The soreness in her shoulders had settled into a slow, collarbone-cracking burn, and her rib cage threatened to collapse. Kagome didn't look up, but she could hear the rings on Miroku's shakujou jangling rhythmically as he tapped it on the ground. Step, jingle. Step, jangle. Then her view of the ground got up to their feet. Sango, Inuyasha, Miroku and Shippou stood there, radiating something other than patience.

"Sorry," she said, with more whine than repentance in her tone. "I'm just getting so tired."

"It isn't even noon yet," Inuyasha scoffed. "Walk much?"

"For your information," Kagome replied, "this pack is very, very heavy. If you wanted me to walk faster, you could carry it for me."

Inuyasha's eyebrow twitched. "I don't need any of the crap you've got in there. Why should I carry it?"

"Charitable feelings? Pity?" Kagome offered hopefully.

"More like wondering what the hell you needed that weighs so much."

"It's hardly even anything!" Kagome protested. "I don't even know what's weighing it down like that!"

"Let's take a look then, shall we?" Inuyasha said, hooking a claw in the zipper pull.

"Fine, fine!" Kagome said. "You'll see that everything in here is one hundred percent necessary!" She plunged a hand in the voluminous pack. Out first came a bag of toiletries.

"What's that?"

"Soap. So I don't stink, something you might have trouble understanding."

"Keh. That's a lot of soap." He tugged the bag open impatiently. "You need all of these?"

"Shampoo. To clean my hair. Conditioner, to make it manageable. Hair gel, to keep it manageable. You like my hair, right, Inuyasha?"


"Say yes," Miroku prompted.

"Sure," Inuyasha said. "Not sure it's three bottles of goop worth of like, but sure."

"Body wash," Kagome continued, "for my skin. Loofah, to scrub the body wash on with. Shaving cream and razor, to keep my legs and armpits smooth. You wouldn't want me running around all hairy, would you?"

Inuyasha squinted at her. "Why, how much hair are you likely to grow?"

Kagome glared daggers at him. "Wouldn't you like to know."

Inuyasha shot a desperate look at Miroku, who shrugged in that sorry, this one's all yours sort of way.

"Lotion, so my skin doesn't dry out. Moisturizer, for my face."

"What's this one do?" Inuyasha asked, picking up one of the yet-unidentified bottles.

"It refines my pores."

"It whats your what?"

"Inuyasha, I am fifteen years old, and I don't have a single pimple. You think that kind of beauty comes naturally?"

"I don't have pimples either," Inuyasha pointed out.

"No, you have a daddy that's a daiyoukai. The rest of us have to work for our beauty."

"Because having dog ears is just the height of modern fashion."

"Better than having combination skin!"

"I have combination blood!"

"Which makes you strong enough to carry my backpack!" Kagome insisted.

"Hmph. What else is in it?" Inuyasha muttered, pawing through the contents. "Crap. Crap. Clothes you never wear. Crap."

Kagome scrambled around him, picking up the occasional things Inuyasha tossed from her pack. "My sanitary napkins are not 'crap!'" Kagome objected loudly.

Inuyasha gave them a second glance. "What are they for?"

"My...anatomy," Kagome said vaguely.

"Don't be stupid. You don't have any wings."

Kagome blushed furiously. "That's not what it means."

"Whatever." He pulled out a pair of heavy boots. "This might be adding to that weight."

"These aren't exactly hiking shoes," Kagome said, gesturing at her pennyloafers.

"Then maybe you should wear the boots, and leave your regular ones at home."

"Maybe the barefoot shouldn't give advice on footwear," Kagome retorted.

"Maybe the weak shouldn't pack more than they can carry," Inuyasha shot back.

Kagome's face burned. She was near tears, and over something so stupid. "Aren't we friends?" she asked weakly. "Don't friends do things for each other? Is it so wrong for me to count on you sometimes?"

"Friends do things for each other," Inuyasha repeated. "I'd carry that pack, if you'd packed even one thing that wasn't for yourself."

"You don't understand anything." Who the hell did he think she wanted to look so pretty for, anyway? The hills and trees? A few bitter moments passed. "Oh, right. I did bring you something," Kagome said, new hope in her voice.

Inuyasha's ears perked. "Oh?"

Kagome dug furiously through the bag, and at last emerged triumphantly with a small, mutilated plastic bag. "Your favorite! Ramen noodles!" she said, smiling wide.

Inuyasha was very, very still for a moment, processing the shock. Then his face fell. "You....crushed it."

"No! It's still good!" Kagome said, frantically trying to smooth out the bag.

"It's ramen dust," Inuyasha said, looking as though he'd lost his best friend. "All your crap pulverized it." He walked away, shaking his head in disbelief.

Kagome stuffed her belongings back into her backpack, tried to tug it off the ground, and looked at her friends desperately. "You guys aren't going to just leave me here," she said.

"Don't look at me," Sango said haughtily. "Apparently my combination skin and unmanageable hair are beneath your personal standards. Besides, I packed what I could carry," and here she hefted Hiraikotsu, which had to weigh at least three times as much as Kagome's problematic backpack, "no more, no less."

"No! Sango!" Kagome called as her best friend walked primly away. "You can use my shampoo too! It was for both of us!" She turned to Miroku like a trapped animal. They looked at each other a long moment, seemingly measuring each other.

"One condition," Miroku hedged.


"You haven't even heard it."

"I'll carry your things as well as mine if I'm wrong and it wasn't something perverted."

"Um," Miroku said. "Never mind, then."

Kagome sighed, and dragged the backpack behind her on the ground. "Do I want to know what the condition was?"

"Probably not," Miroku admitted.