ears. "You really must stop spying and eavesdropping. It's very rude and quite frankly I'm growing tired of it. Some things are none of your business!" She couldn't help but to raise her voice on the last part, but she thought she did pretty well over all considering whom she was dealing with. She mentally gave herself a passing grade, though she was definitely far from acing the exercise.

She had certainly shocked Inuyasha. He was standing, almost gawking, about five paces back from her—the distance growing more every step Kagome took towards the village. He finally shook it off and caught up with her muttering what sounded like "Sorry" to Kagome. She couldn't be sure but his slightly downcast eyes confirmed her suspicions. As they finally reached the village, both the half-demon and the priestess could smell the lunch stewing in Kaede's hut wafting their way. They entered the dwelling, finding the monk and demon slayer sitting against the wall while the elder priestess stirred the day's meal. All three turned towards Inuyasha and Kagome in acknowledgement, a bit surprised to see her back so soon and without Inuyasha buried face down in the ground. The kit and Kirara were nowhere to be found, so it could be assumed they were off playing near the village somewhere.

Kaede was the first to speak, "Kagome child, you were not here for training this morning, how do you fare?"

Kagome immediately felt guilty for skipping out on the older woman, though she knew that had not been Kaede's intention. "I'm alright now Kaede-sama. I spoke with my mother about everything going on here and she filled me in on my uncle's situation. It was good to see her."

"I am sorry Kagome, I did not realize a relative of yours was ill?" Kaede almost questioned. Kagome did her best to explain to Kaede and the rest of her friends what had happened to her uncle, trying to use terms familiar to the feudal era. During this lunch was served and after the topic of her uncle was exhausted the group fell into friendly and comfortable chit chat. Sango and Miroku were discussing battle strategy, and the two priestesses were discussing the benefits of aura sensing. Inuyasha was the only one being quiet for once, contemplating all the things that had happened to him recently. He glanced over at Kagome, the focus of all his confusion. He was sure he overheard her saying she loved him that day, which made him want to let her know he cared about her too. He wasn't ready say it yet; he had lived a life full of rejection and people despising him just for being a half-demon. He was just not starting to get used to the idea that not only had Kagome accepted him, but so had their entire pack of friends. He was so good at screwing things up with her that he didn't even want to take the risk. He sighed and once again gave up on the idea. 'Maybe I should ask the monk for advice.' As soon as the thought entered Inuyasha's mind he cursed himself. He looked at his perverted friend and did not even want to imagine how shitty things would get if he got the lecher involved.

It seemed everyone had decided lunchtime was over while he was deep in his thoughts. Sango and Miroku were going for a walk and Kagome and Kaede were preparing for the afternoon training session, which left him to fend for himself. He decided he might as well supervise training for the day and found a limb with a good view of the two women, without being too close. He closed his eyes, not quite napping, waiting for something semi-exciting to occur.

Meanwhile down on the ground, Kaede again had Kagome concentrate her miko energy into her hand. It took her a couple of tries, but this time she did not need a medium to help her get focused. "Very good Kagome," Kaede encouraged. "Now let it recede, and try again. It is my desire that by the end of today you will be able to do that instantly and with relative ease."

Kagome nodded in a determined fashion and tried again, concentrating extra hard. It did not seem to do any good however, as the energy came neither easier nor faster, actually taking a few moments longer to come together. "Child, I want you to close your eyes and take a deep breath. Remember the other day when we were meditating? Try to find that same place again and focus on your energy." Kaede knew Kagome had the strength to do anything she put her mind to; it was just a matter of getting her to know and accept her powers. She needed to stop trying to force things and feel them instead.

Kagome did as her mentor told and went inside herself, pushing her normal senses aside to use her spiritual senses. She lost herself in the comforting and hazy blur of the forest before noticing for the first time what could only be her own aura. The last time they meditated she had been so distracted by the newness of the experience and seeing other living creatures through a new light that she had failed to notice herself. She looked at Kaede's golden aura and realized it was much smaller than her own. Kagome's aura radiated brilliantly, almost rivaling the intensity of Inuyasha's. Only hers was a blue so light and bright that it was almost white. Around the very edge shown a faint pink, almost the color of the Shikon no Tama. She felt conceited getting so wrapped up in her aura, but she really could not understand how it had escaped her notice before. Again noticing the golden aura near her, she remembered she was not alone and had a task to complete. She focused on the bright halo around her and willed it to concentrate into her palm. She felt strength surge into that arm, and when she opened her eyes again she saw what could only be depicted as a ball of energy cupped in the palm of her hand. Inuyasha almost fell out of his tree at the sight. Kaede looked down-right impressed, and Kagome…well she was so shocked she lost her focus, and the ball lost its shape and slowly fizzled out.

She turned slowly toward her mentor with wide eyes, "Kaede-sama…that was…I don't even know what to say." Kagome finished sort of lamely.

"I say well done. You must try to do the same thing again. If you can master this, it shall not matter if you are without weapons. You will be able to create your own at will. Do it again child, but try keep its form under your control."

Kagome repeated the process throughout the early part of the afternoon. By mid afternoon she was exhausted both from the mental capacities needed to manipulate spiritual powers and then subsequently for the draining of said powers. She had managed to conjure the energy ball several more times with varying degrees of success maintaining it. Once she had even managed to hold it long enough to lob it towards a tree, but it dissipated mere seconds after leaving her hand. Overall it had become easier to create the ball as the day had gone on, but the problem now would be making it last.

As Kagome panted slightly, Kaede slowly lowered herself to the ground, motioning with her hand for Kagome to mimic her actions. "We will again meditate today. Now that you have learned to concentrate on your own aura, we must not forget there are others out there. For the next hour or so, I want you to focus on the energies you can sense in the forest. Not only will it benefit your senses, it will also allow your spiritual energy to replenish."

The monk and the slayer strolled casually around the village, mostly just wanting to stretch their legs but also wanting to be able to talk away from Inuyasha's prying ears. "So Houshi-sama, what do you think will happen now that things are settled between Inuyasha and Kikyo?"

Knowing that particular honorific meant Sango was not in the mood to be messed with, he decided he would behave…for the moment. "Dear Sango, it is my hope that Kagome and Inuyasha will finally profess their feelings for each other. However Kagome has been hurt a lot by Kikyo and Inuyasha's prior relationship, so I believe he will have to be the one to bring them together."

"I was afraid you were going to say that. She's so sure he could never return her feelings." The slayer sighed deeply. "They're both blind and stubborn!"

Sensing her frustrations, Miroku decided now was the perfect time to lighten the mood a little bit, even at the risk of a beating. "Well my Sango, we could always set an example for them. Maybe they would take the hint and Inuyasha would ask Lady Kagome to bear him children as I have asked you so many times." Not at all getting the reaction he was expecting, he nearly fell over at her response.

"Miroku…that could work." Was she really considering this? Surely she must be ill.

"Sango, are you aware of what I just proposed?" He just couldn't believe it.

Sango turned full around to face him, "Of course Monk, obviously I'm not talking about that! But think of this, what if we sort of staged becoming closer?" At the glint forming in her companions eyes she decided she better get specific and fast. "Not like that you lecher! Nothing indecent, maybe just the holding of hands here and there, taking walks together like we are now. Kagome and Inuyasha would fill in the rest, it's brilliant!"

Not minding her idea, as he would rather enjoy the opportunities he would undoubtedly find to exploit the situation, this plan was not exactly something Sango would normally do. "Doesn't this plan seem a little underhanded? I mean we would basically be lying to them."

"Not necessarily. We would only lie as minimally as possible, for instance if one of them asks us what's going on we'll just say that we've grown fonder of each other and things like that." The woman was now firmly committed to the idea but had to ensure the monk didn't do anything too stupid. "But under no circumstances are you to say anything that would bring my honor into question is that understood?"

Even though Miroku knew he would at some point probably break this promise to Sango, he agreed anyway to appease her, "Yes of course Sango, but are you sure you'll be able to go through with it?"

"It will be hard keeping this from them, but in the end it is for their own good." Resolved in the plan, the partners in crime made their way back to their unknowing friends.

Thought I'd create a chance for some Sango/Miroku romance to bloom. Hope you all enjoyed the long over due update! You'll be hearing from me again soon.