"All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people."
-Alexis Carrel, Reflections of Life
It came as a surprise to everyone except the miko and hanyou when, the next morning, Kohaku appeared through the foliage followed by one of the Shini-dama-chuu. They had just begun cooking rice for breakfast and Kagome sighed, knowing she wouldn't have time to eat before leaving It would not be right to keep the priestess waiting.
"Kohaku!" Sango exclaimed happily. She stood from where she'd been folding up her bedroll and embraced the boy who half-heartedly hugged her back. "What are you doing here? Are you coming to stay?"
Kagome had also stood and was putting on her shoes, paying only slight attention to the siblings.
Kohaku shook his head. "No, nii-san, just while Kagome and Kikyou-sama are working," he explained.
Three pairs of eyes came to rest on Kagome while they waited patiently for an explanation. She tied her shoelace and sighed. "I asked Kikyou to teach me how to be a miko. It's no big deal, okay? We'll just be camping here a few more days and Sango gets to spend some time with Kohaku."
"And you are allowing this, Inuyasha?" The monk questioned, peering into the tree where the hanyou had slept during the night.
Miroku shook his head at the grunted answer, not feeling right about allowing Kagome to put herself in this position. "I would gladly teach you whatever you wish to know, Kagome," he offered quietly.
Kagome rose and shrugged. "Our spiritual powers differ, though, so you might not be able to tell me what I need to know. It's better to learn it from another miko and since we're hardly around Kaede-sama, it had might as well be Kikyou." She smiled at the siblings across from her. "Enjoy your visit, you two. I'll be back later." And with that she followed the soul collector through the trees.
When they could no longer see her figure, Sango gave a pointed glare at the hanyou's tree branch. "Well, aren't you going to follow her?"
"What do you think?" His answer came from the direction Kagome had gone in as he had already been moving through the trees in pursuit.
Kikyou was standing on the bank of the stream, which might have actually qualified for river status if she could remember what river it was...if she'd even known where she was, waiting patiently for her arrival. The undead miko turned to speak, but Kagome stopped her, holding her hand up.
"And in..four, three, two...Osuwari!"
Inuyasha fell from the tree behind her and landed with a loud smack. She turned towards him, both hands on her hips, glaring. "Perhaps next time you'll just ask if you can walk me instead of following me like some inu on the hunt. I'm not your prey, Inuyasha. A simple, 'Oi, Kagome, I'll take you' would have sufficed."
He grumbled something she didn't catch and stood, dusting the dirt and leaves from his haori. "And if you're planning to stay," she added, "you might want to get permission first."
He didn't say anything, but looked at Kikyou who shrugged slightly. "So long as you do not make yourself a distraction, Inuyasha." He grunted and settled on the branch of a nearby tree.
For the first hour, he was on his best behavior, sitting quietly and paying little attention to what the two were actually doing.
Then he began to fidget.
By the end of the second hour, his loud sighs and impatient movements were becoming irksome and, by the end of the third hour, both mikos were ready to purify him and have done with it.
Kagome sat on her knees in front of Kikyou, holding an ofuda before her face. Her eyes were closed and the piece of parchment glowed a gentle pink as she chanted under her breath. Kikyou watched closely for any mistakes she might make.
Inuyasha lay on his stomach on a branch above them. His elbow was propped up on the branch and his chin rested in his hand while the other arm dangled over the edge. He was ready to beat his head against the wall if something didn't happen soon. All morning had been nothing but chants and ofuda and meditation. It was probably the most boring thing he'd ever been subjected to in his life.
Finally, he could take no more. "Aren't you through yet? Gods, wench, how long does it take to learn this crap?"
Kagome stopped chanting and the pink glow disappeared from her parchment as one eye cracked open, revealing a pink colored orb instead of her normal azure ones and glanced at the disturbance.
Kikyou gave a frustrated sigh and looked up as well. "Is there nothing else you could be doing, Inuyasha?" She asked with strained patience.
"Then maybe he could help with my target practice," Kagome grumbled in suggestion.
He glared down at the top of her head. "What's that supposed to mean, wench?"
"It means you'd better go bother Miroku and Sango before I test just how well this ofuda actually works!" She exclaimed glaring at him with blazing eyes. She held up the parchment threateningly, though they both knew she wouldn't do anything to harm him.
Except maybe sit him until his back broke.
"Feh. I'll be back, wench." He landed on the ground and ambled off towards their camp while Kagome sighed in relief. At least they'd get a few minutes of peace.
"No, he won't," Kikyou muttered, ducking her head to hide the sly grin on her face. "He won't be able to pass my barrier. Now, begin again."
Kagome raised her brow. If she didn't know better, she might have accused the priestess of having a sense of humor. Instead she sighed, centering herself once ore, and began to chant again.
Inuyasha paced from one end of camp to the other, his hands clasped behind his back. Sang and Kohaku sat in the grass, facing one another with Kirara laying in Kohaku's lap. They had been catching each other up on the goings on of recent battles and adventures. Miroku sat a few feet away, turning the pages of his book and occasionally glancing up at the taijiya.
Shippou was also keeping himself occupied with a sketch pad and crayons Kagome had brought him. Pausing mid-stroke, he looked up at the others. "Sango? Can I have a some pocky? Kagome said she brought some this time."
The slayer looked across the fire at him. "You know she doesn't let you have sweets before dinner. It'll ruin your appetite. Maybe after we eat, you can have a small piece."
He pouted, poking his lower lip out and making his eyes sparkle with unshed tears. "Please, Sango? Just one little one? I promise I'll eat a bit dinner."
"She said no, runt," Inuyasha quipped, pausing in his pacing.
"Inuyasha," the slayer warned sternly and then glanced at Kagome's pack. "I suppose one small piece won't hurt. Kohaku, you should try a piece as well. You'd like it." She stood up and hefted the pack up a bit to untie the strings, digging through for the box of pocky. When she found it she removed two pieces and handed one to each of the boys, then put it back in the bag.
Shippou put his paper and colors away and munched happily on his sweet treat and things were quiet again for a few minutes before Inuyasha's nerves were worn to the very last string. "Damnit! What the hell's taking so long? She should be back by now." His ears flattened against his head and he growled, looking off in the direction she'd gone that morning.
"You're just mad 'cause they kicked you out," Shippou stated smugly. "Or are you just worried that Kagome might tell Kikyou what a meanie you are?"
"Come 'ere brat!" He needed something to let his frustration out on and the kitsune seemed the perfect target. He leapt across camp, meaning to pounce on the kid, but grabbed nothing but air.
With a light pop sound, Shippou had disappeared and it took the hanyou a few seconds to realize the kid had transformed and run off. He could hear the brat's giggles coming from behind him as he ran into the trees, knowing the hanyou would follow - and he did. "Come back here you!"
Shippou managed to stay just out of reach, unknowingly headed towards the barrier that surrounded the priestesses. He noticed it nearly too late and attempted to skid to a stop, rolling head over heels several times. He'd wanted to have a little fun with Inuyasha - or, rather, at his expense - not get zapped by a purifying barrier.
Kagome held her hands limp in her lap and concentrated on the well spring of power within her just as she had been told to do. The approaching aura's of two youkai caught her attention, however, and she concentrated on that to determine who or what they were. They were approaching quickly and, by the time she realized who it was, they were nearly upon the barrier.
Without thinking, she reached out and grabbed Kikyou's wrist, the closest thing she could reach at the time, and sent out a tendril of her own power to collide with Kikyou's aura. The other priestess jumped and tried to pull away, but Kagome's grasp was gone nearly as quickly as it had come.
Shippou rolled once more, attempting to find his feet and prepared himself to collide with the light blue dome of power. Instead, however, just as he was about to hit it, the dome split and he rolled through, coming to a stop on the other side. The kit looked around in surprise and realized the sphere was closing again just as Inuyasha approached, locked away on the outside. He was safe!
Laughing hysterically while the hanyou cursed him from outside the barrier, he stuck his tongue out at the older boy and galloped off towards Kagome's scent.
"What did you do?" Kikyou demanded, giving Kagome a hard look.
The younger girl ignored her for a second, reaching out for the two demonic auras to see if her ill thought out plan had worked and then smiled when she realized it had. "I was just saving Shippou from a sound beating, is all," she answered simply. "I felt Inuyasha and him approaching and usually when Shippou's running away from him, that means he's done something to make him mad, so I let him through the barrier."
"Kagome!" The child cried happily and leapt into her lap, nuzzling her neck with his nose while she hugged him back.
Kikyou ignored his appearance and questioned her further. "How did you know to do that, grab my wrist and insert your power the way you did?"
Kagome shrugged and kissed the top of Shippou's head. "I don't know. Instinct? It just felt right." She looked down at the boy who she now held away from her. "What are you doing out here?"
"Inuyasha was chasing me," he answered simply.
He had the decency to look guilty and lowered his head, trying to come off as pitiful in the hopes that she wouldn't punish him for aggrivating the hanyou. "I told him he was just upset because you might tell Kikyou what a mean idiot he is and she wouldn't like him no more."
She let out a slow breath, giving him a reproachful stare. "Shippou..."
"But there was nothing to do with you gone and he was being such a grump, Kagome," he whined and turned large green eyes on her. "Can I stay with you, please, okaa?"
Her heart melted right then and there. She sat him on the ground and lowered her head in defeat, knowing she would give him anything and everything when he gave her those eyes and used that voice. "Alright, but you have to stay back and be quiet. No asking questions, no talking, nothing. Got it?"
"Hai, hai!" He immediately perked up and bound off a few feet away, pulling out his crayons and paper once more.
Kikyou listened to the exchange between the two of them. Her awe of Kagome never seemed to cease, though she'd never let on that she would never let on that she might actually feel admiration or pride for her reincarnation. It amazed her to no end that this girl, this miko, would accept Inuyasha and want him for what he was already. Not to mention that she traveled with two demons and had, obviously, adopted one of them. While she was no longer as sickened by youkai as she had been at one point in her life, she was still used to the training that youkai were bad and that pure miko such as they should never associate with them. She had assumed that was why her own power had started to dwindle after her meetings with Inuyasha began. Perhaps that wasn't the reason after all, if Kagome could surpass her greatest expectations and still live and love the daemons.
"Shall we begin again or are you expecting other guests?" It was a rhetorical question and Kagome blushed before taking her pose once more.