AN: Thank you to SleepingChickenNugget and Nekette for beta-ing.

Chapter 1: A Stroll in the Park

'What has happened… wait, did anything happen? No. Yes?'

Kagome finally opened her eyes to see the world beyond her mind. Immediately, she wanted to go back to her internal debate and avoid her duty. Honor was a vindictive bitch. So were the Kami and Fate, for that matter. Oh yes, she was positive that Fate was its own entity. She was also looking forward to pulling out fistfuls of Fate's hair. Yes, not only was fate an entity, but also a woman in her forty-first week of pregnancy. That would be the only explanation for the current situation. Damn hormonal bitch.

'Okay, wench. Focus... wait, did I just call myself wench? When did Kagome cease to exist in my own mind? Wow, maybe I should refer to myself in the third person until I can remember to… ouch!'

The pain reminded her that she was, in fact, in the middle of a battle. It was not just a little skirmish in which she could yell from on the sidelines, either. There were no sidelines. Well there were, but the creepy crawly things lurking in the shadows of the side lines made you want to be a target painted in neon yellow in the center of the battle field. Again, pain refocused her thoughts as she became aware of someone yelling her name.

'No. Wench is not my name. Kagome meet yourself. Kagome is the only name you should respond to if you ever want others to learn to use it. Oh, and DUCK! DUCK is a good name to respond to.'

The blow to her head was not fatal, but it was enough to cause her to white out for a second. Unfortunately, for the enemy they were facing, it was in this moment of white that clarity showed the path to victory. She was on all fours in the bloody mud with an opponent perched above her, ready to delivery another blow meant to render her defenseless for hours to come, when she began to sing.

"Oh, we're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz."

Kagome's hand wrapped around the calf of her assailant, her nails digging into the flesh. As soon as she knew she had breached the skin, her powers pulsed through her hand. Said assailant screamed in agony, then was no more than ash. The air hummed around her as she stood effortlessly. She proceeded to belt out the same line from the Wizard of Oz over and over again, as she skipped along the yellow brick road.

If one were to get technical, there was no yellow brick road outside of her own vision. The battlefield stilled as all who were present watched the prize go insane. She was skipping happily and singing at the top of her lungs, in a language no one understood. While both allies and enemies alike seemed memorized by the girl's aimless frolicking, none realized that she had reached her goal until she referred to a seemingly inconspicuously attired foe as "Wizard".

"Oh great and terrible Wizard of Oz, we have come to you in search of a way home, a heart, a brain, and courage. Oh, what is that you say? We have had them all along? Wait, let me try." She stepped back and closed her eyes, muttering 'There is no place like home' while clicking her heels together. "Oh damn, I lost my ruby slippers. Mind if I borrow yours?"

With that said, Kagome reached forward blasting her power through her hands. The force she used purified the opposing leader as well as all standing in front of her on the battlefield. She stood exhausted from her contribution to the fight, and turned when she felt movement behind her. Another of the enemy had advanced on her, intending to seek retribution for his fallen leader.

She smiled at him, but frowned when a giant steel fang cleaved him in two. Looking at the one controlling the fang, she whined, "But I wanted to keep the flying monkey, such a waste of pixie dust." Falling into blackness, she didn't care if life or death waited for her on the other end.

Inuyasha caught her before she could fall face first into a puddle of her own blood. Kagome had destroyed more than three quarters of the enemy forces. Besides taking down the well-hidden leader of the rebel forces, she had also attacked the shadow youkai that were used to keep the fight out in the open. Her light was still seeking them out, forcing the same torture they used on their prey to overcome them.

This was supposed to be a simple battle. No one was expecting that the rebel leader would venture out into the open. However, the rebels believed that they could take down the second son with the shadow. The West was unaware that rebels had managed to gain control of the elusive youkai since their escape. Once it was known that shadows surrounded the field, none from the west believed there was a chance for survival. How do you fight an enemy that has no weaknesses? However, they would not surrender. It would not be through their cowardice that the West would fall.

The day was won only one miko later. Now the rebels saw that to oppose the West meant a painful death. Inuyasha almost pitied the enemies that survived this field only to be pumped for information in the dungeons. He quickly set that thought aside when a gasp for air came from the small woman in his arms.

She was not supposed to have been there. She was supposed to be in the garden of the Western Citadel. She was supposed to be protected. Actually, she was supposed to have returned home many years ago, but his freedom cost her more than he could ever repay. However, these thoughts would need to wait until he had gotten her someplace where her injuries could be taken care of. In all of the years that she had patched him, Inuyasha had never learned to properly bandage wounds. It had only been in the last eight years that he ever had to worry about others.


Reaching the gates of the Grand Citadel, Inuyasha decided to forgo protocol and headed directly to the healers. If his brother wanted an immediate report, then he should have guarded his charge more carefully.

Laying Kagome down on one of the many futons, the healer approached. A heavy 'tsking' was heard as the healer checked over her body. The wounds on her shoulder and thigh were still bleeding heavily and the gash just above her left hip looked as if it were already festering with infection. The stench coming from the wound as the cloth covering it was removed had Inuyasha almost passing out.

The smell had Inuyasha so disoriented that he did not feel his brother's approach.

"Inuyasha, a commander never leaves his army alone on the battle field." Sesshoumaru's senses were on high alert. It had been the smell of Kagome's blood that alerted him to Inuyasha's approach. Now that he was close to her, he was aware that something was definitely not right. Well besides the fact that she obviously had wounds from a battle she was intended to have no part in.

"I ain't no commander. That army ain't following me, just father's fang. I'm still a dirty half breed to those dogs."

Sesshoumaru only half listened as he stepped closer to the prone form on the futon. Her breathing was far too erratic for the wounds she had. It almost seemed as if she was drowning on the air. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the wound over her hip.

He had seen this before; this was not good. He could feel that her powers were low, but still, how could it survive within her? One of the shadow youkai had invaded her body through her wound.

"How did you get from the battle field to here?" Please let him not be so stupid as to have run through the underbrush.

"We came through the forest. There wasn't time to go around." Inuyasha looked at his brother wondering why he would care.

Baka. "Going over would have been faster. Your time saving has further endangered her life as well as those who seek safety here."

Sesshoumaru turned and ordered a ring of continuous light placed around the room. Turning back to Inuyasha, he demanded a briefing of the battle. When he realized that Inuyasha needed more prompting to relay the pertinent information, he almost sighed.

"The leader's identity, was it discovered?"

"The stupid wench purified him before any of us realized who he actually was. It was weird; he just let her skip right up to him."

Sesshoumaru's eyebrow rose. Skipped? Who skips in the middle of a battle?

Yet Inuyasha, completely unaware of his brother's inner monologue, continued on with his recant of the leader's final moments of the battle. "She asked to borrow his ruby slippers. Then she purified him, all who stood behind his back, and the shadows that walled us into the field."

"Purified the shadows without seeing them?"

"I don't know what she did to them exactly. Feh. Whatever it was she did, it sounded horribly painful."

Kagome's voice reached to their ears as though she were trapped beneath a mountain. "Rooted in light. She cast us where the only shadows were our own. Centuries to atone for. No path to follow. White is the path, Black is salvation."

"What the … One of those things is in her? How do we kill it?"

"We do not. If she is strong enough she will. If not then she is lost. The circle of light will ensure the others of the Citadel are safe."

With that said Sesshoumaru turned on his heel and walked away. Having watched others try to overpower a shadow within their own body, he had no interest in seeing it again. The miko was most likely already dead.

Inuyasha stared at his brother's back. Fine let the fluffy bastard walk away. It is not as if he owed her his lands or anything. No, no one owed Kagome anything. She had not saved the world. She had not unconditionally loved. She had not forgiven any trespass against her. She had not chosen honor and duty over her own selfish desires. No, Kagome was not any one's heroine.

"Inuyasha…" He rushed to her side. "Outside the ring."

"Wench, what are ya talking about? There is no ring. How hard was your head hit? Are you stupid now or something?"

"Sit boy." Nothing happened. Even though the rosary had been removed long ago, the phrase still did caused him to flatten his ears. She only used it when she needed him to listen. "Go beyond the light…. Not much time… safe… please."

Here she was mostly dead, and still she was trying to save him from his own mistake. Ears flat, he stepped beyond ring she had been talking about, finally. He watched in morbid fascination as she reached her hand into the festering wound above her hip. She made no sound, the only thing to belie her calm demeanor were the tears streaming down her face. He thought that she had finally gone insane, as she dug around inside herself. Then he knew she was insane as she started laughing hysterically. He had almost breached the ring when she pulled a small figure from her wound.

She had pulled the shadow from her body. It stood no more than nine inches tall. It was a child. The shadows were using their children in the assault. Why would anyone use children in war? Surely this is not the mentality of the enemy they were facing? 'To send children…' Inuyasha physically shook off the thought, as he sent a servant to retrieve his brother.

The scene in front of him became even more bizarre as Kagome cradled the child to her chest, cooing to it the whole time.

Sesshoumaru reentered the area minutes later, slightly disturbed with himself for under estimating the miko yet again. He had been prepared for many scenarios; however, the miko treating the shadow as she had once treated the kit was not one of them.

"Shush, flying monkey, you are free. The wicked witch has melted. No one is left to control you."

"Miko." Sesshoumaru had no idea what she was talking about, the insufferable wench. He was wondering if it was worth protecting an insane miko, even if she was a facet to ultimate power. "Put the shadow down."

"If I let go, the monkey will fly into the shadows. Much easier to hold her than to catch her."

Maybe she was not completely insane, after all. "Hn."

"They weren't our enemies. They were slaves. I tortured innocents; well they were not very innocent, but that is not the point. They were not fighting because they chose to. They were forced to. Their only crime was acting on their nature. They do not deserve the light. It is too bright; in it, they see their actions as wrong. How can it be wrong when that was the how the species was designed to survive? If anyone was in the wrong, it was their creator. Oh, and those who manipulated the shadows into to doing their bidding."

"Hn." He came back for this headache; why? Oh, yes. His baka brother sent for him. Well, perhaps maybe he was the baka for heeding the call. No, he was lord. He was no baka; he had proven that fact over the centuries as he had maintained control over his domain. "This Sesshoumaru must have the shadow threat vanquished from his domain."

"Yes, they have a domain of their own. They would go back to it if the light was not blocking their path. The Rebels promised to remove the light once the West fell. I think it was a lie, but they had no choice but to believe. White is path, black is salvation, gray is my life."

The hollowness of her eyes as she spoke shook Sesshoumaru to the bone. Never had he seen this miko this empty before. The realization dawned, that it was not just the miko speaking. She was allowing the shadow to channel through her, so that the shadow could stand the light. This could be far more disastrous than if the shadow had simply killed her.

"Miko, you will release the shadow."

"Sesshoumaru-sama, the shadow cannot gain control. This is the only way to question the child, for she is unable to communicate. The light silenced her pleas for mercy."

Insolent wench. How had she not been struck down before now? "This Sesshoumaru does not repeat himself."

"That is good, because the statement would yield the same result. I have wronged, and I must atone for the mistakes made in the heat of battle." She then muttered under her breath, in such a way that both brothers had to strain to hear, "Stupid ruby slippers were too shiny."

Inuyasha had realized that Kagome had not gone insane, but was instead having a moment of clarity. The problem with these moments of clarity was that, for weeks, she would think and speak in riddles. So the sooner they understood the riddle, the sooner his Kagome would come back.

"Kagome what are the ruby slippers for?" His usually rough speech was set aside, as if he was speaking to a child.

Sesshoumaru was not expecting the sudden attitude change in his younger sibling. He had begrudgingly admitted to himself that Inuyasha had matured in the five years since the downfall of Naraku. Yet this sudden change in demeanor had nothing to do with Inuyasha's maturity level. No, Inuyasha recognized that something significant had changed in the miko's condition. The fact that his brother noticed it before him did nothing soothe the irritation that he was now feeling at being unaware of the change in the current state of affairs of the West.

"Only when they're on can I walk the yellow brick road." The way in which she replied reminded both brothers of a small child stating an obvious answer to a silly question.

Inuyasha realized that her riddle had to do with something from her childhood. The problem was that there was no one alive who understand. Sure, they could wait five hundred years or so to understand, but he was sure that would be just a tad too late. "Where does the road go?"

"To the Emerald City."

Sesshoumaru was tired of the girl speaking in riddles. Did she not realize that he had things that were more important to attend to, now? Selfish mortals, always thinking only of themselves. This needed to be attended to immediately. "Why would one travel to the Emerald City?"

"To ask the Wizard for a brain, a heart, courage, and a way home. Only, he didn't have those things. Everyone had what he or she was wishing for, already. Now, I must turn the lights off so the shadow can follow the path as well." The statement set her to her feet, as she pulled the blanket around herself. This move effectively shielded the shadow child from the ring of light meant to contain her. She walked away from both who had sworn to protect her, her mission was clear right now.

She had almost turned down to the main corridor when she stopped and said, "Sesshoumaru-sama, did you know that the Wizard was only a man pretending to be more important than he really was? Just a scared, lonely man living in a world he knew nothing about and trying to find his place. Sometimes that seems so familiar."

With a bow, she was gone.

Sesshoumaru turned to Inuyasha, "You are to control your bitch better in the future. She is too valuable to place on a battle field, no matter how bored you get sitting around the Citadel." The sound of rustling silk denoted that the lord of the domain had left.

"She ain't my bitch. She's just mine to protect." His voice was sad and defeated, knowing that his Kagome had never truly existed. No, it had always been Kagome, human pinball for the Kami and Fate that he had known, and that he knew now.


AN: thank you for reading please review.