Chapter Twenty: The Epilogue

Inuyasha took one more lap around the perimeter of the Higurashi estate. He'd already secured the area, but he wasn't leaving anything to chance. Ever since Naraku and his accomplice had ransacked the mansion for the Shikon - and nearly killed everyone in the process - Inuyasha had become even more protective of the Higurashi family, especially of one little raven-haired miko in particular.

With an effortless leap, Inuyasha landed on his old perch: the broad, familiar surface of the ancient Goshinboku tree where he'd spent many a night silently watching over Kagome without her knowledge. In an ironic twist of fate he was now being paid a very generous sum to watch over her - and he didn't have to sit in a tree like a retarded squirrel all night to do it. A crooked smile slid across his face as glanced over at Kagome's huddled form swaddled in blankets. The sun was barely up and Kagome was still abandoned to sleep.

Safe and sound. Though Inuyasha knew there was no danger lurking, he still felt a sense of relief, seeing with his own eyes that she was safe. With one last, lingering look, Inuyasha launched himself from the tree branch and continued on his circuit. He was now in charge of security, which meant he could hire and fire personnel at will. The Empress was very grateful to him for saving her only daughter more than once. Inuyasha didn't think he quite deserved the woman's gratitude, but he was pleased that he had control over Kagome's safety.

The first thing he'd done was update the technology. Strategically placed camera's followed his every movement, part of the upgraded security. As Inuyasha was reaching the end of the perimeter, he shot a glare at the camera swiveling towards him. Knowing who was on the other end, keeping an eye on the footage, Inuyasha deftly lifted his middle finger as he passed by.

It still felt a little odd being able to just stroll through the front doors of the mansion, but that's exactly what Inuyasha did, as nonchalant as he cared to be. He ambled down the main hall, glancing over at the banquet room. The doors were shut tight; no one had gone in since the night Naraku had invaded. A lot of blood had been spilled, lives had been lost; a lot of dark memories haunted the great room, hiding in the corners and the crannies of the vaulted ceiling like spider webs.

It had been over a month since Naraku had reared his ugly head. The unholy mess and blood he had left behind had been cleaned; everything was excised of Naraku's presence, but everyone still avoided going there. It brought back even darker memories of the past.

Inuyasha shuddered as he walked by, anger quietly smoldering in his heart, quickly turning the corner. Some days he wanted to bring Naraku back to life just to kill him again. He passed a few of the newest recruits, also part of the new security upgrade. Their eyes grazed over him before returning to the familiar face that was leading them around. Inuyasha smirked, biting back an amused chuckle. The newest additions to the guard were primarily youkai, which caused quite a stir from the public.

Youkai guarding the Empress shocked most of the public and angered others. Humans were mostly mistrustful of youkai, especially since Naraku had swept through and left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. The thing humans didn't understand was that other youkai didn't care for Naraku and they certainly didn't appreciate the trouble he caused for the youkai name after all the progress thay had gained in the human world. Luckily, the Empress harbored no ill will and remembered who had defended her and lost their lives in order to protect her from Naraku the first time he tried to destroy her family. It seemed the Empress was in favor of equality for all and hopefully the rest of the nation would follow suit.

"Hey, Sango," Inuyasha greeted casually, nodding in the brunette's direction.

Her eyes swept over her friend and she smiled brightly. "Morning, Inuyasha," she replied before turning back to her training. Inuyasha's smirk grew as one of new guys sent Inuyasha a pleading look. Inuyasha didn't envy the new recruits. He knew Sango was a tough teacher, but he knew the new recruits ought to feel thankful that it wasn't his turn to train them. As rough as Sango's course seemed, Inuyasha new his was exponentially harder.

In order to gain respect from the new youkai, Sango had to be tougher,quicker, more clever. Normally a youkai would never subject themselves to a role under a human, especially a human female, but times were changing and Sango was a worthy leader. Inuyasha knew Sango wasn't cutting anyone any slack, but they would be better off for it. Sango was an exceptionally talented teacher and very thorough.

Inuyasha could almost trust Sango to train the new recruits as well as he could. Almost. Inuyasha turned down another hallway and passed through a doorway that led him to the basement level. He quickly descended the stairs and came into a dark, spacious room. Three out of the four walls were lined with flat-screen monitors varying in size, and a large metal desk pressed up against the far wall housed a high-tech computer that had more wires and gadgets hooked up to it than Inuyasha had ever seen. In addition, Miroku had a slim laptop balanced precociously on his lap, though his eyes weren't on the screen. The dark-haired man sat in the middle of the room, watching the security footage from his chair that he was currently leaning back in, balancing the chair on two legs instead of four.

"Hey," Inuyasha said gruffly, announcing his presence.

"Oh, hello, Inuyasha." Miroku quickly settled his chair back on all four legs and switched one of the smaller monitors close to him from a soap-opera back to the live footage of the perimeter labeled area 2, section C.

Inuyasha sent his long-time friend a half-hearted glare, wondering how he'd managed to hook up cable TV in the basement. "How's it going?"

"Mmm... cheated on Daisuke with Akira and now she's pregnant and unsure of who the father is," Miroku offered good-naturedly, taking a sip of hot coffee from his thermos.

Inuyasha rolled his eyes. "I'm not talking about your stupid show."

Miroku pretended to look hurt, flashing Inuyasha an indignant glare. "It's not stupid. It's the hottest day-time drama of our time. It's well written, has a dynamite cast, and it has great production value, which is more than I can say for the competing shows in the same time slots."

"Well, since you have time to watch shitty television I'm just going to assume everything is going smoothly." Inuyasha turned to walk away.

"I guess you don't want to hear the latest information about Kagome's little, ahem, incident?" Miroku asked slyly, composing his face so that it reflected bored indifference.

Inuyasha froze, then turned on Miroku, his golden eyes blazing. His mind conjured the image of Kagome's arrow cracking the round, smooth surface of the Shikon. The next thing he remembered was an uncannily bright light splitting the sky like lighting, fireworks flying out in all directions. Then ordinary darkness had returned to the earth and only a small fragment of the jewel remained.

"What did you hear?" Inuyasha commanded, earning an annoyed look from the dark-haired young man.

"Calm down, you know I'm going to tell you."

Inuyasha removed himself from Miroku's personal space and leveled an impatient look in his direction.

"Reports just came in about another jewel fragment being found. Rumors, but our sources indicate that it's highly likely a piece of the Shikon." Miroku's dark blue eyes glinted under the unnatural light the monitors illuminated.

"Shit. That's the third one this month," Inuyasha sighed through clenched teeth. They had been so careful not to let news of the broken jewel leak to the media. It would cause intense unrest in the land; everyone would want their own part of the jewel, especially since it seemed that each fragment of the Shikon held a remnant of power of the whole jewel. Humans retained miraculous capabilities, youkai gained strength. If the public found out...the repercussions would be disastrous. The Empress was using her vast recourses to keep the incident under wraps, but with rumors flying around it was getting increasingly hard to keep the secret safe.

Humans and youkai alike were stumbling upon the fragments, unaware of what they were, but they discovered the powers none-the-less. Sooner or later word would get out.

"What happened this time?"

"The details vary, but apparently a human found the jewel shard and was later able to use it to save his life when he was fatally injured."

"Where's the jewel now?" Inuyasha growled.

A mirthless smile crossed Miroku's lips. "Gone."

"Figures," Inuyasha grunted. "At least tell me we've got someone investigating this further?"

"We're trying. There's really not much anyone can do short of scouring the earth for all the broken pieces of the Shikon. The empress has a team out, the government is keeping this under wraps. Basically, we're just waiting for the ball to drop. When this bomb explodes we're just doing our best to be able to control the damage."

Inuyasha's eyes glazed over as Miroku continued talking. He heard snippets of the one-sided conversation - "shrapnel," "casualties," "after-shock" - but Inuyasha had lost himself deep in thought, his mind racing. Silently, Inuyasha turned to leave, shoulders tense, face pensive.

"By the way, I enjoyed the lovely hand gesture you sent me. I think I'll make it into a still frame and send it out as a Christmas card next year," Miroku chuckled, watching the hanyou's retreating form.

"Yeah, you do that," Inuyasha deadpanned, shaking his head.

"Hey, by the way, since I'm stuck in here all day, every day, do you think I can get a more comfortable chair?"

"Fuck off, Miroku," Inuyasha replied almost cheerfully as he jogged up the stairs.

"I'll take that as a yes," was Miroku's equally cheerful reply.

Inuyasha left the basement and headed for the upper level. It was now late morning and Inuyasha had a suspicion a certain princess was sleeping in. He followed the now-familiar path to Kagome's room, his spirits lifting as soon as he caught a hint of her delicate scent. Savoring each breath, Inuyasha stopped at her door and knocked lightly.

The silence on the other side of the door confirmed his suspecions. Inuyasha carefully turned the door knob and slowly opened the door wide enough to stick his head in.

"Oi, Princess. You gonna' sleep all day?"

Kagome shifted beneath the blankets, lifting her head high enough to get a good look at her personal alarm clock.

"Good morning to you too," she mumbled with a sleepy smile.

"Keh, more like good afternoon."

Kagome stuck her tongue out and then barricaded herself back under the covers. Inuyasha leaned against the door frame, watching the Kagome-shaped lump under the blankets. Her overweight cat gave a disgruntled meow before burrowing under Kagome's blankets, clearly perturbed that Inuyasha had disturbed his rest.

"Don't you have lessons with Kaede soon?" He queried, silently amused.

"Yeah, that's wonderful motivation. Get out of my nice, warm, comfy bed so I can go over some math problems, read a little literature, familiarize myself with some history, and then last but not least, humiliate myself in front of Kaede with some of my brilliant archery."

"Hmm." Inuyasha empathized.

"I should just stick to medical training. I'm a terrible priestess." The young woman grumbled from under her blankets.

"S'not true." Inuyasha came over to sit on the edge of her mattress.

Kagome poked her head out from under the blankets, her dark hair tumbling around her small face, accentuating the pout on her full lips. "Yes it is."

Inuyasha sighed. "Are your spiritual powers still AWOL?"

"Yes," was her sad reply. "Kaede and I have tried everything...but it's like I'm empty now. My spiritual power is virtually nonexistent."

Kagome met Inuyasha's calm, golden gaze. She could see the concern lurking in his amber orbs and was glad that he cared enough to worry for her. She knew they were both thinking about the same thing: the night she'd faced off against Naraku. When Kagome had thought Inuyasha was fatally injured, her spiritual powers had set off like napalm. Since then, she hadn't been able to summon an inkling of spiritual energy. In a way, she was blind. Even though Inuyasha was sitting right beside her she couldn't sense an ounce of youki.

Her eyes slid over his figure as his ears twitched agitatedly, silently thrilled that he felt comfortable enough to come so close. Since he'd moved into the mansion he'd been trying to keep her at arm's length even though Kagome desperately wanted things to go back to the way they used to be. She missed contact with him, however platonic it might be. Kagome was an affectionate person, she used touch to convey how she was feeling. She missed being able to press a comforting hand to his shoulder, or tugging on his long, silver locks when he annoyed her, or being able to hug him if she felt like it. She missed being able to act like a friend, not a princess that he had to answer to.

"Try not to worry about it too much," Inuyasha suggested. He thought about telling Kagome about the latest news about the Shikon, but she already looked miserable and he didn't want to lay another burdon on the young miko so soon. Clearing his throat, Inuyasha got to his feet, bringing Kagome's attention to his lean, lanky silhouette. His physique was accentuated by the formal uniform the royal guard wore while on duty. It was a traditional regalia consisting of primarily red and white haori and hakama. Light weight metal plating protected his chest and shoulders and a royal blue obi was tied around his narrow waist.

Kagome hid her blush behind her hair, unable to ignore how handsome her favorite hanyou looked in uniform. To top off his ensemble, his long silver hair was tied back in a loose warriors braid that trailed down his back. With his hair pulled back, his strong jaw line and sharp cheek bones were emphasized, and Kagome found she had a hard time concentrating on anything else with him in the room.

"Easier said then done," she said, but she forced her lips to quirk up in a smile. "But I guess you're right. Worrying about it hasn't done me any good so far."

"That's the spirit." He shot her a crooked half-smile that warmed Kagome's heart. "Now stop acting like a spoiled little princess and get out of bed."

Kagome tossed a pillow at him but he managed to dodge it easily and left her room with a wry smirk. "Jerk!" Kagome called out, but she was smiling as she climbed out of bed and got ready for her morning shower.

Inuyasha topped off his morning routine by finding his way to the kitchen. Chiasa, the old, white haired chef, leveled him with a flat glare as soon as he encroached on her territory. "What do you want, dog?"

"Don't give me that attitude, fox," Inuyasha retorted. He sighed inwardly. 'As if Shippou wasn't bad enough...'

The woman's face tensed and her glare intensified. "Shh! You never know who could overhear you."

"I don't see why you hide your true identity. The Empress obviously doesn't care if you're youkai. There's a dozen of them walking around." Inuyasha quirked an eyebrow at the white-haired kitsune. He'd never seen her true form; she took the form of an old woman, though considerably younger looking than Kaede. She had no hunch, her figure was still slender and tall. Her hair was white, thick, and was well kept in a loose, soft looking bun at the base of her neck. Inuyasha knew she was an old, powerful kitsune because her human form was flawless. Usually, when Kitsune's borrowed forms they couldn't hold them for very long or atleast couldn't hold them so well. Shippou's human forms still boasted his furry tail and he couldn't hold them for more than a few minutes.

"I have my reasons, puppy," she smiled, sharp emerald eyes focusing on him. "Now I suppose you want to be fed?"


"Very well."

Inuyasha hid a smile. The old bat put up a rough front, but she still prepared his favorite any-time-of-day snack: ramen. And not the pre-made packaged ramen, either - though Inuyasha wouldn't complain if she did. Chiasa made it fresh and served it hot, steaming, and fragrant.

Inuyasha breathed in the aroma appreciatively as Chiasa slid a bowl towards him. He perched on one of the marble counter tops and eagerly tore into the freshly prepared noodles with gusto, watching as the white-haired kitsune moved easily, almost gracefully, around the kitchen.

It wasn't long before Kagome appeared in the kitchen, Shippou trailing at her heels.

"Good morning Chiasa-san!" Kagome greeted cheerfully.

"Kagome-sama, Shippou-chan; Good morning." Chiasa's smile was kind and motherly as she eyed the newcomers. Shippou smiled timidly at the senior kitsune and Chiasa winked back.

With a quick glance at the clock Chiasa grinned wryly. "I suppose I'll make you two something to go. Wouldn't want to anger Kaede-san, would we?"

"No," Kagome and Shippou replied in glum unison while Inuyasha chortled into his ramen.

Chiasa quickly whipped the unwilling students up some delicious confection they could easily eat on the go.

"Can't I just have a poptart?" Shippou asked innocently.

"A poptart?" Chiasa sounded stricken, as if Shippou had just announced his intention to implode a bomb in her kitchen. "Why, I never." She sent Shippou a scathing look and the small kitsune picked up on the quiet, subsonic growl the older kitsune emitted.

With a gulp, Shippou wisely took his offered breakfast and he and Kagome made a hasty retreat. As Kagome left the kitchen area she looked back once, sending a long, wistful glance Inuyasha's way. It took Inuyasha a few moments to realize the old, clever kitsune was staring at him, a knowing look gleamed in her eyes and a sly smile curled her lip.

Inuyasha gulped down the rest of his ramen with a perplexed look. "What?"

"Ah, to be young and in love," she said in a coy, sing-song tone. "I see I'm not the only one keeping secrets around here."

"Shut up." Inuyasha blushed, tossing his empty bowl at the kitune. She caught it deftly, still smiling. Inuyasha followed in Kagome and Shippou's footsteps and beat a hasty retreat away from the kitchen and the wily old kitsune that guarded it.

As he went about the rest of his morning routine, Inuyasha was barely present mentally. His body moved on auto-pilot, only going through the motions as he interacted with other people. Visions of bright, flashing lights danced through his head. The awful sound of something unbreakable being broken echoed in his ears.

No matter what he did, he couldn't get the thought of the jewel fragments out of his head. Veering away from his usual course, Inuyasha redirected to the Empress's quarters. He needed to have a serious talk with her.

After a long day of lessons, lessons, and more lessons Kagome was finally able to rest, gratefully alone. Kaede had been especially hard on her today, but to no avail. Kagome's spititual powers were still missing in action. Kaede tried to assure her that they were just buried, waiting, just below the surface, for Kagome to rediscover them, but Kagome wasn't so sure and she was feeling miserable about it.

Sango and Miroku were equally sure that her abilities would come back; they were just worried about why they'd disappeared in the first place.

'That is the million dollar question...'Kagome thought glumly as she changed into her night gown and slid beneath her silky sheets. Buyo jumped into bed with her, purring happily as he nestled into her side. Kagome patted the fat calico cat fondly, reminding herself that despite her inability to summon her spiritual powers she still had a lot to be thankful for. Images of Shippou and her mother flashed through her head, soon followed by visions of Sango and Miroku; they were all living happily together under one roof like one big family. It was all she had ever wanted. Kagome closed her eyes and smiled into the darkness.

She'd never known such happiness before. Sleep claimed her quickly and her dreams were filled with a certain golden eyed boy that had conveniently been missing all day. That's why when something nudged Kagome out of her slumber, she was unsure of whether or not she was still dreaming. Bright, golden eyes bore down on her.

"Inuyasha?" she whispered sleepily, blinking timidly.

"Yeah, it's me. Listen, I need to talk to you."

Kagome was instantly awake, worry creasing her brow. "What's wrong?" she whispered breathlessly.

Inuyasha faltered, his eyes softening. "Nothing's the matter, calm down."

Kagome visably relaxed and allowed herself to sink down into her pillows. "Well, what's so important that you had to come wake me up in the middle of the night?"

Inuyasha was suddenly unable to meet her inquisitive gaze. "I just...I want you to promise that you'll be matter what."

The young woman giggled sleepily. "Of course I'll be safe. What's gotten into you Inuyasha?"

"I'm leaving soon. I'm going to be gone for a while. I just want to know that you're going to be okay while I'm gone."

"Gone?" Kagome echoed, irrational fear flooding through her. "Where are you going? Why are you going?"

Inuyasha pressed heavy hands against her shoulders, forcing her to lay back down. "Calm down. I have to go..."

"Where?" Kagome interrupted, her dark eyes large and fearful.

"I don't know...anywhere? Everywhere?"

"But why? I thought we were all happy here..." Kagome said dejectedly.

Inuyasha hissed softly from between clenched teeth. "I'm not leaving because I'm unhappy, Kagome. I'm leaving because I need to go find the shards of the Shikon-no-tama."

Kagome stilled, unable to speak or move for a few stunned seconds. There it was; the damnable jewel rearing it's ugly head back into her life. Of course she knew that her actions would have consequences -she thought about the broken Shikon every day - but she hadn't expected it to come to this.

"I need to go find the jewel shards before something bad happens or someone bad gets ahold of them. The Shikon shards are just too powerful to be laying around, ripe for the picking. As long at the shards are out there, who knows what could happen?"

Inuyasha eyed the unnaturally quiet girl. "I'm going to leave soon to go collect them. While I'm gone, I need you to promise me that you're going to be safe because I can't afford to be worrying about you while I'm..." Inuyasha was cut off as Kagome launched herself into his arms, nearly knocking him off the bed.

The hanyou was taken aback and nearly pushed her away out of habit, but the softness of her skin against his, the gentle warmth from her body quickly convinced him otherwise. Who knew when he'd have the opportunity to hold her this close again? He held her in a loose embrace, nose buried in her hair, soaking in the moment for future recollection.

"Take me with you," Kagome said abruptly, causing Inuyasha to stiffen.

"Don't be crazy, Kagome. You can't come with me."

"Why not?" She pulled away so her dark, angry eyes could meet his startled gaze. "It's my fault the Jewel broke in the first place. If anyone should be responsible for finding the pieces it should be me."

"It's too dangerous..."

Kagome suddenly got to her feet so she could rise to her full height - not very impressive, but she had meaning to convey. "Dangerous? You think I haven't been in a dangerous situation before, huh?"

Inuyasha's temper flared and he quickly snapped back, "Of course you've been in danger before - but that's why I don't want you to go! I don't ever want your life to be compromised ever again."

"I'm not scared."

'But I am...'Inuyasha thought desperately. "That's because you're an idiot. Look, I've already talked to your mom - I mean the Empress - and I'm going this alone."

Kagome's anger suddenly rescinded and her tone took on a soft, sweet edge that frightened Inuyasha even more than her loud voice and venomous glare. "Oh, so you think you're going all by yourself?"

"I don't need anyone else," he said flatly, looking her dead in the eye.

Kagome flinched almost imperceptibly. "Oh, that's right. I almost forgot. You're Inuyasha. You don't need anyone. You can take on the whole world by yourself, you don't need help from anybody."


"That's crap, Inuyasha!" Kagome lost the sweet, innocent look and poked him in the chest with her index finger. "I'm so sick of your tough guy act. When are you going to realize that you're not alone anymore?"

Inuyasha's jaw snapped shut and he looked down on Kagome in surprise.

"You don't have to do this alone. You shouldn't do this alone. Take anyone - Sango, Miroku, I don't care."

"They have responcibilities here..."

"Then take me!"


"Why not?"

Inuyasha searched wildly for a reason to deter her. "You'll only slow me down. You don't even have your miko abilities anymore. What good would you be in a crunch? You're nothing but a liability." It was the meanest thing he could think of to say. Hopefully it would do the trick.

Kagome flinched as if he'd slapped her but the dark, determined look gleaming in her eyes was not extinguished. "Say whatever you want. Be a total jackass. Hurt my feelings, try to convince me as much as you want, any way you want. Just know that when you leave here - you're leaving with me," Kagome hissed in a low whisper. "You don't have to be on your own any loner. You don't have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, especially when the burden you're carrying is mine!"

Stunned by the change in her countenance, Inuyasha could only gape at her in awe. Gone was the shy, sweet, weak-willed little princess. A sure-footed, strong-willed, undefiable woman stood before him now. A queen, in her own right.

"Kagome, you're being irrational. You mean too much. What if something happened to you? What would your mother do? Shippou, Sango, Miroku...what would your country do?" What would I do...?

"I'll be fine. I'll be with you." Kagome gave him a pointed look. "And I will be with you. Wherever you go, I go. No questions, no exceptions."

Inuyasha took a step back, plainly pissed off that Kagome was telling himwhat to do. The certainty in her voice, it was like she was preaching gospel. This is the truth: the undeniable. My will be done. Not ready to meet defeat, Inuyasha glared daggers at the small, slender girl in front of him. "We'll see what your mother thinks about that in the morning," he said waspishly before leaving. He slammed her door as he left.

Kagome collapsed across her bed, her heart beating wildly. 'Where did that come from?' she wondered.

On the other side of the door, leaning against the soft wood as he sank to his knees, Inuyasha was wondering the same thing. 'If she thinks she's actually coming with me, she's nuts. Just wait until the Empress hears this shit.'

"What do you mean you think she should go with me?" Inuyasha practically shouted, his angry voice projected by the rooms airy acoustics.

The Empress was seated calmly at her desk, her face composed, serene. "I think that Kagome should accompany you. It seems only right."

"It seems...right?" Inuyasha repeated like an echo.

"Yes. Kagome was the one who broke the Jewel, after all. Perhaps this is Kagome's journey to take as well."

"But it could be dangerous! Hell, it will be dangerous. You're her mother! Shouldn't you be trying to protect her?"

The Empress unnervingly met his eyes. "Of course I want to protect her, but I don't aim to shelter her. Besides, if she's with you then I know Kagome will be well looked after."

Inuyasha turned to Kaede who was seated stoically across from him. "Please, tell her she's crazy."

"I will not." Kaede replied primly. "In fact, I rather agree with her."

"Why have all the women in this house suddenly gone crazy?" Inuyasha howled, finding a new level of pissed off to subside in.

Several hundred feet below, in the basement level, Kagome jumped to her feet. "Yes!"

Miroku shushed her, fidgeting with something on his computer. "Kagome-sama, I'm trying to listen," Miroku whined, still managing to somehow sound dignified as he munched on a large bowl of popcorn.

Sango reached into the bowl to grab a handful, a smile curving her lips. "I hope you're recording this. It's not everyday Inuyasha gets bested by three women all in twenty-four hours."

"Of course," Miroku assured her with an impish grin.

"I knew mom would understand." Kagome was practically glowing with self-satisfaction. Unknown to Inuyasha, Kagome had beat him to the punch. She'd already had a long, detailed conversation with her mother explaining exactly why she wanted to go with Inuyasha.

Shippou cackled in the corner. "Can I please have a copy of this? I've never seen dog-boy so mad before."

"Be nice, Shippou," Kagome chastised, but she was smiling too.

"I think he's about to bust a frontal lobe." Miroku observed.

"Definitely. He's so pissed he can barely see straight." Sango agreed amiably, her eyes glued to the screen as they watched Inuyasha throw a virtual fit in front of the Empress of Japan. Not much later, an irate hanyou stormed away, quickly clearing the hallway.

"Uh-oh." Shippou gulped. "Time to scat."

"I'm with you, Shippou-chan." Miroku grinned sheepishly at Kagome as if to say: you're on your own.

"What?" Kagome pouted. "You guys are just going to abandon me?"

"Sorry, Kagome-sama. You're cute enough to deter the brunt of Inuyasha's anger. Shippou and myself lack certain feminine charms that might protect us from a very unhappy inu-hanyou."

Sango patted Kagome's hand comfortingly. "Don't worry, Kagome-chan. I'll stick with you."

Kagome spared Sango a grateful smile before turning a petulant glare on the boys. "At least someone has my back." She sighed, watching Inuyasha's storm-cloud eyes flash angrily on the screen. "Better go ahead and face the music."

Inuyasha found Kagome a while later, lounging in her room with Sango. Outside, the halls were deserted as word had spread quickly about the hanyou's foul temper. "Oi, wench," he said by way of greeting.

He cut his eyes at Sango. "Do you mind giving me and Kagome a second alone?"

"Not gonna' happen," she replied happily as she casually dropped into the vanity chair, crossing her long legs as she leafed through a magazine.

Inuyasha suppressed a growl, glaring daggers. Why in the hell was every single female in his life suddenly challenging him?

Sango met his harsh glare without so much as a blink, so Inuyasha quickly turned his back to her in order to face Kagome. At least Kagome had the decency to look a little nervous.

"Well, looks like you're getting your way, princess." That said, Inuyasha turned on his heel and stormed away.

Kagome collapsed on her bed, a frown marring her pretty features. Sango came over to sit beside her. "That went rather well, I think."

"Your presence saved me. Trust me, he had a lot more he wanted to say, he just didn't want an audience. Plus, he knows you're totally on my side."

A timid grin flitted briefly across Sango's face. "Well, I can't say I'm totally thrilled about you leaving to go on this wild goose chase. I'd prefer if you staid safe behind these walls." At Kagome's fallen expression, Sango quickly added, "but at the same time I do understand why you want to. If I were in your shoes, I'd want to do the same thing. I'm just going to worry myself to death while you're away."

Kagome shot her friend a sunny smile. "Nah, you're going to be so busy while I'm gone you won't even notice I'm not around. Hopefully, we won't be gone too long. Besides, what's the worst that could happen?"

Inuyasha packed lightly, taking only necessities. The Empress had supplied him with enough money to take care of anything he might need on the road. He didn't need much. He planned on completing this mission as quickly and as quietly as possible. Everything was planned out...

The only thing that would prove difficult would be actually locating the missing jewel shards. Where were they? How many? Inuyasha sighed, zipping up his pack before he slung it casually over his shoulder. Time to get the show on the road...the sooner he left, the sooner he could come back. Guilt tickled his senses as he opened his window and prepared to drop down. Kagome expected them to leave in the morning.

Despite his orders from the Empress, there was no way he was going to allow Kagome to come with him. He smirked wryly into the darkness, picturing Kagome's reaction when she woke up in the morning and found him long-gone.

Still smirking as he landed quite gracefully on the ground, Inuyasha readjusted his pack as he rose silently to his feet.

"Going somewhere?" A familiar voice whispered.

Inuyasha jerked his head up so fast he nearly broke his neck. Kagome stood directly below his window, lounging nonchalantly against the wall as she eyed him specutivly, a clever little smile tugging at her lips. She was dressed in all black: black leather pants, black sweater, black boots. Her hair was tied back, Sango-style in a high pony-tail. A large backpack rested by her feet.

'Tricky little wench...'

He took in her outfit. "We aren't about to rob someone, Kagome."

Kagome grinned cheekily. "Just wanted to get into the spirit of things."

"You're insane, you know that?" He shook his head, defeated. It seemed like that he was stuck with Kagome, for better or for worse.

Kagome shouldered her pack, ignoring his comment. "Well, are you ready to go jewel shard hunting?"

"Ready as I'll ever be," he sighed heavily, but he was hiding a smile. Maybe somewhere deep, deep down he was glad to have Kagome by his side for the journey they were about to embark on.

"Let's go," Kagome took his hand in hers, leading him off into the moonlit night. Inuyasha eyed their joined hands with a soft smile. Whatever happened next, he knew that as long as Kagome was with him, they would be able to handle it. Together.

A/N: To be continued...

The end. Finally. I'm sad that it's over, but I'm also excited about future projects. Don't know when the sequel will be up. Whenever I have time to dedicate to it. Thank you one more time to everyone who has been with this fic since the beginning! It means so much to me. Can't wait until next time...