I'm really sorry for updating so late! I've been really busy with school and my shifts at the hospital. Not to mention, I'm quite taken by a certain devil who goes by the name of Sebastian Michaelis x ) (yeah, from Kuroshitsuji, if anyone's familiar with it).

Thanks to those who've still read and reviewed this fic, even though it seems as though I've forgotten it.

-Chapter Thirty-One-

-A Little Trust-




It was so dark.

There was nothing but dark all around me. I was literally floating in the darkness with nothing but the sound of my own heartbeat to keep me company. Where was I? Why was I here? What was this place? I felt so alone...

I tried to reach out, reach out for something, anything, anyone...

But there was no one there.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I felt the hard rock wall of the cave—and everything suddenly rushed back. Mt. Tenku...Yuki...Midoriko's mirror...Sesshoumaru...

My eyes flew open.

Sesshoumaru was no longer lying on my lap. He was standing near the cave entrance, staring at the darkness outside. Darkness? Was it still night, then?

I felt a dull, throbbing ache in my shoulder. "Ow," I muttered, rubbing the spot. It was sore from where a rock had dug into it.

Sesshoumaru glanced over his shoulder at me. In the dim light, I could make out the cold look in his eyes. "You're awake," I commented.

He turned around. The wounds on his face were gone. "I did not sleep," he said dryly. "Demons do not require it."

I raised an eyebrow, surprised. "No?" I tried to imagine what it would be like to not sleep. I couldn't imagine it.

"Demons may sleep," he said quietly as he walked back to me. "As a luxury."

"Oh." He stood in front of me, looking down at me with a cold but intent look. For some reason, that look almost made me blush. "Anyway," I muttered, immediately standing up. "What do we do now?"

He glanced back at the entrance of the cave, his eyes narrowed slightly. "They are not far," he said very quietly, turning his back to me and walking towards the entrance.

"Hey!" I said. "Where are you going? And are you forgetting the barrier at the entrance?"

"I am going to kill the human girl," he said casually, not looking at me. "And as for your barrier—it is no hindrance to me." So saying, he turned back to the barrier and easily stepped through.

Somewhat bewildered, I stood up and stared at his back. What was it about him that made him able to go through my barriers so easily? Was it...was it the fact that I...loved him? That thought brought a blush to my cheeks and I shook my head once. Get a grip.

I made my way to the entrance. "Where do you think you're going?" Sesshoumaru turned to me.

I looked at him. He raised an elegant eyebrow at me and I shrugged. "I'm going with you," I said, as though it were obvious. "After all, someone has to get Midoriko's mirror back from her."


I blinked. "What?"

"You will remain here," he said quietly, turning his back to me. "I will deal with that wretch myself."

I take it that Yuki's assault on him took quite a toll on that pride of his. I pushed the thought aside and glared at his retreating back. "Hey, wait!" I snapped as I stepped through my barrier and into the cool night air.

He continued walking. Irritated, I quickened my pace and caught up with him. "I'm coming with you," I said stubbornly.

He stopped in his tracks and I did the same. He glared at me and I inwardly gulped. "Must I repeat myself?" he asked coldly, his intense cold, golden eyes boring into mine.

"No," I said. "I heard you perfectly fine the first time, but I'm still coming with you. Midoriko's mirror is my responsibility, after all."

Those cold eyes narrowed. "I do not need an annoying human to protect," he said slowly. My eyes widened slightly at the look he was giving me. "You are a nuisance and would only get in the way."

With Herculean effort, I managed to push aside the hurt that crashed on me like an avalanche. I was a nuisance to him? Annoying as well? But then again...I always thought it was something like that...

I couldn't make a comeback to his harsh words, so I looked down at my feet instead. Jeez...did he have to say it like that?

"Fine," I said, not looking up at him. I turned my back on him. "I'm staying here. Don't even bother to—"

I glanced behind my shoulder, but he was already gone.



Everything was a blur to me as I rushed past the trees, towards where Yuki's scent was. For an instant, the look in Clara's eyes as I told her that she was a nuisance flashed through my mind. I inwardly frowned. I preferred that she remain behind.

I pushed the girl from my thoughts as I followed Yuki's scent through the winding forest, the cool night wind whipping past me. I would finish her quickly and return to where Clara was.

Yuki's scent grew stronger near the base of the accursed Mt. Tenku. So, the wretch intended to use the mountain's holiness to her advantage? Hn, how typical of a human. As I approached the base of the mountain, I could feel its holy aura encompass me. A wave of nausea struck me and I pushed it aside with practiced ease. I would end this fight quickly.

"So, you've come alone?" Yuki's voice echoed through the silent night, rebounding off the mountain and the surrounding forest.

I stepped out of the shadow of the trees. Yuki was standing fifty yards or so from me, her arms crossed on her chest. She was surrounded by her myriad of Midoriko-like puppets. Hn...what a base and predictable human being.

I placed a hand on the hilt of my sword and narrowed my eyes at her. "Where is Midoriko's reincarnation?" Yuki demanded. She clutched Midoriko's mirror in one hand. "Don't tell me you've hidden her somewhere?"

"You will remain here. I will deal with that wretch myself." Hn...somewhat.

Seeing my impassive face, Yuki smirked. "Oh? Do you want to keep her safe, demon?" she mocked. "Do you care for her?"

"I do not need an annoying human to protect. You are a nuisance and would only get in the way."

"Ridiculous," I said, drawing out my sword. "Humans are inconsequential creatures to one such as I."

Yuki smirked. "Hm…and that boy thought otherwise, too."

I narrowed my eyes and frowned. "Boy?"

Yuki only smiled at me—and then she chuckled. "You didn't honestly think I would allow you to keep Midoriko's reincarnation out of sight, did you? Not when our real target is her…and not you."

I narrowed my eyes.

"The mountain's holiness must be affecting your senses after all, Lord Sesshoumaru," a familiar and annoying voice commented.

I looked up. A white mist swirled just above us and slowly dissipated to reveal Hakudoshi hovering in the air, looking down at me with a smirk that grated on one's patience. Of course. This brat could easily tolerate the mountain's holy aura, seeing as he was born on Mt. Hakurei, after all.

He continued to smirk at me. "You didn't think I actually forgot about you, did I, Lord Sesshoumaru?" the boy taunted. "It's been a while since Kagura and I last saw you."

I threw him a glare as a thought suddenly made itself known. Hakudoshi was here. Kagura, of course, was somewhere else.

I already knew where.



I sat down on a rock, leaned my elbows on my knees, and rested my chin on my palms. Sesshoumaru's words still echoed in my mind, but I didn't dwell on them too much. It was best to push those words away.

I let out a sigh, wondering where he was at the moment. Truth be told, I was worried about him. Yuki had Midoriko's holy mirror. Sesshoumaru was powerful, but…he was still a demon. Besides…no matter how much he tried to hide it, I knew that Mt. Tenku's holiness affected him considerably…

I wanted to get off of this rock and go after him. But the problem was, I didn't know which way he might have gone. I scowled to myself and stood up. I would go after him—I wanted to do something.

I glanced up at the night sky, trying to guess the time. Almost dawn, maybe? I turned my eyes to the dark trees that surrounded me, their shadows falling on the ground like long arms trying to reach out for me. They reminded me of Naraku.

Pushing that thought aside, I made for a gap in the trees, hoping that I wouldn't end up lost. Just when I was about to take a step, I felt a demonic presence just behind me. My eyes widened in surprise as I spun around to find a woman leaning against a tree, appraising me with haughty ruby-red eyes.

"Kagura," I said, taking an automatic step back.

The wind witch smiled and tapped her fan to her chin, as though she were bored. "I'm quite surprised to see that you're still alive," she said, smirking. She stepped out of the shadow of the tree.

I took another step back, trying to keep calm. For an instant, I wondered—if I screamed would he come? I gave myself a mental kick and shoved that thought aside. I really should stop relying on Sesshoumaru all the time.

Kagura took another step towards me and I took another back. Her smile widened maliciously. "He isn't here, is he?" she said, her eyes darting around. "Abandoned by Sesshoumaru once again! Honestly, I can't understand why you keep sticking to that mutt, if he just leaves you here defenseless."

My hand settled on Shinsei's hilt. I wasn't that good, but I had to try and fight her off. Memories of the time that I'd practiced sword fighting with Lady Momitsumi flashed through my mind. Somewhat encouraged, I drew Shinsei from its hilt, the blade glinting softly in the moonlight.

"But then again," Kagura went on, taking yet another step. She flicked her fan open and smirked at me. "This makes my job so much easier!"

Quick as a flash, she lunged towards me, her fan slicing through the air. I quickly took a step back, but I wasn't quick enough. I felt a sharp sting against my right cheek as her fan made contact with my skin.

"You're a bit faster now, I must say," Kagura drawled, smirking at me.

I bit my lower lip and glared at her. I considered turning tail and running and trying not to trip like always…urgh! Enough of the negativism already! Besides—something suddenly made me realize that I might just have a chance to fight Kagura off.

"You can't use them, can you?" I said as realization hit me.

She narrowed her eyes menacingly as she took a step towards me. "Really now?"

"You can't use your powers," I went on, taking a step back. "The holy aura in the area is suppressing your control of the wind."

"Hmph!" she huffed, rolling her eyes. She chuckled, her fan covering her mouth. "What?" she asked. "Do you think this is a disadvantage to me?"

I drew out Shinsei and gave her an appraising look. As far as I knew, Kagura often relied on the wind in battle. I'd never seen her fight without conjuring her deadly wind blades before. I think she wasn't quite as adept in fights without the power of the wind, but something about her haughty smirk made panic threaten to overtake me.

I did a quick mental recap of things: she might not have the wind, but she was surely more experienced than me…I was a priestess, and the holy aura of the mountain would certainly be in my favor…

"Pay attention, little girl!" My eyes widened in surprise as Kagura made a lunge towards me, her fan flashing in the moonlight.

I instinctively took a step back and parried her fan with Shinsei. A loud clang echoed throughout the forest as I realized that she had attached a metal plate to the upper portion of her fan. She was prepared. She knew she wouldn't be able to rely on the wind tonight.

Her fan flashed through the air and I raised Shinsei to block it. Another loud clang echoed throughout the forest as I took a step back. She immediately withdrew her fan and rushed at me again, her movements as fluid and deadly as the wind.

"You're so useless, I don't understand why Sesshoumaru hasn't gotten rid of you yet!" Kagura taunted as she waved her fan towards me again.

I bit my lower lip as I parried her attack again. I couldn't keep doing this forever—she was stronger than I was. I could feel my arms starting to ache from the force of her blows.

I suddenly had an idea. "Why don't you ask him that yourself?" I snapped at her as she made another lunge again.

She smirked as I parried her blow. "I won't need to—I'll get rid of you for him myself!" Her ruby eyes gleamed as she struck my sword again, this time with more force than before.

I gasped and my eyes widened in surprise as I felt Shinsei fly from my hand. There was a muted thud as it struck the trunk of a tree and fell to the ground.

She smiled at me. "I'll have your half of the Sacred Jewel," she said triumphantly. She rushed towards me, fan aimed at my head.

Now! Before she could get close, I sidestepped her. As she rushed by me, I grabbed her arm and sent a wave of holy energy through her. Her eyes widened in shock and pain. She screamed—her voice so shrill, it made the hairs on my nape stand on end.

I wanted to let go, but I couldn't. Instinct told me that if I let go now, she'd kill me. Kagura's fan fell with a dull clatter as she struggled to pull her arm away from my grip. She twisted and writhed. I let go and she fell face first to the ground.

I was breathing hard. I'd never used that much power before. Bending over, I supported my arms against my knees and took a deep breath. I looked up at her. She was lying motionless on the ground, her arms spread beside her.

Was she…dead?

I straightened. I'd never…killed anyone before…The thought that I'd killed her made my stomach turn…

Wrapping my arms around me, I looked around. Shinsei was lying at the base of a tree. I made my way to it and knelt down beside it as the full horror of what I'd done washed through me.

I just killed someone.

It didn't matter that Kagura was an enemy—I killed her. I hated the violent movies back at home and cringed whenever I saw any blood and gore on horror movies. People I knew already died—oftentimes because of me. The thought made me squirm. But this…this was different. I killed her with my own two hands.

My hands were shaking. If it was because of the cold or because of what I did, I couldn't tell. "Get a grip," I whispered to myself as I closed my eyes.

"How pathetic."

My eyes flew open as I felt something hard hit a spot in my nape. I glanced behind me. As the dark slowly veiled my vision, the last thing I saw was Kagura looking at me with disdain in her eyes.

"You're not as strong as you think you are, little girl."



"Why the rush, Lord Sesshoumaru?" Hakudoshi asked as I parried another blow from one of Yuki's Midoriko-puppets.

I chose to ignore his question as I buried my sword into one of the puppet's chests. There was no blood—instead, it was as if the puppet shattered into a million fragments that turned into wisps of smoke. I easily dispatched more of Yuki's puppets, leaving only several left. The remaining puppets were gathered around Yuki, who glared at me with a look bordering on hate and disbelief.

"You shouldn't be able to move," the priestess said quietly. "The sanctity of this mountain should have immobilized you."

I glared imperiously at her. "Who do you think I am?" I said softly.

She returned my glare with one of her own. "It doesn't matter who you are!" she snapped. "You are a lowly demon, and you shall die, pierced by Lady Midoriko's holy blade!"

I inwardly frowned as her remaining puppets charged towards me, swords aimed at me. What a bother. As I parried their blows, I became aware of one emotion that I should not allow myself to feel—anxiety. It was not for myself (I was rarely in a position that comprised my wellbeing). It was for that bothersome girl.

Kagura was most likely after Clara. And this—I cursed—was the source of my growing anxiety. Worrying about her safety...how tedious.

"Die!" I hissed as I slashed two of the last puppets. They burst into fragments that vanished into wisps of smoke.

I turned to Yuki. She was next.




I couldn't think of anything else as I slowly opened my eyes. My vision was hazy, blurred...I felt nauseous. And to cap it all off, there was a dull, throbbing pain at my nape. What happened?

Slowly, I sat up. My vision was nothing more than a blur of color as I felt the nausea hit me hard. I stood up on shaky legs, willing my vision to focus, hoping the nausea would go away. A minute later, the colors slowly became more sharp, defined, and I could see the outline of a person standing several meters away from me. A person with crimson eyes.

I gasped in surprise.

Naraku smirked at me, his arms folded across his chest. I quickly glanced around me. We were in a clearing of some sort. But...I could no longer feel the holy presence of Mt. Tenku. A salvo of questions suddenly burst into my head like fireworks. Where exactly was this place? What did he plan to do? And...where was Sesshoumaru now?

Panic started welling up inside me, as Naraku's grin became almost predatory. I felt my heart skip a beat as I took a step back. His scarlet eyes were filled with malice and a rather Schadenfreude look.

"Do you honestly think you can leave?" Naraku asked, amused.

I bit my lower lip. "What do you want?" I asked, trying to keep my voice from quivering with fear. After all...I'd made a deal with myself to have a little more backbone.

He gave me an amused smirk as he regarded me. "The answer should be obvious," the hanyou said. "I want what you have. The other half of the Sacred Jewel. Give it to me."

Firstly, did he really think I'd just give it to him like that? And second...I'd been unconscious the whole time. Why didn't he just kill me and take it?

His smirk became a sadistic smile. "In your hands, the jewel is far too pure for me to touch," he said, as though reading my thoughts.

That sadistic smile made me take a step back. "Then why didn't you just kill me and take it?" I asked. Er...was I actually suggesting that he kill me? Stupid, stupid question.

To my surprise, he chuckled. "Now, what fun would there be in killing you outright?" he wondered. I felt my hands grow cold as he took a step towards me.

I turned and ran. But the moment I turned, I felt myself ram into something...or rather, someone. I looked up, fear shimmering in my eyes as Kagura's ruby orbs glared down at me.

"Now, where do you think you're going?" Naraku's voice echoed behind me. Simultaneously, Kagura grabbed my wrists in a vice-like hold, a disdainful look in her eyes.

"Let go of me!" I snapped, trying to squirm out of her hold. She was strong, but I could...

Kagura scoffed as she leered down at me. "If you try anything, Naraku will kill you on the spot—fun or no fun."

I glared at her as she smirked at me. Her arms grasped my shoulders and spun me around so I faced Naraku. Chuckling, he took a step towards me and I struggled in Kagura's hold. "Let me gooo!" I growled through gritted teeth.

"Be quiet." Naraku was suddenly in front of me, leering down at me, his face just inches away from mine. I hastily looked down so he wouldn't see the fear in my eyes. What to do? What to do? What to do?

"Why don't we play a game?" Naraku suggested. He grabbed my chin and tilted my head towards his. I glared at him and he chuckled, bastard that he was. "Come now, Clara. This will be a game between you, me, and your Lord Sesshoumaru."




I took a step back as Yuki's sword slashed through the air. This girl was wasting my time. Narrowing my eyes at her, I unleashed my energy whip. It whizzed through the air towards Yuki, wrapping around her sword. With one tug, the sword left her hand and sped towards me. Yuki's eyes widened in surprise as I caught it by the blade and crushed it with my fist. Hn.

"What a bother," I muttered to myself as fragments of the sword fell to the ground.

I could sense the fear roll of Yuki as I turned my gaze towards her. She took a satisfying step back. "Aw, has she lost already?" Hakudoshi wondered above us. Throughout the fight—if it could even be called that—the white child had not interfered. He merely observed.

"Hakudoshi, finish him off!" Yuki screamed.

I found this amusing. I could not restrain myself from chuckling. Yuki's eyes snapped to mine, panic shining out of them. "How amusing," I said, taking a step towards her. "You, who called Midoriko's reincarnation pathetic, fail to realize that you are even more so."

She took several steps away from me, her eyes flashing dangerously. "You idolize the priestess Midoriko, and yet you consort with the very creatures that she strove to vanquish. You think you are strong, on the contraire, you are nothing but weak—your little strength is borrowed from Midoriko's mirror that you ineffectively use." I paused as I took several more steps towards her. Her back hit a tree, and the danger in her eyes turned to fear.

I smirked at her. "You. Are. Weak." Stopping an arm's length in front of her, I glared down at the cowering vermin—such a pristine example of humanity's cowardice. I reached towards her and she shied away from me, backing even further into the tree, as though hoping to become one with it. I grasped her chin and tilted her head upwards so she faced me. "You. Are. Nothing."

She glared and, quite unexpectedly, she slapped my hand away from her. Hn, defiant little wretch. Her hand quickly dove into her haori, pulling out Midoriko's mirror. "I will not allow you to go unpunished, you filthy, vile, despicable—!" I scoffed as I slapped the mirror from her hand. It fell to the ground with a dull clatter.

Her eyes widened. "You can do nothing without that mirror," I said coldly, highly amused by the fear in her eyes. "Before you took it, it is safe to presume that you were capable of nothing."

She had a faraway look in her eyes, as though her thoughts were elsewhere. "You," she began. "How...how dare you say—"

"Enough already!" I glanced at the boy hovering above us. "I thought I'd see a good fight—I was wrong." He scoffed. "Tsh! All that goading and tempting for nothing, I guess." He narrowed his lavender eyes at me and smirked. "Oh, well...at least Naraku has something more entertaining up his sleeve, Lord Sesshoumaru." He sniggered as a barrier enclosed around him. "Follow me to Naraku, if you must, Lord Sesshoumaru. I daresay, the show won't go on without you." I narrowed my eyes as he sped away.

For a moment, I mulled over his words in my mind. It did not take me more than several seconds to realize that Naraku's 'show' included Clara...

Before I knew it, I took to the air, and followed the boy.

Hakudoshi flew away from the mountain, and I pursued him. I was aware that this boy would lead me not only to Clara, but also to an inevitable trap. Hn. Whatever trap Naraku thought of would surely be ineffective against me.

I glanced behind, the wind whipping past me. Mt. Tenku was nothing more than a speck in the distance now; it's holy aura had now lessened. Beneath us, was a forest enshrouded in fog—it's depths unfathomable. This fog was unnatural, and could only be caused by Naraku. My guess was confirmed when Hakudoshi suddenly descended into the fog. I followed.

The fog thinned as I neared the ground. As I felt my feet gently touch the hard earth, I glanced around. Hakudoshi was nowhere to be seen. It was as if he had completely vanished into thin air. Though the boy was a minor distraction, I knew better than to let my guard down.

A familiar scent suddenly reached me and, at the same time, the soft rustling of cloth. My eyes snapped to my left, at a group of trees. A lone figure was sitting at the base of a tree, both her hands folded on her lap. Despite the dark shadow of the tree on her, and the presence of the fog, I had no trouble recognizing her.


She slowly looked up. There was confusion in her eyes. "Se...sesshoumaru?" she mumbled. She blinked, trying to focus her eyes.

A few brisk strides brought me to her. I knelt on one knee in front of her, my eyes taking in her appearance. She did not appear to be harmed—merely confused.

"What happened?" I asked. She gripped the side of her head with her hand as she bit her lower lip.

She frowned. "I...don't know," she muttered. She knelt, attempting to stand, but she lost her balance. I caught her as she fell against me, her head leaning against my chest. She looked up, a blush tinting her cheeks. Perhaps there was something wrong with her after all?

"Sorry," she said as she pulled away from me. Clara leaned back against the tree, her eyes closed. "I just...don't know...I'm so confused. I...where are we?"

I frowned. Had something happened to her? She seemed physically fine. "What happened?" I repeated.

She shrugged. "I don't know," she muttered. "The last thing I remember was...seeing Naraku."

I stood up. She looked up at me and stood, a frown on her face. "You're bleeding."

She suddenly reached out, her fingertips lightly brushing my cheek. It would be foolish of me to say that I did not find her touch pleasant. She drew her fingers away. There was blood on them. It was a small gash, it would heal in a minute or so. And yet, despite knowing this, Clara appeared devastated.

"I'm sorry," she said, taking a step away from me. "If you hadn't come back to help me...if I hadn't been in your way, you wouldn't be injured."

I fixed my eyes on her. What sort of look did she see in them? A look that made her blush and bend her head? Despite the gravity of the situation, I was tempted to reach out and tilt her head upwards, so I could see into her eyes.

"My, my, am I interrupting something?"

I pulled Clara behind me and spun around in one fluid motion, my sword pointed at the lowly half-breed standing before me.

"Naraku," I hissed.



Before I could even blink, Sesshoumaru pushed me behind him and spun around to face, his sword pointed at Naraku's heart. Naraku slowly emerged from the trees, his face partly hidden in the shadow of the quivering leaves. His red eyes gleamed with malice and I felt a shiver go down my spine.

"Lord Sesshoumaru," Naraku greeted.

"You're antics are becoming rather tiresome," Sesshoumaru said coldly. "Have you no other interest aside from going after a mere mortal?"

Naraku's lips curled into smirk. "You sound annoyed at my interest in Midoriko's reincarnation," he said. "You surprise me, Lord Sesshoumaru. As far as I know, you have no more obligations towards this girl. You are developing a soft spot for humans, no doubt."

"Silence!" Sesshoumaru rushed towards Naraku, sword poised to strike. Naraku parried Sesshoumaru's blade with a sharp tentacle. Sesshoumaru easily bought the blade back towards Naraku's head. The hanyou jumped in midair to avoid the blow and, as he landed, he aimed a sharp tentacle at Sesshoumaru.

"Sesshoumaru, watch out!" I cried. He didn't need my warning. He spun around, his sword meeting Naraku's sharp tentacle with a loud clang.

"Vermin!" Sesshoumaru hissed. The moment their blades caught, he flicked his wrist and his energy whip whizzed towards Naraku's head. The hanyou's eyes widened in surprise as the whip wrapped around his neck. With a sharp tug from Sesshoumaru, the whip tightened, severing Naraku's head from his body.

I gasped as miasma gushed from Naraku's severed neck. Sesshoumaru retracted his whip and glared up at Naraku's floating head.

"Clara," Sesshoumaru said calmly, his eyes fixed on Naraku, who smirked down at him. "Get back."

"I can purify the miasma," I insisted. I wanted to help this time. Admittedly, I was tired of being dead weight to him.

"No," Sesshoumaru said quietly, pointing Bakusaiga at Naraku. The sword glowed with a dark light as Sesshoumaru's youki rose. "I want you to run."

I hesitated, and he glanced at me from over his shoulder. "Now," he ordered.

I didn't need to be told twice. I made a break for the trees, swatting away low branches. Moments later, I heard Sesshoumaru's voice echo throughout the dark forest.

"Meidou Zangetsuha!" A second later, I heard loud crashes from behind me. Glancing over my shoulder, I could see trees being sucked away into the meidou. I ran faster as Sesshoumaru unleashed more meidou—it seemed as though he wanted to make sure nothing remained of Naraku.

I glanced back over my shoulder. Everything looked hazy as a thick curtain of dust settled around the forest. I slowed down and stopped, my eyes scanning the dense veil of dust that settled around me.

"Sesshoumaru?" I called out, amidst the sound of groaning trees and falling rubble. "Sesshoumaru?"

I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder, and, at the same time, I felt the presence of the Sacred Jewel. I squealed and spun around, my hand going to Shinsei's hilt. Sesshoumaru was standing behind me, an imperious eyebrow raised.

"Sesshoumaru!" I said, letting go of the hilt. "Don't do that! You scared me to death!"

He raised both eyebrows. "Indeed?" he said quietly. "Then why is it that you are still alive?"

I glared at him, and he held my eyes. Did he just make a joke?

"What happened to Naraku?" I asked.

"Gone," he said simply.

I blinked at him. "Gone?" I repeated.

He held out his hand. Nestled in his palm was Naraku's half of the Sacred Jewel. My eyes widened in surprise as I stared at the pitch black jewel in his hand. Naraku really was gone. Sesshoumaru had defeated him—on his own.

I looked up at him. The only thing left to do would be to find the last two fragments of the Sacred Jewel.

"If you do not wish to take it, then I shall have to dispose of it," he said, his claws closing around the black jewel.

"No, give it to me!" I said as I reached for the jewel. As I reached for it, his long fingers suddenly closed around my hand. My eyes widened in surprise as I felt my cheeks warming. I didn't dare look up.

"Clara," he said quietly.

No, definitely do not look up. His thumb stroked the skin of my hand and I felt butterflies fluttering in my stomach. Did he...did a piece of rubble hit him on the head, maybe?

"The...the jewel," I stammered as I looked up at him.

"Of course," he said, releasing my hand. I pulled it away from his, the jewel clutched tightly in my fist.

I looked at the darkened jewel in my palm. Already, it was beginning to lighten. I let out a sigh, as another thought struck me. I was close to completing the jewel. Once I had completed it, what then?

"Come, we're leaving," Sesshoumaru suddenly said. He was already walking through the trees, his back turned to me.

I started to follow him. I suddenly felt my hand on the hilt of Shinsei. My eyes widened. What...the? I felt my fingers tighten around the hilt, felt myself draw the blade silently from its sheath. What...was...happening? My body was...moving on its own?

You thought you could get rid of me that easily, did you? a voice echoed through my head—a voice I had no trouble recognizing.

Naraku? I thought.


I could imagine him smirking as I silently took several steps closer to Sesshoumaru, Shinsei clutched tightly in my hand. Dread took hold of me as I realized what I was about to do.

NO! I tried to stop myself from moving, tried to stow the sword back into its sheath, but I couldn't—Naraku was the puppeteer and I was his puppet.

No, don't do this! I thought desperately as I got closer and closer to Sesshoumaru—close enough to strike.

I heard Naraku chuckling within my mind. Dear, dear, dear, he drawled. You priestesses always have a knack for falling in love with the wrong person. What a shame, don't you think so, Clara?

I tried to scream, even tried to whimper, but it was no use. Naraku's control was total. I felt helpless as I raised the sword, aiming for his neck. Sesshoumaru, you idiot! Turn around! Please turn around!

I swung the sword.

Sesshoumaru suddenly spun around and parried Shinsei with Bakusaiga. His eyes narrowed at me. "What do you think you're doing?" he demanded.

I wanted to tell him that it wasn't me, that I had no control—but I couldn't. Instead, I heard myself say, "I thought it was time to get rid of you. After all, I have the jewel now, and you just finished off Naraku for me."

I smirked at him as I tossed the jewel into the air and caught it again. Naraku, the bastard!

Sesshoumaru pointed the sword at my throat. "What are you saying?" He narrowed his eyes at me, his voice colder than ice.

"I'm saying the great Lord Sesshoumaru is a fool," I spat. "Such a fool to trust a priestess. Such a fool to come and save her. Such a fool to...care for her."

I wanted to scream, wanted to lash and kick at Naraku. Why are you doing this?

Oh, do be silent and enjoy the show, my dear. I heard his silent laughter echoing through my mind.

Sesshoumaru glared at me. It was a look that would have sent me hiding under a rock, if I could. This was probably the first time I had seen him so angry! His eyes were narrowed menacingly at me, the gold slowly turning to red. The knuckle around his sword tightened.

"Oh?" I said, grinning at him. "I seem to have struck a nerve. Tomfoolery really does run in the family, doesn't it Lord Sesshoumaru?"

"Silence!" he hissed as he suddenly brought Bakusaiga down on me.

I parried his blade with my own and leapt backwards. It didn't seem as though Naraku had any intention of letting him kill me—yet.

Of course not, Naraku sneered. How could I let Sesshoumaru destroy my new body?


Sesshoumaru suddenly lunged towards me, his eyes bleeding red. I parried his sword again and sidestepped as he brought the blade down on my head. It missed and struck the ground, sending rubble and dust into the air.

I tried to move my arms, tried to stop my feet from dancing as Sesshoumaru attacked again and again. I tried to scream, tried to tell him—but I couldn't.

I lunged towards Sesshoumaru, the sword aimed at his neck. He spun around to avoid it and, at the same time, I felt a sharp sting against my arm as Sesshoumaru's blade grazed against my skin.

I felt disconcerted. Sesshoumaru was serious.

I jumped backward. He suddenly flicked his wrist and his whip of light snapped around my wrist. I could have cried out at the pain, but I didn't. Instead, I grinned at him, grabbed the whip with my other hand and sent a surge of holy energy through it.

Sesshoumaru's eyes widened in surprise as he quickly retracted his whip. Too late. White light enveloped him as my holy energy struck him. He was immobile for a moment, his eyes hidden in the shadow of his bangs.

He suddenly looked up. His eyes were blood-red, and the markings on his cheeks had become jagged. "I will thoroughly enjoy killing you," he hissed quietly.

I felt my chest tighten. I knew that he didn't really think highly of me, but I really thought that he...trusted me. After everything we'd been through...was his trust in me so easily broken? The pain in my chest was worse than all the torture Naraku could possibly devise.

Did you really think he would even trust someone like you? Naraku sneered. A pathetically weak creature like you?

As I looked at Sesshoumaru, I couldn't help myself. My eyes watered and I couldn't stop a tear from falling. I couldn't help but answer Naraku.

No...no, he couldn't.

Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes at me as I struggled against Naraku's hold. There was a strange look in his eyes—shrewd, analytic. And then he sheathed his sword.

If they could, my eyes would have widened in surprise.

"If you cannot fight him, then you are pitiful," Sesshoumaru said, narrowing his eyes at me.

"Very clever, Lord Sesshoumaru," I said, scoffing as I raised the sword. "However, clever as you are, you are unwise to lower your defenses!"

Sesshoumaru dodged, missing Shinsei's blade as it hissed through the air and struck the ground, sending a torrent of dust and rock into the air. "Well, Clara?" Sesshoumaru demanded.

Get out! I growled at Naraku.

He chuckled. I am quite surprised. It seems your Lord Sesshoumaru does trust you after all. But I must say, his belief in you is undeserved.

It was as though Naraku completely smothered me in his grasp. I was a prisoner in my own body as I rushed at Sesshoumaru, swinging Shinsei, and he continued dodging. But I couldn't keep this up forever...

As my body moved, I focused, searching for Naraku within my mind. He was the puppet master, and I was the puppet...but I had to find a way to cut the strings, somehow.

"Don't make me wait," Sesshoumaru said dangerously as he narrowly avoided the blade. He leapt, landing gracefully behind me. Before I could spin around, he grabbed both my wrists from behind.

"Hn?" he said quietly, his voice near my ear. "And here I thought I was wrong about you being weak."

If Naraku hadn't been controlling me, I would have felt a shiver go up my spine—not because of how close he was, no. Rather, it was because of the tone of his voice. He sounded impatient, deadly.

I wanted to tell him that he wasn't wrong, but I couldn't. I struggled against Naraku's hold. It was like a paralytic trying to move!

"Foolish, Lord Sesshoumaru," I said. And before I could stop myself, I felt a blinding flash of holy energy emanate from every fiber of my being.


Naraku's dark laughter was the only answer I could hear as I felt Sesshoumaru's grip slacken. I spun around, a maniacal smile on my face. Sesshoumaru staggered backward, the effects of the holy blast momentarily disorienting him—but a moment was all I needed...was all Naraku needed.

I tried, but I couldn't stop myself from plunging the blade into the middle of Sesshoumaru's chest.


His eyes widened in surprise as I withdrew the blade, that sadistic smirk still on my lips. I couldn't react—I felt too numb. But as he fell to the ground, something inside me suddenly snapped.

Instead of feeling the sorrow that had been my companion since Kikyou's death, I felt nothing but pure, white hot anger. I wanted to kill myself and take Naraku with me! I wanted him to die, to suffer...

And, most shocking of all, I wanted him to die by my hands.

Let it go...

The voice rang throughout my head and, with it, I felt Midoriko's energy take control of my mind. My vision was clouded with white light as Midoriko took over. But this was different. I was actually aware of Midoriko.

Naraku's roar of pain and fury rang throughout my mind. I grasped my head with both hands—it felt as though he was trying to burst through my skull! Shinsei fell with a dull clatter as I felt my knees crash to the ground. The white light clouding my vision intensified, and then...


As abruptly as the pain began, it suddenly stopped. The white slowly began to recede, but not before an image flashed through my mind—an image of the almost complete Shikon jewel. It glowed purple, the color of its purity. But, upon closer inspection, there was a dot of darkness in the very center of the jewel.

He is waiting.

It was the same voice from earlier. It sounded both strong and ethereal. And even though I'd never heard her voice before, I had a feeling that this voice belonged to none other than Midoriko.

Waiting? I thought.

But the voice did not reply.

The light completely faded from my vision, and the clearing slowly came into focus. As the blurry outline of the trees slowly became sharper, my eyes fell on a figure clad in white kneeling on the ground, a hand on his chest.

"No," I said as I stood and staggered to his side.

Sesshoumaru's breathing was heavy. He kept his narrowed eyes fixed on the ground. Blood was blossoming from the wound on his chest, staining the white of his haori.

What have I done?

"Sesshoumaru?" I whispered as I knelt by his side, appalled by what my hands did.

He turned his eyes to me, and I inwardly cringed at the frown he was giving me. He must be angry...

"Where is Naraku?" he said, without preamble.

A small part of my mind tried to console me by pointing out that if he could ask about Naraku with such bluntness, then he was going to be alright. But that was a very small part of my mind. The larger part was preoccupied by the guilt of what I'd done.

"Clara," he snapped, shaking me from my stupor.

"He's..." I withdrew the Sacred Jewel from the sleeve of my haori. Just like the image Midoriko showed to me, there was a tiny speck of black against the purity of the near-complete Shikon jewel. "In here."

He nodded. If he wasn't asking as to how Naraku wound up in there, then...he must be in pain.

"I overestimated you," Sesshoumaru said in a would-be calm voice as he slowly got to his feet. He looked down at me, and I cringed at the look he was giving me.

"I'm sorry," I said quietly, keeping my eyes fixed firmly on the ground. I felt a horrible kind of disbelief surging through me. I'd done it—I'd hurt the person who was most important to me. I felt so low—was I doomed to bring bad luck to the people I cared about the most?

Before I could ponder further, I heard Sesshoumaru's sharp intake of breath and immediately looked up. His hand was still on his chest, and his body seemed tense. I hastily stood up. "Let me help you with—"

Wrong thing to say, Clara.

He glared at me. "I do not require your assistance," he said rather coldly.

I cringed. "I...I'm sorry," I said again.

He raised an eyebrow. "Enough," he said. Beneath the ice in his voice, I could hear the subtle trace of lassitude. "Only a fool apologizes for nothing."

"If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be—!" I gestured at the blood on his chest, which was still spreading.

"Oh?" he said, something akin to a sneer in his voice. "You are implying that you managed to injure me?"

For a moment, his scornful look banished the guilt that was threatening to overwhelm me. I remained silent as I looked down at the ground.

"Pick up your sword," he said abruptly as he turned to leave.

I sighed, picked up Shinsei and turned to follow him as he vanished through the trees. His gait was firm, smooth—not the gait of a man who'd just had a sword thrust into his chest.

"Where are we going now?" I asked, after several minutes of silence.

"To Jaken and the others," was the concise reply.

I didn't say anything else, sensing that he was in no mood to talk; so I spent the remainder of the walk battling the feeling of contrition that wrapped around me like a shroud. Though a small part of my mind tried to rub in the fact that it wasn't really me who'd hurt Sesshoumaru, I couldn't shake off my feeling of guilt.

I sighed as I stared up at the sky. It was lightening from deep black to deep blue—almost dawn. After several minutes of walking, we arrived at the edge of the cliff where we had left Rin and Jaken earlier. Was it just last night? It felt like months.

Rin was sound asleep against Ah-Un when we arrived. Jaken was—to my surprise—leaning his head against Rin's arm. He was snoring. Kohaku was sitting beside Jaken, his head lolling against the kappa's. If I wasn't feeling so bad, I would've thought that they looked cute.

Sesshoumaru walked a little further, to the trees just behind Ah-Un, and sat down, leaning against the trunk. I chewed on my lower lip, hesitating, before I made my way over to him. He didn't protest as I sat down beside him, keeping an arm's length of space between us.

"Sesshoumaru?" I said hesitantly.

He didn't answer. Instead, he glanced sideways at me. "I was...would you...let me..." Why was I stuttering? I never stuttered before.

He raised an eyebrow. "Let me bandage your wound," I said in a huff, thankful that the dim light hid the blush spreading through my cheeks.

He was silent again, his eyes narrowed almost critically. I knew what was racing through his head—he didn't need help from humans and that he was quite capable of healing with an hour's time.

"Before you could say 'no'," I plowed on. "I'll have you know that it was still my hands that did this to you. And I haven't forgotten that you asked a physician to look at me when I was sick, even though you really didn't have to bother yourself. And even though you try to hide it, the mountain's holy aura is still enough to slow your wound from—"

"Do as you want."

I blinked. Well, that was quick. I stood up and made my way towards Ah-Un, trying my best to be silent as I opened the pack on his back and removed several rolls of bandages, a packet of cotton, sterile gauze and a bottle of iodine. I grabbed the canteen of water lying next to Ah-Un and returned to Sesshoumaru's side.

I was surprised to find that Sesshoumaru had removed his armor by the time I'd returned. His spiked pauldron and breastplate were lying on the ground beside him. I couldn't help but smile at that. If he'd removed his armor so readily, did that mean he actually trusted me?

He turned his eyes to me as I sat down beside him. His gaze fell on the bottle of iodine in my hand, and he raised an eyebrow. "Iodine," I said, shrugging. "It disinfects the wound."

"Infections do not affect demons," he pointed out.

Again, I shrugged. "No, maybe not," I agreed. "But I like to be thorough."


Trying very hard not to blush, I pushed his bloodied haori from his shoulders. My eyes widened in surprise. The wound was deep, a gaping gash of red against the pale skin of his chest—and it was still bleeding badly.

I quickly tore open three packets of sterile gauze and pressed them to the wound, appalled by the damage that I'd done. I tried not to look in his eyes as I felt the weight of his gaze on me.

"I'm sorry," I said quietly, after several minutes of awkward silence on my part.

"Don't be foolish," he said.

"But it's my fault you're like this!" I insisted, my voice low but frantic. "If I'd just sensed Naraku...if I'd tried harder at resisting him, then...this wouldn't have..."

He narrowed his eyes and then pressed a finger to my lips. "Be quiet," he said, a hint of annoyance in his voice. He removed the finger. "It is of no surprise that a human such as yourself was unable to sense Naraku."

"You're implying something," I said, momentarily diverted from my speech of self-blame. To my surprise, I felt annoyed and pressed the gauze just a little harder—he didn't wince.

"Yes," he said quietly, "I am."

I didn't answer. I removed the gauze. The flow of blood had stopped. I took another piece of gauze, moistened it with water and began cleaning the traces of blood around his chest. The fact that the wound had not closed left me worried—how much was the mountain's aura affecting him from this distance? Speaking of mountain...

"What happened to Yuki?" I asked as I dropped the bloodied gauze.

The ghost of a frown flitted through his features and vanished. "I let her go," he answered.

My eyebrows shot up in surprise. Sesshoumaru actually let an adversary live? Something must have hit him on the head.

"Why?" I asked, not bothering to hide the surprise in my voice. "Why did you let her go? And what about Midoriko's mirror?"

"You ask far too many questions," he said, looking back at the lightening sky.

Something told me that he didn't want to talk, so I fell silent. I cleansed the wound with iodine, and covered it with gauze. Next, I wound the bandages and wrapped it around his chest to secure the gauze in place. I couldn't avoid blushing frantically as I wrapped my arms around his chest to secure the bandage.

"How did you learn?" he suddenly said as I finished.

I blinked at him as I gathered the pieces of bloody gauze and cotton. "Learn what?"

He gestured to his chest. "Oh!" I said, surprised that he'd ask a personal question. "I think everyone knows how to dress wounds." I shrugged.

He narrowed his eyes, a sign that he was not satisfied with the answer. "Well, actually, I just sort of learned on my own," I went on, "because...well, I sort of want to be a doctor." I grinned sheepishly.

He raised an eyebrow. Was it just me or did he look somewhat incredulous. "Indeed?" he said. "I seem to recall that you yourself suffered an infection due to your carelessness with your own wound."

I flushed. "Well...that was...there wasn't any," I stammered. I didn't know if he was teasing me, or just being plain insulting. The latter, I think.

I huffed and turned away from him, gathering the pieces of gauze and stuffing them into a used plastic bag.


I automatically turned back to him.

"You have my thanks."

My eyebrows rose up in surprise. Maybe something had hit him on the head, to make him say something that was way out of character for him.

I looked down at the ground, my cheeks burning. "Er...you're welcome," I said, looking up at him.

I blinked as he suddenly reached out to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear, his thumb brushing lightly against my cheek.

"Better," he said, his eyes holding mine.

I knew what had hit him on the head—a boulder. I blinked, trying very hard to stop blushing. "Um...thanks," I said, though it sounded more like a question.

Sesshoumaru suddenly tore his eyes from me and turned to the trees opposite to our camp. Just as abruptly, he stood up, eyes narrowed at the trees. Above us, the lightening sky told the arrival of sunrise.

I stood up. "Sesshoumaru, what's—"

But before I could finish my question, a light, playful voice rang throughout the clearing. "My, my! Of all the places to find you, Lord Sesshoumaru, this was the place I least expected."

A moment later, a young woman emerged from the trees, her golden hair glinting softly from the rays of the rising sun. Her icy-blue eyes danced with amusement at my flabbergasted expression.

"Midoriko...no, Clara," she amended, tilting her head at me. "And Lord Sesshoumaru—long time no see." She smiled.

I blinked several times. "Momitsumi?" I said.


A1969: the irony of it all—I'm updating during the midterm exam week xD

Inuyasha: it's not irony—it's point-blank stupidity!

A1969: yeah, well, anyway...I'm really, really sorry for the late update guys! I've had writer's block about my Inuyasha stories for the past several months. But suddenly, during this week, the writer's block vanished as abruptly as it had come, and I feel an URGE to update all my Inuyasha stories!

Kagome: about time.

A1969: yeah—I'll be updating all my stories from now on. I'm really sorry about making you guys wait so long, but I hope this will be the last time. By the way, I've noticed that my writing has been getting a little rusty, so please bear with me as I try to sort that out xD Oh, and—Sesshoumaru plushies to the ones who can spot the small Star Wars reference in this chapter!

Inuyasha: she went through a Star Wars phase during Christmas— *author hits him on the head* ow!

Review please!