A/N: So, I've decided that I really hate having Sesshoumaru talk in the third person. It's way too difficult to come up with good insults for someone that never uses I or me in a sentence. But I can't have him stop now because that would be too inconsistent. Darn. NEXT FIC, there will be none of this third person speech!

In other news, excuses are for shmucks, so I'm gonna go with I have no good reason as to why this wasn't posted sooner, other than my own laziness. I'm fairly pleased with it though.

I won't make any promises as to when the next chapter will be out, because then I have to skip out on a deadline and it's sad. So I'm just going to say that there WILL be a next chapter, and then I'll write it at my leisure. What ho!

So sorry about the sudden deletion and reposting of this chapter! I made a MAJOR mistake, which I would have fixed sooner if a tornado hadn't touched down at my house and destroyed all three of the trees in my front yard. UGH. It was terrifying!

Happy reading!

xxxx

Kagome had awoken the next morning with a horrid feeling settling in her stomach, something she recognized as worry. Worry that things would become awkward between the taiyoukai and herself after sharing that momentwith him. There had been hand holding involved. Voluntary contact. And, worst of all, he had opened up to her. Shared his feelings. Talked in the first person. Now that Kagome had had an entire night to think on the subject, she found that there was a small part of her that still believed that Sesshoumaru had been acting under the influence of some mind-altering substance, or, on a considerably darker note, he had been acting under the belief that she wouldn't survive their encounter with Rin's captors, and thus would be unable to share their little moment with another living being.

She sat up as she heard the rustle of a page, a very dry, light page. She recognized it as the sound of a textbook page being turned. Kagome quickly found the source of the noise: Sesshoumaru was sitting cross-legged some distance away under the tree he had given her (which was now in the midst of shedding a large quantity of its leaves), reading her history book. Letting out a strangled cry, Kagome scrambled to her feet and stumbled over to the taiyoukai. He looked up after hearing Kagome's movement, and found Kagome run towards him, a panicked expression having taken hold of her features.

"Girl, are you-" Sesshoumaru was cut off when Kagome bowled into him in an attempt to grab the book. The taiyoukai found himself truly shocked by Kagome's actions. She had just accosted him, a taiyoukai, the Lord of the Western Lands. How unusual. Humans never ceased to surprise him with their own stupidity, this one in particular.

"Give me that book!" she shrieked, scrambling on top of him to get the history book. Sesshoumaru winced at the banshee-like wail that emanated from the girl on top of him. "You can't look at it!"

Sesshoumaru pulled away from Kagome and held the book out of her reach. "Why?" he asked, his golden eyes narrowing to slits.

Kagome, never pausing in her endeavor to retrieve her book, explained quickly, "Because that's a history textbook!"

Sesshoumaru raised a brow at the explanation, which had given him absolutely no insight as to why he shouldn't be allowed to look at it. And she was still climbing on top of him. Sesshoumaru could feel her body in a most excruciatingly apparent way, the fact that she was still very poorly clothed did little to improve the situation. And even though his mind knew that this girl was human, and thus disgusting and weak, his body recognized the scrambling as something akin to pleasure. His inner youki, sensing the female presence that was currently pressed against his torso, perked up, waking from its slumber. Sesshoumaru was nauseated by his mindless inner youki's inability to tell the difference between proper females. Her scent had invaded his senses, overpowering him, making his mouth water even as his mind fought back his revulsion for allowing such behavior. He could practically taste her. He wanted to, goodness how he wanted to do just that.

Kagome, oblivious to Sesshoumaru's discomfort, continued to reach over him to get to her book. Her fingers nearly grazed the taiyoukai's pale wrist, though she could get no further.

Sesshoumaru found himself really, truly in want of his second arm for the second time in as many days. Normally, he regarded his loss of a limb as a minor hindrance which was slowly correcting itself, and in the meantime it allowed him to become very adept at single-handed combat. However, it would have been so much easier to extricate the girl from his person if he had his other arm. Instead, he had to shift into a position that forced his knee between them, pulling Kagome farther away from her possession.

"Perhaps, wench," he stressed the vulgar term in an attempt to get her to listen, though to his dismay, he found his voice sounded rather strained, "if you ceased your actions and explained more thoroughly why you are currently throwing yourself at this Sesshoumaru, you may find yourself in possession of your precious book sooner."

Kagome, finally realizing that she had been crawling on top of Sesshoumaru for the past minute and a half, fell back on her heels. It seemed as if all the blood in her body had just taken residence in her face, judging by the heat she was feeling.

"You're too kind," Sesshoumaru drawled, taking note of her blush with offhand interest. "The book?" he prompted.

"The book. It's a history book," she explained slowly.

"You have already stated this fact," he replied smoothly. He opened it once more and began flipping through the pages until Kagome shouted at him again and began to make a move towards him, her hand already outstretched. He snapped the book shut and glared at her from over his knee. The blush returned, and Kagome sat back again.

"Sorry," she muttered. "I already told you I was from the future," she continued. The blush returned for a third round as Kagome remembered with some embarrassment how she had so stupidly assumed that Sesshoumaru already knew of the powers of the well, and of her frequent trips to the future. Sesshoumaru nodded, a smirk firmly in place when he noticed that she too had finally recognized the blunder she had made. Giving information away to someone who she should consider a potential enemy was a very foolish act. "Well, that book is from the future, so it, er, contains details of certain events that you can't know about yet. So, you see, it would be better for the whole, er, timeline, if you'd just give me back my book."

Sesshoumaru's interest caught, and his gaze was instantly fixed on Kagome's face. Much to his chagrin, that taiyoukai realized that he hadn't thought of the repercussions that could occur should he learn of such events in the future. In truth, he hadn't even realized that it was a history book. He had just opened it when Kagome had woken up, and had merely been flipping through the pages, interested in the material on which the book was written on, which was considerably thinner and somewhat waxy in comparison to the thick and heavy parchment he used. "This is of no consequence, miko, as the characters in this book are of a sort that is unfamiliar to this Sesshoumaru."

Kagome's mouth formed a small 'o', and she found herself very embarrassed once more. She had just crawled all over Sesshoumaru for nothing, which, admittedly, hadn't been entirely unpleasant, as he did not have his armor on at the time. Somewhere in Kagome's subconscious, she became aware of the fact that she had been pressed against Sesshoumaru in a manner that could be considered rather provocative, though she had been too busy worrying about whether or not Sesshoumaru had uncovered the invention of the car, or wars in Japan that had not occurred yet.

"However," Sesshoumaru announced gravely, "your protests do bear some fruit, as it is not this Sesshoumaru's place to be looking into the future." He held out the book, which Kagome took and clutched protectively against her chest.

"Thank you for understanding," she murmured as she stroked the spine of the book. Sesshoumaru nodded, and the conversation lapsed into silence, each with their own thoughts on the future.

xxxx

Masako stepped lightly into his cave and tried to still the twitch he had developed in his right eye. He felt sick to his stomach, but he was so full of energy he didn't care. His brain seemed to have become so confused over everything, and he had gotten so jittery.

"Hello Masako," a voice whispered from a darkness so black not even Masako's eyes could penetrate it.

Masako immediately dropped to a kneeling position, his body thrown forward and his face pressed up against the ground in a servile position. "Naraku, my lord, what may I do for you?" he managed to work out before he dissolved into a fit of uncontrollable twitching.

"Oh, nothing. I was merely visiting to check your progress."

"Sesshoumaru attempted to break through the barrier several days ago, but his attempt failed." Masako laughed slightly when he remembered the moment. "I have also ensured that the human girl will be unable to flee again." Masako smiled darkly at the dirt floor, barely able to control the laughter that threatened to escape.

A figure detached itself from the inky darkness and glided forward on shadow tentacles. Naraku gazed at Masako, still prostrate, and laughed coldly. "You may stand," he suggested imperiously.

Masako scrambled to his feet, though he kept his eyes fixed to the writhing mass of tentacles attached to the lower half of Naraku's body. Something squeaked from the back of the cave. Masako nearly began giggling again. He pushed his hair out of his face and ran forward to drag a small child from the back of the cave. He skipped back to his previous position behind Naraku.

"Hello, Rin," the hanyou murmured as he drifted towards the small child huddled in a corner, staring at him with haunted eyes, wide with fear. "It will crush your master's spirit when I kill you before his eyes." He grinned wickedly as Rin whimpered, drawing back. The chains that now confined her to the cave stirred and made clinking noises as they were dragged across the floor. "How do you suppose it will feel, young one, to pay witness to the downfall of the greatest taiyoukai to walk the planet since Inu No Taisho? I imagine it will be a most rewarding experience," he drawled. Rin shut her eyes and turned away, not wishing to look at Naraku. Naraku let out a short, barking laugh and turned back to Masako.

"Masako, I have a gift for you."

"My lord?" Masako asked, wondering what Naraku could possibly wish to give him. He already had one jewel shard implanted at the base of his neck, giving him a constant supply of nervous energy.

Naraku advanced on his minion slowly, drawing from within a shadowy deposit a glittering jewel shard, stained black from Naraku's tainted aura. "This jewel shard is specially imbued with my power, which will allow you to become better equipped to fight Sesshoumaru."

Masako screwed his eyes shut as Naraku drew closer. Holding the jewel shard between his thumb and his forefinger, he pressed it against the forehead of his trembling servant. The shard was drawn beneath the youkai's flesh until it disappeared from view.

At once, Masako felt an overwhelming surge of power, drowning out every sense for one instant. His eyes snapped open, shining a deep purple for a moment before it faded back to green. A manic grin captured his lips as he felt his newfound power coursing through his veins, dominating his very being. He could do anything, destroy every living being in an instant, he knew that he could…

"Masako," Naraku called, drawing the youkai back to the present. "You will now be sufficiently prepared to fight Sesshoumaru, I assume?"

"Yes, my lord," Masako replied shakily, trembling once more, though not with fear, "Thank you, my lord."

"Now, my dear Masako, I have something for you to do for me."

"Anything, my lord," Masako breathed, still giddy over his new strength.

"Indeed. I was thinking, perhaps we could kill two birds with one stone."

Masako furrowed his brow. "That sounds rather difficult, my lord. We would have to aim the rock just so to hit the two-"

"Silence. It was a figure of speech." Naraku wondered if it was possible for his minions to become any stupider. "As I was saying, perhaps we could lure more than one enemy into our trap."

"Oh? Who did you have in mind, my lord. I will bring him to you, my lord, I will." Masako bobbed his head earnestly.

"I have no doubt of that. You know of Sesshoumaru's half-brother, Inuyasha?"

"Oh yes, the hanyou. The jewel shard collector travels with him. He wields the infamous Tessaiga."

"Good. I wish to have him disposed of as well. He has been a thorn in my side for far too long."

"Yes, my lord." Masako bobbed his head once more. "What shall I do to lure him to us?"

"He travels in a group. Do as you did before and kidnap one of his friends. They are considerably weaker than he is. It should not be very difficult to do so. Taunt him afterwards, for he is very easily angered, much like his older brother."

"Yes, my lord. I will do so immediately."

Masako made a flourishing bow and disappeared with an obnoxiously loud crack as Naraku melted into the shadows.

In the back of the cave, Rin sobbed quietly.

xxxx

"Miko," Sesshoumaru asked some time later as the ate their breakfast. Kagome was surprised to hear a small amount of concern drifting in the undercurrents of his voice as he attempted to sound offhand. "Are there youkai in your time?"

Kagome paused in her chewing and blinked at the taiyoukai owlishly. She wasn't quite sure what to tell him. Would it affect the timeline in some way if she told him what she thought? That youkai had died out? She doubted it would, because she presumed that Sesshoumaru already had some sort of self-preservation instinct, and thus he did not need her to tell him to try to stay alive. However, Kagome simply couldn't imagine seeing Sesshoumaru in her time, walking among the overwhelming population of humans, living among them, working among them. "I- I don't know," she answered truthfully. When Kagome saw Sesshoumaru's coolly arched brow, silently commanding her to elaborate, she continued quickly, "I haven't come across a youkai, nor have I sensed any, but I haven't really tried to. They might be very good at masking their youki now." Good. A nice, general answer.

"Hm," he replied noncommittally. "Do you believe that youkai have perished?"

Kagome pondered for a moment on the question. She'd like to think that all the evil youkai had been killed, and that the good ones like Inuyasha and Shippou were still alive. "Well, personally, I find it highly unlikely that the puny human race could ever manage to wipe out the formidable youkai species." A playful gleam entered her eyes.

Sesshoumaru nodded in acceptance to her answer. "That is probable."

Kagome grinned at him, pleased that she had successfully evaded any trouble. She was becoming rather good at answering Sesshoumaru's questions.

After a time, Sesshoumaru stood up, holding out his clawed hand for Kagome to take. They were touching more now, as if Sesshoumaru wasn't completely repulsed by her. She grasped it and was pulled to her feet, relishing the dry warmth of his hand, the light scratching of his claws.

"What do you know of hand-to-hand combat?" Sesshoumaru asked, looking down at the smaller being beside him.

"Um, well, it hasn't really come up that much," Kagome replied. "I'm generally the one that shoots at things from a distance."

"Or the one that Inuyasha must save if the enemy is too close," the taiyoukai remarked somewhat snidely.

Kagome's face colored, though she didn't say anything as she knew that what he said was true. It didn't stop her from sticking her tongue out at him, which he ignored by turning his back on her and calling over his shoulder, "Come."

xxxx

Kagome learned very quickly that she was absolutely terrible at hand-to-hand combat. And it wasn't just because her opponent happened to have several hundred years of experience on her. She couldn't land or block a punch for the life of her, even though Sesshoumaru had very deliberately slowed down his movements to an almost sluggish pace.

So, when Kagome found herself lying on her back after being knocked down by Sesshoumaru for the fifteenth time, she was rather irritated. Sesshoumaru shared in her annoyance, growling a bit and turning away instead of offering to help her up. Kagome picked herself up off of the ground and pushed her sweat-soaked bangs out of her eyes. She put herself in a fighting stance, her hands clenched into fists and held in front of her face. Sesshoumaru barely suppressed his laughter at seeing her weak attempt at a menacing glare.

"You have the coordination of an infant," Sesshoumaru taunted as Kagome attempted once again to throw a punch at him. "How you've managed to stay alive for so long is a mystery."

"You know, this really isn't conducive to a good training atmosphere," Kagome retorted between pants and wild punches. She was well aware that Sesshoumaru was moving at about the same speed as a human, and it frustrated her beyond belief that she couldn't hit her trainer, or even touch him, for that matter.

"Perhaps," Sesshoumaru suggested as he easily moved out of the way of yet another one of Kagome's hopelessly pathetic attacks, "you are indeed better suited to fighting from a distance. However, this Sesshoumaru will not protect you during our battle against the idiot forest youkai. Are you prepared to die, miko?"

"Oh, shut up!" Kagome yelled, her patience with Sesshoumaru finally wearing through. Without any warning, she threw her entire body at Sesshoumaru, grabbed at the roots of his hair, and kneed him where it hurt. Not giving the taiyoukai enough time to even register the intense pain he was now feeling, Kagome balled her hand into a fist and punched him in the eye.

Sesshoumaru let out a surprised yelp, a noise Kagome thought she'd never hear from her companion, and staggered back, his only hand caught between wanting to assess the damage of his eye and of... other portions of his anatomy. Kagome wasn't sure if she wanted to laugh or start running after seeing such a spectacle. Fortunately, Sesshoumaru quickly solved her dilemma by leaping at her. Kagome, being considerably less heavy than Sesshoumaru, was knocked off of her feet and to the forest floor. Her breath left her in a painful whoosh, momentarily blackening her vision and rendering her incapable of breathing.

"Never. Again," Sesshoumaru intoned gravely. The effect was somewhat ruined for Kagome as a deep purple bruise began forming over his right eye, swelling it shut. Kagome couldn't remember a time when she'd seen the face of the brilliant taiyoukai marred, and by herself, no less.

"You're crushing me," Kagome wheezed. She made a futile attempt to push the taiyoukai off her slight frame. He smirked at her, displaying the tip of a single pointed fang.

"Your powers of observation are quite astounding, miko," Sesshoumaru murmured. He lessened the pressure on her chest to some degree, allowing Kagome to breath, but kept her pinned under him.

"Is your eye alright?" Kagome asked worriedly.

"Quite," Sesshoumaru replied stiffly. Kagome watched in awe as the swelling and discoloration began to lessen, then virtually disappear, leaving his face impeccably beautiful, as always.

"That was impressive, miko, though ridiculously stupid," Sesshoumaru half-complimented.

Kagome frowned at the taiyoukai still pressed against her frame. "I'm not prepared to die," she muttered. "I'll fight dirty if I have to." She thought back to her fighting tactics and added, "I just hope none of these youkai have Ken doll anatomy."

Sesshoumaru raised a regal brow. "Ken Doll?"

Kagome blushed. "Never mind. Future thing."

Sesshoumaru nodded sagely, though inwardly he was wondering exactly who this Ken Doll was, and why Kagome was so intimately knowledgeable about his anatomy.

"Well then," Kagome began, her gaze fixed on Sesshoumaru's right ear. Her body had finally registered that a very well built male was pressed against her torso. Kagome could feel the intense heat emanating from Sesshoumaru's body, making her slightly dizzy. She blushed further, wondering if her face was now resembling a tomato.

Sesshoumaru stared at the girl unblinkingly for a moment, marveling at the striking resemblance Kagome's facial coloring bore to that of a tomato, before realizing that he was still on top of her, and that his inner youki was currently purring happily. He quickly rolled off of Kagome and stood, wondering how the pathetic human girl still lying on the ground consistently managed to bring out the worst in him.

xxxx

Another pair of eyes had watched the exchange between Naraku and Masako, though these eyes belonged to a being far more sinister than a little girl. They widened in surprise at the appearance of Naraku, and narrowed in anger as they watched Masako receive yet another jewel shard.

Kishoro stepped into the cave, a displeased frown etched into his features. He tossed his golden hair behind his shoulder and methodically clenched and unclenched his hands in an attempt to keep his anger at bay. He just couldn't believe Naraku! The hanyou was giving jewel shards to the mentally unstable, practically schizophrenic member of their little partnership. It infuriated him greatly to watch Masako gain more power than he, the more intelligent, more suitable member of the group. Naraku had barely said two words to him since he had joined the hanyou's fight to kill his enemies.

"Imbeciles, all of them."

Kishoro kicked a log into the fire constantly burning in the center of the cave, reveling at the burst of sparks that erupted from its disturbance.

Dark thoughts surrounded Kishoro, and he was beginning to entertain the idea of simply leaving, perhaps taking the girl with him for his own amusement. He was getting the short hand of the deal and he knew it.

"You believe yourself more worthy than Masako of the jewel shards?" a voice whispered from the darkness. Rin whimpered from her corner and pushed herself farther against the wall, turning away from the voice.

"Naraku," Kishoro murmured, dropping slowly to one knee, not truly willing to kneel before the hanyou. "I apologize for the outburst."

Naraku materialized before the leopard youkai, a sadistic grin worked upon his features. Kishoro rose shortly afterwards and brushed his knees off.

"I'm sure that you do. But I speak the truth when I say that you wish that you had those jewel shards instead of Masako."

Kishoro averted his eyes, not wishing the considerably powerful hanyou to know that he had struck home.

"I am pleased with what you have given me," Kishoro insisted half-heartedly.

"No, you aren't," Naraku replied coldly. "Do not think me a fool, Kishoro." He moved closer to the leopard youkai, wickedness dancing in his cold eyes. "I will confide in you about something, my faithful slave." Kishoro stiffened slightly at the terminology but remained silent. "The jewel shards I gave Masako are not only infused with some of my power. They are also drenched in a slow-acting poison that is gradually driving Masako insane."

Kishoro's golden eyes widened in surprise. "You are killing Masako?"

"Slowly, but yes. He is an idiot, and he will be nothing more than a nuisance after my enemies have all been killed. I will have no further use for him after he has done his duty. You, however, are quite intelligent." Kishoro practically glowed at the praise. Naraku smirked inwardly and began to play to Kishoro's largest weakness, greed. "You could help me run several of my lesser provinces after the Shikon No Tama is completed." Naraku saw that Kishoro's interest had been piqued. He offered even further, "Perhaps even the Western Lands, after Sesshoumaru has been disposed of."

Kishoro's eyes lit up, his greedy nature seeing the possibilities. Ruling alone? The entirety of the Western Lands? Kishoro found that he liked that idea very much.

"However, you must serve me unquestionably and with unsurpassed loyalty in order to gain my trust. It is an extremely large and prosperous kingdom. The money you would acquire would be great. You would be able to have any woman you desired, and all the power you could ever possibly hope to attain. The riches you would gain would be enormous."

Kishoro knelt immediately, bowing low to the ground. "I will serve you without fail, my lord Naraku," he replied earnestly, eyes glowing feverishly at the prospect of ruling the Western Lands.

"Excellent."

The hanyou grasped Kishoro's hand and stretched out his arm, swiftly dragging a golden dagger across the exposed skin. Blood blossomed from the wound and fell to the ground as bright red droplets. Naraku drew the dagger across his own pale arm, and the wound wept blood so dark it was nearly black. A single drop fell into Kishoro's own cut, causing it to burn as if he had just stuck his hand in a fire. Kishoro bit back a howl and ground his teeth together as the burning heightened to such an intensity the leopard youkai thought he would pass out from the pain. Just as suddenly as it had begun, it ceased, leaving nothing but a dull ache behind.

Naraku loomed over Kishoro, his eyes black with all the evil of his soul. "You are bound to me in a manner deeper than any bond you previously held with Masako. You will serve me with unquestionable loyalty, the penalty of doing otherwise being death in the cruelest of fashions. Your rewards will be great, Kishoro. You chose your master well."

Naraku's proceeding chuckle sent rivulets of cold sweat down Kishoro's back. He held his wounded arm against his chest, staining his clothing with blood. He felt the pact he had made with Masako dissolve, and with it his independence.

xxxx

A/N: I like pacts. I also like silly training scenes that end in hot, body touching action. Personally, I think it would be impossible for Kagome to catch Sesshoumaru off guard in such a situation, but I liked the scene, so I decided to keep it in. WOO.

So… so… what say you to the new plot developments? The awkwardness/awareness between Sesshoumaru and Kagome? I'd like to see your thoughts, comments, concerns. In review form, of course.