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-Chapter Thirty Two-

The Teacher

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.:Clara:.

"Momitsumi!"

I stood up, surprised. Momitsumi smiled at us from across the clearing. She looked as lovely as I'd first seen her all those weeks ago at Sesshoumaru's castle. But, instead of the elaborate junihitoe she'd worn at Sesshoumaru's palace, she wore a simple blue kimono that reached to her knees. She'd also switched her lacquered zori for a pair of black boots.

"Why are you here?" Sesshoumaru asked, his tone cold.

I glanced at him, realizing that he had yet to put on his haori. In the morning light, I could make out the perfect contours of his chest and arms, the perfection somewhat marred by the bandage around his chest. He looked as though he had been sculpted by the gods. There was no other word for it—he was pretty cut.

I blushed and hastily looked away, turning my attention back to Momitsumi, who gave me a teasing smirk, before turning her attention back to Sesshoumaru. Her eyes widened as they zeroed in on the bandage on his chest.

"My lord, you are injured," she said as she approached us. "What happened?" She glanced from me to Sesshoumaru.

I was about to answer her, when Sesshoumaru beat me to it. "None of your concern," he said as he pulled on his haori. "I will repeat my question—why are you here?"

Momitsumi blinked at the ice in his voice. I glanced at Sesshoumaru, annoyed at his rudeness. "Don't worry, he's just had a bad night," I said to Momitsumi. From the peripheral of my vision, I saw Sesshoumaru throw me a glare.

"I am sorry to hear that," Momitsumi said. "My lord, I am here because my lord father and your lady mother wishes me to be here."

"Elaborate," Sesshoumaru said. He'd already donned his armor, and was tying that elaborate sash around his waist.

Momitsumi sighed. "I do not understand their intentions myself," she replied.

I think I did. I think Sesshoumaru's mother and Momitsumi's father wanted both of them to spend time together, so that they would know each other. I knew Momitsumi didn't want him, but I couldn't help but feel…well, jealous. I quickly pushed the thought from my mind.

"What a bother," Sesshoumaru said, scoffing as he turned away. I raised an eyebrow at his back. Really, you thought the guy could at least be courteous. She's his betrothed, after all.

Momitsumi's smile faltered as she stared at me, a questioning look in her eyes. "Why is he in a terribly bad mood?" she asked, not bothering to keep her voice low. Sesshoumaru glared at her from over his shoulder.

I shrugged. "I really can't—"

"My Lady!" Momitsumi, Sesshoumaru, and I turned to the opposite side of the clearing as a figure emerged from the trees.

It was a young man. He had a head of dark blue hair that fell to his jawline, and a pair of startling green eyes. Compared to Sesshoumaru's pale complexion, his skin, I noted, appeared tanned. He had a scar beneath his right eye. He wore armor, but—compared to Sesshoumaru's—his looked rather humble, and somewhat worn. He had a sword strapped to his waist, the sheath of which looked as though it had seen better days. The way he carried himself suggested that he was a soldier—a demon one.

"It took you a while to catch up," Momitsumi commented, turning to the man.

"I apologize," the man said as he made his way over to us.

Sesshoumaru turned to face him, eyes narrowed, a hand on the hilt of Bakusaiga. The man didn't flinch as he approached the stoic demon lord. To my surprise, he knelt on one knee in front of Sesshoumaru, placing a hand on his chest, and bowing his head.

"Lord Sesshoumaru," he said. "I am not an enemy. I am under the service of Lord Hoshimaru of the Northern Lands. I am Lady Momitsumi's escort and guard, Hitori."

Sesshoumaru glanced towards Momitsumi. "As I've said, it is my lord father and your lady mother's wish that I accompany you on your quest for Naraku," she said.

Sesshoumaru's gaze flitted from Momitsumi to Hitori before he turned on his heel. "Do as you wish," he said, as he walked away.

Momitsumi gestured for Hitori to stand before turning to me with a smile on her face. "You have much to tell me, Clara."

. . .

"How are things between you and Lord Sesshoumaru?" Momitsumi asked later. We were walking through the forest, looking for fruits for Rin and Kohaku, who were still asleep along with Jaken. Truth be told, it was Momitsumi's excuse to get out of Sesshoumaru's earshot.

I was about to pluck a fig from a nearby tree when her question froze me. I stared at her, surprised she would ask when her escort, Hitori, was following right behind us.

She saw my expression and waved her hand dismissively. "I trust Hitori completely," she reassured me.

"I would protect my lady's honor with my life," the demon affirmed. "Your secrets are safe with me, Priestess." He didn't seem the least bit intrigued.

I blushed before turning back to the fig and plucking it. "Well?" Momitsumi persisted.

"Uh…" What to say? Between me and Sesshoumaru? "Um…nothing much, really," I answered as I tugged at another fig. "He did save me just last night, though." Again.

"Is that why he was injured?" Momitsumi asked, plucking a fig as well.

"Pretty much, yes," I admitted. I felt guilty at that. Sesshoumaru had been injured because of me. I bit my lip. Truth be told, I was tired of being dead weight to him. I wanted to help him. The next time a fight broke out, I wanted to be by his side, fighting, not behind him being protected.

Momitsumi smiled at me as she tossed the fig up and down. "Well, that is not 'nothing'," she said, her smile widening, and a mischievous look in her eye.

"What do you mean?"

She tilted her head at me, pretending to think. "Oh, let's see…Lord Sesshoumaru, cold-hearted, arrogant, self-centered Lord Sesshoumaru, coming to your help despite the possibility of injury," she pointed out. "That does not sound like 'nothing'. And there is 'nothing' at all about him readily taking off half his clothing for you." She winked.

I felt my face burning. "I…I was just…he was wounded and…and…" Understandably, the figs I'd been holding fell.

She laughed. From the periphery of my vision, I couldn't help but notice Hitori smile gently as his lady laughed.

"Oh, Clara, you are a bit of an innocent, aren't you?" she asked.

I blinked. "Despite our being near Mt. Tenku," she went on. "Lord Sesshoumaru's injuries would have healed in several hours. He knew this, and yet he allowed you to tend to him anyway. If that was 'nothing', then I want to see what 'something' shall be."

I knelt to pick up the figs as I remembered the way Sesshoumaru tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. I blushed again. Could he…? Or maybe his injuries addled his brain somewhat. That might have been it.

"Here, Hitori," Momitsumi said as I straightened. She handed the lone fig that she'd plucked to her soldier. "As I recall, you haven't eaten since yesterday."

"My Lady, I couldn't possibly—"

"Nonsense!" she scoffed as she turned back to me. She smirked. "Let's make a bet, you and I."

"Bet?" I asked, my eyebrows rising.

"I bet that Lord Sesshoumaru secretly admires you."

My face felt hot. "That's silly," I said. "I may be immortal, but I am still human." That and the fact that he must be really annoyed for always having to help me.

"Since when has status or lineage stopped anyone who was stubbornly in love?" Momitsumi wondered.

I looked at her. There was something different about her tone. For the briefest instant, I thought I saw her eyes flicker to Hitori before turning back to me. Hm…

"You're speechless, I see," she said as she plucked another fig.

I didn't want to get my hopes up. "That's just…impossible," I said. Sesshoumaru, I realized, was beyond my reach. I looked at the fig in my hand and frowned. Sesshoumaru could barely tolerate humans as it were. He couldn't possibly…

"I will never understand humans," Momitsumi muttered as she placed the figs she had plucked into Hitori's arms. "By the way," she went on as we turned to return to the camp. Rin and the others should be awake by now. Speaking of which…I yawned. I didn't get any sleep, and considering the events of last night, I was tired.

"Have you been practicing with that?" Momitsumi asked, her gaze resting on Shinsei.

I glanced down at the sword. "Not quite," I admitted. "Not since…" My voice trailed off, and we both frowned as we remembered what happened the last time we had practiced with swords. "I want to, though." Really, I was tired of Sesshoumaru always rushing in to save me.

Momitsumi smiled. "Then why don't we continue?" she offered.

"My Lady," Hitori said from behind us. "I do not think you should—"

"Oh, do be quiet, Hitori," Momitsumi said. "We are traveling. There are no rules. No one can say what I can and what I can't do. As if I don't get enough of that at the castle." She added the last part as an afterthought.

"My apologies, my lady," Hitori said.

"He's right," I said. "I don't want you to bother yourself. Besides, even if I do want to learn, Sesshoumaru might…get mad again."

"And who is he to tell you what you can and can't do?" Momitsumi said, scoffing. "If you want to learn, then learn! Lord Sesshoumaru can do nothing about it." She paused for a moment. "We can start the next time we make camp."

I smiled at her. "Thank you," I said.

. . .

"Master Jaken, it's Clara!" Rin said excitedly as we returned. From the look of things, she'd just woken up. She was helping Kohaku fold their sleeping blankets. Upon seeing us, she immediately abandoned the blanket and rushed towards us.

"Clara! I thought you and Lord Sesshoumaru went to that mountain!" Rin said excitedly as she stopped in front of me. She grinned. "I guess you miss us already? Is that why you decided to come back?" There was a mischievous look in her eye. Oh, she knew about my feelings for Sesshoumaru.

I smiled as I knelt down, so I was eye-level with her. Rin was such a loveable child, and, truth be told, if I was still on Mt. Tenku, I would have missed Rin just as much as I would have missed Sesshoumaru.

"You're right," I said, feigning astonishment. "I only just realized that I would miss you very much, so I decided to come back." I held out the figs that we'd gathered.

"Figs!" Rin said as she delightedly scooped some of them into her arms. "Thank you, Clara!"

"You should thank Lady Momitsumi, too," I said as I turned to Momitsumi, whom Rin failed to notice, because she had been standing at the edge of the clearing, in conversation with Hitori.

At the sound of her name, Momitsumi turned to us, a smile on her face. "Lady Momitsumi!" Rin said as she ran to the demoness's side, a grin on her face.

I smiled as I watched Rin. She was so bright, so cheerful. It was no wonder that Momitsumi easily took to her back at Sesshoumaru's palace. I watched as Momitsumi introduced Rin to Hitori, who bowed to the little girl from the waist, making her giggle.

"What's this? You're back?" a loud, screeching voice said.

I turned away from Rin and Momitsumi towards Jaken, who was looking up at me, his skinny arms crossed. "Yeah, good morning Jaken," I said as I held out a fig for him.

"I don't eat human food, you silly girl!" Jaken said. "No proper demon eats human food—!"

He was cut off from his sentence when a lone fig sailed past me, and hit him on the head. "I happen to enjoy human food," Momitsumi said, rolling her eyes. It wasn't she who had thrown the fig, it was Hitori.

"Oh! Um…uh…right," Jaken said, mortified as he rubbed the bump on his head.

"Jaken." Jaken and I turned to see Sesshoumaru making his way towards us. "We will be leaving soon."

"Yes, milord!" Jaken said as he quickly bustled off to see to Rin and Kohaku.

Sesshoumaru turned his gaze to me, and I felt my cheeks warming up. "Um…Momitsumi and I found these. Do you want one?" I asked, offering him a fig. Wait a minute...did he eat human food? Come to think of it, did he eat at all?

He stared at the proffered fruit for a moment, before turning his gaze back to me. "What do you intend to do?" he asked.

Well, I had intended to give him this fig, but it seems as though he didn't want it. I tried to push aside the discouragement with mild success.

"Do?" I asked. Then it hit me. Of course. Sesshoumaru had paid his debt to Kikyou. He had brought me to—and saved me from—Mt. Tenku. He was no longer obligated to protect me.

I lowered my eyes to the ground and frowned. True, what do I do now? Lady Otohime had been killed, and Yuki had vanished with Midoriko's mirror…where did that leave me? Should I find Inuyasha and Kagome, tell them about what happened? What about the remaining jewel shards? I would have to find them as well. Did that mean that I would have to leave Sesshoumaru and the others and go from here on my own, maybe take Kohaku with me? I felt bleak at that.

"Clara."

I looked up at him. He was still staring at me with cold eyes. "I…don't really know," I admitted. I removed the two halves of the sacred jewel from the sleeve of my haori. "I know that I'll have to find the other two shards, wherever they are. I think I'm going to look for Inuyasha and Kagome first, though."

"I take it, you will be leaving?" he asked. I was surprised that he asked—I thought he would just send me away, now that his obligation to Kikyou was finished.

I smiled sadly at him. "You've already brought me to Mt. Tenku," I said. "You've done your duty by Kikyou, so…I should go now."

"Don't be foolish," he said, scoffing as he turned and walked away.

Huh? What did he mean by that? Should I go or should I stay?

I sighed. Why did he have to be so vague sometimes?

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Sesshoumaru

I looked up at the noon sun as I led the way, while everyone—including Momitsumi and her escort—followed. Truth be told, I had no clear destination in mind. Naraku was, for the moment, imprisoned within his beloved sacred jewel. I take it the jewel had to be completed before we could finally eliminate that worthless hanyou for good.

Heh.

Admittedly, it was rather clever of Naraku to hide beneath our very noses, within the sacred jewel itself. And ironically, we would be protecting him as we kept other demons away from the coveted jewel.

Hn.

We?

Since when did I show any interest in the jewel? I discreetly glanced over my shoulder at Clara. She was walking beside Rin and Momitsumi. She grinned as Momitsumi told her a story of a foolish courtier at the Northern palace. She appeared tired. Clara had not slept last night, and I was certain that the confrontation with Yuki, and later Naraku, left her worn.

Was I concerned for her wellbeing? It seemed as though these newfound emotions wanted me to be. When she had said that she would leave, I had not given my consent. Despite the immense spiritual energy, Clara could not defend herself. She could hold her own against weaker demons, but what if human bandits accosted her? Spiritual energy did not work well on humans. And neither did Clara's fighting skills.

Or perhaps that was merely my excuse?

I tore my gaze away from her as I continued my train of thought. Naraku had somehow managed to sequester his soul within the jewel. I had a suspicion that that bastard would await the jewel's completion before coming out to finally possess it. Could he be destroyed while he was still ensconced within the jewel?

I needed to know.

"We stop here," I said as we presently came to a grove of bamboo.

"So soon, milord?" Jaken asked.

I glared down at him. "Ah! Forgive me my insolence, milord!" he said as he fell prostrate before me.

"Clara," I called to her. She was busy helping Rin and Momitsumi's escort gather stones and kindling for a fire. At the sound of her name, she immediately looked up, a curious expression in her tired sapphire eyes. "Follow me." I didn't spare her another glance as I walked into the bamboo forest.

I slowed my pace, and presently I could hear her following me. I could easily sense the curiosity and hesitation she felt as I led her deeper into the forest.

"Where are we going?" she asked, after a moment's silence.

I did not answer. Presently, we came upon a brook, and I turned to her. "Show me the jewel," I said.

Her curiosity increased as she showed me the two halves of the sacred jewel. "What did you want to see them for?" she asked.

I did not answer as I stared intently at the other half of the jewel, the half with two shards missing. Both halves were immensely pure and yet…I sensed a darkness in this half of the jewel. "You made mention that Naraku is within the jewel."

She looked surprised. "Yes," she said. "Midoriko told me that he was 'waiting'…for what, I don't really know."

I raised an eyebrow. "Midoriko told you?"

She shrugged. "Somewhat," she said, flushing. "What I don't understand is…how can he be within the jewel? I'm keeping it pure, and yet…" She frowned. "And yet, he's right here, underneath our very noses, and we can't do a thing about him until we complete the jewel…and even then, I don't know what will happen."

"Have you tried to purifying him out the jewel?"

She shook her head and looked apologetic. "Not yet," she admitted. "Sorry, a lot of things happened last night, with Yuki and Naraku. It sort of skipped my mind, until you mentioned it."

I was loathe to ask her, for she appeared fatigued. "Try," I said.

"Now?"

I nodded. For a moment, she held my gaze, then turned her eyes back to the jewel halves. She covered the two fragments with both hands and closed her eyes, a frown of concentration on her face. White light glowed from between her palms, her purifying energy growing stronger. I frowned. Her holy energy had indeed strengthened over the weeks.

There was a powerful surge of spiritual energy, and I immediately suppressed the urge to take a step back. How surprising.

Clara's frown deepened. A light sheen of sweat covered her face as she continued to focus. She gasped as she opened her eyes, her spiritual energy immediately vanishing.

"Clara."

She looked up at me. Her breathing had quickened, and she appeared pale. She glanced down at the jewel halves in her hand. No, no longer where they halves, they had become one, with a small fissure to one side, where three shards would fit.

She frowned, and I stared at the jewel. The darkness at the center of the jewel remained. "Sessh…sesshoumaru," Clara gasped. "Sorry…I couldn't get him out. I…" Her voice trailed off as she fainted, exhaustion finally taking her.

I caught her in my arms as she fell. I looked down at her. She was sleeping. She felt so frail in my arms and—foolishly, I admit—I felt an urge, a desire to protect her.

I frowned as I made my way back to the others, Clara cradled in my arms. Heh. Father, perhaps I am more like you than you thought possible?

Probably.

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.:Clara:.

Would I be forever doomed to eternal darkness?

I felt so alone in this vast emptiness. And yet...

I looked around me. There was nothing but darkness, incomprehensible, endless darkness...

I wrapped my arms around myself. So dark…So quiet…So alone…

But…

I had a purpose here. I glanced down at the sword in my hand. My mistake had killed thousands, had doomed others to a life of misery. I had to right my wrongs, or I would never find peace…

I had to see it through, and until that time came…

I had to keep on fighting.

. . .

My eyes flew open.

"Ah! Master Jaken, you were being too noisy!" Rin's voice jarred me fully awake.

My eyes widened in surprise. Night had fallen. I was leaning against Ah-Un, a thin blanket covering me. Rin was sitting beside me, while Jaken sat across the fire in front of Sesshoumaru, who was sitting under a tree, and keeping to himself. Momitsumi and Hitori were next to Rin, the former holding a flask of water.

"How long have I been asleep?" I mumbled. My head felt groggy. And what was that dream just now?

"Most of the day," Momitsumi said as she stood up and made her way towards Rin and me. She sat beside me.

My eyes widened. "The day?" I said, surprised. The last thing I remembered, before totally blacking out, was trying to purify Naraku from the jewel…

The jewel! My hand automatically dove into my sleeve. I let out a sigh of relief as I pulled out the sacred jewel.

"Isn't that…?" Momitsumi said, her eyes widening when she saw the jewel.

I nodded as I stared at it. There was a speck of darkness in the center—Naraku's darkness. Just what was he up to, hiding in the jewel, of all places? Granted, he didn't have a body, but still…

"Are you hungry, Clara?" Rin suddenly said, snapping me out of my thoughts.

I turned to her. She was holding a bowl of fish stew in her hands. "Thank you. Did you make this?" I said smiling, somewhat surprised as I took it from her. We normally ate broiled fish and fruits…I'd never had stew while we travelled.

Rin shook her head. "Lord Hitori made it!" she said brightly.

"I am no lord, Rin," the demon corrected, still sitting apart from us.

"But you're like one," the little girl insisted. She didn't give him time to reply as she turned back to me. "Go on Clara, try it!"

I tilted the bowl to my lips and took a sip. It was good. In fact, it was very good. Huh. For a fleeting instant, I wondered if Sesshoumaru could cook. The mental image that popped up was hilarious, and I nearly choked from the soup.

"Does the Priestess not find it to her taste?" Hitori asked, raising an eyebrow.

"No, no!" I said hastily, smiling at him. "It's very good…in fact, it's too good. I'm just surprised a demon could cook human food, that's all."

Momitsumi laughed. "Hitori is a man of many talents," she admitted. I stared at her. There was a rather warm look in her eyes. Huh…

"My Lady speaks too highly of me," the demon said, bowing. "It is merely to be expected of Lord Hoshimaru's soldiers."

Momitsumi scoffed. "He has self-effacing issues," she muttered under her breath. She turned back to me. "Speaking of talent…are you still tired?"

I shook my head. "Good!" she said as she stood up and clapped her hand once. "If you remember, you and I should be doing something."

Oh, right. She was going to finish teaching me how to wield a sword. I glanced at Sesshoumaru. He was staring at us, an unfathomable look in his eyes. Probably wondering what Momitsumi was up to. Still, I had to tell him. He was already short-tempered with Momitsumi as it were.

"Just a moment," I said as I abruptly stood. I felt slightly dizzy from the head rush, but managed to keep myself steady as I made my way towards Sesshoumaru.

I blushed lightly as I sat next to him. He turned to me. For once, there was a curious look in his cold eyes.

"What is it?" I was surprised when he asked first.

"Um…do you remember the time, back at your castle? Momitsumi was teaching me the basics of how to use a sword," I began, feeling self-conscious. I think my hair was still mussed up from sleep. I blushed at that.

"Your point?" he asked.

"Well, she's going to finish teaching me," I said. "And no…it's not so I could betray you." I think that was the reason why he had been mad when he caught Momitsumi and me practicing back at the castle. But with him, you couldn't be too sure.

"Why?"

I looked down at my lap. "Well…Last night…you got injured, because you saved me," I said quietly. Surprisingly, he didn't deny the 'saving-the-bothersome-human' part, so I went on. "I…I'm really sorry for what I did to you. Despite what you say, it was still my fault you got injured. If I'd been stronger…" I shook my head. "I'm tired of having to be saved all the time." Though, admittedly, it was rather nice to be saved by him.

I looked back at Sesshoumaru. "I want to help the next time," I said, giving him a small smile. "I want...I want to fight by your side." I blushed, hoping he would dismiss it as nothing more than being close to the campfire. "That's why I want Momitusmi to finish teaching me."

He was quiet for a moment. He stared at me with a cold, intense look, as though he were trying to solve a puzzle. "Don't be ridiculous," he said, scoffing.

I blinked. "What?" I said. Seriously, I wanted to help, and he was calling me ridiculous?

"I will teach you," he went on.

My eyes widened in surprise. "Huh? What? You?!" I said, incredulous, shocked, surprised, flabbergasted, dumbfounded, and amazed. Maybe I didn't hear him right?

"Do you doubt my skills with a sword?" He raised an eyebrow. Was it just me, or did he look peevish?

"No," I said. From what I saw, he was a master swordsman. In fact, Momitsumi had once asked me how come I didn't ask Sesshoumaru to teach me. Well…I just couldn't. I was too shy. Besides, he would have undoubtedly sneered at me, had I even had the guts to ask him.

But now, he was the one offering. He was probably tired of having to save me all the time, I guess…

"Then that is settled," he said, turning his eyes back to the skies. "Rest. You will undoubtedly need it."

Undoubtedly need it.

I gulped.

I was going to die…see if I didn't.

. . .

Darkness around me again.

But no. This time I was not alone.

I could sense them.

I could sense the endless multitude of demons as they surrounded me, like a wall of stone.

Who was I trying to fool? Myself?

I raised my sword as I attacked the endless horde of demons.

I was always alone.

Always.

. . .

I opened my eyes and sat up, my heart beating fast. I covered my face with my hands and let out a long sigh. I had that dream again. I shuddered as I lowered my hands. I'd never had the same dreams before…

I remembered the crushing feeling of the darkness that surrounded me, and the evil that had seeped off of the demons.

What did it mean?

What were these dreams?

Someone cleared their throat and I started, surprised. Jaken was standing in front of me, arms crossed. He was tapping his foot impatiently.

"What?" I asked, my heart still thudding.

"So, you're finally awake!" he whispered. I glanced around. Everyone had fallen asleep already. Momitsumi was sleeping beside me, a thick blanket covering her. Hitori slept beside her, leaning against Ah-Un. Kohaku and Rin were both on my other side. I found it cute that Rin's head rested contentedly on Kohaku's shoulder.

"I'm awake now," I pointed out, stifling a yawn. "Why, anyway?"

He rolled his eyes. "My lord is being most generous, and you are making him wait, you ungrateful girl!" he whispered.

Wha…?

Oh, right! Sesshoumaru had offered to teach me.

My eyes widened in realization. "What?" I stammered. Tonight? Now?

Jaken huffed as he gave me a kick on the knee. "Ow!" I hissed, keeping my voice low. "What the heck was that for?!"

"Wake up, Clara!"

"I am awake!" I snapped.

He turned on his heel and walked towards the bamboo forest. "Then follow me!" he whispered.

I stood up, making sure that I had Shinsei strapped to my waist, before following Jaken. As I followed him, I felt my stomach vanish, and my heart sped faster. Oh kamiSesshoumaru was going to teach me how to use a sword.

This will not end well…

In fact, for a moment, I wondered…did I leave a will behind, back in the present era? I think not. I shook my head. I shouldn't be afraid of him!

I realized that the path Jaken was leading me on was the same path to the brook that Sesshoumaru had led me to earlier in the day. I ran my fingers through my hair, absently combing out the tangles. Soon enough, we arrived at the brook.

Sesshoumaru was sitting on a rock in the middle of the brook, his legs and arms crossed. His eyes were staring down at the water that surrounded him. He was frowning, but when he looked up, his frown vanished, replaced with his customary cold mask.

"I've brought her, my lord, just as you said!" Jaken said, feeling proud to be of service.

Sesshoumaru stood up and jumped, landing gracefully an arm's length away from me. He looked down at me, and I determinedly met his eyes. Nothing was probably colder than those eyes. For an instant, I wondered…how did they get so cold?

He suddenly flicked my nose with a finger.

"Ow!" I snapped, my eyes widening in surprise as I covered my nose with a hand. That stung! "What was that for?!"

"For not paying attention."

I frowned. "You weren't even saying anything!"

"Exactly," he said, raising an eyebrow.

I blinked.

Was it just me, or was my life about to get harder than it already was?

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Firstly, yes, I am still very much alive. I've been very busy over the years, but not quite as busy now, so expect regular-ish updates from me in the future!

Second, I've gone through all the stories I've ever written, and let me tell you guys this…I cringed. I absolutely cringed when I re-read my older stories. The writing was in very poor style, some characters were OOC (especially Sesshoumaru), I had typos (I actually used 'loose' instead of 'lose'! Kill me now!), there were redundancies. Yeah…cringed. One good thing about re-reading all the stories, though, starting from the very first one you wrote, is that you can actuallyseeyourself improving. I'm very happy on that point.

I cannot promise to re-write those stories (that would take several lifetimes xD), but I can promise you guys this: I will improve my writing, and make it even better : )

By the way, I'm sorry if I wasn't able to reply to some of the reviews. Over the years, I've been so busy, I've only had time to read them. Thank you so much. The fact that you guys still review, despite my 'absence' really means a lot to me : )

Review please!