Author note: o-my-gosh, is this what you think it is? Why yes, yes it is. I'm back people. But instead of boring you all with the details of my return here, you can go to my profile and read what's been happening as well as my plans in my 'returning-from-dead-as-zombie-to-start-writing-fanfiction-again' plan if you want.

…yes. Just call me zombie!Rei. Hi all. (Is shot)

Anyway…writing again is so…weird. I feel like…like…an egg without a shell, or a bald cat—just…off. I don't know. And frankly, it's awesome. Cuz I'm finally back!

…you know what? Ignore me, read the chapter, then maybe read my profile too, but here—completely and utterly ignore my ramblings. I am a zombie after all. Haha. Lol.

It's good to be back. You guys miss me? XD

Disclaimer: this is fan-fiction, and as much as I would like to say I own something, I don't. So yeah, I own nothing. Nothing!

Chapter 21: Awaiting Answers

"Speaking/thinking inside flashback"
Thinking/small flashback

"Um…Tsunade-sama what are you doing?"

Tsunade didn't stop at Shizune's question, she just kept walking. That though, didn't stop her from answering nonetheless. "There's a scroll I need to send out. I'm sure the Kazekage would be interested to know what exactly is going on."

She was walking through the empty halls to her room when her soul collector came flying in and circled around her. Knowing exactly why it was here, she held out her hand for it to land and pass the message along.

It did so without so much as a sound, and after a few silent moments, Kikyo smirked. She waved the soul collector away and watched as it left her sight before following after it. "Good, he's arrived back," she mused aloud, pleased.

It's been more than a few hours since she sent him out—she was beginning to think he wouldn't be able to complete the task she gave him after they captured Kagome. Especially considering his task was not a simple one. If he could not complete it, then part of the plan would have fallen apart. They needed him to set everything in place so they could gain the time they need considering whose coming.

Demons. The thought made Kikyo frown and ball her hands into tight fists. She wasn't expecting youkai to be around Kagome this time—to interfere and it made things a bit more difficult. But they are and most likely coming after them for their 'precious miko'.

And if there's any way they can scent the girl, they will come. Like moths to a flame, unable to stay away from Kagome, unable to let her be harmed. To let her get what she deserves. Leave it to the fox-kit to come running to his precious mother's rescue. And whomever else he contacts.

Kikyo felt herself sneer at the thought. She's been dodging them all these years while she scanned through countries, land, and even sea for her soul. She's been able to stay hidden and out of their sight for centuries, and when she's finally close enough, so close to getting what she wants after so many years—somehow, the damn girl has a way to cause her trouble.

There always is something though, when it comes to that girl, and she's not even that special. She's nothing remarkable—so how she can have so many people that care for, protect, and love her enough to do everything they've done—confuses and irritates her.

It doesn't matter though. With him finishing his mission, we will have more time. They will be unable to find this place, lost as they all will be. Was Kikyo's last thought before she walked through a large door. Letting it close behind her, Kikyo turned to where a thing of steps and sunlight shown through, the path leading up to the open outside and forest above the underground base.

She climbed the steps with ease, and paused only for a few seconds to scan the quiet clearing before turning towards the left and walking over to the tree line where her soul collector was waiting.

As soon as she stopped walking, a black blur jumped down from the tree branches they were waiting in and kneeled before her, one arm across their bent knee, and the other supporting their body, "Kikyo-sama," called the figure, bowing their head more. "I've done as you asked. It was successful."

She gave a light nod, but narrowed her eyes a second later. "You are sure. You have properly ridden of the trail and set a new one? They will not be able to locate this area?"

There was an answering nod, "yes, it will be covered. It is strong enough to keep them at bay for a while."

And when it wears off, it'll be too late for them to backtrack and find us. "Good." She gave a cold smile to the bowing figure. "What about your…partner? He is doing what he should, I presume?"

The person looked up at her, and with another nod, revealed deep brown eyes without a pupil. "Yes, he is getting the ingredients you require, though it will take a small bit of time. A day or two at most. Some of them…are hard to find."

She gave them another smile, and with a nod, gave them what would have looked like a fond expression if it weren't for the dark look in her eyes. "Good. You did well, my little slayer."

Brown orbs seemed to suddenly clear at the word 'slayer' but with a blink of the eye, the clarity was gone and what was left was nothing more than the blank face of what appeared to be an 11 year-old boy. He bowed his head fully again, and brown bangs fell over dull brown.

"I live to serve you, Kikyo-sama."

. . .

Four blurs, barely seeable to the naked eye were currently running through the bush and trees at breakneck speed. They dodged the branches and trunks in their path with such an ease it could make any sort of wood-life animal, even ninja jealous at their flexibility and awareness of their surroundings.

Naruto was one of those ninja.

As he sat on the back of Kirara between his teammates, just watching the movements of the demons, he couldn't help but feel envious, even a little awed at the clear speed they moved through all this wood.

They moved like there was nothing in their way, as if they were simply passing through a flat, straight road when in truth, there were bushes, branches, and trees everywhere.

Sure, a ninja could do what they are doing. Kakashi, he, and Sakura have for years. They've run through the trees many a time and can easily dodge the obstacles in their way too—but never has he seen or moved as quickly as these demons are.

It's amazing. They all are just so quick it makes Kagome, Kakashi-sensei, even Sasuke—some of the fastest people he knows besides Lee or Gai-sensei—look like they run at a joggers pace. If they all were to race, he has no doubt in his mind who would win. It would be the demons. All the demons.

They would easily be first, second, third and so on. Every, single, time. It just makes him curious on who, out of the youkai, would actually be the first. Maybe Shippou? Thought Naruto a second later, eyeing the male currently running ahead of them, his golden tails flying behind him like a golden wave.

He's not sure if he's right, but from the way Shippou looks, he could be the fastest out of the four. He has some kind of energetic grace to him and quick spurts of turns that make it seem so. He uses his entire body to turn, leaning off to the right when he needs to turn right and left when they need to go left. Sometimes even—he's not sure if it's only to show off or something just natural in his movement—but Shippou occasionally flips and spins while he's at it.

At the same time though, he's not sure. The other two ahead of Shippou also have a grace to them, though Kouga's would probably be classified as only pure power. The wolf doesn't pull any of his speed for turns or maneuvers; he just plows through it all and dodges the obstacles in his place by using just his legs and his speed alone.

While Sesshomaru is like a mix between his comrades. He has a strength and power in him as he moves, but it's nowhere near Kouga, but it's also nowhere near as flashy or turn-y as Shippou. He moves with a sort of controlled speed, letting it out in measured bursts and using only partially of his body for the turns. He'll lean in for one, but not to the extent of Shippou and focuses mostly on his feet for any quick or unexpected changes in direction.

As for Kirara, well, he can't really say because he's currently using her as travel, but from what he's seen while they move—the Nekomata glides. Or flies would be a better term.

Kirara flies. Actually flies. Sometimes she'll touch a branch or two, but that's only for a burst of speed if she wants or needs it. Otherwise though, she just flies. Simple as that. And it's just…so amazing.

Without even trying, these demons have completely beaten them at speed. It makes him shocked while at the same time, wonder what else they can do. How strong they really are.

He knows they're strong. There's no question about that. The simple backlash he and the others felt when they released their powers back at the village proved that—but he's curious as to just what exactly it is they can do with all that power. Do they have any of the abilities that ninja do? Their own form of chakra and jutsu? What about clans, do they each have their own set of clans and kekkei genkai? Does something like that run through the demons?

If they do, it makes him think about the Kyuubi and if the nine-tails can do anything like that. If, somehow he could use it to help him beyond the normal chakra boost. He doesn't want to rely on the Kyuubi, and would rather do things with his own strength—but after that event, after seeing Shippou for those few seconds, feeling the power the demons practically radiated—he wants to know if he could have that too, even if only a small fraction. He could help himself and the others when he needs it then. He could better protect those he wants to protect.

He'd be able to help Kagome. This time, he could save her. He'd be faster to stop the people that try to take her away. They wouldn't slip through his fingers for a second time.

Speaking of the Kyuubi. Thought Naruto, furrowing his eyebrows. Since that…incident of him speaking to me…he's been quiet. Naruto momentarily looked down at his hands. after that small burst of transforming too, he hasn't shown up or anything…and that's weird… usually when there's a strong opponent around or he's close to a break down the kitsune will show himself, but this time, he didn't.

After that small headache he felt when the others arrived, Kyuubi has been quiet. It's as if he's not there. Usually he can feel something like a presence* from the demon, but nothing this time. It's as if the Kyuubi's just…gone.

It's weird. He's not complaining though. The Kyuubi is nothing but an annoying, bloodthirsty fox, but it's different not feeling the Kyuubi, especially after all the training he did with the pervy-sage to control its chakra. Is he just gone, or is something keeping him away?

Naruto's blue eyes flew passed Sakura's flying pink-hair to the demons. Is it them? Can he feel the other demons around and is hiding?

They spoke as if they knew Kyuubi, or of him; so is the Kyuubi hiding his presence in order to keep away and out of their range? Were they enemies in the past? As for Shippou, Sesshomaru called him a 'fox' so it means he's a fox demon…is it possible Kyuubi is hiding his presence because Shippou's also kitsune? Maybe…I can ask Shippou later…about fox-demons…maybe, he'll be able to help…

The blonde-haired boy was silent for a few moments before inwardly shaking his head, realizing he's thinking too deep with this and that he should just be happy with how things are. The Kyuubi isn't making his presence known and he's able to find Kagome instead of being forced to stay back in the village—

Naruto's thoughts were interrupted by Kirara suddenly coming to a stop so fast, it would have made him and his teammates lurch forward if they weren't fast enough to catch themselves.

"Ah! What-what's happened?" he found himself asking, placing a hand to his suddenly dizzy head from the backlash. Why did they stop? Did something bad happen?

He heard rather than saw Shippou appear beside him and the others. With a small 'whooshing' sound, the kitsune was standing next to them, his tails moving slightly in the air behind him. "Kouga had to stop, saying something about the scent vanishing."

What? Wondered Naruto, recovering and turning to stare at the serious kitsune. "When did he say that?" he blinked, confused because he never heard anything like that being said. "I…didn't hear him say anything!" besides him, Sakura and Kakashi nodded in their agreement.

Shippou turned his head to him, a smirk adoring his lips. "You wouldn't, human remember? Even if he yelled it out, I'm sure you wouldn't have been able to hear him over the wind as we passed."

"Oh." It was Sakura this time, blinking her green eyes at the fox, surprised. "But that's it? We're stopping because the scent vanished?" worry suddenly clouded her eyes and she whirled to look where the wolf was standing on the ground, walking all over the area to find the scent again. "What happened? What changed? We've only been traveling for about 4 hours…"

She trailed off when Shippou shook his head, a small frown appearing on his face. "Not sure. The scent was already faint to begin with since they attempted to hide it…." Shippou sighed and shook his head, "it's also not impossible for the scent to vanish by itself. During the hours since they passed here and us arriving, something could have come through—the wind, an animal, another person passing by…"

"and if that's the case?" spoke up Kakashi, staring at the younger—well, younger in looks male—with his one revealed eye.

Shippou leaned back, his arms crossing in front of his chest. "If that's what happened here, we'll have to resort to plan B." the kitsune narrowed his eyes, the frown on his face deepening to almost a grimace. "We continue on the trail we're already on and scan the terrain. The trail's been steadily heading west, so it's safe to say they're located somewhere in the western countries."

"Even if we do know the direction they are in, do you realize just how many countries there are in the western hemisphere?" asked Sakura, a bit of disbelief leaking in her voice. There are so many countries to the west, and they think it's just going to be easy looking through them all? "Grass, Rain, and River country are only a few, and the only ones that are on Fire country's border. That's not even crossing over to Wind and Stone country—even Earth country to a degree! How do you expect us to find her with all that—?"

"Sakura, calm down," interjected Kakashi. The man placed a hand on Sakura's shoulder, making her jump and stop mid-sentence to look over to her sensei. "You freaking out won't help the situation. We need to stay calm and composed if you want us to find Kagome quicker."

Kakashi gave the teenager a small, calming smile that seemed to work, because Sakura slowly closed her mouth and nodded, but still looked worried, her eyebrows creased and mouth thin.

But seeing that she wasn't going to interrupt again, Kakashi turned back to the demons, one watching with solemn understanding and the other, in cold silence. "But Sakura is right. They could have headed to any one of those countries. Especially considering whatever happened to the scent—they could have started heading south towards River country, or even north to Waterfall."

"You all seem to forget the reason why I'm here." came a gruff and slightly annoyed voice from behind. Everybody turned to see that sometime during their discussion, Kouga had jumped up from his place on the ground to join them up in the trees. The Ookami didn't seem too pleased and had a frown on his face, his tail twitching behind him. "Don't think something like this will stop me from finding my woman."

Shippou's own tails twitched at Kouga's possessive term for Kagome, but let it slide from the implications of his other words. "You found something?"

Kouga nodded, but his gaze wasn't on anyone of them anymore, but the clearing he just came from.

Curious at the wolf's strong interest, Naruto followed his gaze; but was left staring at the various wolves he saw running from said clearing. Wolves? Where did they all come from? And how did they all appear without any of them knowing?

From the corner of his eye, he noticed that Sakura and Kakashi had finally noticed them as well, and was watching the animals run away with different levels of wary. Sakura nervous and Kakashi a bit more than interested.

Looking back to Kouga, Naruto was about to ask him why exactly he was staring at a bunch of animals when he should be helping them find Kagome, but Kouga had beat him to speaking. With a small nod to himself, the wolf-demon turned from the wolves to look over to Shippou and finally answer his earlier question. "Yeah. Bit strange at first, but after I figured out what happened, everything made sense."

The wolf gave a bitter grin, baring his canines for all to see in his annoyance. "The bitch must have expected that demons would be following the scent too—because it's suddenly gone and covered with some kind of herb mixture, I can't find it anymore, it's like it's been erased. I get a headache just trying to pick it back up."

"What does that mean?" spoke up Naruto, earlier question vanishing at the new information. He can'tlocate the scent anymore? "You can find it can't you? This can't be a dead end, there has to be something that we can do to find thetrail again!"

Kouga sighed and ran a hand through his hair, eyes darting back to the now empty clearing. "There is kid, but it'll take some time. A couple hours at the least."

"Well?" Sakura gave the wolf a searching look. "What is it?"

Kouga rolled his eyes and turned back to the pink-haired girl, raising his hands up in the air in a calming gesture. "Don't worry; I've already got things going." He grinned quite suddenly, eyes twinkling. "When I said that that wasn't going to keep me from Kagome, I was serious. I've already sent out a few wolvesto scan the area and look for the scent, it has to appear somewhere and once they've spotted it, we'll be able to continue."

Naruto and Sakura's eyes both widened, while Kakashi only chuckled. "So the wolves…"

Kouga grinned brighter. "What else did you think they were here for? They may not seem like it, but they can help us. They aren't regular wolves." Kouga cast his gaze back to the clearing. "I had some of my pack come along in case something like this happened. That bitch may think she's so smart with whatever the hell she used to temporarily stop us, but I won't be fooled. They will have this entire placed scanned before you know it. They'll definitely find something."

"So, while the wolves are trying to locate the scent, what do you expect us to do?"

To the surprise of everyone, Sesshomaru answered Kakashi's question. His voice was flat and straight to the point. "You will wait."

The three ninja blinked at the blunt statement, before quick with understanding, especially the 'you' and not supposed to be said 'we', Sakura bristled at the stoic lord. She glared at him with her green eyes, not caring that if he so wished, Sesshomaru could probably kill her within seconds and not at all be concerned later on.

If anything, he'd probably just be annoyed that her blood tainted his sword more than the fact he just killed one of his supposed allies. And as she glared, the Taiyoukai stared back calmly, making her even angrier. She won't have him telling her and her team to wait, especially for something like this. "You can't expect us to—!"

"Actually we can. And you should, Sakura. All of you."

Sakura turned affronted eyes to Shippou, looking almost hurt he sided with Sesshomaru instead of them, when they know that while it's certainly wasn't the meanest—time still wasn't completely kind with them. They need to be on the move, and who knows just how long it'll take the wolves to find another lead they can follow? "We can't do that!"

Naruto was quick to agree with her, having the same exact thoughts. They want them to sit down and wait? "Yeah, you want us to just sit? The reason we came here without permission was so we didn't have to sit around, but now you want us to do just that? What are you thinking?"

Shippou sighed. He already knew this course of action wouldn't sit well with the two younger Nin, but even if he expected it, it doesn't mean he exactly prepared for it and the mild headache it'd bring. "I was thinking about what was best in the long run."

Both Naruto and Sakura opened their mouths in reply to that, already having a few retorts to shoot back at him, but before any such blow up could happen Shippou was already speaking again, giving them a look and shaking his head. "I know what you are going to say, and I know—believe me, we all do—but right now it's for the best. You heard Kouga," he pointed to said wolf that nodded at his name, "it'll take a few hours in the least, so we should use this time to get as much rest as we can."

His calm look faded, and replaced with it was a serious disposition that made both of them pause. "Once Kouga's wolves find the scent, we're heading out. We won't stop for anything, not food, not water, and not sleep, nothing. Which is why you should get as must rest as you can now. Riding on Kirara may not seem too taxing now—but as it all adds up it will." Shippou gave them a sort of fond smile. "I know from experience, so you should take this chance to stretch your legs and get rested. We don't know how long the trail goes, or where it'll take us, so we're giving you the opportunity now."

"But…" the two still looked annoyed and opened their mouths to further protest, but when Kakashi walked past them—smiling under that mask of his with a nod of thanks and pullout of his book—they closed their mouths. Their resistance gone at the man's actions and knowing, that if Kakashi didn't agree with them, then they weren't going to get their way.

Smart kids. Thought Shippou a bit amusedly as he watched the two young Nin follow behind their sensei reluctantly, grim acceptance on their faces. It's a bit funny, but not hard to see why Kakashi was chosen as their sensei. His demeanor seems like a perfect balance to both Naruto's and Sakura's personalities.

He doesn't actively command or tell them what they need to do, but the way he goes on dealing with them—like right now for example—he just does what needs to be done, and somehow, they'll do the same due to some kind of unspoken understanding of what he expects of them and that they should do it. It's weird. And confusing in a way.

He can understand somewhat though, he guesses. Sesshomaru was like that to a degree. More harsh and a lot more distant, but he can see similarities in their actions, as different the purposes and reasoning is.

But enough of that, back on track. With a sigh, Shippou forced his thoughts onto more important matters. For one,the scent and how some herb mixture was able to make it vanish and confuse Kouga. That's…the strange thing about all this.

How could Kikyo lead a demon off the trail? A demon's sense of smell—especially Kouga's—is much more advanced than that of a normal animal. Kouga cannot only track a scent that's practically gone;he can still locate a scent even if it's been tampered with, but this time he said he couldn't do that.

He said that some kind of herb mixture was messing up his senses and giving him a headache. A rare occurrence since there's not many types of herbs known to be able to cause that in demons to keep them away.

So where did that herb mixture come from? Kikyo is a miko, and is most likely aware of herbs that could be used against a demon—but there's no way she could know such an advanced one that could stop even Kouga's scent of smell.

Meaning only one thing. She's having help. Someone is helping her. Someone that has knowledge of demons and their abilities and can fight or even use them to their advantage.

Shippou remained quiet as he and the others watched the three Nin slowly began their descent downwards to the clearing Kouga had jumped to, needing to speak at what he just realized, but not in front of the ninja. And only when he was sure all three had hit the ground and was beginning to set up a temporary camp, did he turn to the other two, to notice that they were staring at him. "What?"

"Don't 'what' me kitsune, you got a look on your face that you want to say something—but couldn't in front of the humans, which is why you waited till they were out of hearin' range." Replied Kouga, giving him a look that practically said 'duh'. He crossed his arms and leaned back, eyebrow rising expectantly. "So? Spill."

Shippou felt a grin come to his face despite Kouga's clear command. One of his tails flickered to the side, "wow, you actually haven't gotten more idiotic since the last time I spoke to you." the jab did its job to amuse him for a few seconds, before he nodded and turned away—serious again. "But yeah, I do have something I need to talk to you guys about."

Sesshomaru actually raised an eyebrow at him slightly, silently telling him to continue and Shippou gave another nod, looking towards Kouga since the wolf was the only one that could give him the answers he wants. "Kouga, that herb mixture you said that was messing up your senses…"

"Yeah, what about it?" cut in Kouga, sniffing at him irritably. If the runt even thinks about protesting against him being unable to smell around that foul smelling scent, he swears he'll—

"What…was it exactly. How did it smell? Do you know?"

Kouga, who was already preparing to yell back at the kitsune for any accusations he said about his sense of smell, suddenly drew back short, blinking rapidly at questions he did not expect. "What?" he said instead, dumbly.

Shippou gave him an annoyed, 'I-can't-believe-you-are-this-stupid' look that vaguely—and scarily—reminded him of Sesshomaru when the dog didn't get the fast understanding he believes everybody should have and obey when he tells them something, and nodded more slowly this time. "The scent." He repeated, purposely drawing out the words as if he was some kind of hearing-impaired old man. "What was it like? What did it smell like?"

"…why?" he finally asked. Kouga stared at the kitsune through confused blue eyes. He doesn't see why he needs to explain the foul stench. It was a foul, sickening smell that interrupted his senses and held up the search—nothing more, nothing less.

Shippou sighed, and then actually had the gull to place a hand to his forehead and rub it, as if he was causing him a headache! "Because, Kouga." He sounded out, voice steadily becoming annoyed. "I need to know what it smelt like so I can figure out what it is, or can't you describe a simple smell to me?"

"hey!" having enough of Shippou, because plainly, it's not his fault the damn brat can't just come out with it in the beginning and tell him why he needs a description of the scent instead of beating around the bush—he moved forward to get in the kitsune's face, but was stopped by, of course Sesshomaru.

"You think someone is helping the dead woman." Sesshomaru was staring at Shippou with his normal, stoic disposition, but Shippou nodded all the same, taking the sentence as a question and furthering his thoughts.

"So, you think so too. But yeah, she has to be having help…it doesn't make sense otherwise." Shippou placed his hands behind his head and leaned back some, one leg crossing over the other. "How else could she be able to make an herb mixture powerful enough to stop even Kouga's nose?" Shippou looked up into the trees, the darkening sky making the leaves more sinister than they actually were. Then with a frown, he faced the other two. "Because if there's one thing you're good at Kouga, it's tracking. So how could Kikyo be able to stop you? She may have been a miko, but there's no way she knows any herbs that could be that advance. She never had any need for them."

The kitsune shook his head before raising an eyebrow at Kouga, "so Kouga? What does the mixture smell like? I can't smell anything really distinctive, so it must be one that's directed to highly sensitive noses and you have us both beat when it comes to that so…"

"Yeah, yeah. I got it." Kouga scowled before furrowing his eyebrows. "But yeah it was pretty hard to figure out at first." the wolf suddenly blinked, scratching his head in confusion. His blue eyes, no longer hard, glanced over to Shippou. "I've smelt something like it before actually, at least, some of it." he wrinkled his nose a bit and grimaced. "I can't tell you what exactly though, cuz it messes with my senses."

"So?" said Shippou, silently urging the wolf to explain further.

Kouga glared at Shippou for rushing him with a, "hold up a second!" before he went silent again for another few moments, deep in thought. He knows he's smelt this somewhere before, he just can't pinpoint where exactly.

Sesshomaru appeared to be getting annoyed, for he narrowed his gold eyes at the blue-eyed canine, an unspoken threat leaving his voice. "Wolf…"

"I know, I know—hold up a second!" Kouga waved back at the dog-demon, turned away from both him and Shippou so he could think. It seems so familiar…he's smelt it before. There's a same burning and nausea he remembers clearly. It's almost like…almost like…

"…poison... Ah, that's it!" Kouga quickly looked back up and whirled towards the other two. "Now I remember! The burning and nausea it creates reminds me of the demon slayer poisons back home. There are a lot of differences between them, this one has a bit of a metallic smell, like blood—but otherwise, they seem similar."

Shippou stood up straight immediately after Kouga's declaration. "The demon-slayer's poison?" Kouga nodded and Shippou gave a narrow-eyed look to Sesshomaru. "I can't believe…you think she actually…"

"It's possible," Sesshomaru nodded. "She kept Inuyasha with her all these years. Who's to say she didn't leave him alive as well? We knew the possibility even though there was no evidence."

Out of the loop and unable to speak telepathically—like the two before him apparently can to one another—Kouga could only look back and forth between them, confused. "What?"

Shippou sighed, "It seems that Kikyo kept more than one ghost with her after all."

"Well, who is it?" asked Kouga again, arms crossing and frowning. "I mean, who else could be helping the bitch we don't know about?"

Green met blue with a tired frown. "Kohaku."

. . .

"Kagome! Help!"

Turning to the yell quickly, Kagome ended up having to take a step backwards when a small form jumped up into her arms, crying and holding their head. "Shippou? What happened?" she asked, gently removing the hand over the bump so she could get a better look at it.

"I wasn't doing anything bad!" replied Shippou quickly, sniffling. "I was just trying to help, but he had to take it the wrong way and hit me! It's not my fault!"

Concern fading to slight annoyance since she already knew who this 'he' was, Kagome sighed and knelt down to place the smaller form on the ground, before turning back to her backpack that was sitting next to her for something that could help with the bump. "Okay Shippou…but can you tell me what exactly happened?"

Shippou frowned. "I went to help with the firewood like you asked, and when I got there, I used my smashing top to cut some of the higher branches off since there was no good ones on the ground, but I didn't see him appear right where they were falling so he got hit! Then the stupid idiot blamed me for his mistake and hit me!"

Able to unearth a water bottle and cloth from her oversized bag, Kagome sighed again and nodded. "Okay Shippou, but first we need to tame that bump before it gets worse…" careful not to get it on her clothes, Kagome poured the cool water onto the cloth. When it was completely soaked, she ringed the excess water out before placing the wet cloth onto Shippou's head.

The little kitsune winced when the cold touched his bump, and she smiled apologetically. "Sorry."

"It's okay Kagome—."


Shippou flinched at the loud yell, wincing when another, louder version of his name was yelled out by the angry voice. Kagome looked up from Shippou to where a large red blur was coming closer, then back to the fox with a raised eyebrow.

Knowing she was silently asking why he was currently being yelled at, Shippou nervously grinned. "I may…have accidentally…hit him a few times with my smashing top…and left him under a pile of logs…"

"Accidentally?" wondered Kagome, an amused smirk appearing on her face.

Shippou turned a shade of embarrassed red, knowing he was caught. Then he sputtered, trying to defend himself. He doesn't want Kagome mad at him, and it really wasn't his fault! "Kagome, he was being mean to me! I…just…" he looked down and sadly kicked the ground. "Wanted him to stop…"

Kagome shook her head, but stood, knowing that if she wanted to face the angry half-demon and keep Shippou alive, she'll have to be standing. "Okay, okay. But still when this is all over, I do expect you to apologize. Alright?"

Shippou gave her a silent nod and knowing that he meant well by that promise, Kagome smiled. "Good."

It was at that moment that the red blur landed in front of her and she was met with angry golden-yellow eyes—

—with a gasp, silver orbs opened wide and Kagome was left pushing herself off the wall she was leaning against, gripping her chest where a small pain hit her like a quick punch in the lungs.

What…? Leaning forward so she could get air into her lungs, the girl leaned her head forward and closed her eyes, gritting her teeth. …was that? It was a dream she knows that much, like all the other ones she's had in the past, but unlike those past dreams…this one seemed much, much more real…

…it was unnerving, exactly how much that dream felt like reality. It was as if she was actually living in that moment, instead of the sense of living it—she felt like she was actually there, wherever it was. With a shiver, she rubbed her arms. She can still feel the gentle breeze as it brushed against her skin, the cold water as it fell on her hands—everything to the smell of the outside—she can still feel it as if she was standing right there, now.

Even though she's awake and knows there was no way she could have been there because for one, she's stuck in a cell, chained to a wall with no way out—yet—and two, that place looked to be in a clearing far, far away and somewhere she has no clue where it is. From what she's seen from her past travels, she has never seen a clearing like that before—that clear.

There's no way it could have been real. That place could have only been in a dream, it was so nice and…new looking.

It took a few moments but her breathing finally calmed. Giving a shaky sigh, Kagome lifted up a cuffed hand to place it over her sweaty face, trying still to calm her racing heart. But… she wondered almost sluggishly, eyes opening.

She can't shake off that feeling—that sense of thinking, feeling, that it was real, that that place really existed. Kagome let out another breath of air, and dropped her hand back down onto her lap, letting her head fall back to rest against the cold wall. And those eyes…

Those golden eyes…

Something about those eyes leaves her feeling distant. Like she's missing something very, very dear and close to her…it makes her…almost wish for something, hope for something.

But for what, or why, she just doesn't know—and from the way things are, probably never will.

It's…almost as if I've seen those eyes before. Somewhere, or someplace…like I know those eyes and who they belong to… the sense of déjà vu that hits her when she thinks of those eyes is horrible, loud, and clear.

Even if it was a dream, she feels almost as if those eyes were really here, or that she could have been staring at eyes like that, they were just that bright.

They practically shined.

Sighing, Kagome let her eyes close halfway in her thought. I wish I knew where or whom they belonged to, then maybe things would start to make sense. She knows for a fact that those eyes didn't belong to anyone she knows. The only people that had anything close to that color would probably be Tsunade or Orochimaru. But she knows that it couldn't be Tsunade, her eyes have just too much brown in them and Orochimaru—well Orochimaru's eyes are disgusting.

His is a sickly yellow that disgusts you and makes you feel sick—but these eyes, they are far from that. These eyes are a warm, shining color that makes her feel happy, fine—safe. There's no way it could be Orochimaru.

And since there is no way it could be Tsunade either, it leaves her with nothing and no one to go on, she's still at step one. And I probably always will be when it comes to these dreams. Silver eyes opened for a second time to stare at the dark ceiling. This is the first one I've had in a while too…so it makes it even more real. Just like that one…

Despite her grim feelings as of late, with her capture and everything since, Kagome smiled, remembering the small little boy in her dreams. But he…Shippou was back. I guess that makes up for it a little bit. While I might not know everything or am insanely confused with it—I at least was able to recognize someone from my dream…

She lapsed into complete silence then, just staring up at the ceiling and listening to see if she could hear anything nearby but when nothing but the same still silence met her ears she frowned and looked down.

It was at that moment something off to her left caught her eye and she turned to it—to find yet another tray of food placed next to her.

Like the last time there was a loaf of bread, glass of water, and rice, but instead of the soup she was met with a thing of meat, cut up into edible pieces for her (with no knife or fork of course) and instead of the apple, there was an orange this time.

When did…? Trailing off, Kagome lifted up her hand and placed it over the food. After a few moments, she felt the barest trace of heat come from the food and then removed her hand, knowing and guessing that if the food started off as hot as the food they gave her previously, then this must have been here a while. "They must have placed it while I was sleeping…"

The girl frowned. "Don't they know they are just wasting their time and food?" despite her saying this, her stomach growled at the offering and she frowned deeper, hand reaching to grab her stomach. "I already said I'm not going to eat what Orochimaru gives me. Even if I'm hungry."

After pushing the tray away from her, Kagome slowly crossed her legs and exhaled a slow breath, trying to remain calm and possibly meditate—but couldn't. She's too round up and tense to do something as relax. Why though? Is something going to happen, besides what's already happened now?

Without thinking, Kagome lightly tugged on the chains incasing her wrists—but remembered a bit too late about her wounds and froze, waiting for the backlash of her thoughtless actions to hit her. But when nothing happened and she remained pain free besides the still dull thrum of her neck that appeared occasionally, Kagome blinked and looked down at her wrists.

To find no wounds. They were gone. She looked down at her ankles to find the same thing.

"W-What?" lifting up her wrist to look at it better, she inspected her entire hand, touching and poking it with her finger to see if she could feel any sort of pain—but nothing, even after she started to resort to pinching with her nails.

She was healed. They healed her.

Annoyance came then and Kagome gritted her teeth, furiously dropping her wrist in her lap and turning away. It must have been Kabuto then; he healed me while I was asleep.

Meaning he was in the cell with her. She missed a chance to try to get away. But more than that, he was in the cell with her—she could have tried to attack him. Everyone knows the smug bastard deserves it.

A few seconds passed before Kagome sighed again, knowing that her senseless anger wasn't going to get her anywhere, no matter how much fun it would be to attack Kabuto.

Besides…when I do get free, I'll have the opportunity to kick his and everyone else's ass that gets in my way easily. I just have to wait. She thought, trying to keep her spirits high while she was captive. It's just a matter of time. And hey, if she's lucky, the others will arrive and she'll be able to kick Kabuto's butt with Naruto before they all go and get Orochimaru and everyone else here, wherever 'here' is.

The mention of Naruto made Kagome suddenly sigh and lean back against the wall heavily, expression melancholy, missing her friends and home and wishing so much that she could be there right now. How are they? Is the village all right? How badly was it destroyed? Were there any casualties? If so, are any of her friends among them?

Are they actually looking for her? Do they know what happened to her, or do they think they can't find her because she's amongst the dead? The sudden thought made Kagome pause before shake her head. No…I think they know what's happened to me… Tsunade and Kakashi both know what's wrong—even Kiyoshi knows…

She sighed, shoulders slumping—dejected. "I bet by now they've told the others…"

Meaning that Sakura and Naruto are now informed of her…unwilling ties and experiences with Orochimaru during these last couple of years, even as far apart they are. They probably want to kill me by now for not telling them…

But could you blame her for not? They already struggle with the fact that Sasuke was taken by Orochimaru, but to have her come up and tell them that Orochimaru's been after her for the last two years too?

It would make them go into overdrive, trying to protect her everywhere she goes, keep her from doing anything or going anywhere. Hell, they'd probably help Tsunade with keeping her on lock-down if they were to find out.

It'd keep them from doing anything or training for themselves…and she won't do that. She doesn't want to be babied, or followed, or watched like a hawk. She doesn't want them to risk everything for her, if she can do something herself. Despite the fact that now, her decision has left her…pretty stuck, she knows she can get out of this…it'll just take a small while…

Speaking of time… wondered Kagome, looking around the darkened cell, wishing now there was a clock or form of sunlight she could use to tell the time. She has no clue how long she's been down here. It feels like forever to her, but sitting alone in the dark with nothing to do can do that to you. I wonder how long I've been here…

The girl was silent, trying to see if she could pin-point a set time to figure out how long she's been here, but unable to come up with anything. The small light that comes from the window above her isn't sunlight she found, since it hasn't changed since she's been here—so trying to rely on that is no good.

Kagome pursed her lips. A day possibly? Two? It certainly feels like it could be that long. Warily, Kagome ran her hands through her matted hair, wincing when her fingers caught against a particularly nasty knot. "Ow…"

After a few unsuccessful tries of trying to get rid of the knot from her hair, Kagome sighed and gave up. She untangled her hand from her hair then stared down at her left arm, still covered in the black markings. "And these are still here…I know for a fact that it's been more than a few hours so they should be gone. But they aren't."

From her past experience, they should be gone by now, faded back into the mark on her neck—yet here they still remain. Even Sasuke's marks never stayed out this long. They faded pretty quickly, so why hasn't hers followed the example?

Does it have anything to do with that stuff Orochimaru injected into her?

Lifting up her arm so she could see it better, Kagome lightly touched one mark on her skin with her finger. "Nothing…it still looks like it did…there's no change."

Kagome worriedly bit her lip.

And she's not sure if that's a good or bad thing yet.

. . .

It was dark.

And very silent.

Shippou looked around the makeshift campfire they made earlier in the evening, then down to the fish cooking in the center, trying to—and failing—to keep his slight nervous twitch under control with all this tense silence that's over them.

After their earlier discussion and with the waiting for Kouga to get news from one of his wolves, things have been…tense. Both Sakura and Naruto, while going along with their suggestion to rest weren't happy about it in the least.

You didn't have to see their expressions or actions to figure this out, the whole feelings of anger, tension, frustration, and impatience practically leaked off them in waves. It saturated the entire clearing they set camp up in and left a heavy atmosphere.

It doesn't help that Kouga too, appears to be a bit preoccupied himself. He's been moving around, listening and occasionally mumbling to himself about the wolves he sent out, and a few times he's even left the area, only to come back, more annoyed or frustrated with the situation than he was before.

He wouldn't blame him though; Kouga does have some reason to be a bit ticked off. Being unable to find a scent due to it being covered by something he can't sniff around—followed by the fact that the scent is their only lead and without it, or him, being able to locate it leaves them at a standstill—can really take its toll on anyone. He's surprised the wolf hasn't resorted to destroying parts of the forest already in his frustration.

Hell, if it wasn't for his own self-control—he'd already be killing and destroying things himself.

Because 4 hours without any sort of answers or clues is very irritating.

And all that isn't even at the top of the scale—he's not counting Kagome's situation or the new possibility that Kohaku might more-than-likely still be around, though there was no hint of him in 350 years.

They did think of it as a possibility in the past, because when Kikyo vanished and took Inuyasha, Kohaku magically vanished as well, but when there were any sightings of Kikyo—and Inuyasha was thought dead—there was none of Kohaku so they believed that she either released or killed him for his shard.

So they let it go—after years of searching, mostly for Sango's benefit, they stopped and let the matter of Kohaku drop. As cold as that sounds, Kohaku wasn't—and still isn't—the main concern here.

Kagome is. And even though he may be helping Kikyo, Kohaku still won't be a problem after they find Kagome. Sure, it makes things a bit more complicated if he is, but beyond that, things will be fine. With Kagome's ability to sense the jewel shards, if somehow Kohaku isn't helping Kikyo but roaming the countries somewhere—she'll be able to find him and the problem's solved. And if Kikyo is keeping him, that's not a concern either because when they get Kagome back, the undead miko will be dead.

So whatever the situation, it's not a big deal whether he is around or not.

Shippou sighed. But for now…until they can figure out where Kagome is and what's exactly going on—they all just need to wait. Shippou scanned the silent group around him, to see if there was any change, but when the same, silent, uncomfortable scene met his emerald eyes—he had to resist another sigh.

If any of us can last long enough to even get that far anyway. Thought the kitsune, one tail behind him twitching in irritation. Why does everybody have to be so…so…anti-social right now? he understands why they are like this…he feels the same way, the anxiousness and irritation—but somehow, part of him wishes someone would reach out, to attempt to break this veil that's suffocating them.

He could probably do it, could probably break some of the ice that's between this group of mix-matched people—make them sort-of-maybe get along—but he can't at the same time.

One of them needs to. He gets along with both groups—at least mostly—knows both, ninja if only to a degree, and has worked with both groups so him interfering would be forcing them into interacting with each other, and he can't do that—doesn't want to. Otherwise, this whole thing won't work.

They came here for Kagome and while that may be enough to make them all deal and work together, it isn't enough. There needs to be more than a bit of tolerance, but actual getting along, even if only a bit.

One of them needs to reach out and start a truce themselves, that way it doesn't seem like he's the one forcing them to speak together outside of mission or Kagome talk, but because they actually want to try to get along. Part of him even hoped that, while they were forced to stop as they waited for a new trail, this break would be that perfect moment.

But I think that possibility is a bust… Thought the fox, watching the two separate groups. The ninja were all on the right side, close together in a group of their own, while Kouga was on the left, still pacing and walking around. They all were circling the fire—but from where he sat in the middle of it all, he could easily tell that things were divided.

The only other person that didn't seem to care where they sat was Kirara, who—like him—was in the middle of the two groups, sleeping in her larger form across the fire from him.

Sesshomaru wasn't here either. said something about being the 'first watch' but when he was, even the Taiyoukai was on the left side with Kouga, and didn't look too keen on crossing over to where the humans were, or if he did; he made no movement to acknowledge them.

And only adding to this all, was that long, tense and uncomfortable one said a word at all and it has his tails twitching, wanting something to be said to break this, but unwilling to be the one to do just that with all the brooding people around him. Kakashi seemed unaffected, just sitting there reading his book, but the still position of his shoulders had him knowing that the man was just as tense as the rest of them, hoping that good news would come faster.

The fire crackled and Shippou found himself staring at it. Just…say something… but what? 'Gee the weather's nice tonight' or 'how are you all doing today' just doesn't seem appropriate considering the situation.

If Kagome was here…she'd said something to start conversation, no matter what it was. The sudden thought had Shippou sighing again, suddenly and dearly wishing that the miko were here to say something—but if she was, they wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place.

Leaning back on his hands, Shippou stared up at the sky remorsefully, mood darkening. He watched the stars twinkle and shine, but no matter how pretty they were, or they reminded him of the times when the original inu-tachi used to camp out like this, the kitsune found he couldn't find the emotion at the moment to care or mourn.

And the uncomfortable silence continued.

. . .

She was sitting back, idly counting the seconds that passed while she waited for the present pain of her ankles and wrists to fade, when the door to her cell opened and stepped in two figures.

At first she didn't pay them any attention, thinking it was just more servants to come pick up the tray left for her a few hours earlier, so didn't turn to look at them, finding no need to. Why pay any attention to some willing slaves of Orochimaru? It's not as if they'll answer her anyway.

She tried. When the first servant came in with yet another tray of warm, hot food and slid it under the bars to her, she opened her mouth and asked just how long it's been since she was in here.

At first she wasn't going to say anything—because it meant she was actually depending on them for help, despite just wanting the time—but then she realized that she needs to know how long she's been in here.

She needs to know how long ago it was that she was taken away from her home. How long she's been stuck in this hellhole, without her friends, without news on what's happening in Konoha.

So she sucked up her pride and spoke to the servant. It was nothing more than a simple, 'how long have I been in here?' but for all purposes, it should have been something close to a death threat or yell because of how the servant jumped, shocked that she spoke.

But then like nothing, they recovered and ignored her. So she asked again, this time making sure to make eye contact in case they didn't quite hear her. Like the first time though, they ignored her. The male just got up from where he was kneeling, turned and walked out the door, closing it with a stern slam that left her gritting her teeth and fisting her hands.

This leaves her to now, furiously keeping her eyes glued to the bars ahead of her. Waiting for the time when the servants got what they needed and left her alone. I won't waste my breath, if I won't get any answers. She thought, frowning inwardly. She's tired, has a headache, and would very much like to simply go back to her attempts at freeing herself.

"Hello Kagome-chan."

And her plan would have worked, except for the fact that the servants, weren't actually servants. She froze at the voice, before turning her head slowly to meet the grinning gaze of Orochimaru, the ever-fateful Kabuto at his side.

Immediately, her mood darkened. Silver eyes narrowed and fists clenched. "What are you doing here?" she bit out; still very much aware of what all happened to her the first time she woke up and he was in the room. Her neck still hurts time to time and the marks have yet to vanish.

Orochimaru blinked, looking close to hurt at her biting tone, before shaking his head and sighing remorsefully. "What? I can't come see my favorite Konoha-kunoichi whenever I want—?"

"Cut the crap!" interrupted Kagome. She is in no mood to deal with him, she was quite happy with him staying away thank-you-very-much. "Why are you here, Orochimaru?" She asked scathingly. The faster she knows why the snake came to 'see' her, the faster he leaves and she can go back to trying to break the damn chakra-cuffs keeping her prisoner.

The sannin gave her an amused look. "Temper, temper Kagome. Really, you would think you'd be a lot nicer to me after all that I've done for you—."

"What do you want?" yelled out Kagome, forcing herself up so she was standing in order to be close to eye-level with the annoying man. She isn't as tall as he is and the actions don't do much to help her, but damn it all to hell—she won't let him look down and tease her!

All that he's done for her? Bullshit! The only thing he's done for her is be an annoyance she can't get rid of, a big reason why her team broke up, the cause for why she's here now and why a lot of things are as fucked up as they are! He's done nothing for her but interfere with her life and ruin it, after things were just barely starting to look up.

After she was able to find a new home with a new family and friends, this—this bastard had to come and ruin it.

The chains clanked and whined as she pulled on them. The dull thud of her wounds was beginning to turn into a pulsing pain, but Kagome ignored them all in favor of trying to break free again.

And it pisses her off so, so much that he's right in front of her—only a few feet away—and she can't do a damn thing. She can't stop him from ruining things more.

"S-stop sprouting your bullshit! I'm sick of it!" panted Kagome, leaning forward and gasping to try and recover her strength. Her hair fell over her shoulders and her bangs were getting in the way of her eyes, but the girl was too preoccupied to care. "I'm so sick of it!"

Slowly, as her attempts slowed, Kagome started to sink back onto the ground on her knees, arms still pulled behind her from her earlier actions. "So, so sick of it! Let me go! release me!" the yells were intended to be scathing, angry, bitter—but what came out was nothing more than tired gasps, and Kagome was left gritting her teeth, frustrated she couldn't even yell properly.

When he noticed that she wasn't going to yell out again—or at least for a while, Orochimaru chuckled and shook his head. "You know I can't Kagome." the girl slowly looked up at him through her bangs, and he smiled. "You are worth too much for me to simply let you go…but you know I could get you out of this cell," he offered lightly. He could. All she would have to do it agree to become a sound Nin and like that, he'll let her out of her cell and from there it'd be easy to get rid of Kikyo.

Then he can finally have all he wants without any worries. Sasuke and Kagome will both be under his command and he can focus again on his main goals—the one that requires those two Nin so much.

Her silver eyes, still so bright despite the tired look to them, glared up at him through dark bangs. "I thought I already made it clear to you…or your lackey—." She smirked over to Kabuto as she said this, before back to him, eyes narrowing. "I will never agree to be on your side. I'd rather die."

With that said, the girl looked back down to the ground. "Now, if that's it, could you kindly fuck off? I was actually enjoying the fact that you weren't here to bug me."

Despite the anger and disrespect she gave him, Orochimaru wasn't offended. If anything only amused. He's dealt with such things and people for many years—Sasuke mostly, so some little threat isn't going to bother him, especially with Kagome.

It's amusing really. How they both disrespect him so, it's probably another reason why he says he likes them so much. They have no fear, no concern with him. even if they both are weakened or could be killed in an instant—like now with how Kagome's in a cell or the past when he fought against Sasuke in his training—they do not back down.

Kikyo may call him unwise to go about such things and have some subordinates that do not fear him, but he feels that it only strengthens him in the end. Why break them when he could build up on it?

Chuckling, Orochimaru shook his head. "Actually no Kagome. While chatting with you is fun, I do have a reason for my little visit." He paused to stare down at the tray of yet again untouched food. "Quite a few actually." He mused.

The girl made no motion to show she was listening but he could tell from the way she tensed up that she heard him loud and clear. "The first, Kagome-chan is about your mark of course. I wanted to come and see how it was since it's been a while since it was finally able to activate you know." He paused to eye Kagome's slumped form, noticing that the marks were still there. "And I have to say, I'm really interested in the fact they have yet to return or fade back into your neck."

A manic grin made its way onto his face as the girl froze. "Do you happen to know why this is Kagome-chan? I've never seen any other mark act this way before…they usually fade a little after, and some of the longest usually only last a few hours…but yours has lasted 2 days and still counting."

"w-what?" Kagome's head flew up when he mentioned how long her mark remained activated. The first real, non-scathing response he's gotten since he came in. "2 days?"

He nodded, humming a small bit in thought. "Yes, 2 days." He raised an eyebrow at the girl. "Why, something wrong Kagome-chan?"

Kagome didn't answer him; her silver eyes were now looking down at the ground in some form of mild shock. She's been here for 2 days? It's only been 2 days? Seriously? It felt like she's been in here longer, much longer. 2 days…it's only been 2 days since I was captured…2 days since the invasion…

Orochimaru was speaking again, "ah, and speaking of something wrong, I must say I'm becoming a bit concerned Kagome." The snake paused for a moment, waiting to see if the girl would look at him again, but when she didn't he only sighed and walked closer to the cell. "I've been told you haven't eaten…and after I've gone to the pains of making sure you are given fresh food—you still refuse it. Is something not to your liking perhaps?"

Kagome was silent.

Giving another sigh, Orochimaru 'tisked' and shook his head, placing his hands behind his back and frowning. A look of remorse appeared on his face. "You do know that if you continue down this road, you will only harm yourself in the end…"

The girl remained quiet, her face turned away and expression closed.

Still not bothered, Orochimaru shook his head for a second time and turned around to leave, motioning for Kabuto to do so as well. "Well, alright Kagome. I can see that at the moment you don't wish to see reason…" he stopped at the door, his hand on the handle. Orochimaru turned his head back to face her, a smirk on his face and glint in his eyes. "But you will soon, and when you do—you'll finally understand which side is better. You'll discover just where it is you belong. But until that happens, your situation will continue—plus, I am highly curious about your mark, and I do believe that some tests are in order to see just why those marks are still there." The man paused after that, and then chuckled. "So till tomorrow Kagome-chan. I'll see you then."

After those words, Orochimaru, and in extension, Kabuto left, the heavy door closing with that horrible resounding clang and clicks of locks.

. . .

It's been 14 hours…and there's still nothing. Thought Shippou anxiously, his right hand twitching, claws just itching to slash something apart to get out all the nervous energy building up—but holding himself back for the fact that one; he has much better self-control than that—he does, he does—and two, the three ninja were all, finally, asleep after hours of refusing to rest.

They wished to stay up in case Kouga came back with news, but after coaxing—a lot and a lot of coaxing—he was finally able to get them to take the time to get sleep with the promise he'd wake them up as soon as he got news.

That was about 6 hours ago, and he's not willing to let his nervous want to crush something—preferably, Kikyo's head—wake them up. It would be loud, and there's no way he'd get them to go back to sleep since it's already morning. His eyes strayed to the sun, already making its way to its place in the sky, and checked the time. Around 8 o'clock to be precise.

He gazed back down quickly, not wanting to stare at the sun anymore, or the morning sky and scenery. 14 hours without any sort of sign…why is it taking so long? Just how far along is the scent tampered with? Kouga and his wolves should be back by now—with the scent's trail and a way to find Kagome again and if Kouga were here, he'd kill him because he should be doing something or found at least some clue—


The call towards him, as sudden and unexpected it was made Shippou's thoughts come to a full stop. Any angered or violent ideas vanished as quick as they came, leaving him feeling surprisingly shocked and a bit numb. Where'd did those just come from? Kouga will be back as soon as he found something. There's no need to take it out on him—as much as he may not enjoy the wolf's company most days—Kouga is an ally, friend even, and is trying his hardest to find the scent. If anything, Kouga's probably feeling more stressed than him, being the one that actually has to find the trail.

Blinking off the feelings—because he's not going to do this again, not ever—Shippou lifted his head and turned to Sesshomaru. "Yeah?" he asked, forcing a grin because throughout everything, he pretty much forgot the demon-lord was back from his patrolling. If it wasn't for the comment just now, he'd probably bypass the other youkai's presence altogether.

The Taiyoukai was situated to his left, far enough away he could be considered 'outside' of the camping bounds, but still close enough he could be seen and in return, see the entire clearing for anything that may be harmful. He was sitting down against a tree, one knee drawn up and arm resting on it—the closest thing to normal and relaxed as he lets himself appear most times now—and was staring straight at him.

His expression was still the same stoic mask, but his eyes were hard—feeling like cold steel placed against your neck just wanting to strike—and it made Shippou look away, knowing why the expression was on the older demon's face. "Calm yourself. If you continue, you will destroy the area and we do not need any senseless actions to cause further problems."

What? Shippou looked back up towards Sesshomaru, confused at his words because how could he destroy the area? He's not even trying—but when he met eye-to-eye with the Inu-youkai, the question must have been in his eyes because Sesshomaru's own eyes turned down towards something.

Even more confused, Shippou followed his gaze, to draw back in shock and quickly pull his hands up from where they were situated almost completely in the ground.

The dirt and rock around his hands flew up into the air as he lifted his hands up, leaving craters on either side of him and his hands dirty, but Shippou was more preoccupied with the fact that his hands were glowing green with his youki. Not only that, but coming from where the craters were, large cracks were forming and splintering through the ground, expanding out like spider-webs.

Reacting quickly, Shippou pulled in his youki and the cracks stopped just shy of touching near the fire-pit and sleeping Nin 15 feet where he was sitting. "I…." Shippou trailed off and turned back to Sesshomaru, then to a now awake Kirara. "I…didn't mean to…sorry…must…not have been paying attention—it, it won't happen again."

Kirara gave a sympathetic growl and he smiled towards the Nekomata and nodded, "I'm fine, Kirara." he reassured when ruby eyes continued to stare at him. After another moment, Kirara gave another soft growl and lowered her head back to the ground, her twin-tails moving to cover her head as she went back to sleep.

And Shippou just sat there for a moment, before sighing and turning to Sesshomaru. "I'm sorry." He repeated, again, seriously. Because he is. Sesshomaru taught him better than that, and here he is, wasting the teachings by losing control so easily. "I was preoccupied."

Sesshomaru finally looked away and knowing that was a good sign, Shippou have a sigh of relief.

"You think Kouga will not return with a scent?"

"What—no! Not at all…" Shippou made to shake his head but stopped dead—realizing that, even if only somewhat, he did think it. "At least…not fully. It's just been so long. What if—" He paused quite suddenly, glancing over to the ninja and listening in to make sure that throughout the commotion, they were asleep.

Deep, solid breathing met his ears and he resumed, though he kept his voice low. "—what if Kouga can't find a scent. What do we do then?" Shippou looked over to the Nin. "What happens to the ninja and Konoha?"

"Such questions should be asked when they are truly needed," Sesshomaru glanced at him casually, "not when we will have what we require already."

. . .

The snake was true to his words.

With a wince and left eye closing in grimace, Kagome slowly lifted up her hand and grabbed her stinging neck, willing the pain away by rubbing the tender skin slowly.

To no such luck, the skin only continued to sting, and hurt, and burn. So with a sigh Kagome stopping massaging her neck and dropped her hand back in her lap. Ow…

"The pain will last for only a little while Kagome-chan, but I'm sure you won't mind it—since after all, it is a necessary part in finding out why your mark hasn't gone back to your neck."

"I will make him pay for this…" swore Kagome softly. It may be nothing but an empty promise or hopeful wish—but she can hope right? Someone really should give him a taste of his own medicine. she thought slowly, giving a small hiss as her neck gave a particular stinging stab, almost as if Orochimaru heard what she was thinking and had it pulse in warning, practically declaring 'I can do this to you anytime I want'.

Slowly, Kagome re-raised her hand and placed it over her forehead, not feeling too good—and not only because of her mark, but because of what he gave her for the mark.

Blinking, Kagome tried to focus and remember what was exactly in the needle Orochimaru stuck in her neck—but found she couldn't place an exact recall. She's not even sure what color it was. Was it yellow? Purple? Maybe reddish orange? With frustration Kagome closed her eyes and started rubbing her forehead, feeling suddenly sluggish…and off.

He said…he said there would be side-effects… the bitter thought appeared in her mind and Kagome found herself blinking a few times to stay focused. She has to. She's already fallen under the damn influence of at least two of his drugs—she doesn't want him to get another.

But still…does he have to make it so hard? Her silver eyes blinked a few more times, finding that the area around her was starting to blur into a thing of dark colors and shades. She shook her head quickly to will the blur away—but only mildly succeeded when it only let up slightly.

She could now only see the outline of the things around her, but she's not going to complain, she can still see something at least. And she's not completely succumbing to whatever poison he injected into her, so that's a plus in her book.

A small crooked smile appeared on her face. Especially since…it took 3 of his men to restrain me… another internal point for her! She may still have had the poison forcefully given to her, but at least she fought and gave some trouble—right now the only thing she can regretfully do besides being continuously disrespectful and spiteful—

Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by another stab in her neck that this time was accompanied by a light-headedness that left her feeling more than a little dizzy. Giving a small, "Ow…" she leaned her head back against the wall to help her regain her bearings. She does not need this. Her wrists and ankles already hurt from the new wounds she got from trying to break the chakra-cuffs again. She doesn't need to add neck-pain, and whatever else this drug will cause to the list.

Just what did he give her? A mild sleeping drug? Some kind of tranquilizer? She's never felt this…off before. Considering, she's never been drugged or poisoned like this before either, but still—she doesn't like the feeling. She's tired and dizzy and a headache is slowly but surely making its way in conquering her head.

To make things worse, she can faintly hear the sound of footsteps coming to her cell—the 'tap' 'tap' 'tap' sounding like some kind of horrible rhythm. She closed her eyes and sighed warily, just trying to keep her mind clear of the fog it wants to fall in.

She can't let herself fall victim to the poison and end up falling asleep or dazed and unable to do anything. If she is to sleep, she wants it to be on her terms when she's sure no one is going to be here and not currently walking to her cell now.

She let out a small thing of air. It's probably just another one of his servants bringing me my food for the day. Reluctantly, thanks to Orochimaru she's discovered that she's brought food twice every day. In the 2 previous days she's been here, she's received 4 meals so by simple thought, she was able to find out that she gets two meals a day.

It's currently the third day she's been here—she found this out when Orochimaru came like he said he would, flanked by five sound nin and a needle, Kabuto surprisingly absent—so she's guessing that the current footsteps heading her way is a servant with her meal.

But it's not as if I'm going to eat it. They're wasting their time and food. (Though the prospect of them running out of food because of her and all starving to death is a wonderful thought,) she won't eat anything Orochimaru gives her. He could have poisoned it, put some kind of mind controlling substance in it or something—

—Kagome stopped the idea dead where it was and rubbed her head furiously, not liking where her thoughts suddenly turned. Mind controlling substance? It's probably possible, but something is seriously wrong with her if she's starting to think of something like that.

Because if Orochimaru had that kind of poison in his arsenal, she's sure he would have used it on her the first day she was here—or would be forcing it down her throat by now, that same sickening gleeful grin on his disgusting face. All the while saying, "Don't worry Kagome-chan, it's nothing but a simple mind controlling juice—you'll be fine and a joyful little sound-nin in no time!"

I can't believe…this… warily, she shook her head, wanting to clear it again because things were getting too fuzzy and weird for her liking.

The footsteps were closer now, right outside the door actually. She could tell because the continuous 'tap', 'tap' stopped and instead was replaced with the sounds of metal and locks being moved, followed by the irritating creak of the metal door being opened.

Dizzy, but still having most of her wits about her, Kagome decided to speak, eyes narrowing in annoyance. They probably won't listen, but it doesn't mean she can't try to make them stop coming. While the food being delivered currently is her only way of finding out how long she's been here—she would like it better if she was left alone.

She doesn't want to deal with the other people in this place. She doesn't want to deal with Orochimaru, Kabuto, Kikyo, Sasuke, or any of the servants and other sound Nin here.

She just wants to be home in Konoha. In her bed asleep or taking a nice warm bath, training with Sakura and Naruto, or making fun of Kiyoshi. She just wants her semi-normal life to go back to that semi-normalness instead of the 180 it decided to take. But because that's not possible—she can only resort to wanting to be by herself until she can get out.

The door was fully open now, and someone was coming in, so she opened her mouth, "you're… wasting my time if you think I'm going to eat, anything I'm given from you. I haven't for the last two days—that's not going…to change…now…"

As she spoke, she turned to face the servant but soon found herself trailing off, shocked at who just met her eyes, and now wondering if the drug Orochimaru injected into her caused hallucinations because who she's seeing, really wouldn't come here. She may not be able to see their face due to the drug making her vision blurry, but there is no mistaking that outline standing on the other side of her cell.


Author note: and there, the long awaited chapter has ended! I hope the wait was somewhat worth it, this chapter was hard to write and well, it's been awhile for me. Haha, so here's to hoping my writing ability hasn't completely deteriorated back into nothing during my absence…

And Kagome and Sasuke finally have their meeting, I know a lot of you have been waiting for it, and again I'm sorry you had to wait so long, but well, I guess late is better than not at all right?

….haha, yeah, don't answer that. (Looks around nervously for sharp flying objects)

Anyway, please, please review? I know it's been a while, actually, probably been forever, but your guys' reviews could really help and I'd love to see who's, if anyone, is still reading this, and would love the feedback. (besides, zombie needs food, and brains are nasty.)

*I don't know if this little bit is true or not, but I kind of assume that something like this would be, especially considering the fact that since part 2, Naruto's seal has been weakening and since then he's transformed what like 2, 3, or 4 times? So yeah, coupled with a weakening seal, and many transformations, I assume that it means Kyuubi would get a bit more freedom even if just as a presence or something. So I'm using it. XD

Reviews are loved, flames stared at, and advice appreciated! Until next chapter!