AN: Whoa... It's been almost a year... Sorry! This chapter wasn't easy to write. First there was a single page, then nothing for a long time, until I was asked if I had abandoned the story. After that I wrote 10 pages in one day, but then got stuck again. Yesterday I wrote a few more pages, until decided that it was enough for now, around 15-16 pages. There was still stuff I wanted to write, but I decided to leave them for the next chapter. Oh, and please don't get mad for cliffhanger, or certain part before it.

More tests ahead. I just love them -grin-. There's also fluff, as well as some tragedy. And there are two more or less modified quotes from Fruits Basket, one from Momiji, another from Hatori+Tohru conversation.

Thanks for reviews! I really appreciate them. I'm glad you liked last chapter, and hopefully you'll love this one too.

DISCLAIMER: Inuyasha et co do not belong to me; Shira, Sheiji, Yuri, and Tsuru does.

Anyways... Enjoy!

Friendships Last Forever

Chapter 27

Shira sighs. "We've been walking here for ages... Should we turn back?"

Inuyasha shakes his head. "Not yet. I-" He stops abruptly, his ears turning.

Shira glances at him before hearing it too, a soft whispering sound. She tries to make out words, but she can't. She turns to her husband. "Can you hear that sound? Can you make out what's being said?"

Inuyasha turns his head towards the sound, while motioning her to be quiet. He strains his ears and concentrates hard on the sound. "Barely. It sounds like a woman saying 'turn back'."

She frowns. "Is she talking to us?"

"Yes I am."

Both turn to face a figure of a woman, who begins to glow faint light. Inside the light it can be seen, that she's got knee-long white dress with thin shoulder straps, no shoes, long wavy blond hair, and face that has fair features. "Who are you, and what are you doing here?" Shira realizes that the light is making her feel uncomfortable, and a glance at Inuyasha tells her that he's feeling it too. "And would you please stop that, you're purifying our youki."

The figure dims her light a little. "My apologies, I did not mean to hurt you." Shira waves her hand to tell it's okay. She then continues. "I know who you are, ryuu taiyoukai Shira and hanyou Inuyasha, son of inu taiyoukai Toga." She grins at the two's slightly shocked expressions. "I have been observing you for a while."

A thought crosses Shira's mind, and she voices it. "It was you who sent that rabbit with the message to us."

The other woman nods. "Yes. I knew that the older taiyoukai known as Toga could read it. As to my identity, you can call me Yuri ('Lily'). I have been watching over every protector of the Shikon no Tama, ever since it came to existence."

Inuyasha frowns. "But it's gone. I made the wish."

Yuri smiles faintly. "Yes, but since it was originally carried in time when your miko friend was born it inside her, I followed it here. And I followed when she moved back and forth in time, even when she did not have the Jewel with her, including the time you purified it. After the Jewel was gone, I was supposed to have vanished with it, but I did not."

Shira twirls a long strand of her hair around her right forefinger. "But doesn't that mean, that-" Her eyes widen. "Jewel isn't gone?"

Yuri nods. "Part of it still remains."

The dragon frowns. "How can that be? It was complete when it was purified, wasn't it?" She glances at Inuyasha, who nods, confirming this.

Yuri shakes her head. "Something of the Jewel still exists. Not it physically, but rather part of its will."

Shira narrows her eyes, "What are you by the way? Were you born of the Jewel?"

The other woman laughs softly. "I have existed for a long time. I was not born, I will not die."

Inuyasha waves his hand. "You didn't answer the question."

Yuri smiles. "Ask your wife, for she seems to know."

The two turn to look at Shira, and Inuyasha startles at the odd look on her face. He can see the surprise, understanding, respect, and pondering all flashing through her eyes switching from one to another almost faster than he can see. "Shira?"

She turns to look at him, her face now expressionless. "Our parents told us stories of what they called 'Eternals'. They are basically part of our planet's, our world's, own energy, its life, its will. Sometimes part, or parts, of this energy takes form of entities, people."

Yuri nods. "Reason for this varies, but usually it is to protect our world. Since Jewel getting to wrong hands may have become a serious threat, I was needed to ensure that would not happen. Now, we should return to your father and brother."

Inuyasha starts. "Father and brother? Wait, what about my half-brother and Kagome?"

She smiles soothingly at the seemingly nervous hanyou. "They are fine, and will be here soon. They have gone to the illusionary world my brother created for them."

Toga listens carefully, as Yuri explains to him and Shinji what she had told Shira and Inuyasha some time earlier. She had insisted that they would return to the pond outside the cave, and they had found the two taiyoukai waiting at the entrance. The two had returned there after discovering only a dead end. After she has finished, he taps his chin thoughtfully before speaking. "I have a few questions to ask, if you do not mind."

Yuri waves her hand as if to say 'go ahead', so he asks his first question. "This illusionary world my son and the priestess are in, what is it like and what they must do?"

She shrugs. "My brother chose it to be so that he can see in their souls. You see, the worthiness they seek is not something they can achieve, not something they can learn or grow into. It is something they already possess."

Toga frowns. "Wait, did you say 'they'? I thought this was only about Kagome."

Yuri grins. "Their fates are bound. Now, as I was explaining, my brother's illusionary world will bring out the little clues to discover if they are worthy or not."

Shira interjects. "What are these clues?"

Yuri replies after a short pause. "Well, most apparent one is a kind of wisdom. It is not just putting responsibility before one's hopes and dreams, but also knowing when latter ones are more important. Then there is courage, in the sense of understanding that something is more important than fear, rather than not being scared. Third one is purity. Not necessary purity of body and thoughts, though. It is purity of heart, like that of a child. Fourth, and the last one, is most important, as well as the most difficult to figure out."

Inuyasha's ears twitch. "Feh, I really doubt my half brother could have all of them, no matter what the fourth is."

Toga glances at Inuyasha chidingly. The hanyou huffs and waves his hand." Sorry 'bout that, continue, will ya?"

This earns him a warning glare from his father. Yuri smiles as she continues. "Both of them does not have to have all four, it is enough if just one of them has, as long as them as a pair has all of them. Then they are brought to us."

Sheiji lets out an impatient sigh. "I wanna hear what the fourth one is."

Shira gives him a similar glance as Toga gave his son just a moment earlier. "Forgive these two, for they have yet to mature properly. Would you please continue?"

Yuri smiles. "Make a guess. They want answers from a statue that knows everything, and they need to have wisdom, courage, and purity to be able to do that. What could be fourth?"

Toga taps his chin with one of his claws. "I think I know this. During my time on the other side, when I found about the statue, I read something about it. If only I could remember..."

Shira glances from the pondering Toga, to her ignorant looking brother and husband, before turning to look at Yuri, who has an odd gleam in her eyes. That gleam, and something her parents had told her made her realise what the fourth clue is. "It's knowledge, isn't it?

Yuri grins. "Very good, so far. Knowledge of what?"

The dragon narrows her eyes. "To know what not to ask?"

The other woman shakes her head. "That is part of wisdom, really. Try again."

Shira rubs her chin thoughtfully, before realization hits her, making her eyes widen. "Knowledge that they do not need the knowledge from the statue!"

Yuri claps her hands together. "Excellent. That's right. The secret of the statue is, that it does not possess any knowledge. It is nothing more than a statue. However, the quest to find it will help them to find the answer themselves. What did you wished to know, anyway?"

Toga sighs. "Well, something that was once bound to a mirror has escaped. We need to find what it was, and how to defeat it. And now that you said that part of the Jewel is still around... We need to find it as well."

Yuri grins. "Why you ask something you already know the answers to?"

Shira shakes her head in slight confusion. "If we know them already, then why two of our friends are in an illusionary world, trying to figure out they're worthy. Is it a wild goose chase?"

The other woman's eyes harden a little. "It is no 'wild goose chase', dragon. I speak of worth, but it is not what you think. I am sure that my brother... uh... stretched the truth when he sent them to that world. However, this is truly to find out if they are worthy of carrying what you need to remove the last part of the Shikon no Tama from this existence."

Toga frowns. "Carry what?"

Yuri holds out her right hand, palm upwards, and the as the four observe, a little mist gathers on her palm, and it begins to twirl. Slowly it takes form of something very familiar to them.

Shira gasps. "The Jewel of Four Souls! But... how?"

Yuri shakes her head as she closes her fist and lowers her arm back to her side. "This is not the Jewel, merely an image of it, created from the same energy that I and my brother come from. If they are worthy of it, they must then do the right thing, and the part will be merged with this, and both will be purified."

Inuyasha frowns. "Is it something unselfish? Seeing that I purified it by making an unselfish wish"

The woman nods. "Yes."

Toga looks at her curiously. "What is this unselfish thing they must do?"

Yuri shakes her head. "They will know it when the time is right."

Kagome follows Sesshomaru to his father's study after he had invited the two there. As they two walk, they have no idea of the true nature of their trip here, or this place. Not even the fact that everyone else here are just copies of the real people they represent, following will and thoughts of the one who created these projections.

After walking through countless of corridors they arrive in front of set of open shoji screens. Through the opening they can see who they believe is Sesshomaru's father, and he's reading a parchment before lifting his gaze at the two. "Come in."

Sesshomaru enters the study, Kagome following right behind him. 'Toga' motions them to sit on low chairs in front of his desk. As soon as they have, he speaks. "Have you found anything?"

Kagome glances at the youkai on her right side with a question in her eyes, hoping that he would get the hint. She surely won't explain, since she's not sure is she understands that well herself.

To her relief, Sesshomaru had apparently sensed her reluctance and begins to explain their findings. "My father told me to read a certain book if I was ever at loss. I found that your library has the book."

The older taiyoukai's eyes light up. "Oh, you mean the one that holds the 'Tale of hime and her choice'?" He chuckles at the surprised looks on their faces. "My father told me to read the book when I became the ruler of these lands. The story is old, but very good. So, did it help?"

Sesshomaru nods. "The story was indeed helpful, but so was one of the pictures in it." Toga gives him a puzzled glance, so he explains. "The picture has the hime facing the one she marries, but her left hand is reaching for the man she wants to marry. She holds the Shikon no Tama on her right palm."

Toga nods. "I know the picture. So, how the story and the picture helped you, if I may ask?"

The younger inu replies right away. "In short we learned two things. First of all, we learned that since we seek knowledge, we need to know what to ask, and what not to. Also, we learned that priestess here needs to have wisdom born of a child's purity."

Toga smiles. "Sounds to me, that you're probably on the right tracks."

Kagome blinks. "How would you know that?"

He grins. "You friend here mentioned that you seek knowledge, and that you have learned that you need to know what to ask. You see, I've heard a legend of a statue that knows everything that there is to know. You are seeking it, are you not?"

Sesshomaru nods. "Yes. We need to ask something for it."

Toga taps his chin with a tip of one of his sharp claws. "You may want to check the forest east from here. I am sure you will find what you need in there. You should leave as soon as you can. My people here will provide you with anything you may need."

Kagome walks next to Sesshomaru as they make their way towards east. The dusty road is only wide enough for the two to walk side by side. They have now been walking for two hours, and still they haven't reached the forest Sesshomaru said he can actually remember. When they left Sesshomaru's home they had been given their clothes back, all cleaned, as well as a sack, that Sesshomaru had slung over his right shoulder. It contained dried meat, mushrooms and berries, as well as some other stuff they would need if they would have to sleep during their journey.

As they advance on the road, Kagome begins to feel an odd foreboding about what will be waiting for them in the forest. "I hope it's not another of those tests or riddles."

She hadn't realized that she said it out loud until she hears Sesshomaru's chuckle. "We did well during the last ones, back in Feudal times. Did you not enjoy them?"

She shakes her head. "It's not that, I'm just... tired. And I'm worried that what's waiting for us in the forest is much more difficult than the ones back then."

He grabs her arm gently, stopping her. "I understand your tiredness and why you are worried, but you must trust yourself, and you must trust me. I promised that I will assist you, and I will keep that promise."

Kagome nods. He's right, of course. Suddenly she remembers that she needs to ask him something. "Hey, Sesshoumaru?"

"Hmm?" He looks at her curiously, still holding her arm.

"What was that kiss about? You know, the one you gave me in front of Midoriko's statue."

He loosens his grip, but doesn't break the contact between her arm and his hand. "I acted on an impulse then."

Kagome nearly gapes at him. Sesshomaru acting on a impulse. Jeez, now, where's the guy from the show who tells people to smile because they're on 'candid camera'? And where's the hidden camera, anyway? Or maybe someone has replaced the youkai, this definitely can't be real one.

Her ponderings are interrupted as she hears soft footsteps getting away from her, and she notices that he's walking again. "Hey, wait for me!" She runs after him.

"Phew, that was one long walk." Kagome is relieved that now, five hours after they left Sesshomaru's home, they have finally reached the forest. Or, so she hopes. "This is the forest, right?"

Sesshomaru nods. "Yes, I can recognize it. We will walk a little more today, at least until we find a proper place to set camp at."

"What?! Come on, no more walking..." Kagome groans.

He sighs. "You can not rest yet. Sun is setting soon, and we need to set up a camp before that happens. We will not be moving after darkness has fallen."

With a little exaggerated sigh of suffering she follows him in to the forest. As they walk down a narrow path, she listens to sounds of the forest; leafs moved by wind, birds, and their own footsteps. Then she takes a look around. There are large trees, big green bushes, some forest flowers, moss, and lot more like that at both of their sides. She tries to see an opening large enough for their camp, but there seems to be none. Every opening she sees is too small, and can't really be called openings.

After a while they do reach one that seems to be pretty big. "Hey Sesshomaru, is this good enough? My feet are killing me, so please say yes."

He chuckles at the puppy-look in her eyes. "Yes, this will do fine." Then he vanishes, making Kagome worried, and then startle as she hears his voice behind her, as he speaks to her right ear. "For your information, that does not work on me."

Darkness has wrapped the forest in its veil, bringing new sounds to Kagome's ears; wolves, owls, crickets, and rustling from all around them. Kagome turns her attention to their little camp. Sesshomaru had made a campfire for warmth and cooking.

Speaking of... "Hey Sesshomaru, you don't happen to have something in there I could use to make a stew for us?"

Instead of a vocal response he walks over to the sack and grabs a metal pot big enough for a stew for the two. She walks to the sack and grabs the ingredients she need, before taking the pot from him and walking to the fire. Then she kneels down and pours some water they had been given to the pot, then she throws there some rice, dried meat, mushrooms, and berries.

Only then she realizes she's missing something. "Hey, I still need-". She doesn't have time to finish, before Sesshomaru holds out a tripod that she can use to place the pot over the fire. After setting the pot to boil she takes a look around the opening. She spots what she was looking for and dashes to grab several leaves from two different bushes and a plant near one of the trees.

Then she runs back to the fire and drops the leaves to the boiling pot. Soon enough she moves the tripod and the pot still hanging from it away from the fire, and beckons Sesshomaru to her. "It's done. Could you bring us something we could eat this from? And spoons would be nice too."

He picks two bowls and two wooden spoons from the sack before walking to the fire and kneeling next to her. "What were those leaves?"

Kagome shrugs as she uses her spoon to put some of the food to both of the bowls. "Don't know, really. Kaede taught me once what leaves can be used in stews and soups. These are few of them."

Sesshomaru takes his bowl, glances at it, and then glances at his spoon. "Sticks could work better with this."

She smiles sheepishly. "Well, I meant it to be more soup like, but it boiled for too long."

He chuckles. "It is fine; I have used spoons a lot after Sengoku Jidai, anyway."

Kagome tastes her food, and decides it's pretty good. She finishes her bowl pretty fast, and puts it next to her. Then she lifts her gaze at her youkai companion, only to see him watching her. She moves her gaze to the fire, as she feels heat rising to her cheeks. Oh boy, I'm sure my face resembles a tomato right now...

She starts as she hears Sesshomaru's soft chuckle, and it's coming from very close. She lifts her gaze again, only to meet pair of golden eyes that are only inches from her face. She feels her blush deepen. She doesn't understand why she blushes so much near him now. And what is that nice feeling in her belly?

Her thoughts seem to freeze the moment she feels his clawed hand caressing softly her right cheek. "I think... I understand my father now."

She blinks, but can't get a word out of her mouth, so she decides only to drown in his eyes, listening to his soft voice.

He sniffs her other cheek. "You smell... nice. So different from any youkai woman I've ever known, they always have a weak scent of blood mixed with their own, but you don't have that, not even a bit. I think this is why father fell in love with Inuyasha's human mother."

Their eyes meet again. "I never believed that I would follow his footsteps and fall for a human." Kagome swallows hard, making him to retreat a bit. "What is wrong?"

She shakes her head. "Nothing... I just never expected to hear those words from you. And I never expected us to be on the same side, either. Or you and I visiting my home, like we did during those tests. Or you ever kissing-"

She's interrupted by Sesshomaru's amused voice. "You are babbling, priestess." Then he proceeds to press his lips against hers. At first she's too surprised to do anything, but then she responds to the kiss. He deepens the kiss and lowers her to the ground.

Kagome's hands wrap around his neck and she, in turn, deepens the kiss even more. She notices how her breathing becomes faster and shallower. Her hands begin to wander down his back, and-

Suddenly Sesshomaru jumps away from her, leaving her very confused. "What-?"

He motions her to be quiet. Then, as she gets back to her feet, he moves partially in front of her. She finds out why, when she senses a presence and a familiar figure steps in to the opening. It's the man they saw in the cave.

He glances from Sesshomaru to her, and grins. "I didn't interrupt anything, did I?"

Sesshomaru growls lowly. "Why are you here?"

The man shrugs. "Why else? I'm here to find out your worth. You can call me Tsuru ('crane')."

Even in only light from full moon and the fire, Kagome can see Sesshomaru tense a little. "Will you tell us what the reason you brought us here is?"

Tsuru nods. "You're worth is determined tonight. Shall we begin?"

Kagome steps forward to stand next to Sesshomaru. "I'm ready."

The man grins. "Good. The first one is a simple question. Here it comes. Your incarnation Kikyo was ready to toss away responsibilities trusted with her for her love for Inuyasha. She even took the Jewel from the shrine so that she could give it to him, her only desire being selfish, becoming a normal woman, when mostly Inuyasha did not want to use it to become human, but to become a full youkai. The hime in the story I'm sure you've found about already gave up her love so that she could marry the man she did not love, out of responsibility. Which of these two women did the right thing and which one did not?"

Kagome bows her head. "I don't know... When I joined Inuyasha in order to search for the Jewel shards, I did it out of responsibility; after all, I was the one who shattered it. Still, on many occasions, I liked our adventures, and got very close to my friends in the time."

Tsuru glances at her curiously. "If you could change anything, anything at all, what would you change?"

She smiles faintly, shaking her head. "Nothing at all. Even the times I was sad, afraid, in danger, or anything else like that, I wouldn't change even them. All the memories from those days, even the ones that hurt me, I cherish them, because during those times I grew a lot, I got to situations others of my age couldn't even dream of..."

He nods. "I see. I'm still waiting your answer to my earlier question."

Kagome closes her eyes to think. Which one was right, Kikyo or the hime? What would've she done if she had been them? The hime... She would've done the same thing. Even though her time doesn't really value arranged marriages, she knows she could learn to live in one. Then what about Kikyo? Would she do what she did, if she was to face similar situation? Suddenly she gets it. "It's a trick question, right? They're both doing the right thing. Sometimes heart and hopes and dreams can go before duty, as long as no one has to suffer because of that."

Tsuru gives her an approving glance. "Very good. You have passed the first test. You possess the wisdom required. You put duty first, but know that it can go second sometimes, and I have a reason to believe that you can tell when that is possible."

Sesshomaru smiles at Kagome, before turning his now emotionless face at the other man. "Can we return to the cave now?"

He shakes his head. "Not yet." He ignores Kagome's groan. "If you head towards east, you will find an opening on the rock wall that leads to a set of caves. Those caves lead you to a door that will take you back to your friends."

Kagome had been strongly against leaving when it was still dark, but Sesshomaru had threatened to drag her with him if she wouldn't come willingly, so here she is, following him down the path, heading east.

As she walks, the interrupted episode earlier keeps coming to her mind. She recalls too well what they were about to do, what she had wanted to do. She recalls what his muscles had felt to her hands, even if his shirt had prevented direct contact.

She feels her blood rushing to her cheeks. Thank goodness it's so dark in here, he can't see my beet-coloured face!

Too bad she had forgotten his sharp nose. "It is not as hot in here as the heat emanating from your face may suggest."

Kagome glares at his back. "Oh, be quiet."

She hears him let out a 'humph', before he glances at her direction. "Do you regret?"

She blinks. "Regret what?"

He turns his gaze back at the darkness before them. "Do you regret that the situation got as far as it did, or are you sorry that we were interrupted?"

She has got an idea what situation he means, but she still has to think about her answer for a while. Good question. Which is it? I – I think I know which one. "Neither, really. I have nothing to regret. I have feelings for you, and I know that one day I want to finish what we were... uh... up to. But not yet. That's why I'm not sorry that he showed up when he did. I'm not ready yet. What if I get pregnant? I need a steady job first, and all that, you know?"

She can barely see his nod. "You are right. It would also not be honourable of me to have a child with a woman I have not married."

Rest of the journey they walk in a little awkward silence, at least that's what Kagome thinks. Luckily for her, the silence is coming to an end.

Suddenly Sesshomaru halts, too quickly to leave her time to react. The result is that she bumps into him. "Ow! Why don't you warn when you do that?" She rubs her sore nose, hoping that id didn't break. To her luck, it seems fine to be fine.

He seems to ignore her words; instead, he approaches the rocky wall in front of them. He reaches out with his right hand, intending to wipe out some vines that are covering the cave entrance. However, he draws his hand back before touching the vines.

Kagome feel confused. Why would he do that? "Sesshomaru?"

He motions her to be silent. "Tsuru, show yourself. I know you are near."

The white figure emerges from the cave, halting to stand at the entrance, barely inside, partially covered by the vines. "You have shown you have the wisdom needed to achieve your goal, the statue. However, you may still fail. You also need to possess courage, purity, and something I will reveal when it's time."

Kagome takes a step forward to stand next to her youkai friend. "Sesshomaru here promised to help me to find the purity needed within me."

Tsuru chuckles softly. "Did he, now? Well, we'll see if you even have it in there."

Sesshomaru's voice hardens a little. "I have concluded that the purity needed is that of a child. Am I correct? If I am, I am confident that she does possess it."

The other man shrugs. "You're partially right. It is indeed purity of heart, the kind that children possess. However, the miko may not possess it."

Kagome glances at him as a thought crosses her mind. "I was able to purify Shikon no Tama, could that mean I have the purity?"

Tsuru leaves the entrance, and ignoring Sesshomaru's warning growl, he walks right face to face with Kagome. "We shall see. Tell me, what becomes of snow when it melts in the Sun's warmth?"

She blinks. "What?"

He sighs. "Just answer, please."

Kagome closes her eyes to think. Well, water naturally. But... I think there's a catch. He said something about the Sun and its warmth... Suddenly, she knows, and she opens her eyes. "In school I have been thought that it's water. Still, I think the answer is spring. When snow melts, it means that spring is near."

He chuckles again. "Very good. You and your companion were right; you do have the purity. And you didn't even need help." He grins and takes a few steps backwards. "That's two out of four. Rest you will find in the cave. Just be warned, your courage will be the other that you still have to prove you possess. It may be very dangerous. So, if you hesitate, I can take you to your friends now, but you will not be able to gain information from the statue. So, will you enter the cave, or will you return to your friends?"

Kagome looks around her in light provided by a small ball of energy on Sesshomaru's palm as they walk deeper and deeper in to the caves. The walls around them are dark due the moist on them, and they feel cool when Kagome occasionally reaches out with her fingers to touch them.

After a while of walking in silence, they reach a bigger cave with unlit torches on the wall. Sesshomaru uses few matches from a box he had with him to light them, providing them a better look at the cave they're in.

The cave is large enough for Sesshomaru's dog form to fit in quite comfortably, of that Kagome is certain. In the middle of the cave there's a pedestal with a parchment on top of it. Kagome approaches it, and is happy to see that the light here is enough for her to read it. She reads it out loud:

"Not all have the courage to achieve their goal

will you, or will you not?

If your wish is to find out

then read me carefully.

Many obstacles will block your path

pass them, and you will prevail.

Still, be careful of that, which you face,

for death is possible deep in the caves.

It is not too late to turn back yet

should you be scared of that which lies ahead."

She sighs. "What's this supposed to mean?"

Sesshomaru walks to her. "Is it not obvious? Sounds like an obstacle course. Quite fun one, really." He smirks.

Kagome glances at him. "Well, you should be able to help me through the course if needed, right?"

He nods. "That is true."

Tsuru appears on their side again, startling Kagome. "You're sure about this?"

Both nod simultaneously, prompting a sigh from him. "Very well. First obstacles are fairly easy, as they only test one of these each: strength, speed, logic, offensive abilities, and defensive abilities. After you pass those all, you will find yourselves in a big cave housing the actual obstacle course. Some of the obstacles are visible, others are not. And one more thing before I allow you to move on; you will not be alone there. Now, good luck."

With that he vanishes before either Kagome or Sesshomaru can stop him to ask clarifying questions. Kagome especially would want to ask two. Firstly, if they can't see obstacles, how are they supposed to try to pass it? And secondly, what did he meant by them not being alone there? Monsters trying to hinder them, or even kill them?

Then she remembers who's there with her. That's right. Sesshomaru can defeat anything that comes in our way. And I can purify youkais' scaly hides, too. So let them come!

Kagome feels a nudge at her side and glances at Sesshomaru. "What?"

He nods at the wall they're facing an she sees that a wooden door has emerged on it. "Shall we?"

She nods enthusiastically. "Uh-huh."

Kagome glares at the stone wall in front of them. "Which of the first obstacles is this?"

Sesshomaru presses his hand against the cold rock. "Either strength or logic. I'm guessing the former one."

She glances at him. "You can break it, can't you?"

He frowns a little. "Yes. Go behind me."

Kagome obeys hastily, and as soon as she's in place, he pulls his right arm back, claws glowing green with a small amount of poison to weaken the wall enough for him to surely breaking the wall while minimizing the risk of any shattered pieces of rock hitting the two.

He swings his arm sending a small spray of his poison to the wall, before fisting his hand right before it hits the slightly softened rock. The impact shatters the entire wall, sending pieces of rock flying all over the room. He dashes to Kagome, covering her with his body.

Kagome comes slowly to. She can't hear or see a thing, but she's definitely warm. And there seems to be a weight on top of her. "Huh?"

Suddenly she remembers what had happened. "Sesshomaru!" She pushes the weight on top of her to her side, only to find out it's Sesshomaru. And he seems badly injured and unconscious. She realises why he's like this as she recalls what the last thing she can remember is. "You shielded me..." She rolls him to his back and is horrified to see a thin stream of blood coming out of his mouth. His clothes aren't bloodied, though.

She knows what that means; bleeding is likely internal. "Sesshomaru, wake up. You should be able to heal these wounds on your own, right?" She feels despair lifting its ugly head inside her, when she sees no response from him.

Tsuru appears from the shadows and walk to her. "He is dying. The wounds are too severe for his youkai blood to heal. Intriguing guy, though, sacrificing his life for you, a human."

She can't stop the tears from coming. "This can't be real." She shakes her head. "He can't die, not like this!"

He walks to the two, and kneels by her side. "You can still pass the course, and you can do what you came here to do. You don't want him to have died in vain, now do you?"

She sniffs. "How can you still go on about that? He's... It wasn't supposed to go like this."

He touches her shoulder. "The statue you're seeking is in the cave behind the obstacle course. You can ask it how to save him."

She looks up to him, feeling a glimmer of hope pushing the despair away a little. "He... can be saved?"

He shrugs. "I do not know, but you can always ask the statue. Now, I can stay here, and keep him alive for a little longer, or I can come with you. You would have to do everything else on your own, but I would be there to keep monsters away, as well as to give you advice that can help you pass the obstacles. Which is it?

She kisses Sesshomaru's forehead. She thinks she already knows what to do. He's like this because he saved her, and there's no way she would take the risk of him dying because the other man was stuck with her. Sure, he might be great help out there, but still... If she would ask him to come with her, Sesshomaru would probably die before she reaches the statue. If she goes alone, she may die, but at least he wouldn't. Or they would both die.

However, there's one other possible option. "Could you take us back to Toga's home? Or maybe even to my time?"

"What about your mission?"

She shakes her head. "It's not worth it if he dies."

He frowns. "So, you're ready to endanger your other friends and your world, just because of him?"

She feels her eyes widen, as the words hit her. How could I be so selfish? She recalls the test of wisdom, and it clears her head. "Duty goes before hopes and dreams, and even though it sometimes doesn't, this isn't one of the times." She stands up. "Please, stay with him, and don't let him die, if you can."