Disclaimer: Do not own Inuyasha nor its content, I only own characters I create ;-)

A/N: Welcome to my very first fanfic. Please be reassured, I do actually have a life, and following chapters will not be this long. I just wanted to really set the mood correctly, as well as set the new character properly. My goal is to update every 2 weeks. The first chapter might seem slow, but I guarantee that action is to come...

Setting: It happens after the Inuyasha series (for those who did not read the end, or see the 2009-2010 epilogue, find a way to see it...) basically after Naraku has been defeated and everyone is living their happily-ever-after.

I have not solicited any beta-readers, if you are interested, please do mail me. English is not my first language, and I do apologize for any weird syntax or spelling...

Standard warning: Mature for content, gore, language (eventually), lemons (please note that I have put warning in this one, but I most probably will forget in the future...)

Who knows where this story will lead, I can only promise that it will be a long one ;-) Oh, and for readers that enjoy details, please be reassured, I will tie in all loose ends (and if I don't, you can remind be ;-)

Positive criticism is the only way to improve, so please send comments (no pointless ranting please, if you really hate it, just don't read...) Also, I will go on popular demand here; I have incorporated very little Japanese words in the firs chapter, as I find that it sometimes break the rhythm of the story... Please let me know if you would like more, as I don't mind adapting and adding a few Japanese here and there :)


She was walking alone in the gardens surrounding the shrine she had been raised in. This was the only place where she truly found peace; her gardens. She had taken on the task of creating paradise on earth within the walls that kept her safe, within her golden cage... Bittersweet was her success, as she knew that though she pranced freely in this world, the barrier around her other-self would always restrain her, and she could never be truly free. The planning, planting, nurturing and careful grooming of her gardens had kept her occupied and soothed her soul for the past few years, giving her closure on the events to come, helping her accept that her own destruction would soon come to pass...

She had always been a strong soul, and rarely indulged in self pity, but this was the time of year when she allowed herself one of those rare spouts of nostalgia, when the Hanami festival was being organized. She despised this festival, even though her given name is said to have been inspired by such glorious times. Sakura, she thought bitterly. She had planted no cherry tree in her garden. She had been rescued by a monk as a new born, her parents brutally murdered, under a cherry tree, during the Hanami festivities. She had a strong repulsion towards the blooming trees, as if those white petals were forever bloodstained.

She had known so little of her parents and the circumstances surrounding their death. She had only been told that they were attacked, and her mother, heavily pregnant with her, had given up her life to save her. At the time, the ever-wandering Buddhist monk came up on the carnage that had passed and rescued the new born, taking her to a nearby shrine where she would be raised a priestess. He had named her Sakura, as she was born under the tree, and he strongly believed that the guardian tree held her life dear, as such a frail creature should have perished along with her parents. He believed that her life was strongly linked to all of Nature's force. She smirked, thinking about the irony of it all. Had she been born 500 years ago, she would have been able to truly be one with nature, as feudal Japan was covered with rich forest filled with Eco-diversity. Her Karma was to be born in modern day Japan, where the concrete jungle battled the organic, where the wretched pollution made it hard to breath and made humans completely oblivious to the living creatures around them. She came to hate the modern world as much as she hated her name, for it only reminded her of another time; a time where humans lived according to natures rules, and not the other way around.

A voice suddenly ripped her out of her meditative trance. "Lady Sakura, Lady Sakura..." said one of the newest trainees. Sakura had not left her spot, and her gaze followed the young girl who was coming up to her, out of breath, she continued: "you are needed inside the hall, it is a great emergency, please come with haste..."

Sakura sight heavily, relieving some of her annoyance towards the heavy, fake sentence structure that was used. If the urgency was that great, why not just say "hurry, come to the hall"... A sudden shriek made her move. She was able to move faster than most humans, thanks to that other-self locked up within her, and the young girl that had come to deliver the message gasped in surprise at the speed with which she left her side. She was heading towards the hall where she now felt an evil presence. She knew that whatever was in the hall wasn't powerful enough to cause her to break a sweat, but the girls inside where unable to face such evil. They were living in a truly soft era, where evil spirits could be destroyed with a simple spell. With a sigh, she pushed open the large doors which lead to the hall, where a possessed human was convulsing on the floor. She saw that two senior priestesses where unconscious on the floor, blood pouring from gashes on their heads and sides. She frowned; a simple human possession should not have been powerful enough to cause her veterans to fall so easily. She heard shrieks coming from terrified trainees huddled in a corner of the room. She blocked them out as she tried to figure out what it was that she was dealing with. She breathed in all the scents of the room, letting her powerful Miko aura saturate the stone walls, floor and ceiling. Her aura reached out to the scared trainees, soothing their fears away with her confidence. She wanted to also ensure that her elders where in no immediate danger, and was comforted to find that their wounds were mostly superficial. A wave of nausea hit her when her aura brushed the possessed human. Death... Putrefaction... Decay... That was all she could get from the convulsing human on the floor... 'It's a shell!' she thought rapidly... 'A human soul no longer resides in this body... This will make things easier' she sneered; it would be a problem rapidly dealt with, and she could return to her gardens.

A gurgle came out of the shell's throat "It's her", It said. Sakura raised an eyebrow. Suddenly, the shell lifted in the air, and moved with rapid speed towards her. She smirked as the lifeless body plunged towards hers, as she readied her spiritual powers. As the corpse flew to her, she put up a purifying barrier, destroying the evil inside, leaving only the empty shell, lifeless on the floor where it had dropped. Sakura sighed, looking at the mess in the hall. She knew she was the most respected miko present at the time, and she lifted her head and looked at the young ones still huddled, scared. "Mikos," she ordered, "rise this instant" she said in a strong voice. The frightened girls all got up at once, except for one, the youngest of all. "Mikos should not cower in fear in the sight of evil. You have all been given the tools to defend yourselves. We are protectors of humans, and it is our duty to do so." Her face had remained a stoic mask, as if carved out of the finest marble. "Little one" she said on the same strong, cold tone, "did you not hear me when I said to rise", a comment which only made the small trainee whimper in fear. All of the others looked down, none daring to even look at her. Her anger seem to build and all trembled, as her aura was spiking, hitting them like little shards of glass. She walked closer to the group, and they made way as she was approaching the small girl, shaking on the floor."I said get up, you little wimp". The air was thick and could have been easily sliced with any katana. She was looming oppressively over the small figure, and all every one could do was watch in horror as the powerful Miko was looming over the fragile figure of their youngest sister. She finally heard what she had been waiting for. "Stop it, don't you see that you're scaring her!" Everyone gasped as one of the girls had placed herself between the senior miko and the child. Sakura raised her eyebrow 'finally, one has emerged'... "oh, you would place your future in this shrine before the interest of this child? What is she to you anyway?" She spat. Sakura could clearly see that the girl had spirit; very little spiritual power, but spirit. It didn't matter in these times, and made her smile... 'Power, without spirit, was truly like a phoenix without wings... She is better to have spirit and little power, than possess much power with little spirit' she thought, looking at the other trainees... "She is my miko sister, and I pledged my allegiance to her and all other mikos when I joined this shrine!" She screamed, suddenly out of breath, as if it all taken all the energy contained in her small frail body to speak this simple sentence.

Sakura's eyes suddenly changed and filled with tenderness. She knelt and took the exhausted young girl in her arms, and the girl was so stunned that she did not even react to the embrace, which made the older miko laugh. "You have learned your lesson quite well child, and I am honored to see that someone like you resides in this temple." She finished her sentence by placing a small kiss on the flabbergasted girls' forehead. She then looked at the little one still crying on the floor, smiled lovingly and said: "Please stop crying little one" Her voice was filled with so much love and tenderness that every one stopped breathing. They felt like a warm embrace was placed on all of their shoulders. The small girl on the floor stopped crying and looked up to Sakura's smiling face, and smiled through her tears. She slowly got up, and stumbled into Sakura's arms, only to get a strong, motherly embrace from the older Miko.

Sakura, without releasing her younger sister, lifted her head and said: "Well, you all look like a bunch of Koi in a pond... how about you go and help our sisters who were injured?" There was authority in her tone, and all scattered to the older mikos lying in their blood. She got up, still holding the child in her arms and walked out of the room. As she did, she noticed mikos her age rushing in to help the elders. 'Coward fools, you where just waiting for the commotion to be over...' she bitterly thought as she walked by, the child still clutching to her neck. She walked to the children dormitories, and brought the child to her bed. She was the one responsible for the night rounds, so she knew where she slept. She let the girl go gently above the bed, and asked: "Are you afraid of me, after what happened tonight?" There was a hint of sadness in her eyes as she looked at the child's face. "Not at all, sensei!" said the little one. "It was a lesson, wasn't it?". Sakura was glad that two of the young trainees had understood what she had done that night. She simply nodded and kissed the girl on the forehead and left the dormitory.

She wished that she could have stayed longer, but the full moon was soon to come out, and she needed to be where her other-self could not harm anyone. She made her way to the special room that was specially built for her when she turned twelve, where she would be locked in one night of every lunar cycle. She opened the door and walked in, closed it behind her and heard the familiar sound the latch made, as the spell locked her in. She looked out the window, as dusk set in, and knew that she would not be alone for long...

As the full moon raised and reach its zenith, she felt the usual pain in her abdomen; the feeling of claws making their way out. She clenched her teeth, and as the demon locked inside of her finally made its way out, she yelped out as blood spewed out of her lips.

There it was, an exact replica of her own image, standing before her. The clothes and hair style where different, but the resemblance of their traits was scary. She had seed this demon every month for the past 10 years, and she never got used to how evil she looked. Sakura found it hard to dissociate herself from the demon, as it had always looked like her. It had aged from the scrawny twelve years old she was when it first appeared, to look exactly like the woman she was today. She wasn't tall, a little bit above five foot, her waist long jet black hair contrasted her pale, marble face. Her fierce turquoise eyes was what created aw and fear in certain people, as it was very uncommon in Japan; as was having a dangerous demon locked up inside... she was a petite figure, and her slender muscle hid a surprising strength. She truly was a force to be reckoned with. She wore the traditional miko attire, white shirt and black ample pants. She would usually carry her bow and arrow, but history had thought her not to on the nights her other-self came to visit. The demon-image of her had the same sticking turquoise eyes. Her forehead was adorned with three silver stars, one large in the middle flanked by two small ones on each sides as well as three stripes on her cheeks, two black and the middle one the same silver as the stars on her forehead. Her black head of hair was longer, almost knee length, stripped with the same silver that adorned her face. Her complexion was marble white as was Sakura's. Her eyes were colored with dark pink eye shadow and black eyeliner. Her lips where blood red, a sharp contrast to both her ivory skin and crisp white fangs.

She was always wearing a white and purple Daimyo-styled kimono, covered with hard armor. Sakura always felt that this demon was a natural born leader, and should have been at the head of some terrible demon army of some sort. She was as fierce as she was magnificent. 'This is no time to be admiring her, you twit!' she thought to herself. Soon would start the battle, which outcome would determine who would live... for another month.

"Hello, Sakura" Said the demon warrior. She bowed down, respectfully.

"Hello, demon" Answered the priestess. Answering her bow, she braced herself, as she knew what was coming next.

The demon flexed her claws, and reached for the weapon that was strapped to her back. Her Odachi, the giant six foot tall, two foot wide sword was draw from its sheath. Sakura mentally listed all the scars that remained on her body, reminder of that sword... She had to finish this quickly today, as she had already used up a substantial amount of her energy on the possessed cadaver.

The demon sprung forth, Odachi pointing towards her, with menacing force. She quickly moved out of the way, letting the demoness pass her in her swing. Sakura concentrated her spiritual purification energy in her right hand and landed a blow behind the demonesses skull, rendering her unconscious. Sakura let whatever air was left in her lung leave her body as a heavy sigh relieved her of her worries. However, something was off... something had been too easy this month... Nevertheless, her worrisome foe was now face down in the dirt, and was slowly evaporating into an ethereal being. When none of the physical traces of the demon where left, a small green orb of light formed and returned to the wound on Sakura's stomach, leaving her gasping for air, as a new wave of blood found its way to her esophagus.

As she fell on all four, the ground around her started glowing in a strange blue light. As it surrounded her, she felt deep slumber trying to overtake her. She fought, as she felt that it might be the demon returning. She suddenly felt the wind around her and smelt Nature's embrace around her. She felt its warmth embrace her, but she was still not at ease, something kept her wary... She suddenly felt another presence next to hers, and this presence was the only one to ever have that effect upon her... She was at peace. She finally surrendered, an as she felt face down, exhausted from her struggle. She was never aware of the amber eyes looking down on a truly strange spectacle.

Lord Sesshoumaru was on one of his long meditative walks away from his ward and retainer. He understood that Rin was still an exuberant pup, and needed to learn manners, which was why he had left her with the elder miko of Edo, Kaede. He wanted her to tame the young pup, teach her some manners, as well as educate her in the ways of the humans. Sesshoumaru had saved her, kept her by him and thought her how to survive; it was time for her to learn of the human ways. He had gone to visit her in her village that morning, to see her progress. She was still exuberant, but that was to be expected, at her age. She was happy and that is all that mattered to him. Hi annoyance came from the fact that she lived in the same village as his younger half-brother Inuyasha. He had lived there ever since the Hanyou Naraku had been defeated, and the Shikon no Tama Priestess Kagome had vanquished the forbidden jewel. He was bitter towards the matted pair, as he knew that part of the reason that his precious ward was still in this unworthy human village was because she was so deeply attached to the Miko, and in turn, the Miko would never leave her mate. A chuckle came into Sesshoumaru's through, thinking about who was really the alpha leader in the couple, his younger half-brother or the miko... Nevertheless, his half-brother, the hanyou, was still his father's son, and therefore, royalty. He could come and live in the western lands castle, him and his odd pack, and Sesshoumaru would be reunited with his ward... But that implied that he would stoop so low that he would invite Inuyasha to live in his castle. Just the thought of it made him clench his jaw.

Annoyed as he was with his exuberant ward, he was even more annoyed that he had not been able to address the real reason for his visit to Edo. He had been cursed by a dark miko, and his demon powers were now locked. He still had strength, and for the moment, none would challenge his titles, but he knew that these times would come. He had to find a way to break the curse, so that his youki would be free.

Yanking him out of his thoughts, he sensed a powerful force ahead. He felt undeniable attraction towards a specific area, as if his every fibber of his being where being pulled. All of his other senses clouded, as in a deep thick fog, he followed the beacon, as a ship follows the fog horn...

He suddenly halted. Before his eyes, a most unexpected spectacle unfolded. He was not one to be often surprised, but tonight, he was to witness something he had never seen before. He had stopped dead in his tracks. Blue light sprung an inch from his foot. He took in the smells coming from this light, and it made him gag. He was about to cover his nose with his thick kimono when he caught smell of something else. Amongst the putrid acrid smell of death, putrefaction and decay, something else came through... He had never in his long life smelt the scent of the four seasons all at once. Clean as winter, fresh as spring, bountiful as summer and earthy as fall, that, and something else was present, and he was completely mesmerized. He couldn't move from this spot.

As the blue light subsided, he saw a demon in the light... he squinted... no, a human was in the light, and she was breathing heavily, as if battling slumber. Since she was badly injured, Sesshoumaru assumed that she had been in a terrible battle and that adrenaline was what kept her going. Suddenly, he realized that was what carried the scent of the four seasons on her.

The blue light died down, leaving the frail miko fighting to remain awake. Pulling him out of his stupor was the strong metallic scent about her. Her blood was running out of her veins, and that, to quickly for her body to adapt. She suddenly fell to the ground, unconscious.

Sesshoumaru knelt next to her unconscious body, and turned her around. All colours had been washed out of her face, and her facial expression revealed a grim expression of pain. Her white miko garb was covered in blood. Time was of the essence, and if he wanted to save this miko who smelt of the four seasons, he had to act quickly. He lifted her gently in his arms, bridal style. He sped towards the edo village as he had never hurried before. He wanted this miko to live and to find out her secrets.

As he reached Edo, he quickly identified the scent of the miko who was known as Kaede. He ran towards her, holding the unconscious, limp miko. He stopped a few inches from her.

Though his eyes remained cold, the bloodied girl lying in Sesshoumaru harms sent a clear message to the old miko. They needed to move quickly if she was going to be saved. She gestured in a silent nod towards her hut, and the powerful demon lord Sesshoumaru complied. He walked towards the hut in silent submission. She was the healer. She would heal this Miko of four seasons. She would then give him answers. That was all he wanted; answers.

He walked in and he laid the younger woman in the miko's hut with the uttermost gentleness, as if afraid to break her, since she was already in a very fragile state.

He then sat down and looked at her, and as she lay sleeping, he noticed that he had been holding his breath, just to ensure that she would not be woken by it.
As the elder Kaede walked in, he slowly let go of a sigh of relief, allowing him to free air trapped in his lungs.

As he saw her pulling on the ropes of her garb, he swiftly turned around. She was a lady after all and it was the appropriated thing to do.

As Kaede opened the young woman's kimono, she was only left to gasp as she took in the horrendous wounds on her stomach and torso. 'this child need to be strong to survive...' she though sadly. It was the strangest wounds she had ever seen; it was as though she had been attacked from the inside. She quickly brushed her surprise aside, and released a deep sigh. "Lord Sesshoumaru, may I ask thee to go get Rin, so she may assist me"

Her gasp of surprise, as well as her sighs of stress had not escaped the demon lord, and when she asked him to assist, he was glad to comply. He left the small hut, quickly sniffed the air, and found her not too far with his half brother's wife. He ran to them with all the speed his weakened state allowed, getting there but a minute after leaving the hut. He two startled woman looked up at him before they both smiled widely. They were picking mushrooms, and where both kneeling on the ground. "Rin, he said, the miko Kaede needs your help to treat an injured miko" He stated. He saw his wards face become serious, and she nodded before joining his side. A heavily pregnant Kagome rose, and walked towards him and said, very seriously: "Please let me join you, I'm sure that I can help" She said with a smile.

Sesshoumaru only nodded, and picked up both woman and ran back towards the hut. They swiftly walked in, and he heard Kaede giving them direction. Rin ran out to go and get water, and then she would leave and hunt for medicinal plants. Kagome would assist with the cleaning and the dressing of the wounds as she could not really go prancing in the woods for plants in her condition. Rin came back with a large bucket of water. She quickly came back out of the hut and ran towards to woods to seek medicinal plants. Sesshoumaru slowly walked to a tree and sat under its shade. He closed his eyes, meditating. Even from this distance, his sensitive ears could pick up the mikos weaken heartbeat. He knew that she was still alive, and wouldn't die immediately. He also had fate in the older miko, he would have taken her to another village.

He had lived many centuries, and over the last few decades, he had felt himself grow wary. A growing boredom was engulfing his life, and nothing could shake him from it. The fight with Naraku, and the end of the disgusting hanyou had been but a small interlude in years of mind killing apathy. No puzzle, no matter its complexity, could hold the demon lord's interest for more than a few instants. He had gone on a mad quest for new literature, innovative forms of arts and brilliant new cures. His thirst for knowledge had somehow enlightened his boring eternity. Today was one of the rare days where he found a puzzle that left him truly perplexed. There before him was a woman, a miko, who carried the scents of all four seasons. Most people, humans or demons, were very simple creature and carried on them the scent of one of the seasons, reflecting the nature of their souls.

If the person was intelligent and logical, and possessed noble intentions, their scent was that of winter. Winter could also be tainted. A clear winter day, where the sun glistened on the white snow where all life slumbered, the air crisp and clean, devoid of heavy smells, could represent one of the purest images of all times. On the opposite, the moon glowing on a battlefield, where blood and gore made the immaculate snow almost black, where the evil was so cold that it permeated the air and made it putrid, was one of the most evil impressions that could be left on a land.

A highly innocent person, one who carried a child like persona, who would easily forgive others and who would not hold a grudge, such a person would smell of spring. Such as all life is reborn with each spring, life returns for a new beginning. Breathless was the sight of an awakening forest, as tree's buds burst open into stunning green leaves, flowers shyly started to show their beautiful petals, animals giving birth to their young, Spring was truly a season of birth. All the scent around spring where about freshly opening flowers, the meadow coming back to life, the air starting to give hints of the warmth to come. Then again, nothing could be sadder then a spring forest fire. If the rains had been scarce, the woods would be dry and lightning or a forgotten fire would get plenty of fuel to run wild and uncontrollable. Perhaps the charred forest was not such a sore sight, compared to the broken promise of what life could have been, had it been allowed to live. That is what caused such a truly, sad picture. Where the scent of spring was present, it could easily be replaced by the acrid scent of a life not allowed to live.

A person whom was a truly generous and giving in nature, one who nurtures and cares for others, one who could comfort any woes, that person held the scent of summer. Summer provides and summer is bountiful. The week can survive without the help of the strong, the pleasant weather allowed the roofless to sleep under the watchful eyes of the stars. Summer had the power of lifting people's sorrows and making their problems disappear. Summer smelt of all the blooming flowers, overpowering your senses, forcing their strong smells onto you. Summers scent was so strong that it was hard to ignore when in its gardens. Summer could also be deadly. If it is too hot, people will die from exposure. Crops will wither from the drought, causing more people to die of hunger. Famine would lead to death, death to pestilence, and the air would be saturated by its foul, nauseating smell.

Someone who had strong family bonds, held high and firm ties of loyalty to his friends and held a strong sense of righteousness smelt of fall. Fall was a time of courting and mating, where one would find one to share its future with. It was also at time when you had to prepare for harder times, therefore prepare supplies for you and your peers to last you throughout the colder months. Fall was filled with earth's scents, strong and powerful, cold winds warmed with the hot sun mixed the essences of the smells that the earth was sending though nature was falling asleep, it laid a blanket of leaves on those who needed it. Through its wisdom, it knew that it was only for a short slumber, so Fall did not fear. Fall could also bring on despair to those without a reason to live on, as the nights where long and the days where short, it was the most dangerous season for the creatures left alone. Any creature, great or small, would die of exposure during the cold fall nights, or would simply be scavenged in a moment of weakness by those who wished to survive. Falls could carry the smell of decay; death of the weak, of the hunted and that of those who did not wish to move on. It could also be a taker of life. It could choose not to protect the week, and leave them behind to fend for themselves. It could be merciless with its winds, urging for early snow. Days were short and nights were long... making the weak even weaker, and giving the predators more time during that season to hunt...

As he pondered on, the great lord demon realized that throughout his long years of existence, he had rarely encountered someone who had, at the same time, more than one season on their scent. Most of the demons on his council where winter, the rest equally split between summer and fall, as he had rarely if never smelt of spring on a demon... One of his close ministers had recently gone from to summer to fall, and he noticed with great interest that this event coincided with him taking a mate, and puping his mate, making him responsible for his mate and the pup. His scent had changed. The two scents did not mingle though.

Most of the mikos he had encountered where spring, their innocence, readiness to save lives and communion with nature often made them spring. His half-brother's mate, the miko Kagome was one of the rare complex humans he had encountered. She was always spring and summer. Hi half-brother was fall.

He heard the females busying themselves in the small hut. He knew his best actions where to stay out of their ways. A few hours after sundown, he got up and knocked softly on the doors frame. Rin came into view, interrogation in her eyes. "It is time for Inuyasha's mate to go home. She needs her rest." He stated. "It's already taken care of, Lord Sesshoumaru! She is already sleeping." She said with a small grin. All she got as an answer was a quick nod from the demon lord.

"Lord Sesshoumaru, called Kaede, we are done dressing the young woman's wounds if ye would care to join us for tea." Not that he cared for the human beverage, but he held enough respect for the old miko to share the beverage with her. He saw Rin running back to the wounded miko, kneeling next to her, as if just her presence could make her better. He walked in and saw the young woman lying on her back under a light sheet which had been drawn to her chin. Her traits where strained from the pain, and her face was devoid of all colors. Her lips where drawn in a line, and blended with the color of her face. Small beads of sweat covered her face, plastering her ebony hair to her forehead. She looked ready to cross to the underworld. Sesshoumaru however knew that she was in no immediate danger, as his Tenseiga was not pulsating, and he could not spot the auras of the netherworld's undertakers. Her heartbeat was weak, but steady.

He sat by the small hut's hearth, feeling the warmth of the fire kiss his face. The older miko came to sit in front of him, letting out a strained sigh. She served two cups of green tea, and extended one to the demon lord. He accepted it, nodding. He looked into the cup, seeing the leaves dancing in the hot liquid. He waited for the older miko to speak. She finally did: "She has lost a large amount of blood... I have never seen someone loose so much and live to see the sun rise again." She stated. His gaze shifted from the cup to the old woman sitting across him. "So you are saying that she will not live through the night?", he asked. She lowered her eyes and nodded. That's when Sesshoumaru noticed how tired she really looked. She had spent a lot of her energy on trying to save the young woman's life, and she was now tired. "You should go to sleep miko", he stated. She looked as though she was going to start arguing. "I will wake you should her condition change" he added. She sighed once again, before getting up and heading for a small enclosed space, from which she drew a small futon and blankets. She laid it on the floor and huddled herself under a warm blanket. He knew sleep came to her quickly, as her breathing became regular and her aura more relaxed. "You too, Rin", he ordered as Rin was fighting off sleep. She nodded, got up, and walked towards Kagome's futon. She quickly lifted the blanket and curled up to the woman she loved as a big sister. She succumbed to sleep even faster than Kaede.

He did not notice any change in the miko's condition until the moon was high in the sky. Her heartbeat had gradually gotten stronger, and some color was returning to her face. By sunrise, her lips had gotten a healthy shade of pink, and a more serene look danced on her sleeping face. A few hours into the day, the women in the hut started stirring in their beds. Rin was the first to wake, and as soon as she sprung out of the covers, she went to see the injured miko. She smiled, satisfied, and grabbed a bucket to go and get water. She quickly bowed to Sesshoumaru, and left the hut in a hurry. The next to rise was the old miko. She walked towards her patient, and was surprised to find her still alive and actually looking better. She bent down and placed her hand on her forehead. The young woman's body was frozen yesterday, unable to keep itself warm. This morning, her temperature was now normal, and her face was starting to display a healthier glow. Kaede was relieved to see that this young woman would live.

Kagome was next to rise, and Sesshoumaru was surprise to see how her traits were drawn. She looked exhausted. Her eyes did not shine with their usual glee, dark rims framing them. Something was wrong with her, yet he could not pinpoint what. Perhaps it was normal for humans so far into their pregnancies to look tired and worn out. 'humans are such weak creatures' he thought. Then again, he looked down at the sleeping miko, and found himself quite perplexed. She had survived the night, despite suffering life threatening wounds and lost large amounts of blood. Some humans were interesting.

Her heart had picked up speed, indicating that she would be waking soon. Her breathing also sped up, as her mind emerged from slumber. She started to pick up on the scents surrounding her, as well as the different auras. She felt two other mikos, one young and one old. She also felt a very powerful demonic presence, more powerful than any other that she had ever felt. She also sensed that the two powerful mikos where quite at ease even though a demon was present, so she would, for the moment, rely on their judgment. Something else also caught her attention. The younger miko was pregnant, and the twins that she carried where struggling. Her experience and training as a midwife told her that time was of the essence, and she needed to help the younger woman if her children where to survive.

Sesshoumaru was watching her aura flare with intense interest. She had first started by scanning her immediate environment and detected the mikos. She had then pushed all the way to detecting him. As soon as she had sensed him, she had retracted back to the mikos to sense their ease. He smirked, thinking 'What an interesting person, this miko... it seems that not only does she hold great power, she seems to have a swift intelligence to go with it, interesting indeed...' he thought to himself. Something else surprised him, as he felt her aura carefully scanning his younger brother's mate. She must have just felt that she was with pup, and was scanning the pup's aura. He then felt her force herself awake, as if a feeling of urgency had gripped her.

She started fluttering her eyes, and the bright light assaulted her irises as she tried to open them. She sight, and forced herself to open them and face the light. She felt that her wounds had been taken care of, and she had been dressed in a simple sleeping kimono. Her head hurt, and all she wanted to do was to return to sleep, but she was determined to wake up. She looked at a simple straw ceiling. 'Such a simple dwelling,' she thought to herself. She clenched her jaw as she pushed herself on her elbows. She waited until the spinning subsided, to finish pushing herself in a sitting position. She stared straight ahead, seeing that she was in a wooden hut. 'Where in all of Japan have I ended up?' She wondered. She heard movement to her right. "You shouldn't push ye self, child." She heard a woman say. She turned her head to see a pair of worried wrinkled eyes, looking at her. She smiled weakly. Her throat was parched, and she absolutely needed to start replenishing the fluids that her body had lost. She needed to ask for water, but didn't think she would be able to string an entire sentence together. "water, please" she whispered. The older woman whom had been kneeling next to her nodded once and got up. That is when she noticed the man sitting across the fire. She had never before seen such a beautiful person. She also noticed that he was the one from who the powerful demon aura came from. 'How could such beauty hold such evil?'she wondered. 'The two other mikos are comfortable with him, yet he is a powerful demon.' She forced her mind to ease, as she had more urgent matters to tend to.

The old woman brought her a cup of water which she immediately drained. She gave her back the glass and waited. 'This is going to be long, if she brings it to me cup by cup'. With that thought, the older miko came back with another cup of water, which she drained in the same matter as the first. Once again, she handed the cup back to her. She let out an almost unnoticeable sigh of frustration when the miko came back with the cup. The woman was obviously not young and Sakura felt bad to have her pace back and forth.

What happened next startled her.

"Miko Kaede, a velvety baritone voice spoke, I believe she is attempting to replenish the fluids that she has lost. Perhaps if we keep a few buckets of fresh water close to her, it would be easier for her to drink at her own pace" The demon suggested. Sakura was truly surprised that he had understood her needs from so little observation. The older woman nodded, and signaled to Rin: "Child, move some buckets of water closer to our guest, as lord Sesshoumarou suggested". The young girl, Sakura estimated, must have been 11 or 12 years old. She wore a bright colored kimono and her hair was tied up in a high ponytail. The kid moved a first bucket of water next to Sakura, and she dunked the cup in the cold liquid and started draining several cups. After she was close to the bottom of the bucket, the small girl brought her a second bucket, and lifted the first. "I'm going to fill the bucket again", she said. Her voice was clear and cheerful, and reminded her of many of her young students. She was also very eager to please, and held a good heart. She lacked when it came to spiritual powers, but some of the best healers she knew had no spiritual powers. Sakura knew that if the girl put in as much eagerness in her training with plants, herbs and learn to trust her instincts, she could be a magnificent, sought out healer.

As she worked her way through the second bucket of water, her mind was slowly clearing the fog caused by dehydration and loss of blood. She knew she would need to eat meat and lots of fresh liver if she could get a hand on if, to help with the loss of iron, but she would deal with that later; a more pressing matter required her attention. She started glancing around the small hut where she was, and it was decently sized, if one where on the assumption that only two people lived there. As she had looked around to the other beings in the hut, she clearly ruled out the beautiful lord from living in such a simple habitat. Besides, strange as they might be to her modern eyes, she knew the price of kimonos, and what that man was wearing was no 'every-day' outfit for normal folks. Also, he seemed quite comfortable in his outfit, which suggested that he was used to wearing such formal wear. Her attention then shifted to the pregnant girl. She judged her to be in her late teens to early twenties. She was late in her pregnancy, and experience told Sakura that this woman didn't have a long time to go before she would go through delivery. Two conclusions came to her mind; either the old miko was her mid-wife and she was visiting as a regular check-up, or she was a child-mother, and no husband was present to take care of her, and her family had thrown her to the nearest shrine.

Though not very common, she had seen it in her time, and from what she could tell, she was in a very traditional part of Japan, almost something that was locked in time. She assumed that the child Rin was an orphan, taken in by the shrine, just like Sakura's shrine had taken her in. The older miko was head of the shrine, with all respect that came with such a responsibility. She even noticed that the demon sitting across her showed some form of respect towards the older miko. She would do the same.

Rin came back with a third bucket of water and set it in front of Sakura. Her eyes grew a little wider when she saw that the second bucket was already empty. She then grabbed it and was heading towards the door when a voice unknown to her said: "that will not be necessary, young one. The third bucket you have brought will suffice." Sakura said. No need to work the child for nothing, she would need her to be top shape for the day to come. Her voice sounded a little deeper than usual, but that was from the heaviness she was feeling, as she was still very tired.

She knew good manners and needed to start by a normal round of thanks. "I know that it is not much to offer for the moment, but I would like to offer you my sincere gratitude for tending to my wounds. You have offered this stranger great kindness and find her in your debt." She then followed with the ceremonious bow directed to the older miko. As she raised her head, she saw that the woman was clearly flustered. Sakura mentally checked if she had said anything wrong, or had done any wrongs to the protocols. Seeing the confusion on the younger woman's face, Kaede said: "It is not I that ye should be thanking. Lord Sesshoumarou has found you on the open roads, covered in wounds. He has brought ye here to be healed. I saw it as a great opportunity for young Rin to learn how to tend the wounded. It is I who should be thanking ye." She finished. Sakura felt unsure about how to proceed next. She had been taught of demon society and what it meant to owe a demon your life. She slowly turned towards the demon and said: "Very distinguished lord Sesshoumarou, please let me thank you deeply for your help, and please let me assure you that I have every intention of repaying my debt to you. I have not much to offer, but will accept any repayment that you will impose, as long as it is within my capacity to offer." She knew that these where the proper wordings, as she had learned in her training. As she finished her bow and raised her head, she looked into the demon's golden eyes, and couldn't help but wonder what was going on behind the cold amber stare.

Indeed, she had left much for the demon lord to ponder. She not only had been raised with proper etiquette, but followed a strict code of honor. "Miko, he started in his cold, velvety voice, you have already repaid part of your debt, as you were a learning instrument to this Sesshoumarou's ward. If Rin has learned some of the healing skills that Miko Kaede can teach, then this Sesshoumarou is pleased. As for the other part of your debt, it is a situation that is as unexpected to you as it is to this Sesshoumarou, and he would request that you allow him the night to ponder it through. This Sesshoumarou promises that he will have his request formulated by noon tomorrow. Is that acceptable?"

The younger woman smiled softly, and nodded. "It is quite acceptable, lord Sesshoumarou. Please also know that I will not pressure you into formulating the terms of the repayment of my debt. If by tomorrow, you have not come with a request that fully pleases you, than please know that I will, by no means hold you to it," she paused, knowing that the lord couldn't accept it as is, being honorable and following etiquette, "that is, of course, only if the delay of your request is being put towards repaying my debt to you." She stated. She finished the same way he had: "Is that acceptable?"

The demon was eying her in a calculating way, thinking. She had judged him for what he was, incredibly intelligent, meticulous, cunning, the type of being that hated to make a decision without thinking it through.

"It is acceptable, Miko." He stated. "May this Sesshoumarou know your name, as there are many mikos in this hut, and this Sesshoumarou hates confusion?" He said coldly.

She smiled at how he asked. She had been rude not to introduce herself, but the whole debt aspect had thrown her off. "Opposed to the other inhabitants of this hut and most humans, who would prefer their given names be used, I do not mind the use of a title and being called Miko by the lord Sesshoumarou. However, if you wish to address me by my given name, lord Sesshoumarou, you may address me as Sakura." Her turquoise eyes where now looking at him heavily, giving him something to ponder on. Indeed, all the humans he had come across where adamant about others using their given names, as though that made them special. Even his half-brother's mate had once admonished him to no ends when he had called her miko. She had told him that out of respect, he should address her as Kagome. He never viewed addressing the small woman by her title as lack of respect, on the contrary. It gave him a new level of respect for this strange miko, who acted so different from all other humans he had ever encountered. 'hell, you've never even encountered a she-demon like her... you've never even encountered a full blooded male demon that held such assurance.' He snickered as his other half spoke to him. He was grateful that it wasn't just sputtering insanities about the miko sitting before him, and had to agree with him that she was one of the, if not the single most intriguing creatures he had ever encountered.

He heard the woman sigh: "Well, now that this matter has been settled, there is something that urgently needs my attention." She stated. The demon lord slightly frowned as he followed her movements. She got up slowly, as she did not trust her body to stay upright. When she found her balance, she turned 45 degrees towards the young, pregnant woman, and walked a few steps to close the gap between them.

She knelled in front of the young, doe eyed woman and smiled tenderly. She pulled her right hand up, so that it was about a foot from the woman's large belly, and asked: "may I?" she asked in a tender, soft voice. The younger woman nodded in agreement. She was mesmerized by the woman in front of her. Only a few years older then her, the woman kneeling before her was a ravishing beauty. She looked into the deep turquoise eyes and felt all her worries soothed away, as she felt that the woman in front of her knew what she was doing and that she would trust her with her life if needed.

Sakura needed the younger woman to trust her in order to get her examination on the way. If her initial feeling was right, which where seldom wrong, she would have very little time to do what needed to be done. She placed her hand on the stomach of the younger woman. She felt her slightly tense up. 'It's normal, she thought; she's nervous, use your training to calm her...' She told herself. "What's your name?" she asked softly. The doe eyed girl answered her "I'm Kagome". Sakura smiled at her: "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Kagome. I'm Sakura. I'm a trained mid-wife and a healer. I have accompanied many women throughout their pregnancies." Sakura didn't like to rush things, but she didn't have a choice. She sensed that he young one before her was scared, and for good reasons. "Kagome, sweetheart, I need to ask, how long has it been since you have felt movement in your womb?" Sakura had made her eyes soft and her tone even softer, but she knew there was no way to alleviate the stress.

Tears started to well up in Kagome's eyes: "about one and a half day..." she said, hesitantly. Kagome felt her body lose control as the tears were threatening to fall. Sakura's back stiffened and she looked at the miko coldly, and said: "listen to me very closely. Yes, the twins that you are carrying are currently in danger, but losing control will not help them. You need to remain strong, and any temper tantrum that you will throw will diminish both yours and the children's strength. Is that understood?" Though she did not wish to be so harsh with the young miko, she needed her to stay rational and not give in to despair. Her gamble paid off, as new resolve shined in Kagome's eyes.

Sakura then felt confident enough to continue the examination of the twins she was carrying. Their aura was somewhat off from what she was used to. She could feel the miko's energy in them, but also felt the demon aura. Her thoughts trailed back to the demon sitting across the fire from them. 'could he be the father?... she trailed off... no, there is something else in the twin's aura, almost too much human in their aura to be half and half...' as her thoughts trailed, that's where it hit her. The miko's aura had issues flowing with that of the demon.

Sakura sigh heavily. "The father of your twins, he isn't human, is he?" When Kagome shook her head, Sakura continued: "But he isn't fully demon either?" Kagome nod in approval. "The children are related to lord Sesshoumarou, but are not his." Once again, Kagome nodded.

Sakura stayed silent for several seconds to form a plan in her head: "I can't help you alone." When she saw the shear distress written across Kagome's face, she held up her palm to calm her, and said: "Only with lord Sesshoumarou's help may I balance the twin's auras. I only control purification energy, but I need some demonic energy to balance it." What Sakura had said was only a half truth, as normally, she might have been able to do the trick alone, but now that she was so drained, she had hardly any energy to spare, let alone use to do a trickery balancing of energy.

The demon lord was eying her in the same calculating way he had in the past hour. When Sakura saw his eyes, she said in a commanding tone: "though I am requesting this lord Sesshoumarou's help to save these children, I do not feel that this debt should not be on my shoulders. It would be wise to lay it on the mother or the father, and if the most distinguished lord Sesshoumarou, though highly unlikely, does not have an heir, then it might be well appropriate to lay such a debt on the children." She said, in a single breath.

The demon's eyes narrowed, he then quietly spoke: "So, if this Sesshoumarou does not agree to place the debt of the two unborn children on their parents or on themselves, you would not save them?" He asked simply. A sharp pain went through Sakura's heart, as though she had been rapidly stabbed by an ice pick. She knew she was cornered and stated to feel Kagome's aura rise in panic. "Lord Sesshoumarou, if you wish to have this debt added to the one I owe you, so be it. I will not stand by and see these children die." She stated in a cold, emotionless tone.

With that statement, Sesshoumarou knew that he had just bought himself more time; he got up and knelt next to the two mikos. He looked at Sakura and asked: "what do you need me to do?". She turned her body in his direction, and answered: "I first need to get a feel for you aura, your youki and you in general. I'll need you to let me explore your energy with mine, if that if acceptable." She looked at his, her turquoise eyes filled with doubt.

He lowered his head so that his mouth could be close to her ear, : "If that is necessary, you may do all the exploration you wish." He stated. He smirked as a light blush flushed her cheeks, and watched her intently as she regained control. She placed both her hands on his chest, and he could feel the energy throbbing though them. He didn't mind, as he felt no malice from the gesture. He let her energy envelop him, wrapping him in a soft blanket of her. He was surprised at how he actually enjoyed her touch and the feeling of her aura. She was quite gentle, and though her personality was quite assertive, he felt that her aura had gentleness to it in the way it was exploring his, as though she did not want to be too intrusive. He also felt her experiment on mixing her aura and his, to fuse both and get a new energy from it. She did this until he felt her satisfied with the balance. She suddenly withdrew, leaving him disappointed, as he enjoyed what she was doing. It was a most intimate touch; more intimate that he had ever felt.

He let her move away, as she got back to Kagome, who was staring at the whole thing with wide eyes. Sakura positioned both her hands on Kagome's stomach, and looked up to Sesshoumarou and said: "I would need you to place both your hands on mine please" Sesshoumarou smirked, and placed himself behind Sakura, her back firmly planted on his chest, as he positioned his hands on hers. He felt her warmth through her thin sleeping kimono and enjoyed what he was feeling. He also could get a better smell of her, and used his vantage point to nuzzle his nose in her hair, where her skull met her neck, getting a better smell of her. His assessment of her carrying the scent of the four seasons on her was correct and he could sense in her that one of the scents where currently stronger; Fall. Her protective family instincts had kicked in, and she wanted to protect the younger miko, as she was one of their own, but also was afraid for the pups that she bore. Her miko instinct dictated that she needed to protect life, and that she would do, even if it meant that she would be responsible for the debt linked to the two lives present in Kagome's womb.

Sakura had let herself be distracted for a moment as she felt the strong, muscular arms wrap around her. She even took a moment to dwell on the hard chest pressed on her back. She felt all the muscles pressed against her, as well as the appendage that was pressed against her bosom. His warmth spread through her body. Never had a man held her in such a tender embrace, and she had to shake the thoughts that were slowly creeping at the back of her mind. She had to focus on the task ahead. She was also slightly distracted by the markings on his left hand, thinking to herself 'Is that a curse? Who in their right mind would put a hex on such a powerful demon and actually think they could live to tell the tale?' Once again, she willed these thoughts to the back of her mind, concentrating on the task at hand.

Kagome was watching a strange spectacle take place in front of her. First, the odd miko had balanced her aura with that of her brother-in-law, but had then allowed him to embrace her in an almost sensual stance. She then felt Sakura shift her attention from the demon holding her to the pups in her womb. She then started a complex balancing of energy that only a reiki master could accomplish. She skilfully mixed her own energy with that of the demon's, and then carefully basked the pups in it. Kagome felt a warm embrace wash over her, as she felt that everything would be safe, and that her pups would be alright. She was about to succumb to slumber when she felt something that jolted her back to reality. Two distinct thumps within her, exactly where Sakura's hands where resting, made Kagome's eyes water once again.

Sakura ignored Kagome's shift in emotions. Her stance needed to remain in order to save the pups. The physical reaction she had just felt below her palms was just an indication that her guess calculation of the balancing was right, and she needed to poor in more of that mixture into the twins to save them. She also used some of the demons' strength to convert into her own energy. If not, she would have run out before the balancing was complete. She was half-ways done when she felt the demon embracing her stiffen. She continued pouring energy into the pups, but let her aura follow the demons' energy. Being so close, she easily followed where he was leading her. She picked on something unexpected, thoughts that were not hers, creeping into her mind: 'filthy half-beast, why is he interfering?' a husky voice spoke... 'He is here because he is concerned for his mate and pups' a cool, rational voice said. 'yes, but he will be interfering with what she is doing... she is making his pups better, she is saving his pups... they are our blood as well, and she is saving them, he must not interfere...' the husky voice said, in a pleading voice. 'Yes I know, the velvety voice purred, she is saving them and I am helping. Once he gets here, we will find a way to stop him from interfering.'

She was truly shell-shocked. She didn't know if what she had heard was really the demon's thoughts, but would eventually find out. Sooner than later, the light bamboo screen where ripped open. Sakura glanced quickly at the man in the entrance and fit in the missing pieces of her puzzle. The man there was the father of the pups, and brother to the demon. 'half-brother' she corrected herself. He was angry that her mate was not where he had left her, and the vision of her, a stranger and his estranged half-brother pressing their hands to her womb did not help his anger. Sakura noticed the rosary around his neck and started pushing her aura against it. A word came to her mind, and made her smile slightly. She had a feeling that she was dealing with dog demons when she uttered the words of the enchanted beads; "Sit Boy"

As Inuyasha face planted into the soil, Sakura smirked to herself. Though she was being faced with demons stronger then she had ever faced, her training was coming through. As Inuyasha was getting up from his command, he had started uttering insanities directed towards her and the mother of his children. Sakura's aura spiked at the less then courteous comments, and she said it as a Buddhist monk would have chanted a mantra: "sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit sit..." As she was singing the words, she didn't notice the other beings in the hut staring at her in weary glances. When she finally finished, everyone was convinced that Inuyasha had perished, as he was probably so deep in to the earth that his physical body had now reached the underworld.

Once the troublesome person was silenced, she finished balancing the pup's auras. It was no easy task as everyone around was on edge. She let herself drown in the demon's energy, then producing the proper balance with her own and feeding it to the pups. She had to admit that it was not all for the pups, as she was quite weak and needed to keep some of the demonic energy for herself, so that she would not pass out from the strain. Against her better judgment, she had to admit that she did enjoy the demon's aura around her...

Once again, she felt a push in her mind as thoughts that were not hers crept in: 'she stopped him, dead in his tracks... she is strong...' purred a husky voice. 'Yes she is strong, no other then Kagome should be able to use the bead's command. How was she able to?...' as his thoughts trail 'because she can hear us, hear our thoughts... she found a way to stop the confrontation so that the pups would be safe... She knows that the pups are weak and need this treatment and could not survive without it; she is a strong one... Her fear for the pups has given her innate abilities control over the rosaries... such a strong woman...' purred the husky voice.

Sakura did not understand what was happening, but she did recognize one of the voices as Sesshoumarou's, and one as 'the other' as she would call it for the moment felt that the twins where now strong enough and she started cutting the flow of energy leaving her body. She removed her hands from Kagomes' stomach and rested them on her thighs, waiting for the demon to do the same thing. To her surprise, he did not instantly retract his aura. 'Don't let her go yet, we enjoy the feeling of her body against ours... she is so warm and alive, no she-demon has ever felt like her. Let us have some more...' pleaded the husky voice, in an almost whining voice. Sakura slightly tensed as she heard the voice. 'You got her tensed, you obscene creature, we have to let go of her. Unless she is willing, there will be no other physical contact.' Answered Sesshoumarou's voice in a scowl. Sakura's cheeks turned a dark shade of pink at the implications and her body stiffened even more.

Realizing that the small woman in his arms was now stiff as a rod and waiting for him to let go of her, he took one last sniff of her delicious scent, and withdrew his demonic aura from enveloping her, as she withdrew hers. He removed his arms from around her and slowly rose to his feet, and went back to sit next to the fire. Her scent covered him, and he was quite happy with that. 'We like being covered in her scent... She smells so good... Our little miko of the four seasons...' the other said, in a slurred speech, as though he was drunk on just her scent.

When Sakura heard the name 'miko of the four seasons' she frowned instantly and turned her eyes to the demon. His eyes were closed and an expression of utter bliss was covering his face. She then noticed that both Kagome and Kaede where exchanging sideway glances to Sesshoumarou. Sakura assumed that the cold calculating demeanor that she had earlier seen was his usual self, and to see him so relaxed was unnerving for both women. As she sensed Kagome's anxiety rise, Sakura let go of a quiet sigh, and said: "It is a side effect from the merging of our energies. Call it a little bit of bliss. He'll be back to his normal, charming self by tomorrow morning." Kagome seemed to relax. She gave Sakura a brilliant smile, and rubbed her bulging stomach. "They are kicking like crazy now," She squealed in delight. Sakura was relieved that the balancing had helped, but they weren't done yet. She placed a warm hand on Kagome's cheek, and said tenderly: "That is a good sign. Now, you need to rest, while I go and prepare a few things. Tomorrow morning, you will be giving birth."

Kagome's eyes grew wide, and another wave of panic struck her: "But I'm not due for another few weeks, what if the babies are too small, how can..." Once again, Sakura cut short her streak of panic by putting a finger on the girl's lips. "Panic will not help the twins. They are big enough and strong enough to live, but I am afraid that they will not be able to live long if they stay in your womb..." She trailed off until she was sure the younger woman was paying full attention, she continued: "Your miko powers are quite strong, and since the father is not a full demon, their demonic aura does not possess the necessary strength to push your purification energy. That part of them is being attacked by your powers, which is why they need to come out. I know of herbs that will induce the birth process. First of all, we need to get some iron into you, to strengthen you for the birth." She stated in a confident tone.

She had been mid-wife to many births, and helped many women go through the fears of birthing. Sakura knew what she was doing, and that confidence made it easy for her to gain the emotional woman's trust. A groan came from the man sized crater, and slowly a hand emerged. The pointy eared half-demon slowly pulled himself from the ground and crawled towards his mate. He was unable to get up, as his back refused any kind of flexibly. He looked at the other woman that was kneeling next to her, stared at her with a death glare and growled as he got closer. He noticed that the other woman was a few years older than his mate, and carried a heavy smell of blood. She was paler then the moon and he assumed that she had recently been injured. She smiled a warm smile at him, got up and knelled next to his side. He felt uncomfortable, as he could not move nor see what she was doing. He looked up at Kagome, which in turned flashed him a warm, bright smile. He relaxed slightly when he felt warmth crawl from his lower back, all the way to his shoulders. The pain was slowly leaving to be replaced by a pleasant tingling where the energy was dancing on his skin. He fully relaxed, and was almost disappointed when the energy withdrew.

He was now able to pull himself up on his knees and was able to turn to see the mysterious woman. He noticed that her breathing had become slightly ragged and beads of sweat now covered her forehead. Her turquoise eyes where slightly dull, and seemed to be staring out through him. He understood that she had used what little energy she had left to heal his back. She was wearing a sleeping kimono, and where the panes of fabric met, he could see bandages going up to her breasts. He had been right to assume that she had recently been injured and had lost large amounts of blood. "Oi wench, you shouldn't have wasted your energy on me, I have youkai blood, I heal quickly..." Inuyasha paused when he heard a low growl. He turned his head, and that's when he noticed his half brother sitting across the fire. He then saw Sesshoumarou's long fluffy tail move towards the frail woman, wrap around her small body and pull her towards him. He had her lay down, her head on his lap, his entire tail covering her body so she would not be cold. It was one of the weirdest images Inuyasha had ever witnessed. He was shell-shocked. He turned towards his mate, and Kagome gave him a tired smile. He knew that eventually someone would fill him in on the situation, but for now, his mate needed to rest. He returned the smile, and she lied down, preparing herself for the night.

He heard the young woman lying next to Sesshoumarou speak weakly: "Kaede sama, I will require your help on preparing what is needed for tomorrow. Kagome needs to eat some fresh liver, to boost the iron in her blood to make her stronger. The liver of a bore should suffice. Also, I need you to check if you have a few herbs in your pharmacopeia that induce birth." With that said she closed her eyes and fell into a dreamless slumber, exhausted.

The old woman swiftly raised and headed for her herb cabinet. She could tell from the younger miko's manners and cunning use of words that she had been given a superior education, as she was proper and well versed in both human and demon culture. She had the necessary herbs to induce labor that she was confident of. Her other request, that the pregnant miko ate a whole fresh liver, she was more than apprehensive of. "Inuyasha," she spoke, "Ye shall have to go hunting for ye mate, child."

Inuyasha's ears perked on the top of his head as she spoke his name. He had heard the strange woman's orders, and wasn't certain what to make of it. He did not want to leave his mate alone, especially when in such a vulnerable state. However, his mother had thought him a special liver-based potion that made your blood thicker and stronger. He would prepare this for her, which was the least he could do for her...

He got up to go and gather the ingredients needed for his potion. As he was headed for the door, a pale hand grabbed him by the wrist. Hi half-brother looked at him, his deep amber eyes reflecting his own. "If I tell you of a grazing land, where bores go to eat worry free on this very night, would you bring back a second beast, so that the woman who saved your unborn pups may regain some of her strength?"He spoke softly, so that the woman sleeping softly on his laps would not awaken.

"Keh," he grunted, "I'll not only do that, but I'll make a double portion of a family potion so that the wenches will be feeling like new in the morning." He answered gruffly. He marched out into the night, to begin his hunt for the necessary ingredients.

Sesshoumarou smirked as his half brother marched out. He was finally free to let his eyes roam on the miko sleeping in his lap. Her skin was quite pale, and he knew that it would remain so, even once her strength returned; he knew that it would never have the sun-kissed look his half brother and his mate shared. She would remain as pale as the moon. The demon lord suspected that she did not like her name, which is why she so readily accepted him calling her miko, but he had to admit that Sakura was a more than appropriate name for her. Her dark cherry lips contrasted her pale skin, and truly looked like the center of the beautiful cherry blossoms that bloomed in spring.

His eyes moved down to her neck and collar bone, where he saw that the skin was heavily scared. He frowned, thinking 'who is this woman? She acts like a competent healer, yet bears the scars of a warrior. How can she be a protector of life, yet a fighter?' He wondered. His eyes wondered to her hands, both of which rested on her stomach. Her right hand was slightly turned upright, giving him sight of the callousness of her palm, strengthening his theory that she was a strong fighter. 'Just who are you, little one?' He asked once again, dumbfounded. 'if your hands speak of who you are, you would not have saved those pups and burdened yourself with their debts... you however refused to let them die. You also pushed yourself awake, and forced yourself to regain strength, though you could have remained in your peaceful slumber while your wounds healed. Why jeopardize your own strength to do such a thing?'

Such a selfless act, contradicting the nature of the warrior, truly intrigued the young demon lord. He knew that far in their pasts, there had been warrior mikos, but they had quickly moved from that bloody path and become pacifists, life protectors, quite close to the Buddhist monks. 'Perhaps she traveled from an ancient time...' he had heard many tales of his brother's mate, talking of her travels to a time in the distant future. That came to him as a somewhat reasonable explanation. After all, she was well versed in customs of both demons and humans, and seemed to hold respect for rank, thing that his brother's mate did not possess. Indeed, when he had come across the younger miko, Kagome came off as somewhat of a ruffian to him. He had to concede that she was incredibly powerful though her raw talents where yet to be mastered. She could have been a spectacular miko, if she only not spoke such words that her thong nearly begged him to rip it out of her mouth. She had explained to him that in her time, women and men stood as equals, and women could speak their minds as they wished. He understood the concept, but still did not agree with the profanity that poured out of her lips, just as he disagreed with it when it came out of any man's mouth. He just thought that is was inappropriate.

Though wounded and on the brinks of the netherworld, the miko Sakura had proven that she had proper manners and a strong sense of honor, which he respected. He closed his eyes and breathed in her scent. He then felt strangely relaxed, as he remembered her saying that this feeling was some sort of side effect from the bonding of energy. She had said "A little bit of bliss..." whatever that bliss thing was, he knew he wanted to feel some more of it. He rested his head against the wood wall behind him and let himself be bathed in the feelings that showered him; feelings of peace, quiet, safety... He had not been in such a relaxed state since he was a pup, and he did not want it to end by daybreak. He then allowed himself something he had never indulged in when in the presence of humans; he let himself drift into a peaceful slumber, where memories of a happy past came to dance into his mind's eye, memories where he was safe and protected...

Unbeknownst to the demon lord, someone had been watching him while he carefully examined Sakura, and then let himself slip into slumber. A deep frown etched the forehead of the elderly miko, as she started to worry for the young woman sleeping in the demon's lap. 'I hope ye are strong enough child, for there are many hardships that come your way. To have a demon take too much interest in ye is never a good thing...' Her thoughts trailed off as she looked at the herbs held in her hands. She knew that she needed to boil them for over 6 hours for them to have full effects. 'This is going to be a long night...' She thought.

The sun rose the next morning, unaffected by the lives warmed by its' rays. When she felt warmth on her cheeks, Sakura started to stir, not willing to return to consciousness yet. She had never been a morning person, and hated waking up in the morning. She found the sun too bright and always resented it. She preferred the subtleties of the moon, how her graceful rays bathed her surroundings in a light hue. Besides, she felt so good where she was lying; her head was resting on a hard, hot silky pillow, her body warm and wrapped in the softest fur she had ever felt. Her mind snapped back to attention when she remembered where she was. 'hard, hot silky pillow... soft fur...' She forced her eyes to open, to notice that she was on what looked like a cloud of white fluff around her. Her hands slowly ran in the fur, only to feel it react to her touch. 'Not good... just what did you fall asleep on?...' her thoughts were interrupted by a low chuckle. Her eyes flew open as she felt her head slightly bouncing up with every chuckle.

"Did you sleep well, miko Sakura?" A deep, silky voice said, in what sounded like a near whisper. She quickly scanned the area with her miko senses. The pregnant woman and Rin were still sleeping. The older miko Kaede was nodding off at the fire, while the half demon was outside the hut. She felt a pang of guilt, as she knew that the older woman had stayed awake all night to prepare the tea that would start the whole birthing process for the younger woman. Her senses also told her that her 'pillow' was nothing less than the demon lord's lap, and her fluffy comfortable bed was his tail.

Letting a small sigh escape her lips, she pushed herself up, leaving the warmth of the demon created bed, feeling dizzy as she did. She closed her eyes to help her steady herself. Her body commanded her to lie back down, seek the warmth that he offered. She refused to give in and instead stretched, and let out a heavy yawn. When she opened her eyes, she found herself looking into deep amber eyes. If she didn't know better, she would have sworn that a playful grin danced on his lips. She felt a blush come across her cheeks, as she quickly moved away from him. "I apologize, lord Sesshoumarou, I do not remember how I came to sleep on your lap... I meant no disrespect..." Her voice trailed off.

"This Sesshoumarou placed you there, as you had spent the last of your strength on healing the half-beast. You seemed to be cold so this Sesshoumarou ensured that your body would not lack warmth. You do not need to apologize, nor thank this Sesshoumarou, as he found your presence by his side quite pleasant." He stated, simply. He smirked as he saw her blush an even deeper shade of pink, her blush extending to the top of her ears. She bowed quickly and got up, straightening her sleeping kimono as she did. She walked towards the sleeping pregnant woman, and rested her hand on her stomach, a frown touching her forehead.

"Kaede Sama, are your herbs ready?" She spoke quietly, so that she would not awaken the sleeping mother-to-be. "Aye, they are child, I just need to cool down the liquid. Ye will be able to use them in about an hours' time." Answered the older woman. Sakura sigh, and asked: "How long will it take until she is fully dilated and ready to push out the children?" Kaede wore a stern look on her face when she answered: "I have never used these herbs to induce birth, however I have been told anywhere between 3 and 12 hours."

Sakura frowned at the woman's statement. '12 hours will be too long, the twins will not last longer than 5 hours, 6 at most... think fast!' her thoughts ran wild, at the different possibilities. She sniffed the tea that the older woman had concocted. 'Oh yes, this will induce birth all right, but not fast enough...' She finally thought of an acceptable plan. "Kaede sama, please boil down your mixture until it resembles tree sap. Once it does, please add some raspberry shrub leaves to the mix and let simmer for 5 minutes. This will force the birth to take place 1 to 2 hours following ingestion." She stated, in a confident tone. The older woman complied, and added logs to the fire to make it warmer. Sakura also asked: "Has she been fed the liver?" Worried glances for the older miko told her that she had not. Sakura's stomach curled in a tight knot 'what if she is not strong enough, we could lose all three of them' she thought quickly.

Her change of moods did not go unnoticed by the demon lord. He raised an eyebrow and spoke in his baritone voice: "My half-brother is preparing a family remedy, which he claims will have you both as good as new. From the smell of whatever foul potion he is preparing, I would give an educated guess that it is a concentrate of livers of different beasts that he has slain throughout the night." He finished in a cold, dissociated voice, as if simply reading his words from a school manual.

Almost as if on cue, Inuyasha stepped in holding two glasses of the remedy. He stepped towards his sleeping mate, nudged her awake, and forced the liquid in her mouth. She wasn't fully awake and hardly put in any resistance. Sakura watched in interest, as she was most intrigued by this mysterious concoction. As soon as he had eased Kagome back to her pillow, Inuyasha turned towards the woman who had saved his pups' lives. As he walked closed to her, he saw Sesshoumarou pull his right sleeve over his face to cover his sensitive nose from the stench. Even the human was starting to grow uncomfortable from the stench, and started squirm on the ground. He smirked slightly, when he stopped in front of her and handed her the glass. She eyed the murky brown liquid as her nose drew in short, ragged breaths. She slowly drew her hand to the cup, and repressed a gag when she held it close to her face. "What is it?" She asked.

Inuyasha once again smirked, and answered smugly: "Do you really want to know? You might not want to drink it if you knew..." He trailed off, grinning evilly. Her eyes drew in a slit, and shot him daggers. Inuyasha's ears drew flat against his head, half expecting to be sat into oblivion once again. He had forgotten the sitting he had gotten a few hours ago; he should have put a leash on his thong of his and just answered the question. Instead of sitting him, she closed her eyes and took a deep sniff of the liquid. She slowly dissected the smells, and the demon lord had been right in his assessment. The broth was nothing more than the livers of many beasts crushed, blended and boiled down to make a concentrate. She picked at the different scents, and drew a deep sip from the cup. She didn't mind liver, but preferred it raw, as she found that when cooked had a pasty feel to it. It brought a small smirk to her lips, as she remembered the people around her had always found her taste for raw foods quite disgusting. As she was drinking the liver concoction, she couldn't help but wonder if it would taste as awful had it been raw. She emptied the glass and handed it to the shell-shocked half demon sitting across her. The taste of the broth still swirling around her mouth, when she spoke: "Bore, rabbit, carp, trout, weasel, ferret, horse, bear, beaver, wolf and cat." She stated. Inuyasha's eyes grew wide. Before he could even start a coherent sentence, she spoke: "I hope that you have kept the carcasses of those you have slain, so that their sacrifices will not go in vain and a large feast can be organized."

His eyes still wide, Inuyasha finally found his words and said: "The carcasses are all outside, and are still in good shape to be used for tonight." She smiled a warm, beautiful smile. Her eyes sparkled like the sea after a stormy night. Inuyasha loved his mate deeply, and found that she was his days and his nights, but he was simply smitten by the beauty of the woman that was before him. He had noticed that her scent was quite different from any other being he had ever encountered. It held such depth and complexity...

He watched her as one would watch the stars, the moon, the clouds and the sun... Stars sparkled and held such light, came back every night, enticing, a promise of the new day to come, yet were cold as rocks... the moon, beautiful, bountiful as she reached a roundness that made her look as round and full of life as his dear mate, yet cold in the way that she would shine away, day after day, almost as her crescents where sad grins... The clouds, bearer of rain, plentiful and needed for the crops to grow, also washing away the dirt and the sins that covered the lands, almost allowing it rebirth, while those same clouds could bring about the coldest of snow, covering the lands and forcing it into slumber, as all would submit to its cold embrace... And the sun, bringing warmth and light to all those whom basked in its rays, needed to grow crops, but also to light their days, could turn into a merciless killer when the rain was scarce, when the days where long, could bring people to their deaths with its relentless rays... Inuyasha looked at the woman in front of her with a renewed sense of awe. He had never felt this way for anything or anyone in his life. He imagined that if he had believed in any of the old deities, he would feel such reverence towards her as he would the most powerful kami out there.

Sakura slowly tilted her head, as the half-demon was staring at her with a dumbfounded look in his eyes. "Is something wrong with my face, Inuyasha?" she asked politely. The half demon blushed furiously and got up. "Keh, no wench, I was just surprised that you were able to figure out all the ingredients for my family recipe..." He stated, gruffly. Her eyes narrowed slightly: "Inuyasha, I would prefer it if you would use my given name, Sakura, or my title, miko, when addressing yourself to me. I believe that I have been quite polite when speaking with you, I would request that you return the courtesy."

Inuyasha's eyes flew wide when she spoke to him. Never had words cut into his soul like hers did. She had spoken on a soft tone, almost hurt as she stated her demands. Inuyasha started to see where his lack of a proper education and manners had left him truly clueless on how to respond when someone showed him respect. He bowed his head in submission and looked at the ground, therefore missing his half-brother's surprised look as he did so, and said: "I apologize Miko Sakura; I have meant you no disrespect when speaking to you... I was not raised fancy and in the ways of the court, and..." He choked on his words, not knowing what to say next.

Sakura started to giggle, as Inuyasha was obviously not a man for words. Her soft laughter made him look at her, and she somehow realized how distressed he was. She extended her hand and placed it on his cheek, and said in an extremely soft voice: "I'm not looking for apologies; I wasn't raised fancy either... I would just like it if you used something more personal when you address me" She said, winking to him. She removed her hand from his cheek, and saw that he was fighting tears from escaping his eyes. She wanted to give him a chance to leave the hut, so she said: "I believe you said the carcasses of the slain animals are still in good shape, how about you go and start preparing the meat for tonight's feast?" She spoke, and smiled warmly at him. That was the only excuse that he needed to leave the hut, glad to be out in the open. He seldom felt vulnerable, but that woman somehow made him feel both completely relaxed, and extremely on edge... he did not like it...

As Inuyasha bolted out of the hut, the demon lord couldn't help but wonder. He had smelt the salt of the unshed tears in his half brother's eyes, had sensed his confusion, when the miko had looked at him and spoken in a soft tender voice. He knew that Inuyasha had gone through many hardships, and that the smirk exterior that he projected was a way to keep people at bay to avoid getting hurt. This woman had somehow cut trough this barrier and touched a part of his soul, and the halfbeast was not used to it.

Sakura got to her feet and knelt next to the sleeping woman. She pressed an experienced hand on her forehead, sensing her energy levels, then moved her hand to her stomach and extended her energy to the twins. She was glad to feel them react to her spiritual nudge, meaning that they would be strong enough to go through the birthing process. She felt her own energy returning, and had to admit that the liver concoction that the half demon had served her was doing the trick. She got up and walked to the still sleeping Rin, bent down and shook her shoulders gently. Brown, sleep glazed eyes stared back at her: "Wake up little one; we have a busy morning ahead of us." Spoke the miko. Rin sat up and smiled back to the gentle woman. "Did Rin hear correctly, miko Sakura, is Kagome's pups going to be born this morning?" She asked. Sakura was surprised at her speech patterns, as she addressed herself in the third person, and had adopted the name the demon lord had given her. "Yes, you have heard correctly, Rin. Kagome's children will be born this morning." She stated, matter-of-factly. "I will need your assistance, little one. Do you feel up to it?" She asked, smiling. The girl's eyes grew with excitement, and she looked like she was about to jump out of her skin. She turned her head towards the demon lord and squealed in delight: "Did you hear, Sesshoumarou sama? Rin is going to assist with the birth of Kagome's pups!"

The demon lord nodded, and said: "Yes Rin, this Sesshoumarou has excellent ears and has heard what Miko Sakura has said. I am certain that she will prove to be a more than adequate teacher to guide you through this." He answered. He saw Sakura frown lightly at his comment. She then turned to Kaede and said: "For how long has this child been learning our ways, Kaede sama?" She asked the older woman. "Rin had been left under my supervision by lord Sesshoumarou approximately ten moons ago." She answered. The frown on Sakura's forehead deepened as she spoke: "She's been here for nearly a year and this will be the first birth she assists?" She asked. The old miko's eyes were strained from lack of sleep. "We are a small village, and this will be the first birth since Rin has arrived. I assure you that I will guide her so that she is no hindrance to you." Kaede answered back.

Sakura sigh heavily, weighing her options, bringing her right index to her temple, rubbing small circles. 'Kaede is obviously exhausted and needs to go get some rest. She is old and a sleepless night has taken its toll on her. The girl is eager, I've handled plenty of inexperienced children, and this will not be so hard, as it will be a rapid birth.' She thought. "That will not be necessary, Kaede sama. You have already done much. You are tired and need some rest. I have delivered enough children that I can do it alone." As small whine from the girl told her that she feared to be excluded from the birth. Before Rin could say anything, Sakura continued: "I have also trained many young mikos, and I do not mind having an inexperienced assistant." The smile returned to Rin's face. Sakura attitude changed, her shoulders straightened slightly as she spoke: "The only condition I have is that you obey my every words. Births are hard on the body, and you will see the woman you care about in pain. There will also be a lot of blood. If at anytime I feel you panic, I will order you out of the hut and proceed with the birthing alone. I will not tolerate any arguments on your part, is that understood." Rin gave her a grateful smile, and answered back: "Rin will do as she is told. Rin has seen a lot of blood, and is not afraid of it. She will obey your instructions, miko Sakura sensei." Sakura chuckled at the string of politeness that Rin used around her name.

"Very well, we need to get some water boiling, and prepare towels." Sakura stated. Rin jumped to her feet, grabbed two buckets and ran off to get some water. She turned slightly towards the demon lord and said, with a quiet chuckle: "She's an eager little thing, that ward of yours." The demon lord nodded in agreement. Her face hardened slightly as she spoke again: "If I have to dismiss her during the birth, nothing will make me let her come back in the hut, not even you, Lord Sesshoumarou. Is that clear?"

The demon lord was surprised to say the least. Never had anyone spoken to him in such tone and lived to tell the tale. When his amber eyes looked into the fierce turquoise eyes that held his gaze, he knew that there was no point in arguing with the head strong female. "This Sesshoumarou will not interfere in the birthing. It is a matter of females and males have not a word to say in the ways it transpires."

His answer caused Sakura to raise an eyebrow as she spoke: "Are you saying that you were not present when your mate gave birth to your children?" She asked, softly. The demon lord was too flabbergasted to answer. 'Be present during the birthing, how can she even suggest such an outrageous thing! I have never heard of any male being in the same room as a whelping female...' He noticed that her eyes were still on him, and he remembered her asking him a question. "This Sesshoumarou has not yet mated with a bitch." He answered, in a cold, distant voice. Sakura smiled warmly at him, and said: "I see... then when you do chose a mate and make her pregnant, I do recommend that you be present during the birth. Most men that have done so have told me that it was a most enlightening experience."

She had spoken so gently, in a quiet resolve. The demon lord was surprised that he was not angry with her. She had spoken outrageous none-sense, but had said it in such a candid way that he could not find it in him to be angry. "This Sesshoumarou will remember your advice" he answered, in a non-committal way. She nodded softly. Neither Sakura nor Sesshoumarou had noticed the pair of wrinkled eyes that was staring at them the whole time. Kaede had watched the strange exchange of words between the miko and the demon lord, and she feared for the young woman's life. To her surprise, the demon lord had answered the miko in a courteous tone, almost respectful, and even acknowledging her advice. This had to be one of the strangest events she had seen in her long years, and she had seen plenty of strange.

Sakura walked towards the exit and moved the screen sideways. She softly called: "Inuyasha, could you please return to the hut?" She had hardly raised her tone, as she was certain that his sensitive ears could pick up what she said. She went back to kneel close to Kagome. The pregnant woman was starting to wake, and was startled to see turquoise eyes staring back at her. "How are you feeling?" Sakura asked. Kagome gave her a smile as she sat up: "That thing Inuyasha served me is really foul, but boy, does it work! I feel amazing" she answered back. Sakura smiled and said: "Good, I'm glad to hear it."

Inuyasha walked into the hut to find his mate awake. "Keh, of course it works!" Both women smiled back at him. Sakura spoke directly to him: "Inuyasha, come and sit behind Kagome to give her some support." Inuyasha didn't like being ordered around, but would accept it from her. He went behind Kagome and positioned her between his legs. He sat down, and Kagome was able to rest her back on his chest. "Thanks Inuyasha" purred Kagome.

By that time, Rin had returned and had started to boil it over the fire. Sakura turned her head towards the child and spoke: "Rin, we will also need some cold water. Could you please go and get two more buckets?" Rin smiled, glad to be helpful, and answered: "My pleasure, miko Sakura sensei!" and she ran off. She turned her attention back to Kagome, once again brushing her aura against hers, as well as that of the twins. She was satisfied with what she was getting and said: "It's time to begin. From what I smell, the liquid has been boiling for long enough to reach full potency." She got up to fetch a small cup so the older miko could poor it in. She smiled at Kaede, saying gently: "And it's time for you to get some rest. From what I can see, it's a beautiful day for a nap under a tree."

Kaede smiled, and started getting up. She noticed that the demon lord was rising as well, as if on cue. Sakura turned her head, laughter brightening her eyes: "You will not stay and witness the birth, lord Sesshoumarou?" His eyes narrowed in a death glare, throwing daggers at her. "No, miko Sakura, I will take my leave for now." He stated, in his cool, emotionless voice. She smiled at the answer. When she saw Inuyasha starting to get up, her face turned hard and she said, in a voice even colder then Sesshoumarou: "And where do you think you're going, mister?"

If years of training and restrained hadn't kicked in, the demon lord would have probably found himself roaring in laughter at the face that his younger half brother was displaying. It was a mixture of panic and surprise. He looked like a prey having met a fierce predator, knowing that escape would only delay the inevitable. Without answering, he resumed his position, still looking at the strange miko. Her face changed from stone to a warm smile when she said: "This position is the best for the father, as it gives support to lower back of the woman; it allows you hold her hand, and also allows you to wipe down her face. You're also close to her ears, so she can hear you at all times" The demon lord took one last look at Inuyasha's face and let out a soft chuckle as he exited the hut, followed quickly by Kaede. He nearly bumped into an over-zealous Rin who was returning with the cold water. He went to sit under a nearby tree to meditade.

Back in the hut, Kagome chuckled lightly. She knew that the men from this time were not accustomed to being present during the birth of their children. She had been apprehensive of giving birth for that very reason. She did not want to be alone. This miko was a gift from the heavens. She seemed to intimidate the crap out of her mate, but she had a soothing effect on people. Even her brother in law seemed to find her soothing. She had never heard anyone jolly him that way and live to tell the tale. One thing that worried Kagome is that Sesshoumarou seemed fascinated by her. She had never seen him fascinated by anyone, let alone a human, and that was cause to worry.

Sakura walked over to Kagome, cup in hand. She handed it to her, and waited until she drank the strong, pungent liquid. Her lips curled in a slight snarl at the bitter taste, but drained the cup. She handed it back to Sakura. Accepting the cup, Sakura said: "It shouldn't be long now, about 30 minutes, that you'll experience your first contractions, as well as your water breaking. Since it will not be a long birth, you might not be fully dilated and tear slightly. Rin, I'll need you to find me a needle and some thread. We might have to do a few stitches." Sakura laughed at the face Inuyasha was displaying. He was so shocked. He had heard of 'stitches' a few times from Kagome. She had said that in her time, when someone got a cut or an injury that was very deep, the healers would bring the skin tissue back together with them; similar to the way clothes was held together. She has also told him that only a skilled hand could do such thing. He paled at the realization of where the 'tearing' and the 'stitches' would be. 'Birthing is really a thing that should be kept amongst women' he thought.

Rin was off with her new quest. She sped out of the hut towards Kaede. She stopped and asked her: "Kaede sama, do you know where I could find a thread and needle?" The older woman frowned, and then answered: "Hai, I do. But tell me first child, why do you require such things now?" Rin thought for thirty seconds to remember the exact words that her sensei had spoken: "Miko Sakura sensei told Rin that the birth would be very fast, and that Kagome might not be dilated enough, and that she might tear, and that she might need a few stitches"

The older woman told Rin where she would find a needle and thread in her hut, and finished by telling her: "Please ask Sakura to let me witness her stitching technique, as I am very interested in learning it." Rin nodded and left. The demon lord was curious, as this technique intrigued him quite a bit. He waited until his ward had returned to the hut to ask the older miko: "Kaede sama, what is this stitching Rin was talking about. Also, how does it relate to my younger half brother's mate and an expedient whelping?"

Kaede wasn't to certain how to go about this, when she thought of how she explained it to young girls, before their wedding nights or before their first child was born. "Tell me, my lord, though ye have never witnessed it, ye have an idea of where the children exit the womb when being born?" she asked. He simply nodded and answered: "Through the same passage where they were conceived." She then nodded and continued: "Those passages are very flexible, and will expand to accommodate the baby's head. However, when the birth is too rapid, the passages are not flexed enough and the tissue may tear." Sesshoumarou's eyes had slightly grown, and he simply nodded for the female to continue. "Kagome has explained that in her time, the healers use a technique called stitches to close deep wounds and accelerate the healing. She did not know how to perform such technique, but if Sakura knows how, I would love to witness it. It would be a great learning experience." She continued. She let the demon lord fill in the blanks that her explanations had left and thought: 'Birthing is really a thing that should be kept amongst women'

Someone in the hut held a very special grin. Sakura had noticed that there were certain tensions between the two brothers, but she couldn't but smile when she heard the demon lord's thought. 'They are quite different, but those brothers share quite a bit...'

Sesshoumarou's opinion about the matter only strengthened when his sensitive ears picked up screams of pain and his nose smelled a mixture of scents that he truly did not want to smell again. After about an hour of his senses being attacked, he heard the cry of a first child, followed a few minutes later by a second cry. Rin came out galloping, to see both Kaede and Sesshoumarou. She said, in a cheerful voice: "Kagome has had a boy and a girl! Sakura said that stitches weren't needed, but she wanted me to ask you if we had special rituals about the disposal of the placenta." Rin ran back into the hut. Kaede's eyes widened at the question, knowing the questions that would come from the demon lord sitting next to her. Wanting to avoid it, she got up and headed toward the hut.

When she walked in, she saw that Kagome had been cleaned and was now holding her two small pups. She also saw that Sakura was kneeling next to the birthing blanket, her expert eyes examining the two sacks that had contained the twins, ensuring that no fragment were left behind. As she was doing this, she explained her every actions to Rin, in a very patient voice. The child was hung to her lips, drinking in each word. After she had examined the first sac, she handed it to Rin, so she could get a feel for it. She was hesitant at first, but eventually stated manipulating it. Sakura examined the second placenta and was satisfied with what she saw. By not having to explain everything she was doing, her second examination went quite quickly. She then turned towards the bucket of water and cleaned her hands thoroughly.

She got up and stood in front of Kaede and spoke in a low voice: "The birth was fast and went very well. Both mother and children should recuperate quite rapidly. It is my understanding that they do not live here, and should be able to head home by sunrise tomorrow." The older woman was now smiling down on the little family. Sakura continued: "Rin has told me that you would like to learn how to perform stitches?" Kaede nodded in agreement, before saying: "Hay child, I am quite interested in this technique, however you must've learnt this at a great cost, as great secrets are acquired only through great payments..."

With that comment, Sakura had to suppress a chuckle: "You're right, med school came at quite a price..." Seeing that her joke was lost as the old woman failed to understand the relation, she continued in a more solemn tone: "I know that it is only a small repayment for the kindness that you have shown me, as you were as instrumental in my healing as the demon lord. It would be my honour to show you such technique during the day. I'm itching to go for a hunt, and once I catch something that is to my satisfaction, we will be able to practice on the carcase." She stated, smiling.

Kaede frowned slightly: "Nay child, it is us whom are in your debt. Normally, helping a fellow miko leaves no debts, as you are much aware. Kagome and Inuyasha are like family to me. You not only saved her life, but that of her pups. Please do not feel like ye owe us anything." Sakura knew that this was a vicious circle and would lead them nowhere fast. She spoke quickly: "I agree. When it comes to helping our kin, it is our sworn duty towards the other. Kagome is a miko, and so will her children be. Therefore, no debt is due on either side. It is my personal pleasure to pass on my knowledge. Let's view this as an equally beneficial action; I will gain pleasure out of teaching you my technique, and you will gain knowledge. Is that a satisfactory exchange?" She asked. Kaede was a loss for words, and could only nod.

As the older miko seemed a little speechless, Sakura asked: "May I please borrow a bow and arrows, Kaede sama?" Kaede once again nodded and handed her a long bow and some long arrows. Sakura smirked, as she was quite an accomplished archer, and a master at Kyûdô (Japanese archery). It was one of the many disciplines that she taught. She nodded curtly and headed out of the hut.

She was quite happy to get out of the small hut and get some fresh air. Part of her early training had been to get her better acquainted with nature, and one exercise was to be able to give a relatively close estimate of time of day, based on the sun and the star's positions. She had been quite a keen observer, and had mastered the technique rapidly. She judged that it was around 10:30 in the morning. She knew that the demon lord would want to talk to her at the noon deadline, whether he had made up his mind or not. She stretched out her mind to her surrounding forest, she quickly found a few grazing animals, and new that she would not need more than an hour to accomplish her task. She quickly headed towards a prey that satisfied her.

She walked in the woods in a most silent stance. She had learned to lighten her step and twist her body around branches to not let her preys know of her presence. She knew someone was currently watching her, and she did not mind, as long as the observer would not cause her to lose her prize. She came across what she had been looking for. A small dear was grazing, alone, away from the safety of the heard. She quietly pulled an arrow to her quiver, took her stance and shot a perfect straight line. The arrow hit the doe at the juncture between the skull and spleen, killing it instantly. She walked to the slain animal and pulled the arrow out of its neck. She lifted it to her shoulder and started to make the trek back to the small village, her silent observer still on her heels. She really did not mind him watching, as she was used to always having spectators. Her superior skills in all disciplines had always made her a bit of a freak. She was now used to give daily archery and sword demonstrations to tourists, as well as have brilliant artists, scientists and philosopher come out of their way to share a cup of tea with her. Not only had she trained her body to constantly be at its peak, she was considered quite a prodigy when it came to her mind and reasoning capacities. Having graduated medical school at the young age of 15, as well as having earned many other degrees in the years that passed, she had become a local curiosity, and she had quickly learned to shield out the inquisitive glares. She knew that she was nothing more than an exotic animal, displayed for all to view. She had created a special retreat in her mind where she would escape those glares.

Sesshoumarou had been curious when he saw the miko Sakura leave the hut, bow and arrow in hand. He followed her quietly, not wanting to alter her plans. She walked with a feline grace, one acquired through years of training, closing in on her prey. He watched as she expertly took her stance and quickly released an arrow which ended the beast's life instantly. He was greatly impressed by the speed at which she had shot the arrow, and the precision of the shot. He knew that the assurance she displayed came from years of practice, and thousands of arrows leaving her hands. He then saw her pick up the animal effortlessly, place it on her shoulder and make her way back towards the village. Sesshoumarou frowned slightly; he knew that the doe must have weighed between 200 and 250 pounds, yet she lifted it as though it was weightless. 'It's one surprise after another with you isn't it, little miko?'

As she got back to the village, she gently plopped down the carcass next to Kaede's hut and went in to get the necessary instruments to start preparing the animal. She came back out with some rope a few sharp knives and a large bassin. She had spotted where Inuyasha had started preparing the other slain animals and headed that way, instruments in one hand and the doe safely tucked under the other arm. She knew that she needed to remove the guts and other organs, before it would swell up with nauseous gasses, rendering it uneatable. She placed the large basin under the animal, and expertly sliced the belly open, being careful not to puncture any of the organs. She quickly emptied the cavity into the basin, and moved it aside. She would sort through to extract the few organs that where succulent delicacies later. She went to get another large basin, slid her knife along the jugular and let the blood run down into the container. She knew that the complete bleeding would take a good hour. That meant that Kaede would have to learn the stitching technique during that time.

She headed back to the hut, and found the old woman sleeping. She just couldn't find it in her to wake her up. She figured that she would have other chances to teach her. She headed back to the other carcasses that where hanging from various trees, and was amazed at how sloppy Inuyasha's work had been. He had hardly gotten any work done in the time that he was at it. She shook her head, as she knew that she had little time to get the job done. If she was efficient about it, she would be able to save some of the meat. She looked at the animals and decided that she would prioritize the bore, the horse, the bear and the beaver. It helped that the gutting and bleeding was already done. Taking her knife, she started by carefully skinning each animals, rolling the skins carefully so that she could stretch them later. She started on the butchering process, being very meticulous about removing a maximum of meat.

When the sun reached its zenith, she felt the demon lord move closer to her. She turned around and smiled at him, acknowledging her presence. He nodded in response. As he saw her resume her work, he said: "I have come up with a proposal that I believe to be most acceptable. Would you like to hear it now or finish your work and hear it after?" She smiled back at him, and answered: "I'd love to hear it now; my current task doesn't require much concentration." He nodded, set up a barrier so that none could hear what was said, and then started: "This Sesshoumarou has found himself in quite a predicament recently, and has had a curse lay upon him. This Sesshoumarou would like you to look at it and formulate a solution to remove it. If you cannot remove it at this time, you will follow me in my travels until we are able to acquire such solution and then freed from this curse." He saw a frown crease the miko's forehead as she asked: "Who would be stupid enough to curse you?"

Annoyed by her question, he hissed: "This has nothing to do with the proposal, please refrain from asking unnecessary questions and answer whether or not you find this proposal acceptable." Sakura's eyes narrowed, her smile faded and she gave the demon lord a cold look that rivalled his own. She spoke in a cold, deadly tone: "Lord Sesshoumarou, if I am to even begin helping you get rid of this curse you are under, I will need to ask you some questions. Without these answers, I cannot help you. If you are not open to answering my questions, than I cannot agree with your proposal, as it is not doable."

She continued working on the carcasses as she felt his aura shift. He sighed slightly, and answered: "A dark miko has put the curse on this Sesshoumarou." She nodded, her face softening up: "What is the nature of the curse?" Sesshoumarou snarled slightly: "It bound my beast, therefore greatly reducing my strength." She frowned, at the thought he could be even more powerful than what she could already feel. "What was the condition for the curse?"She asked. Sesshoumarou frowned, unsure of what she had asked. When she got no answer, she looked up to see slightly confused eyes. "What is the condition for breaking the curse?" She reworded. Sesshoumarou's eyes narrowed as he answered: "This Sesshoumarou is not aware of any condition as you speak."

Sakura once again frowned as she stated: "There is always a condition for a curse. A curse cannot take if there is no condition. A curse is a vengeance that someone applies to see his or her enemy suffer. It is designed to attack one in its greatest weakness, and make them struggle. Curses are breakable because of the condition that is laid upon it. It is a binding contract. The person who curses an enemy takes a gamble, one where if their enemy looses, they will suffer the greatest despair of all. However, if their enemy wins, then the curse is broken. That is why we need to know the condition of the curse."

Sesshoumarou sighed and asked: "And how is one to find what this condition is?" Sakura was slightly shocked that he did not know. "Normally, the dark miko should have told you the condition right after she cursed you, unless..." she paused. Quirking one of his eyebrow, he said: "Unless?" Sakura suddenly felt her odds of ever repaying the demon lord shrink greatly as she said: "Unless you killed the miko before she had the chance to tell you what the condition was?" His nod was all she needed to confirm her suspicions. She knew there was a way to find out what the condition was, using the energy of the curse itself. She only hoped that her instincts were good enough to guide her.

She washed her hands in a bucket of clean water and dried them off quickly. She made her way to the demon lord and asked him: "May I see the curse?" Ne nodded and lifted the left sleeve of his Kimono. Besides the deep purple demon markings that ran across his arm and hands, she saw that all across his wrist were black and red markings. She recognized that as being the physical manifestation of the curse and was about to place her fingers on it. Halting her was the now familiar feeling of thoughts being pushed into her mind. 'She is going to touch us again...' said an excited, husky voice 'be quiet, now is not the time' answered a cold, slightly annoyed voice, 'But her skin is so soft and warm, we want to hold her in our arms, smell her, taste her... feel our lips on her burning skin...' 'ENOUGH you lecherous thing!' 'how sweet must she taste, she smells so good... we want to lick every inch of her body...' 'QUIET, NOW IS NOT THE TIME'

While he was having his internal struggle with his beast, he had not noticed the deep, embarrassed blush that was now all over the miko's face. She would not be able to concentrate while hearing these obscenities. She had understood the second time that the thoughts where coming from him and were a side effect of the energy bond they had shared, and would most likely fade with time. She had also deduced that the argument must have been between his rational mind and his more instinctual self. She cleared her voice and said: "It might be tied up, but it certainly wasn't muzzled..." She hopped that she wasn't to insulting towards the demon lord, as she did appreciate where her head was located and didn't want to lose it because of her smart mouth. His eyes grew slightly bigger in surprise: "You can still hear this Sesshoumarou's thoughts?" She nodded rapidly.

She ran her hand through her hair and started speaking: "I won't be able do anything while your beast is having these thoughts. It will just be impossible for me to concentrate." She stated. If the demon lord had any less control over himself, he would have rolled his eyes: "As you clearly stated, it is tied but there is no way to silence it. How do you suggest we go about this?" A deeper shade of red adorned her cheek when she spoke hesitantly: "Perhaps if you got some kind of physical release, it would ease it a little and allow me to do what I have to do" Sesshoumarou's eyes narrowed as he spoke: "Physical release, what are you suggesting?" At that point, Sakura was slightly exasperated: "I'm suggesting that either you go and pleasure yourself until it has gone silent or that you go to a local brothel and get it done there. Either way, I cannot accomplish anything for now."

If she had been any less confident, the look in Sesshoumarou's eyes would have shaken her very soul. 'Great, she thought to herself, not only do you owe him 3 life debts, you've also managed to piss him off by telling he should go jerk of in the nearest bushes... you and that mouth of yours...' In split seconds, he was out of sight.

She knew that the demon lord would not return if she did not seek him out to apologize and make amends. She currently reeked of blood, and needed to go for a bath. She headed towards the springs close to the village. She was delighted by the scenery... small rose bushes surrounding a deep yet narrow pond, a small waterfall only 10 feet tall providing stress-relieving background noise. She quickly stripped and sunk into the cold water. She did not mind the prickling sensation on her skin. Her senses were filled with the joy of washing the grime and filth off her body. She had been through much within the last twenty four hours, and her skin was itching for water. She rubbed her skin as vigorously as her hands permitted. She then plucked a few handfuls of rose petals and started rubbing them on her delicate skin.

She got out of the water and quickly dressed, her clothes clinging to her wet figure. She then extended her aura to her surroundings. She found the demon lord not too far away from her, in a small clearing. She decided to go to him, and face whatever repercussions her actions brought down upon her.

As she reached him, she paused momentarily only to be surprised to find him beyond angry... he was livid. He was pacing back and forth, snarling viciously. His eyes where bleeding red, and both his claws where flexing, cracking the knuckles. She breathed in, walking towards the fuming lord. He suddenly turned his attention to the woman standing in the clearing. He bolted forward stopping inches from her. She knew better then to run from a predator, and she stood her ground. When he stopped in front of her, he was slightly slumped on himself, to allow his eyes to be at the same level as the small woman. As molten gold stared into turquoise, a low growl rumbled the entire clearing, making birds and smaller prey flee.

Sakura knew that he was currently being driven by instincts, and that reasoning with him would get her nowhere. What also convinced her that he wasn't in his right mind was the fact that she no longer heard coherent thoughts coming from him. She hopped her assessment on the demon lord being a dog demon was correct. She slowly bent her head sideways, exposing her throat, never looking away from his amber stare. Never breaking eye contact, she then slowly moved sideways to her left, so that his lips were right above her jugular. She knew she was taking one huge gamble with her life, but she knew that she had no other choice. She was glad when she started hearing his thoughts once more.

'She's submitting to us...' a husky voice purred. Sakura nearly sighed in relief. His mind was coming back to him. 'Yes she is, but that does not solve our problem...' Sesshoumarou thought. 'She so close to her, we can feel her breath on our cheek... she smells so good... I bet she tastes delicious...' The next thing that happened greatly surprised her, she felt something smooth and wet running across the crook of her neck. She realised that he was licking her. She was truly confused, as she couldn't help but wonder what exactly was he doing...

She noticed that his eyes were slowly closing, while the menacing growl subsided to a soothing rumble which sounded closer to a purr. 'She tastes as good as she smells...' she heard in her mind. She also felt his body moving closer to hers, his warmth pouring into her own. He placed his hands on her hips. His body was now completely pressed against hers, and she could feel his hard shaft against her lower abdomen. 'That's the problem he was talking about... time to make it up to him I guess' She thought to herself.

She wasn't nervous about pleasing him, as she had in the past relieved a man of his desire in various ways, and hundreds of times over the years. Though still a maiden, she was not that innocent. She had been conditioned, almost brainwashed to act that way. She pushed that thought aside and concentrated on the man standing before.

'She is so warm; we want to feel her skin pressed on ours...' As if on command, she placed one of her hands on the nape of his neck, her slender fingers caressing the tender flesh. She allowed her thumb to twirl in his silken locks, and her efforts were rewarded with a groan coming from the demon lord. 'She's touching us, her hands are so soft... we want to feel more of her...'


She slowly crept her other hand inside his large pants through one of the side openings. 'Got to love ancient clothing, knots and loads of fabric are so much easier then zippers and buttons...' As her hand slid upon the warm tight skin of his thigh, she felt the licking on her neck transform into nibbling and sucking. 'Her hands are skilled... so soft... so warm...' She noticed that the thoughts she was hearing were less and less coherent. His sucking lips kept getting more insistent, almost in a demanding way. She allowed only the tip of her nails to graze the burning skin of his inner thigh, right below his manhood. She let her hands slowly trail back up, liking the moans from the demon standing in front of her. Sakura allowed her fingers to get to his hardened shaft, and slid her blunt nail on it, very lightly. As he gasped, she repeated this going up and down, until she suddenly pulled her hand out of his garment.

He was surprised as she suddenly withdrew her had. She raised her hand to her mouth and heavily covered it in her warm saliva. She then returned it to where it was. This time, her fingers softly pushed the foreskin and her palm wrapped around the sensitive head of his shaft. Sesshoumarou felt light sparkles travel through him, as he felt the able hand working around his shaft. She then begun working her had up and down, in a slow rhythm. As his panting grew, so did the speed of her hand. She felt his whole body start to stiffen as he was close to releasing his pleasure. She removed her hand from his neck and let it join the hand moving up and down his shaft. The second hand cusped his now rock-hard balls. She caressed them gently and she felt him shudder with the close promise of an orgasm. As he was sucking down on her neck, she let her own mouth nimble his ear lobe. She flicked it with her tongue, which was enough to push him over the edge, spreading his warm seed all over her hand.

Sakura waited until he had finished and removed her hands from his pants, wiping them with a small cloth that she had with her.

*** LEMON ENDS ***

Diligently, she took the left hand of the panting demon and started concentrating on the curse, her energy thrusting, letting it roam. She knew that the lord was slowly getting over his shock and surprise and that he would be up and about soon. If they wanted answers, she needed to act quickly. She pushed her aura around him, and then focused on the dark marks, letting her own energy get corrupted by the dark aura of the curse. Several minutes later, words started forming in her mind's eye. She sighed as she understood the complexity of the curse. She had to use a lot of energy to keep it from corrupting her. She finally withdrew her aura from around him and wobbled to a nearby tree, using it as support so she would not fall to the ground. Her head was spinning from the effort, and little black dots were dancing in front of her eyes. She felt her knees no longer able to hold her upright, and as she was starting to fall to the ground, strong arms pulled her up and held her against a warm chest. She rested her head on the demon lord's chest for a few moments, feeling the spinning world come to a halt.

"May this Sesshoumarou ask if you were able to learn the condition of the curse?" he asked in a velvet tone. "Yes" she answered, bluntly. He waited a few moments, and when she did not continue, he asked: "And may this Sesshoumarou ask what it is". She sighed once again, and said: "You are not going to like it..." She paused and pushed herself away from him, sitting down on the ground and resting her back to the tree they were standing next to. Following her lead, Sesshoumarou sat next to her, his eyebrows slightly pulled in a frown.

"This curse is very complex. It has more than one condition. The first condition is that you find your soul mate. The other condition is that your soul mate falls in love with you and you with your soul mate. The last condition is that you both mate. It is not a curse that can only be lifted by the one who placed it..." Sakura could not read the demon lord, as his expression was blank and cold. 'Great, there is no way that you will be able to break that curse, I'll spend the rest of my life following him.'

"Miko Sakura, he started, what is a soul mate? I do not know this word"

Sakura's eyes widened a little. She wasn't expecting that question. She answered, years of training behind her: "In this time, arranged marriages are a common practice, are they not?" she asked. When Sesshoumarou nodded, she continued: "When you look at the logic behind it, it is quite beneficial for both parties; one will get a higher status, the other will get a political allegiance or long term gratitude... it is a very practical way to deal with things"

"But what of a rich man who accepts to marry a peasant, what is he gaining out of this?" He asked, his eyes narrowing while waiting an answer.

Sakura paused before she answered: "There are many answers to your question, lord Sesshoumarou. Perhaps the man is old, and has seen a young girl who tickled his fancy... perhaps it is a young man whose face was ravaged in a terrible fight, and no other woman would look him in the eye... perhaps it is a half-demon such has your half brother, forced to lead a cursed life, and could find comfort in the arms only of a woman without status..." She stopped before the last possible reason: "or perhaps, it is that the two are truly in love, and they are soul mates."

When she saw that the demon lord was not arguing, she continued: "If arrange marriages were the only solutions, no one would marry or mate out of love. People would just bargain for the best possible match. What of a princess who loses all status because she falls in love with a commoner? What is she gaining? She is leaving a life of luxury, pleasure and ease to go work the fields and suffer. What makes it worth it? It is said that when you are with your soul mate, you feel completed and blissful, and that their embrace is worth all the suffering in the world. Your soul mate is the one that truly completes you. That is what a soul mate is..."

Sesshoumarou observed the small miko explain passionately about soul mates. Though she had put it in terms easy for him to understand, as well as given him examples that were quite pertinent, he could not help but wonder what kind of being would actually prompt such reaction from him. He had to find that soul mate of his and discover for himself. He was curious after the miko's enflamed definition. "And once this Sesshoumarou finds this soul-mate, how does he get her to fall in love with him?" He asked.

She frowned lightly, weighing her words carefully before answering: "I think that might be the easy part. As my repayment of my debt, I will give you advice which will help you. I'm certain that with your good looks, my skilful advice and your high ranks, you will be able to achieve that part without any grief."

Sesshoumarou's eyes narrowed, as his voice got even colder than usual: "Pray tell this Sesshoumarou, Miko, what you believe will be the challenge in breaking this curse?"

Her eyes never even flinched under his stare as she answered: "I believe that finding your soul-mate and having her fall in love with you will be easy. What will be cause for hardship will be the part where you fall in love with her" Sesshoumarou's eyebrows drew closer in a frown as he asked: "Why is that? Doesn't one go with the other? If this Sesshoumarou's soul-mate falls in love with him, can't one assume that he will fall for her?"

Her eyes suddenly looked sad, as if she was about to tell him some grieving news. She sighed before starting: "No, Lord Sesshoumarou, one is never guaranteed to see their love reciprocated. It is almost as hard to fall in love then it is to have someone love you. It requires you to trust that person and let them in your life. It also means that you have to let that person into your heart, your mind and give them a glimpse of your soul." She paused and her eyes narrowed slightly: "Don't get me wrong, Lord Sesshoumarou, as I have known you for a very short period of time, but you do give the impression of being very reserved, as well as incredibly rational. Love is nothing like this. It is unbridled, it is maddening, and it is passionate. To love someone is to give up on rationality and surrender to the other. I feel that this part might be the hardest part of our endeavour..."

Sesshoumarou eyed the female standing before him. He had to admit, everything she had said hit home. Her assessment of his character was correct and precise, and she had identified correctly what would be the points he needed to work on to learn to love this soul-mate of his and get rid of that god-damned curse. He answered flatly: "This Sesshoumarou appreciates your honesty and forthrightness. He does agree that this is something to consider before beginning this quest. Tell me miko, though difficult, do you view this as an impossible task? Can this Sesshoumarou learn to love?"

His question startled her. She did not expect him to ask for her opinion. She thought a few seconds before answering: "I think all beings are able to love. This being said, as I said and I do hate repeating myself; I never said it to be impossible, only that it will be hard. It will probably be the hardest quest you have ever undertaken."