Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or any themes within. I do, however own my OC and other new characters.


Chapter 15

Natsuki opened her eyes under the sun's glare, feeling surprisingly refreshed. She slept soundly and dreamlessly, having no sense of insecurity throughout the night. She tried to remember what happened before she fell asleep, but it was pointless as she recognized the little meadow she was in. She pressed her delicate fingers against the soft moss, delightfully warm in the sun's rays. The wind's whispers echoed throughout the surrounding trees, sending shadows dancing across the emerald blades of grass. The demoness coughed groggily, then sighed with tranquility at the morning.

Before she had a moment to take in every scent, he spoke, "You slept well, I see."

Natsuki twisted her body to look at Sesshoumaru, who effortlessly got to his feet. He looked at her with an unreadable face, then looked out into the depths of the forest. She sat up and stretched her stiff muscles, yawning. She glanced at her feet and grimaced at the scabbed-over welts. After shaking their existence from her awareness, she turned and smiled at the lord's figure.

"Good morning," she greeted him, feeling slightly cheerful in his presence. She felt like she owed him, after killing Runihura... and therefore avenging her parents and species. Also, he had brought her back to life... Gratitude filled every space of her body. She asked him politely, "Did you sleep well?"

"I didn't sleep at all," he said simply.

The dragon demon frowned. "But..." she protested, "You didn't have to stay up all night. Not to just look after me. You didn't have to—"

"I didn't have to," he repeated ponderously. Then, after a pause, he stated, "but I wanted to."

Natsuki blinked at him incredulously, and felt a twang of flattery. She knew it was unnecessary; it wasn't like he cared for her. She didn't know him like that, and he didn't seem that interested. It was probably because he thought she was too weak to protect herself...

Sesshoumaru turned around and approached to her side, nudging her shoulder. "Come," he motioned with his hand. "We will set out soon."

By that, the demoness knew that he, Rin, Jaken and Ah-Un would continue traveling somewhere else. She nodded and edged closer to him, where his arm encircled her like last night. He tossed her up to get a better grip, and he faced the forest. Her arms instinctively reached and held his neck, making her slightly blush. He wasn't aware of her face, and he leapt into the forest with great speed. She closed in when the claustrophobia of hitting any trees entered her mind. She watched as his left kimono sleeve flew uselessly at his side.

"Um, Sesshoumaru?" she ventured timidly.

"Yes."

"What happened... to your... left arm?"

He took a rather dangerous turn around a few trees, making the dragon demon yelp with surprise. He went back on the path and continued, voiceless for a moment. In a few seconds, he grunted.

"I'd rather not speak of it."

Natsuki forced herself to bite her tongue to prevent any pestering. If he didn't want to tell her, then she accepted that. It was the curiosity that was harder to chase away...

A few minutes past as she traveled, watching Sesshoumaru's fast and steady stealth through the undergrowth. The sun's rays peeked constantly through the canopy, blinding Natsuki every few seconds. The aroma of the forest was rich, but not as rich as the demon that carried her. His scent calmed her, making her feel relaxed in his arms. She began to trust him, chasing the claustrophobia away.

Once she recognized the area as the section of forest near the camp, Sesshoumaru paused, looking around. Thinking that this was her stop, the demoness swung her legs down and lightly touched the ground. She made to step away from him, but his hand still clutched her waist. She looked at him inquisitively, and she blinked with sudden surprise.

He hesitated.

"What is it, my lord?" she put respectively. He only shook his head.

"Do not call me that."

"What? But I thought—"

"Yes, but... you are excused into addressing me as who I am."

Natsuki looked at his face, searching it. Not once had she seen him smile or hesitate. One was down... when would he smile? Maybe not in this lifetime. Right now his face was expressionless once more as he held her close to him. This puzzled her further, and she swallowed.

"Alright," she said. "Sesshoumaru. What is it?"

"Are you sure you're able to walk on your own?"

Now was that concern in his voice?

No.

Not... possible...

Natsuki smiled weakly. "They're just cuts. They'll heal, I guess. And yes, I'm sure I can walk."

Sesshoumaru looked into the other's eyes for a moment, and it made her gape in confusion. His handsome features were breathtaking, and she had to force her brain to register the breathing process once more to prevent her face turning blue. He turned away and nodded, taking his hand away. She rubbed her hip - making sure Sesshoumaru hadn't noticed - and wished that the warmth had not retreated. She took a step forward, wincing slightly. The flesh stretched over her bones, which triggered some discomfort. She bit her lip, convincing herself that this was nothing compared to the pain she had already experienced in the past, with Runihura, especially. She didn't say anything, though; she felt Sesshoumaru follow and keep close behind her. This gesture of if-needed assistance astounded her even more, and she walked, quite slowly, to the ashes of the campfire.

Ah-Un, Jaken, and Rin were nowhere in sight, and so she directed her pace toward the nearby field, where Rin often picked flowers. Sesshoumaru's presence always lingered closely behind her, and the silence was awkward between the two of them. With her acute hearing, she thought she heard him inhale deeply through his nose, as if taking in the surrounding aromas. She did the same, but found nothing extraordinary other than one scent. And that, obviously, was him.

Soon the field came into view, and sure enough, Rin was on her knees in the flowers she was looking after, Ah-Un and Jaken keeping an eye on her. Bags were already packed on Ah-Un's sides, and the dragon demon wondered if Jaken had anticipated departure. She continued toward them, the grass somewhat softer on her feet. The wounds on her body, too, felt less fiery today. Rin looked up as the demoness and Sesshoumaru approached, and smiled widely. She waved with one hand, while the other acted as a basket lined with a variety of flower breeds.

"Natsuki! Lord Sesshoumaru! Good morning!"

" 'Morning, Rin," Natsuki smiled kindly. When she reached her, she ruffled the top of the child's head in a friendly manner. Rin grinned and took the other's hand, leading her over to Ah-Un. As she walked over to him with Rin, Ah-Un's draconic voice greeted the fellow dragon with pleasure. Natsuki preened each head's mane happily. She turned to Jaken, who was looking at her with narrowed eyes.

"What did Lord Sesshoumaru have to discuss with you?" he asked suspiciously. She scoffed, not at all surprised by his greeting.

"Good morning to you too, Jaken."

Rin climbed up onto Ah-Un and stroked Ah's neck. "You're coming with us, Natsuki, right?"

Natsuki blinked in puzzlement. Was she? She wasn't sure if she was supposed to leave them once Sesshoumaru came or not. "I'm not quite sure."

Rin moved to Un's neck to stroke, side-glancing at the other with a pout on her small lips. "Awww, come, Natsuki!"

"It's not really my choice..." she trailed off, then added. "I don't want to intrude, or provide unnecessary distractions."

Suddenly Sesshoumaru's arm encircled the demoness once more and lifted her up as he jumped onto Ah-Un's haunches. He set her down behind Rin and jumped back onto the ground. He met her confused gaze.

"It is entirely your choice, whether you wish to leave us or not," he informed. "I, however, suggest that you stay in our party until you recover.

"Will you stay?"

His golden eyes were even more captivating than usual. Natsuki found herself lost in those metallic eyes, and it took great effort to think straight. She eventually nodded, and he nodded in turn. He went up front to lead the way, and his path went past Jaken, who was gawking in disbelief.

"M'Lord, surely you're not letting this female come along?"

The dragon demon didn't know where the stone came from, but Sesshoumaru had one in his hand, apparently. He chucked it at Jaken, which took a headshot and made the toad fall back dizzily.

"Don't question me," he told him coldly. He left it at that and walked away, Ah-Un following. Natsuki watched as Jaken was unable to move to follow, and she found his condition rather humorous. When she thought they were leaving him behind, Ah-Un's tail curled around his unconscious, limp body. The demoness looked up ahead, and she found Rin looking at her, smiling.

"What?"

"The Lord likes you," her head nodded toward Sesshoumaru's back. The demoness rolled her eyes at the sky, then gave the child a pinch on both of her hips simultaneously. She yelped and giggled at the same time.

"He can hear your childish assumption," Natsuki warned under her breath. "Better drop it."

Natsuki knew, of course, that it was just her way of chasing her own thoughts of that same assumption.

Rin started assembling the flowers she gathered. It was a wonder how she could do that when Ah-Un's body swayed this way and that. "Fine," she pouted playfully. "But I know that he does."

"You're too young to know these kind of things," the other scowled. She head-butted Rin playfully, and she laughed at the other's behaviour. "When you grow up, you can focus on your own love life, and actually know what you're talking about."

Rin shrugged, holding the flowers close. Natsuki sighed, and wondered what the location Sesshoumaru had in mind.

End of Chapter


Ah, the last chapter that I had published for this story before everything went ka-blooey at Quizilla. Next story to transfer is I Was Sent To Kill You, which features Edward Elric of FullMetal Alchemist XD Hope you'll be interested in that.

Anyway, after that's done, I'M done! then I can rest easy and update at a goof interval. My Yu-Gi-Oh! story would be most likely to be updated, but this story has second place, as Eddy's story is third. Stay tuned, and I hope you liked what you read so far! -heart-