"You know what, Kikyo?" Kagome said as she walked in on the woman holding InuYasha in her arms. Again.
"Have you come for him? He won't listen I'm afraid," the resurrected priestess asked, her tone completely smug, gently tilting the half-demon's head so that Kagome would be able to see his vacant, unseeing eyes.
Kagome shook her head. "No, I decided you can keep him, if you hand over your jewel shards. The Shikon no Tama isn't supposed to exist in this time any more. I've got to collect it up and take it back to my time, and he really does love you more than anyone else. There's the deal."
Frankly, she'd really just had enough of InuYasha not being able to make a decision to anybody's face. Kagome had decided for him instead. If every time he caught wind of Kikyo he was going to run after her, then that was going to be his final choice.
"Actually, that sounds reasonable," Kikyo answered, blinking in surprise at her reincarnation, having not expected anything even vaguely reasonable like that to come from the girl. "Except that you'll be short one protector."
"Unfortunately, I have other options, and I'm glad you agree with me," Kagome said responding to each comment separately, though she didn't bother to sound enthusiastic. "I'll take the beads that kept him tied to me, your jewel shards, and the sword he's never going to use again, and that's that."
Kikyo nodded and stepped away from InuYasha so that Kagome could take the beads and sword from him, while she pulled out the jewel shards she had collected.
"I suggest keeping them in your own time, rather than travelling around with them," Kikyo said as she handed them over. "Ask Kaede to show you how to write spells that will create lasting barriers, so that you don't have to protect them at all times."
Kagome nodded and, items in hand and pocket, turned and left the clearing as Kikyo returned her attention to the catatonic InuYasha, bidding him to hell with her that very moment.
"And when they're gone, I should have the rest of my soul back," Kagome mumbled to herself as she headed back to camp. "Not to mention my heart thoroughly cured of idiotic demon canines."
"Now, I hope you don't mean to suggest that all canine demons are idiots," a smooth voice said from just ahead of her.
"Well, dogs and wolves anyway," Kagome answered absently. "Foxes are too naturally clever to ever be thought of as idiots. Hang on," she pulled up short and looked around for who might be the owner of that voice. It hadn't been Naraku's at least, that she was sure of, but it might still have been one of his incarnations again.
"Fooled you!" a much more familiar voice sounded, and Kagome relaxed. Shippo.
"Shippo, don't scare me like that, I thought it might have been something dangerous out for my life of the jewel shards!" Kagome scolded, though she held out an arm for the kit to land in, since that last comment had definitely come from above her. "I was right about the dangerous bit too," she added, feeding her cub's ego.
"Sorry Kagome," the fox kit said. "Hey, you've got InuYasha's beads and sword! Where's InuYasha?"
"On his way to hell with Kikyo," Kagome answered flatly, denying the tears that were beginning to burn at her eyes.
"But the fight with Naraku! How are we going to defeat him without InuYasha's help?" the kit asked, suddenly terrified at the prospect.
Kagome smiled gently at the child and drew him close to her in a comforting embrace. Of all things she truly didn't want, she didn't want Shippo to be frightened. He'd had too many bad experiences already, and really deserved to have a good and happy childhood.
"I don't know," she answered honestly, "but I'm sure we'll find a way."
"Um, Kagome?" Sango asked when her best friend returned to the circle of light created by the camp fire, carrying InuYasha's sword. "Where's InuYasha?"
"Probably hell by now," she answered and sat down, putting the sword down beside her on the ground and dropping the beads of subjugation into her backpack before taking out the little bottle she kept her jewel shards in and tipping Kikyo's in with them.
Sango stared silently, and Miroku gaped.
"What happened?" the monk asked in shock.
At that moment, puffs of white energy, puffs that the group recognised by now to be souls, began to appear and move towards Kagome, and disappeared within her, making her glow.
"Kagome!" Shippo cried out from her shoulder, frightened.
"It's alright Shippo, it's just the parts of my soul that Kikyo held returning to me. It doesn't hurt, I promise," Kagome answered, patting his head kindly.
"InuYasha in hell and your soul back from Kikyo," Miroku said quietly, watching the scene solemnly. "Kagome, what have you done?"
"Sacrificed my own happiness for both of theirs," Kagome snapped, though quietly. "Ripped two of Naraku's targets from his grip forever. Reclaimed a large number of jewel shards and the rest of my stolen soul. Made peace with my past."
Miroku settled down at that.
"What will we do now?" Sango asked, when it was clear that Miroku wasn't going to say anything else.
"I'm going to take the shards home, where Naraku won't be able to get at them, to start with," Kagome answered firmly. "After that, we'll go on as we have before I suppose."
"Kagome, I thought you loved InuYasha," Sango said quietly.
Kagome nodded. "I did, do, but InuYasha only wanted the love I had given him in a previous life. I was Kikyo once, but I'm not any more, so InuYasha wasn't able to love me as I am now. I spoke with Kikyo, and I think that she was able to finally, properly let go of the last of her hate as she left this world with InuYasha."
Abruptly, a pair of strong, female arms wrapped around her chest in a tight hug, and a face was buried in her shoulder. Looking down, Kagome wrapped her arms around Sango as well.
"You're so brave!" Sango sobbed quietly. "To willingly break your own heart like that."
Tears that Kagome had been holding back finally choked up, and she clung just as tightly to the demon slayer as they wept together.
"Kagome? Sango? What's wrong?" Shippo asked tentatively, patting each of the women on their faces.
"Nothing really Shippo," Kagome answered, looking up at him with a wet smile on her face. "It's just that sometimes we females get so stressed, so worried, so tired, and sometimes just plain hormonal, that the only thing we can do is let all out. Sango and I have been working up to having a good cry like this for quite some time," Kagome told her fox kit.
"Okay, but don't stay sad, alright?" Shippo asked, still a bit worried.
"We'll both be fine in the morning Shippo, I promise," Kagome said, sniffing a bit.
The slightly reduced group was a day away from the Bone Eater's Well when Kagome spotted Jaken grumbling in the middle of a flower field, a human girl placing a small wreath of buttercups and daisies over his hat.
Kagome smiled brightly and, leaving Miroku and Sango behind with very confused and more than slightly wary looks, approached the girl she knew to be Sesshoumaru's ward, Rin. Shippo called out to her though, remembering times when they had been permitted to play together.
"Oh, Miss Kagome, Shippo," Rin answered, smiling brightly as she stood to greet them.
"Hello Rin," Kagome answered, Shippo having already called out his greeting. "Is Sesshoumaru about?"
"Insolent human!" Jaken screeched. "What do you want with the great Lord Sesshoumaru?"
Kagome ignored the toad imp, but waved her friends over. It was early, but the field was a good place to make camp anyway, and Kagome wanted to talk to Rin a little, and Shippo would probably like to play as well.
"Not at the moment Miss Kagome," Rin answered. "My Lord promised to be back tomorrow night though."
Kagome smiled gently and knelt down in the flowers beside the girl. "Then may Shippo and I play with you a while?"
Rin nodded. "I would like that very much!"
After setting up camp, Miroku went to the nearby river to catch fish, while Sango joined Kagome, Shippo and Rin in making flower chains.
It wasn't long before Kagome was answering all sorts of questions that Rin had saved up since the last time she saw them, and Kagome had to blushingly give the girl the sex talk, as well as explain about the changes her body would go through in a few years time. Shippo had also listened attentively, though his whole face was redder than a tomato the whole way through.
Around the camp fire, Kagome taught Rin numbers and some basic characters in writing while Shippo read one of the children's books she had given to him a while ago.
Kagome, though she knew she shouldn't, kept the little girl up late, until after everybody else was asleep. At that point, she brought out the Tetsusaiga and passed it to the girl.
"This is Mister InuYasha's sword," Rin breathed in surprise. "But where is Mister InuYasha?"
"He's dead Rin," Kagome answered, "but you know that InuYasha and Sesshoumaru are half-brothers, right?"
Rin nodded. "They have the same father, but different mothers."
"Well, this sword was given to InuYasha by their father, and now that InuYasha is dead, I think that Sesshoumaru should have it, so that it stays in their family. Do you agree?" Kagome asked.
Rin nodded again. "Will you stay to give it to him, or do you want Rin to do that?" the child asked.
Kagome smiled. "I think it would be best if you did Rin. You see, there's a barrier around this sword which makes it so that it burns whichever demon is not supposed to touch it, and it's burned Sesshoumaru before, but I think if you give it to him then he'll be just fine," Kagome said.
Rin's eyes grew wide. "Really? If I give it to my Lord then it won't burn him?"
Kagome held up a hand to calm the child down. "No Rin, I'm only guessing. I don't know that for sure. If it does burn Sesshoumaru, then I suggest that you throw it down the Bone Eater's Well, so that no one else can use it's power. Can you remember all that for me Rin?" Kagome asked, brushing a little hair out of Rin's face kindly.
"Rin will try," she answered.
"Would you like me to write it down in a letter for you to give to Sesshoumaru?" Kagome suggested.
Rin brightened. "Yes please Miss Kagome, then I can learn how to read off it after as well!"
Kagome nodded and patted the girl on the head.
"Alright, now I think I've kept you awake for far too long," Kagome said, lying the child down and tucking a blanket around her.
"Goodnight Miss Kagome."
Once Kagome had set up the barrier in her room to protect the Shikon no Tama fragments and collected supplies for the feudal period again, this time with a lot less ramen than she had needed to carry before to placate InuYasha, and had returned to the well house she was only half surprised to find the fang of destruction sitting in the bottom of the well. She retrieved it, quickly making a place for it in the shrine's relic house, and then jumped down the well herself.
What surprised her even more was that, when she climbed out of the well, Sesshoumaru was waiting for her.
"Miko," he stated, taking in her surprised face. "This Sesshoumaru thanks you for attempting to return his father's sword to him, and for explaining to his ward about the changes her body will soon go through."
"You're welcome," she answered, relaxing slightly.
"This Sesshoumaru feels a minor obligation," the handsome demon stated, very coldly and clearly not pleased with the idea, however much he appreciated Kagome's actions.
"There is no obligation," Kagome answered. "I attempted to return the last sword of your father to his last son when it's previous possessor chose to go to hell with his love." Kagome was really quite glad that the third sword, Sounga, had been sent to hell a few months ago.
Sesshoumaru's eyes narrowed. He had suspected that InuYasha had done something stupid to be separated from his sword, but he hadn't expected it to be choosing the dead miko.
"There is obligation. This Sesshoumaru knows of a skilled and powerful thief that may be able to retrieve the jewel of your inheritance to you. This Sesshoumaru will direct you to him, and feel his obligation is fulfilled," he declared, putting aside his half-brother's stupidity for the time, and forever. It was nothing new from InuYasha after all.
Kagome's eyes widened in surprise, and she bowed gratefully to the proud demon lord. "Thank you very much!"
"This is a return of obligation. Do not thank me," he said. "Besides, convincing him to help you will be your own task. This Sesshoumaru shall not do it."
"I understand," Kagome answered, bowing low again.
Sesshoumaru held out a slip of paper, which Kagome accepted. On it were written directions, and she smiled. Apparently Rin had talked about the lessons in letters as well, and the lord had been impressed by her own penmanship, to return it with something written of his own.
"I'm guessing you'd rather I not mention your name when I find him?" Kagome said.
Sesshoumaru snorted regally. "The thief is a nuisance to this Sesshoumaru, not a concern."
"Of course," Kagome bowed again. "And I know from your interactions with your late half-brother, your dislike of such nuisances. If you please Lord Sesshoumaru, I will go at once and remove my unworthy self from your most excellent presence."
Sesshoumaru nodded in acceptance of her mannerisms, and Kagome grabbed her bag and headed towards the village.
Sango and Miroku were sceptical when they heard about this thief that Sesshoumaru recommended, but Kagome stuck to her guns. Anyone that Sesshoumaru bothered to remember was clearly worth the time to look up, especially when recommended as a great thief, and what they really needed was to get the jewel off of Naraku. Shippo put in his extra bid when Kagome read the name off the directions that Sesshoumaru had given her.
"Yoko is another name for the Kitsune," the child said. "So he's a fox spirit. If a fox caught Sesshoumaru's attention and he didn't kill it, then I say he's got to be impressive!"
Kagome chuckled and petted Shippo's head. "And maybe he'd be willing to give you a lesson or two in your fox magic," she added. "I know you'd like that too."
Shippo blushed, but didn't deny it.
Sango relented first, knowing that defeating Naraku was really something that they couldn't do while he still held any of the Shikon no Tama, though she would continue to have concerns, and was determined to voice them, even if she did agree that it was a good idea.
"What if this Yoko Kurama decides that he wants to keep it for himself once he's got his hands on it? I really don't like the idea of trusting a demon thief to steal from a half-demon who was a thief before," the demon slayer pointed out.
"I'll make him a better deal," Kagome said firmly, even if she had no idea just yet what that deal would end up being.
Miroku sighed in resignation. Kagome was a stubborn woman, and he recognised by now the signs that they had reached a point where she would no longer be swayed.
Eventually, they agreed to search for allies in the fight against Naraku while Kagome and Shippo went to see the bandit fox.