-Side Tracked -
The water was cold.
That was the first thing that popped into my head the moment I hit the water. The current was strong, and I felt myself being pulled helplessly by it. Truth be told, I wasn't really helpless. I could've jumped out easily enough.
But I was so tired.
The current pulled me on, keeping my head under the water. I didn't resist. My body was itching to jump out of the water, to break the surface, to find air, but I forced myself to be still, to let the water drag me, keep me under...
If it meant being where Jacob was.
A part of me screamed at me. Wasn't I ashamed of how weak this was? Jacob would have wanted me to go on and be happy. But I couldn't. Jacob was the sun in my life, and with the sun gone, what was there to live for?
My lungs were on fire, screaming at me. At any second now, my body would override my control, would force me to take a gulp of air...would kill me. Ironic.
Memories of my time with him suddenly played out behind my eyes. As a child, he had been my friend and protector. As I had grown older, he had become a crush. By the time I had fully grown, he had become so much more. My friend, protector, and soul mate.
But he was gone, and with him, my reason for existing.
As though to contradict me, images of my family and friends flashed through my mind. The times I had spent with them, moments that could never be replaced. Shopping with Rosalie and Alice, being tutored by Carlisle, being taught how to play piano by Edward, Esme running a comb affectionately through my hair, pranking the werewolves with Jasper and Emmett, being hugged by Bella…
Live, Ness, just live.
I didn't know if it was a hallucination or not, but Jacob's voice couldn't have been any clearer. I had a feeling he would be mad as hell if he knew what I was doing.
At that moment, my body wanted air. Now.
I felt my muscles tense as I leapt out of the water, gasping as my head broke the surface. I landed on all fours on the bank of the river, coughing.
"What the...you again?!"
Eyes widening in surprise, I looked up, taking in lungfuls of air. "You…you're…you're Kouga…right?" I said, in-between coughs.
Kouga of the demon wolf tribe stood in front of me, arms crossed as he looked down at me. Beside him stood his two companions—I forgot their names. Their wolves were behind them.
I couldn't help it—the pain in my chest throbbed as I remembered the way I used to rest my head on Jacob's russet fur after a long run in the mountains. Unwillingly, I felt my eyes grow hot. Jacob, oh Jacob, I'm so sorry…so, so, sorry.
"Hey, why're you crying?!" Kouga said as he squatted in front of me.
I shook my head and covered my mouth with a hand as a hiccup hit me. It would not do to tell him about Jacob. I didn't know him that well, for one thing. I took in a deep breath, trying to control the tears that kept falling.
"Haven't you found Kagome yet?" Kouga asked. "Oh wait…they did mention that you ran into Sesshoumaru. How come you're still alive?"
I gave him a look as I wiped the tears away with the back of my hand. "I…got separated from them again," I mumbled. I felt it was wise to omit the 'drown-in-a-river-to-escape-the-intense-pain-from- losing-my-soulmate' part.
"Yeesh, kid, you got tough luck," he said as he scratched his head. "Well, c'mon then." He must have seen the puzzled expression in my eyes, because he snorted. "I'm taking you back to Kagome. A friend of Kagome is a friend of mine."
Wow, he must really like Kagome a lot. He didn't know me that well, but he was still offering to take me to her. For a moment, my thoughts strayed to how Jacob would have treated friends of mine…
I placed a hand on my chest. The pain was so acute, so debilitating, it was all I could do to stop from crying out.
"Kid, what hurts?" Kouga asked, eyes narrowing at me.
I looked up at him. "Sorry," I whispered. "It…it's nothing."
He frowned at me, and then grabbed my wrists and hauled me to my feet. "Yeesh, you're soaked," Kouga muttered. "C'mon, let's get you back to Kagome before you die of cold."
The cold was nothing compared to the pain in my chest, but I didn't dare say it. "Thank you," I managed at last.
Kouga scoffed as he turned on his heel. "Hakaku, Ginta, make sure she follows." Without further ado, he vanished in a miniature tornado as he rushed through the bushes into the forest beyond the riverbank. His wolves immediately followed behind him.
"Miss, can you run?" one of them asked. "You don't look good."
"She nearly drowned, Ginta, what do you think?" Hakaku snapped. He turned to me. "We could carry you if you want."
I shook my head. "No," I said. "I'll…I'll run, thanks."
They shrugged. "Suit yourself," Ginta said as he rushed into the bushes after Kouga.
I sighed as I followed them.
"Master Jaken, where do you think Lord Sesshoumaru went this time?"
My eye twitches as I turn to regard Rin. To think Lord Sesshoumaru would leave me to babysit the child again! I long for the days when it was just me and Lord Sesshoumaru, fighting side by side!
"That's none of your business, Rin!" I snap. Though, truth be told, even I did not know what my lord did when he vanished for hours at a time.
The child in question is lying on her stomach on the ground, poking a caterpillar on a blade of grass. Humans are absurdly curious creatures! This girl is more curious than most!
"This caterpillar looks so lonely, Master Jaken," Rin went on as she poked the creature.
I huff as I sit beside her. "Will you stop speaking nonsense, Rin!" I demand.
She looks up at me. "It reminds me of Lord Sesshoumaru," she admits.
My eye twitches again. "What are you doing, comparing Lord Sesshoumaru to a caterpillar?!" I huff. Really the child has such absurd notions!
"But it does, Master Jaken," she persists, turning back to the creature. "See how lonely it looks?"
"Milord is not lonely, you silly girl!"
"But he's off somewhere, on his own," the girl insists. "I think Lord Sesshoumaru is lonely."
"Milord does not need companionship!" I snap. Really, the asinine ideas this girl got into her head was unbelievable!
"But, Master Jaken, he has us," Rin said, tilting her head innocently at me.
"I…I…urgh!" I cross my arms and turn my back on her. Really, demon children were not as bothersome as this child!
I suddenly pause. It is faint, but I can hear a rumble from the earth. I immediately get up as Rin looks at me. "Get up, Rin!" I order, looking around for the source of the rumbling, which only seems to be getting stronger.
"Master Jaken, what's—"
Before Rin could say another word, the ground in front of us erupts as a loud roar fills my ears! Dust and rubble settle around us as I hear Rin's screams of fright.
"Rin!" I scream, running into the dust.
"Master Jaken, help!"
Through the dust, I can make out the towering shape of a menacing centipede demon as it looms above Rin. Oh no! If anything happens to the girl, Lord Sesshoumaru will have my head!
"Taste the power of the Staff of Heads!" I scream as I raise the staff against the demon. The demon screeches as the flames surround it. "Rin, run!" I order as the demon begins thrashing about violently. "Get to Ah-Un and run, before the flames spread!"
Rin coughs as she stands, the smoke getting into her eyes. As she turns and rushes towards Ah-Un, she gives a little scream of surprise as one of the centipede's appendages grasp her by the ankle, pulling her towards it and the flames!
"Master Jaken!" Rin shrieks as the centipede lifts her up by the ankle.
Oh no! I cannot use the staff again, for fear of hitting Rin. Where was Lord Sesshoumaru?!
"Ah-Un, quick!" I shout as I point toward the demon.
The dragon gives a roar as he takes to the air and hovers above the demon. He opens his mouth and fires a blast of energy at the demon. The demon roars, enraged. It begins to thrash about violently as Ah-Un releases another blast at it. The thing's hide is tough!
"Master Jakeeeen!" Rin shouts as the demon throws her into the air
My eyes widen in horror as Rin falls to the ground on her feet. She gives a loud cry of pain as she falls, clutching her ankle. The demon roars and lunges towards Rin!
"Riiiiiiiiiiiin!" I shriek as the little girl lets out a scream of fear and pain.
"Pick on someone your own size!"
Before I could figure out who, a brown blur leaps from the bushes and lashes out at the demon. The demon falls back with a roar to reveal a young man standing atop the centipede demon's head.
"Kouga of the demon wolf tribe!" I scream, readying the staff.
The pest has a hand on his hip as he looks down upon the demon at his feet. "Can it, worm!" he snarls as he brings his foot down on the roaring demon. There is a splatter of blood as his foot penetrates the demon's skull. The demon's struggles lessen, until they finally stop.
"I hate things that crawl," Kouga mutters as he turns to me. "Hey, aren't you Sesshoumaru's imp?"
"Watch how you address Lord Sesshoumaru!" I snarl, waving the staff.
Kouga scoffs. "Master Jaken!" Rin screams.
Oh right, Rin!
I immediately rush to the girl's side. She is sitting on the ground, a hand on her ankle. To my horror, her left ankle is swollen. The girl looks to be in a lot of pain, but she is doing her best to stop from crying out. Oh no! Lord Sesshoumaru is going to be most displeased!
"That looks bad." Kouga is suddenly behind me, peering over my shoulder at Rin's injury.
Rin looks up and sees him. Her eyes immediately widen in fright as she attempts to back away despite her injury. "M-master Jaken!" she screams. There is an intense fear in her eyes as she looks at Kouga. "He…he…!"
Kouga blinks. "Chill out, kid, I just saved you," he says.
"You're evil!" Rin shouts. "Lord Sesshoumaru, help me!"
Kouga blinks. "Hey, I just saved your life!" he huffs.
It was then that I remember…
It was Kouga's wolves that had killed Rin.
"You stay away from her, wolf!" I snap at him.
He growled at me. "Watch it, toad!" he says.
I wave the staff at him. I was about to retort, when a familiar voice suddenly shouts, "Kouga, just back away from her!"
I turn to the bushes, surprised, as that wench Renesmee emerged, followed by two wolf-demons and, to my horror, a whole pack of wolves! I glance at Rin, whose eyes are wide with fright at the sight of the beasts.
"Lord Sesshoumaru!" Rin calls out. Where on earth is my lord?
"Kouga, she's frightened of you," the wench says. "I don't why, but she is." It does not escape my notice that the girl appears dishevelled. Looks as though this one's been in some trouble herself!
Renesmee kneels beside Rin, who turns to her and grabs hold of her arm. "Miss Ness!" she says, somewhat relieved. Hey! I could protect her better than that vampire could!
"Frightened?" Kouga says, incredulous. "I've never met her before. Talk about ingratitude."
"You liar!" I shout, waving the staff at him. "For your information, it was your wolves that mauled Rin in the first place! Your wolves killed her! If it had not been for Lord Sesshoumaru's mighty power, Rin wouldn't be here!"
The wolf's eyes widen in surprise as he stares at the child. "Huh? I don't remember," he says, scratching his head. He frowns, a serious look is in his eyes as he stares at Rin. What a nincompoop!
Renesmee's eyes are fixed on Kouga. There is a look of pure of shock on them from my revelation. She is about to say something when Rin's soft whimper captures her attention.
"Let me see that," she says, her fingers gently feeling Rin's ankle. Rin bites her lip to stop from crying out.
"Kouga," one of the wolf-demons says.
"You keep those beasts away from Rin!" I snarl, shaking the staff at them.
He holds up his arms. "Whoa, whoa, they don't mean any harm!" he says. His eyes suddenly look behind, and I see them widen in shock and fear. "Kou…Kouga…" His voice is trembling.
I glance behind me. "Lord Sesshoumaru!" I shout, ecstatic at milord's return. Hm? Milord has sealed his scent and aura away. The element of surprise, indeed!
I have the satisfaction of watching Kouga's eyes widen in surprise as he quickly spins around, only to find milord's sword an inch away from his throat. Ha! Show him, Lord Sesshoumaru!
"Lord Sesshoumaru!" Rin cries out happily, still clinging to the wench's arm.
"Oh no, Kouga!" one of the wolf-demons shout.
Renesmee's eyes are wide as can be as she takes in milord. Her hands are clenched into fists as she gazes at him. It was then that I remembered—this wench wanted milord's blood! For a moment, a look of pain crosses her face, followed by an expression of surprise and bewilderment.
"Kouga of the demon wolf tribe," milord says in a voice that is both cold and calm.
Kouga's two demon companions are visibly shaking as they watch their leader. Ha! Shake and fear, fools!
Kouga suddenly raises both his hands, a sign that he will not fight milord. Fear and tremble! Then beg for your life, you pathetic wolf!
"I know I harmed her," Kouga says. He fixes milord with a most serious gaze. "I won't deny it. I've done things in the past that I regret." He glances over his shoulder at Rin, who returns his gaze. He turns back to milord. "But someone made me see myself for who I was—a monster. I'm thankful to that person for changing me. I'm not going to beg and plead for my life, if that's what you're thinking."
Milord keeps his silence, cold eyes remaining on Kouga. "I'm appealing to your honor as a warrior that you let those two idiots"—he jerks his thumb towards the other wolf-demons—"leave here unharmed, along with my wolves, and the girl." He looks to Renesmee, who stares at him with wide eyes.
"Kouga!" The two wolves' eyes have become watery. What babies!
Lord Sesshoumaru continues to gaze at Kouga, before he lowers his blade. What?!
"Leave here," milord says. "Now. The next time, I will not be as merciful."
Kouga's eyes are wide as they can be. For a moment, he is speechless, unable to form a single coherent thought. He suddenly scoffs as he turns his back on milord. What an ungrateful—!
"You heard him," he says to his companions. "Let's get outta here." He turns to the wench Renesmee, to whom Rin is still clinging. Her fingers are on Rin's ankle. "C'mon, kid."
She looks up at him. "Rin," she says. "Her ankle is sprained—badly."
Oh no! Already, I could feel milord's gaze on me, and I inwardly cringe.
Kouga frowns at her, and his gaze goes to milord. He shakes his head. "I'll tell Kagome where you are," he says as he runs through the bushes.
"Kouga, wait for us!" his companions scream as they run after him.
Renesmee's eyes widen with surprise as she watches him run off. She shakes her head and mutters something in a foreign tongue, before turning her attention back to Rin.
Kouga left. Not that I blamed him, or anything. I'd be scared too, if I suddenly found the point of Sesshoumaru's sword at my throat.
Speaking of Sesshoumaru…
He was standing next to Jaken, eyes narrowed menacingly at me. He had yet to sheath that sword, I noted. I felt my heart speeding up as he suddenly took a step towards me and Rin.
"I just want to help her," I said as calmly as possible. "My grandfather is a doctor, and he taught me a few things. Rin's ankle is sprained badly"—as though to emphasize my point, Rin lets out a small whimper she tries to suppress with little success—"let me help her."
He narrowed those eyes dangerously at me, and I inwardly gulped. I was surprised when I realized one thing—his scent was gone again. But the memory of it…I immediately pushed the thought from my mind. I couldn't risk losing it again. Jacob wouldn't have wanted to see me 'losing it'.
I felt it—that crushing pain in my chest the moment I thought of Jake. I bit my lower lip. Now was not the time to think of Jake—I could do that when I didn't have an unpredictable demon lord glaring down at me with eyes that screamed death.
I could feel Rin's tiny fists gripping my arm. I looked down at her. She was biting her lower lip, trying to keep from crying out.
Looking back up at Sesshoumaru, I was surprised to see that he had turned his back on me. "What are you waiting for, you wench?" that imp, Jaken said. He was beside Rin, and glaring at me with those big yellow eyes of his.
"You need to compress this," I murmured, my eyes on Rin's ankle. For a fleeting instant, I remembered Carlisle showing me how to tie the bandages so it was wound around a joint. He used to joke that maybe I would end up being the second practicing doctor in the family. Carlisle…Where were he and Esme? How were they doing? They must be so worried…
I quickly pushed the thought from my mind as I turned to Jaken. "Do you have a bandage, or a piece of cloth?" I asked.
Jaken huffed, obviously irritated. "What," he began, "do you need a—"
He stiffened as Sesshoumaru's cold voice rang throughout the clearing. "Ye-yes, milord!" Jaken said as he quickly turned to the two-headed dragon of theirs. For a moment, he rummaged at the pack on the dragon's saddle before he removed a silken obi it.
"Here!" he said, thrusting it grudgingly into my outstretched hand.
I'd never seen a silk of this kind of quality before. Rosalie would have had a fit if she saw what I was going to do it. I carefully tore it so it was somewhat shorter and narrower. It was quiet, the only sound was that of silk tearing and Jaken's occasional grumbling, which I managed to ignore.
"Rin," I said, once I'd finished tearing. "I'm going to wind this around your ankle. It might hurt a bit, but I want you to breathe in and out, okay?"
She nodded. The determined look in her eyes reminded me vividly of Jacob's own determined expression whenever he was confronted with a problem. I bit my lip and shook my head as thoughts of Jacob began filling my head. The pain in my chest throbbed.
"Are you alright, miss Ness?" Rin suddenly asked.
I blinked. No, not now—I couldn't think of Jacob now. "I'm fine," I said, giving her a reassuring smile. "Sorry, I was just thinking of something." I bent my head over her ankle as I began to wind the silk around Rin's ankle, in the figure-of-eight technique that Carlisle had taught me.
Rin took a deep breath and carefully released it. "What were you thinking of?" she asked. I was amazed that she was concerned for me, when she was in pain herself. She seemed quite precocious.
I secured the bandage and shook my head. "Nothing important." That was a lie. Jacob had been the most important person in the world to me. He had been my other half. He had been everything I needed from the start. He had been the sun in my life, the smile that I wore…
"Miss Ness, you're crying." Rin's finger suddenly wiped a tear from my cheek.
My eyes widened in surprise. I bit my lip, and hastily wiped the tears away with my hand. "I'm sorry," I said again, sighing. "I was just…thinking about something sad." I leaned back on my haunches to inspect my work.
"You'll have to keep this leg elevated," I said as I placed her foot on my lap. I gave her a small, weak smile. "And you should rest it—don't walk around too much."
"Lord Sesshoumaru does not have time to dally, you silly girl!" Jaken said, waving his arms at me.
"Jaken, be quiet," Sesshoumaru suddenly said.
For a moment, I glanced towards Sesshoumaru. He had been so quiet, I'd nearly forgotten he was there. I was still amazed that his scent was gone. The moment I remembered his scent, the thirst suddenly blazed in my throat. I quickly clenched my fists and closed my eyes.
I could do this…I could do this…I could control myself.
I opened my eyes to find Sesshoumaru staring at me. His own eyes were narrowed. It was then that I remembered—he had been there when Naraku absorbed Jacob. He had seen as Naraku's tentacles wound themselves around Jake's inert form and drew him close…
A metallic tang suddenly filled my mouth. I'd bit my lip too hard.
Rin's hand was suddenly on my arm. I looked up at her, surprised. She gave me a small smile. She didn't need words of comfort—that smile said it all.
I returned her smile, and gently squeezed her hand. "Thank you, Rin," I said quietly. I turned my eyes back to her ankle, and frowned. "I wish we had some ice, to stop the swelling." For an instant, I seriously considered finding Bella, Alice, or Rosalie, and letting them take a hold of Rin's ankle. They were cold enough.
Jaken snorted. "It isn't winter, you silly girl!" he huffed.
I sighed. "Now I wish I'd let Carlisle get me that portable freezer," I muttered. Though, it would be silly, dragging a portable freezer everywhere.
Rin tilted her head at me. "What's that, Miss Ness?"
I blinked. "It's a smaller freezer that can make ice…" I then remembered…they hadn't the faintest idea about modern technology. Way to go, Renesmee.
"What's a freezer?" Rin asked, curious now.
"It's a machine that keeps things cold," I explained, trying to be as simple as possible. "It's quite common in our time."
To my surprise, it was Sesshoumaru, lounging beneath a tree, who asked. I turned to him, trying with Herculean effort, to keep down the thirst. Urgh…how long had it been since I'd hunted?
Wait a minute…did they not know about the Bone Eater's Well? Seeing as he seemed to be familiar with Inuyasha and Kagome, I'd assumed they'd know. But…they didn't? Oh shoot—did that mean Kagome didn't want anyone else to know?
"Um…" I began, hesitant. Nice one, Renesmee. Nice, really nice. Should I, or should I not tell the truth? I could be quite a good liar—the only problem was, those cold, narrowed eyes didn't look as though they could tolerate lies.
"Lord Sesshoumaru asked you a question, wench!" Jaken snapped.
I bit my lip. "I'm not from around here," I said slowly.
"That much is obvious," Sesshoumaru said disdainfully, eyeing the clothing I wore. "You and the miko, Kagome, are similar."
He seemed to be waiting for me to go on. Those eyes were—admittedly—frightening. I quickly looked down, pretending to examine the bandage over Rin's ankle.
"Er…Not from this place…or time," I said, hoping that he would lose interest.
I inwardly cringed. That cold voice was full of command. I hesitantly raised my eyes, completely forgetting that—in this case—it was much more…respectful to keep them lowered. "Well…we actually come from the future…five hundred years to be exact," I said. Kagome was going to kill me.
Jaken scoffed. "What nonsense!" he snapped.
I threw him an annoyed look. The little green guy could be annoying, I'll admit. "I'm not going to waste my time trying to convince you," I said. "But I'm not lying."
"Wow, you come from another world, Miss Ness?" Rin asked, her eyes alight with curiosity.
I smiled at her. "Yes, you could put it that way," I said. I looked up at the cloudy sky, and stifled a sigh…
In such a short while, my world had been flipped upside down. In such a short while, my world had been torn apart. And, if I looked at it, it seemed to be because of that sacred jewel shard. If I had not had it, would Kagome and Inuyasha have come looking for us? I don't think so. I wouldn't have known them…I wouldn't be here…Edward and the others would be safe…Jacob would still be alive, and in my arms…
I closed my eyes, trying to push Jake away from my thoughts as the pain threatened to grab a hold of me again. The wind blew softly around us, and I could hear the sound of the leaves rustling in the trees. For a moment, just a moment, I pretended that I was running with Jake again, the wind in my hair as he let me overtake him. For a moment, just a moment, I could hear Jacob's laughter again…
I opened my eyes just as a drop of water fell on my nose. Eh?
"It looks like it's going to rain!" Jaken said.
True enough the scent of rain hung heavily in the air, and a light drizzle began to fall. Sesshoumaru immediately stood, sweeping off into the forest.
"Jaken," he called, in that imperiously cold voice.
Jaken turned to me, then glanced at Rin. "What are you waiting for, you wench?!" he snapped at me. "Bring Rin!" Without further ado, the toad turned and followed the direction his master had left.
"Miss Ness?" Rin asked, looking up at me with curious eyes.
I scooped her into my arms, careful not to jostle her foot too much. She wrapped her small arms around my neck and gave me a smile. "Thank you!" she said happily.
"Um…" I said, unsure of what to do.
"Follow them, silly!" the little girl said, giggling.
Okay, what just happened?
I decided to let the question drop as the drizzle grew stronger. I quickly ran after Jaken.
Kagome and the others were going to find me, right?
I hoped so.
"She's been gone too long," Bella said.
We were all still gathered in Kaede's hut. It had been some time since Renesmee had run off. Bella had wanted to follow her, but Rosalie stopped her, saying that it was best to give the girl a few moments to herself.
I sighed. I leaned against the wall, Shippo in my lap. Renesmee had most likely run off somewhere to vent out her feelings. Poor girl. When I thought about how she had seen Jacob absorbed by Naraku, I couldn't help but feel so sorry for her. According to Bella, Jacob had imprinted on Renesmee, meaning that she was his soul mate. He was her other half, her fate, her destiny.
And to lose that soul mate…
I couldn't even begin to imagine the pain Renesmee must be going through. "I hope she doesn't do anything drastic," I muttered to myself.
I glanced around Kaede's hut. Rosalie, Alice, and Bella were all leaning against one wall, all of them as still as marble statues. Rosalie's eyes were closed, Alice looked grim, and Bella's eyes were narrowed. They had all agreed to help us hunt Naraku, so they could get Edward and the others back.
Miroku and Sango were talking with Kaede, quietly discussing what Naraku might want with the other vampires. I could only imagine…
Inuyasha was sitting beside me. For once, he looked grim. It was safe to say that his dislike of the Cullens wasn't what it used to be, but still…
"Carlisle," Bella suddenly said.
Everyone turned their eyes to her. "What?" I said.
"Carlisle and Esme don't know," she went on, frowning. She looked at Alice and Rosalie. "We have to tell them."
Alice closed her eyes for a moment. "They won't like it," she said, opening her eyes. "Esme's heart will be so broken."
Rosalie and Bella looked like grim angels at that. "Still, we have to tell them," Rosalie agreed. She glanced from Bella to Alice, then to me.
"What, Kagome?" Inuyasha asked, not understanding.
"They need to tell Carlisle about what happened," I said. I hoped Bella would learn Japanese—the language barrier was such a thorn.
"Alice and I will go," Rosalie offered, as she stood. She looked down at Bella. "Look for Nessie." She turned to me, the hard determination in her face reminding me of a goddess warrior. "We won't be long. Carlisle may want to help us."
I had no doubt that Carlisle would move heaven and earth just to see his family safe again. "We'll wait for you," I said, nodding.
Alice and Rosalie nodded as they both darted out the hut. "Do you think they're safe?" Bella suddenly asked me.
I switched to English. I wanted to comfort her, but I didn't want to lie to her. Besides…these vampires were strong-willed. I was sure she could handle it.
"I'm…not really sure," I admitted, turning to face her. "Naraku is unpredictable. We don't know what he wants with Edward and the others…"
"What about Renesmee?" Bella prodded.
I frowned, and thought about what Kikyou said—that maybe only Renesmee could break the seal on the last jewel shard. "I think…he wants her so he can finally get this," I said, as I pulled out the diamond from my pocket. Inside, the final shard glinted.
"Kikyou, our ally, said that if Renesmee was the first one to get her hands on this, only she can crack the diamond," I explained.
Bella frowned, giving the diamond a dirty look. "That thing was given to her by the Volturi, for her birthday," she said with disgust, and undisguised hate.
I raised an eyebrow. "The Volturi?" I asked.
"In simpler terms, they're like the overlords of the vampire world," she explained. "Led by three ancient vampires, they govern our world, making sure that it remains secret. They wanted to destroy our family once, using Renesmee as a reason for their actions."
She nodded. "There are not many half-vampires," she said. "The Volturi did not know what she was, and they feared. But, of course, that was just an excuse. Their real goal was to destroy our family, and take Alice, Renesmee, Edward and myself, because of our gifts."
I tilted my head. "Gifts?"
She smiled thinly. "You know that Edward can read minds, right? Alice can see the immediate outcome of a decision—the future, if you will. I can shield people's mind, so vampires whose gifts affect it are rendered null and void. Aro, the leader of the Volturi, just wants Renesmee because he thought her one of a kind."
"He's like a collector," I said. "I can see why he'd want Alice."
She nodded. "Alice's gift is the most unique—there's no one else who has it. Aro has never wanted anyone more than Alice. So, in a way, he is. The main members of the Volturi are the family, and the rest is comprised of their guard."
"Their…army, so to speak. The witch twins and Isabel are their greatest weapons in battle."
This was interesting. "Witch twins?"
"Jane and Alec," she went on. Her fists unconsciously clenched, a sign of her anger towards them. "Jane can plant an illusion of pain. Alec can fool the mind into a state of anesthesia. Isabel…she is their latest member. She can dispel the gifts of vampires."
"They seem to be very powerful," I remarked.
She scoffed. "We thought so, too." She looked bitter—a bitter angel. "We thought, with Isabel on their side, surely…they would leave us alone? But no…Aro came on Renesmee's fourteenth birthday…and gave her that." She glared at the jewel shard.
I frowned. "Wait…Aro…gave this to her? But…why? Where did he get it? Why did he give it to her in the first place?"
Bella sighed and leaned back. "I'm not sure of the answer myself," she said, running a hand through her mane of hair.
For now, I decided to let the questions drop. I needed to tell the others about this. I was about to do so, when Inuyasha suddenly tensed.
"Inuyasha, what's wrong?" I asked, placing a hand on his arm.
Everyone was suddenly alert as they looked at Inuyasha. Bella frowned, a look of concentration on her face. "Isn't that…that wolf-demon?" she asked.
Inuyasha nodded as he stood. "This is Kouga's scent." Quick as a flash, he was suddenly out the door.
"Inuyasha, wait!" I called out as the rest of us followed him.
. . .
Kouga, Hakaku, Ginta and their wolves were waiting for us at the outskirts of the village. Hakaku and Ginta both looked as though they had seen a ghost.
"Kouga, why are you here?" Miroku asked.
Kouga scoffed. "I didn't run away, if that's what you're thinking," he said, huffing.
"Sounds like he totally ran away from something," Shippo remarked. He was perched on my shouder.
"Watch it, kid!" Kouga snapped, glaring at him.
"Kouga," I said, drawing his attention. "What happened? Hakaku and Ginta look as though they've seen a ghost."
"Kagome," Kouga said, immediately taking my hands. "I'm so sorry."
"Get your hands off of Kagome!" Inuyasha snapped, immediately between us.
"Inuyasha!" I admonished. I turned back to Kouga. "Kouga, why are you apologizing?"
The wolf-demon frowned. "Your friend, Renesmee," he said at last.
"Renesmee!" Bella exclaimed. She turned to me. "What happened?"
I held up a hand to keep her quiet and motioned for Kouga to continue. "We were resting close to a river, when your friend suddenly jumped out of it," he began. My eyes widened in surprise. A river? What on earth?
"I think she fell. But anyway, I thought I'd take her with me and find you," he said. "We were on our way, when he heard Sesshoumaru's kid screaming."
At the mention of 'Sesshoumaru' everyone's eyes widened in panic. "I helped the kid," he said. He suddenly looked bitter. "And I found myself at the end of Sesshoumaru's sword."
"What?" I said. "Why?"
Kouga bit his lip. For the first time in his life, there was such a troubled look in his eyes. I wanted to place a hand on his shoulder and comfort him, but his next words threw me and everyone else off guard.
"I never knew," he went on. "That it was my wolves that killed the little girl…under my orders."
"What?!" Everyone's exclamation of surprise only made Kouga stiffen.
"You were the one responsible for Rin's death?!" Inuyasha exclaimed.
I was shocked beyond words. Rin was such a sweet little girl. To think that it was Kouga…
But no. Kouga looked so bitter, so remorseful. "I regret it," he said with conviction, his eyes meeting mine. Pleading with me to understand, I realized. "I've changed, Kagome, you know that."
I bit my lip. Kouga had been evil, I already knew that. But he had changed. A lot. I gave him a small smile.
"I know," I reassured him. He looked relieved at that, and I immediately switched the topic. "Continue…what happened to Renesmee?"
"When I saved that little girl, she accidentally sprained her ankle," Kouga went on. "Renesmee wanted to help the kid, but Sesshoumaru had told me to leave."
I nodded. My eyes widened in realization. Renesmee was with Sesshoumaru…Sesshoumaru, whose blood practically called out to her.
"Kouga, quick," I said. "Renesmee…when she saw Sesshoumaru…what was her reaction?"
He gave me a curious look. "She seemed afraid. But she was determined to help the kid," he said.
I let out a sigh. Did this mean that Renesmee had managed to control her thirst? But no. Remembering the way she had clung to Sesshoumaru as she bit him, that couldn't have just been it.
"Sesshoumaru might have sealed his scent and aura, to gain the element of surprise on Kouga," Sango offered, as though reading my thoughts.
Bella had a hand on my shoulder. "Renesmee?" she said.
"She's with Sesshoumaru," I said as Bella's eyes widened in surprise. "Don't worry—she's helping his young ward. I don't think he'll harm her." Yet.
She seemed to read the implication in my voice. "We have to find her—fast," she said. She sounded desperate.
I couldn't have agreed more.
"Uh-oh," Shippou suddenly said as a light drizzle began to fall.
Inuyasha cursed as the rain began to pour in earnest. We bade Kouga goodbye and quickly rushed back to the village, and back to Kaede's hut. "Shoot…with this rain, their scent will be gone," he said, frowning.
Bella was biting her lip as she looked out the door, at the falling rain. I could tell she wanted to run out into the downpour, and find Renesmee. She closed her eyes. It looked as though she wanted to cry.
"Renesmee," she whispered as she opened her eyes. My heart went out to her. She seemed so worried.
I placed a hand on her shoulder, and offered her a small smile. "She'll be safe," I said gently.
She returned my smile, but it did not reach her eyes. She turned her eyes back to the falling rain, and whispered a single word that only I could hear…
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 : )