Inuyasha wasn't sure what hurt more as he awoke: his side, or his pride. Sesshomaru had injured both very badly, and it wasn't helping that he had left his scent everywhere: including on Kikyo. The female crouched next to him, bent over him, trying to patch up his wounds as best as possible. Inuyasha was silently grateful to her for trying: the pain was slowly dulling from being stabbed repeatedly with swords and knives to just a dull throbbing, like the wound was being tapped with a dull hammer. Inuyasha groaned slightly upon waking: Kikyo glanced up at him, checking to see if he was conscious, and then returned to tending his wounds.

"Where…where's Sesshomaru…?"

"He left," Kikyo said, through pursed lips. "And Naraku fled, after Sesshomaru glared at him."

Inuyasha felt a snort escape his nose; the sudden spasm, however, split his side again with a fresh wave of pain. Inuyasha gasped, and felt his body spasm into itself. Kikyo's own worried gasp didn't help him. She bore down harder with her healing powers, trying to at least stop the vicious bleeding. "Once you're healed," she said, "I suggest training. Lots of it. Sesshomaru very easily could have killed you. You're lucky he's an easily bored individual."

Inuyasha closed his eyes, sighing and trying to exhale all of the stress in his body. He knew that the more he relaxed, the better off he would be. Kikyo sighed herself, and then poured even more attention into Inuyasha.

As if it would help her get her mind off his older brother.

Still, she had done her part. She had grabbed Tetsusaiga in the middle of the battle, as soon as Inuyasha had fallen unconscious and dropped the sword, and given it to Kagura, who would, in turn, give it to Naraku. Kikyo's eyes watered at the thought of betraying Inuyasha: but still, she couldn't hide the fact that she had done so, and for his brother's sake. Sesshomaru needed both blades to defeat Sounga, and Inuyasha would never try working with Sesshomaru again. The last time was a fluke: Inuyasha and Sesshomaru just happened to attack at the same time, and from relatively the same direction. Sounga just couldn't withstand both strikes at once. Kikyo sighed softly, willing away her tears. She couldn't afford to be soft, now. She had a job to do.

OOOOOOOOOO

"Sesshomaru-sama!"

"He's back? So soon?"

"Is he injured?"

"Of course not, it's Sesshomaru-sama!"

"Is he carrying the head of his adversary?"

"I don't see one…"

"He probably incinerated the corpse."

"Stupid, he dissolved it with his claws!"

Sesshomaru was greeted by thousands of eyes staring at him as he took Ah-Un down for a rather turbulent landing. The dragon stumbled a bit as Sesshomaru's weight was suddenly thrown off him; he stepped forward, shook his head, and snorted indignantly at Sesshomaru. The inu-yokai merely snapped back at him, flashing his teeth dangerously. Understandably, the servants around took this to be an indicator of Sesshomaru's mood, and backed away slowly. Sesshomaru thrust Ah-Un's reins at the closest servant, and walked towards his manor house with the grace and beauty of an entire flock of swans. The sparse welcoming party for Sesshomaru parted quickly and silently; a small bit of muttering could be heard here and there, but Sesshomaru ignored it. Base human nature could not be fought against. The inu walked swiftly through the crowds, keeping his aloof, holier-than-thou attitude as he ascended the steps to the front doors of his manor.

A lone woman stood in his way.

Sesshomaru's golden eyes narrowed at the sight of the woman sitting on a floating feather, leaning on one hand and resting the other on a wrapped parcel. "Welcome back, Sesshomaru-sama," Kagura purred, rising elegantly to her feet and bowing respectfully to Sesshomaru. "My time is short," she said, turning her back to him momentarily and picking up the wrapped parcel. "So I must do this quickly. Before Naraku realizes I have turned on him. The sword, my lord..."

Sesshomaru showed no reaction to her statement, other than single, perfect eyebrow arching towards his hairline. He did not reach for the wrapped sword just yet. "Do not dance around the point, Kagura," he said, voice dropping dangerously low. "My own hands cannot grasp the Tetsusaiga; that, we all know. How will you enable this arm to touch the blade?"

Kagura's smirk only grew. "I made a spell not to modify the arm, Sesshomaru-sama," she said, turning back to pick up the other wrapped bundle, "but the sword itself. See how I am able to hold it, and not be burned by its aura? I found a spell that Naraku was using to cancel out the purities in the Shikon shards he possessed. I modified it slightly, and cast it on the sword. Now, it has no barriers, and anyone may grasp it. I trust you to safeguard it better than Inuyasha."

"Speaking of," Sesshomaru said, untying the string around the package, "how did you steal the sword from him?"

"Kikyo delivered it to me as soon as Inuyasha lost his grip," Kagura said, shrugging. "I cast the spell behind Naraku's back, by sneaking off with it after the fight. I said I was meeting Kikyo for the sword. I had actually stashed it in a bush."

Sesshomaru sighed. "Risky," he said, but nothing more. Kagura took that as her cue to shut up and let Sesshomaru figure it out for himself, and stepped back to wait.

Sesshomaru pulled the cloth off the sword, revealing the pale sheath and the wrapped hilt. He reached towards it slowly, almost hesitantly, as if for fear Kagura might be lying. Feeling no resistance, and not even a tingle from the blade, Sesshomaru picked it up, carefully wrapping his fingers around it and lifting the elegant sword from its makeshift casing. The sword slid beautifully out of its sheath, blade shining and blazing brighter with every second Sesshomaru spent drawing it. Finally, when the sword was fully drawn, it was transformed. The blade simply enchanted Sesshomaru: he couldn't have ever imagined a more beautiful, more powerful tool than this. Tetsusaiga: the weapon that could incinerate a hundred demons in one pass. The master of this blade-now Sesshomaru-could take down an entire army with little more than a flick of his wrist.

"Amazing, Kagura" Sesshomaru whispered, for once, at a loss for words. "Your dedication is astounding. Perhaps…perhaps, I have judged you too harshly. Come with me, please, and we'll see about getting you situated in this house."

Kagura felt a huge smile suddenly light up her face. Sesshomaru trusted her now! And that had been the objective all along. Once Sesshomaru trusted her, it was all good from there. If she had the protection of the great inu-yokai, lord of the west, ruler of the three swords of supreme conquest…well! Even Naraku wouldn't mess with that! And now, with both Tenseiga ad Tetsusaiga hanging at his hip, Sesshomaru was almost unstoppable. Once he got a hold of Sounga, which should be easy for a demon of his caliber, Sesshomaru would be the greatest demon that ever lived, surpassing even his father.

And the reason for that would be choosing a demon mate.

Of course Kagura thought of herself: who better?! She had gone to the ends of the earth and back to please him, and she had earned his trust. Now, Sesshomaru wouldn't have the stain on his name like his father did, choosing a mortal woman as his soul mate, abandoning the demon woman who bore his first pup. No one dared mock Sesshomaru's father while he were still alive: but in death, a different story was told. Kagura saw Sesshomaru becoming greater than any demon ever was, and ever would be. He would protect her, free her from Naraku, and finally, after everything she had done for him, he would repay her by allowing her to bear his own pups. And they would both be the rulers of the west, and raise their offspring the same way. Princes and princesses of a truly worthy dynasty, one that she and Sesshomaru would found.

"Sesshomaru-sama!"

Kagura snapped out of her slightly-stretched fantasy to see Rin running down the halls, hurtling towards Sesshomaru with arms outstretched. The towering demon bent down, accepting Rin's welcome-back hug like she hadn't just come running at him full tilt. Kagura had to smile slightly at this; Rin wasn't a threat to her as far as winning Sesshomaru's attentions as a mate came. She was more his daughter, and Sesshomaru, however much he loved her, would probably never see her as anything more. One didn't mate with someone they had raised, and Sesshomaru disdained half-breeds. He would never sire one!

"Rin, is there a room ready?"

Rin glanced at Kagura, and Sesshomaru nodded once. Kagura envied their silent communication. She only wished she knew someone well enough to communicate with them without words. Well, hopefully that could happen for Sesshomaru as well. Rin could be like a little sister to her…Kagura couldn't help but imagine life as perfect. She had something to hope for, and she wasn't letting it go.

"Yeah," Rin answered, seemingly for Kagura's sake. "Kagura-san, if you'll allow me..."

Kagura felt a smile touch her lips, and gladly followed Rin down the hall and into a room off to the right. The room was of medium size, with a bed, a dresser, and a mirror arranged seemingly perfectly around the room. A large window, open and with the drapes fluttering in the wind, rested in the wall on the opposite side of the room from the door. Kagura smiled, stepping into the room.

"Tell Sesshomaru-sama his generosity is not wasted."

Rin smiled. "Will do," she said. "If you need anything, just let me know. I'll help however I can."

Kagura nodded. "Thanks," she said. "I'll find Sesshomaru-sama later. Is that okay?"

"It's fine," Rin said, still smiling pleasantly at Kagura. "But…ne, Kagura-san…can I talk to you…just for a minute?"

"Sure," Kagura said, a bit surprised. What could Rin possibly want to talk to her about? She couldn't imagine it had to do with Naraku: they all knew she despised him, and wanted nothing more than to have him die at her feet. It was probably about Sesshomaru. Kagura hoped it wouldn't come to drama between the two of them; she didn't want to have to hurt Rin, but she might have to if it meant making her see the truth.

"It's about Sesshomaru-sama."

Oh, here we go.

Well, just remain calm, and all will be fine, Kagura told herself. Just be civil, and as kind and gentle as possible. "Sure," Kagura said, trying to keep a bright face. "Here, sit for a second," she said, walking over to her new bed and sitting down at one end. Rin sat down on the other, and started almost immediately:

"Look, I know this is going to be a difficult adjustment for all of us, especially Sesshomaru-sama. It's going to be hard for him, having someone he cares about so close-"

"Huh?" Kagura was instantly confused. "You're not talking about me, are you?"

Rin laughed. "Come on, Kagura-san, you're not stupid, and you don't have knotholes for eyes. Sesshomaru-sama cares about you a lot! Why else would he accept your offers of help, and even take you under his protection and right into his house? He's barely known you…what, a month, and you're already here? Sesshomaru-sama only took me in because I was a little child, and unable to care for myself. But, now, I can, and I take care of him, in return. I spoil him, yes, but it's my way of saying thanks. So, as I was saying, Sesshomaru-sama cares about you. And you care for him. It's going to be hard for both of you to keep yourselves controlled until all of this is over."

Kagura flinched slightly. "Is it that obvious?"

Rin smiled in return. "I'm not stupid, either, nor do I have knotholes for eyes. I can see that you want nothing more than to bear Sesshomaru-sama's pups. Well, you know what? Go right ahead. I promise, I won't get jealous." Rin's smile broadened. "He raised me. I see him more as a father, or maybe an older brother than a mate. I wouldn't want to bring the shame of fathering half-breeds on him. You're a full demon, Kagura-san, and he really cares for you. Please, make him happy. Don't hold back, just let him know!"

Kagura sighed softly, but she still smiled in the smallest. "I wish I could," she whispered. "It's not that simple." The almost-painful depth of Rin's naïveté was both adorable and a burden. "I need to sort myself out first, and I can't afford distractions. Besides, there is also the matter of me possibly dying in this fight. I can't deny it, and I don't want Sesshomaru-sama to become too attached to me. That way, if I die, I won't hurt him. At least, not as badly."

Rin shook her head. "Just try," she urged, standing up. "I know it'll be better in the long run." Kagura watched Rin's retreating back with interest, wondering where the child had gotten such wisdom. It was intriguing. But, she supposed living with Sesshomaru brought lots of philosophical discussions about life and love and emotions and family names and swords and…demons…Kagura shook herself, and flopped over to bury her face in her pillow.

Dinner was going to be so awkward tonight.

A/N: Review. Do it now.