Okay! So this is a story I just keep thinking about, so… Okay! This is set after the series end, but before Kagome comes back, if she does, I don't know. I've never seen the last season or read the last manga, so I can't really talk about that much, but it's not really about that anyway and I'm also claiming artistic license. So there.

Also, I don't own Inuyasha. You knew that.

Miko- priestess. Hanyou- half-demon. Inu- dog. Ookami- wolf. Neko- cat. Ryu- dragon. Kitsune- fox. Youkai- demon/demon aura. Daiyoukai- great demon. Moko moko- Sesshomaru's fluffy fluffy tail.


Chapter I: The Blue Blur!

"Kaede!" A young fox demon burst into the old woman's hut, panting and frantic.

Kaede looked up slowly from the brew she was mixing, a soothing tonic for the new mother just down the road in the village she protected. For a split second, she didn't recognize the fox demon standing spread-eagle in her doorway, but one glance into his face set her to rights again. The old priestess patted her breast to calm her heart. It seemed that every time she looked at the boy, he had changed from the last glance! But, she knew, that was the way of demon children. Shippo had been growing quickly in the past year and was easily three feet taller than he had been not so long ago, but Kaede didn't believe his face would ever change or harden, despite the loses he'd suffered.

"Shippo." The old woman turned back to prod the fire under her pot. "What has ye home before midnight? I thought ye were out breaking the village girls' hearts?"

The lad turned pink, but then flung his arms out violently as if to fling his embarrassment away. "Please, Kaede! There's no time to tease me now! A really strong demon aura is approaching the southern farmlands! It's coming right for us!"

Kaede got to her feet as quickly as she could and began gathering her weapons. "Why didn't ye say so, boy?!"

"I just did," the fox demon muttered petulantly, but then he seemed to regain his lost urgency. "I'll go get your horse! Some of the warriors already left-"

"What?" Kaede snapped. "Do they even know what they run toward? The fools! Hurry, Shippo!"

"Yes, Grandma Kaede!"

In moments, the old woman was astride her horse and on the outskirts of the village, giving instructions to the remaining guards. Just as she turned to go, she shouted over her shoulder. "Stay here, boy! Help protect the village!"

The young fox demon took a few running steps after her. "But shouldn't I be where the fighting is?"

"No! Ye may be a demon, but you are still a child! Stay here!"

"But-"

"Boy, do as I say!" When Shippo deflated and turned away from her, the old woman shook her head in frustration. The boy had poor self-esteem, and though she was impatient to be on her way, she didn't want to hurt him, so she softened her voice. "Stop that pouting. Ye are not useless, Shippo. Should I fail to stop the demon at the farmlands, you and the remaining guards need to protect the people of this village. Do you understand?"

The red-haired boy faced her and she felt his youkai energy spike as he nodded resolutely. "Okay, Grandma Kaede, I'll protect them! I promise!"

The old woman wheeled her horse around and charged toward the south with thirty or so warriors following after. As soon as she left his sight, Shippo's aura waned and he clinched his small fists in worry. He wanted to go with her! If something happened to her, he'd be all alone! He quickly shook this thought away and ran to the nearest hut, jumping onto the roof so he could see farther. Though he could tell the really strong aura hadn't yet reached the farmlands, he couldn't really tell how close it was, so he needed to watch in case Kaede… in case..

Furiously, he rubbed his eyes to get the dust that must be in them out. He shook himself. "I gotta keep it together! Gotta keep it together!"

He stood on the wood-panel roof, keeping watch and listening to the villagers prepare themselves for whatever was to come. No one called to him while he watched, maybe because they thought he was concentrating, but he really wished someone would stop and talk to him! He couldn't take all this waiting and waiting! He'd kept his eyes trained on the south for so long, they stared to ache. The aura he'd felt before was just on the edge of the farmlands, and it was still heading for the village, only slower now. Had Kaede made it there yet? Was she fighting? Shippo sniffed the breeze blowing against his face, but didn't smell any blood. Maybe the aura would turn back before it met the village warriors. Maybe no one would have to fight today. Again, Shippo had to rub the dust from his eyes. If only Inuyasha were here! If he were here, Shippo wouldn't have to worry about Kaede fighting demons! But the boy shook himself and trained his eyes on the south again. He knew he couldn't rely on Inuyasha, he was never around when they needed him anymore. Shippo knew he had to be the one to protect everyone now. "Gotta keep it together! Gotta keep it together!"

Just then, the aura he was sensing shrank, as if it were a balloon losing more and more air, until it seemed to disappear. For a second, the young kitsune couldn't believe his luck. Kaede had defeated it! Shippo grinned, glad that he must have misjudged the demon's power. "Well, that was nerve racking!" He sighed and shook his head, still smiling to himself as he leapt from the roof back onto the dirt road. "I was worried for nothing!" He started trotting toward the south, wondering what kind of demon it had been. He laughed to himself, nearly drunk with relief. Maybe its carcass would be in the field and he could stand on it to impress the girls in the village. He was the one to sense it first, after all, and he'd saved everyone by sounding the alarm...

He'd barely taken ten steps to the south when the aura appeared again, not nearly a big, but moving a thousand times faster. He didn't even have time to think before it had crossed most of the farmlands, and in the distance he spotted a blue blur heading right for him. Horrified he stumbled back, turning toward the village, looking for the other guards. "It's coming!" He shouted. "Everybody! The demon is coming! It's-!"

Here. He thought, as he looked over his shoulder. In the second he'd turned away, the blur in the distance had reached the edge of the fields and the youkai aura was now not only something he could sense, he could feel it touching his skin. He only had another second before it would be right in front of him. The boy didn't know what to do! He couldn't think passed the fact that it was here, past Kaede and the others, with meant that they hadn't been able to stop it, had barely even slowed it down. He wanted to rub his eyes again, but there was no time.

Shippo stood his ground in the middle of the road leading into the village and stretched out his arms, standing between the approaching demon and his home. "Halt!" He shouted, trying his hardest to sound scary, powerful, and capable. It came out sounding like a squeak.

But the demon stopped anyway.

Shippo stared, for a long second in stunned silence. The blur had concealed a female inu youkai only a couple feet taller than him, wearing a blue silk kimono that barely came to her knees and was tied with a wide pink-and-red striped ribbon that was fashioned into a large bow that rested against her back. The demon's flamboyant appearance alone wouldn't have shocked him so bad, but then he looked up at her face. She had markings, two blue, ragged stripes on each cheek. Her dark-brown bangs hung over her brow and into her green-eyes and her long hair was in a braid that almost reached past her bottom, but what caught Shippo's eye was the dog ears nestled in the hair on top of her head. They were just like Inuyasha's-only they were a different color- and much bigger. When the ears twitched, Shippo's focus came back to the moment and he noted the wicked double-headed spear lashed to her back and gulped. Size and appearance didn't count for much with demons, and just because she was a dog demon didn't mean she wasn't going to try and slaughter everyone! Shippo tensed his body, and bared his fangs. He wouldn't let that happen.

"Y-you're not welcome here!" he shouted, taking what he felt was a threatening fighting stance. "Leave or face my wrath!"

The female demon titled her head to the side and began walking toward him.

Shippo trembled and squeaked. "I'm- I'm warning you!"

When she kept coming, he gritted his teeth and cocked back his arm. "FOX FIRE!" He shouted, and sent a ball of magic flames spiraling toward her.

She caught it easily, and the flames evaporated in her hand, not even leaving a mark.

Shippo stumbled back, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his next weapon. "SPINNING TOP!" He shouted, flinging it.

Again, the demon plucked his weapon out of the air, which would have been okay this time, but the top didn't transform! He felt like he was going to faint, but he didn't run away. Maybe if she took long enough ripping him to shreds, most of the villagers would have time to get away.

"St-stay back! I'm w-warning you!" He shouted, waving his arms frantically, shutting his eyes so he wouldn't have to see his death coming.

The female youkai got right in front of him. "Hey, calm down, kid. I'm not going to hurt you. I just need directions."

Shippo shuddered, squeezing his eyes tighter shut. It was worse when they pretended they weren't going to kill you. "I said, st-stay back!"

"No, really. I just wanted to ask a couple of questions." He felt her get even closer. "Do you live here?"

He growled.

"Was that a yes?" He heard her sigh. "You're scared stiff, aren't you? Okay, what do you want me to do? Do you want my weapon? Will that make you feel better?" He heard some rustling and felt her back away.

Shippo dared to open one eye, and then the other. The female demon had laid her spear on the ground in front of him and taken a few steps back. It didn't have any blood on it- in fact, now that he thought of it, she didn't smell like blood at all. The young fox demon started to reach for the spear, but then narrowed his eyes, remembering the blur that she had been. "Back up some more." He ordered. She did, and when he thought she was far enough, he grabbed the spear. The power pulsing through the weapon barley fazed him- he'd picked up Tetsusaiga before- but he recognized that the female demon had just handed over a very powerful weapon.

"Better?" She asked. "I just had some quick questions, then I'll leave."

Shippo looked up at the demon, saw her ears again, looked into her eyes, and suddenly didn't feel afraid at all. Whoever this demon was, or wherever she'd come from, she wasn't like most he'd come in contact with. She really wasn't going to kill anybody, which meant- "What happened to the warriors in the fields? You didn't hurt them? Didn't you have to get past them?"

"What, that mob of people with weapons? That had the old miko with them?" Shippo nodded and the demoness laughed and rubbed the back of her head sheepishly. "They seemed a little hostile. I didn't think they were likely to talk to me, so I just went around them. They started chasing me, though, so they'll be here soon."

The boy sighed with relief. "You swear not to hurt anyone?"

She tapped her index and middle fingers to her forehead once in a strange salute. "Scout's honor."

He wrinkled his nose in confusion. "What?"

"I swear." She said with a smile, and Shippo smiled back.

Not long after that friendly exchange, the old miko arrived at her hut and slowly dismounted her horse with the help of one of the warriors, before dismissing him so he could go check on his family. All of those who had gone to fight in the farmlands had been relived and frankly surprised to find their homes and families intact, but none were more surprised than Kaede to hear what had happened after the demon had gotten past her wards and her warriors. Shippo had subdued the demon and made it agree not to attack the village? Kaede shook her head, not believing the story the guard had told her for a second. The aura she'd sensed out in the farmlands had been powerful, not the strongest she ever had the misfortune of encountering, but more than young Shippo could handle. Something strange was going on and the old woman was not at all sure what she would find inside her hut, where she could feel the two youkai auras.

She pulled aside the curtain covering her doorway and snorted. It seemed that if they didn't intend to destroy her village, visiting demons always found a way to eat her food. Shippo was sitting across from the demon, smiling and offering more tea, more rice, more dried fruit and meat, acting as if there was nothing to fear, and the demon sipped from her cup and nibbled from Shippo's proffered plate as if she was perfectly at home in a human hut. Kaede shook her head and moved over to check the brew over her fire. It was still quite warm, which was good.

"Hi, Grandma Kaede!" Shippo called around a mouth full of rice when he noticed her.

Kaede blinked with surprise when the female dog demon stopped eating the rice and bowed to her. The old woman supposed she was too accustomed to Inuyasha's rudeness to expect any different from an inu youkai. "Hello, Lady Priestess," the demon said. "Please excuse me for avoiding you earlier. You and your friends didn't seem in the mood to talk."

"Yes, well." The miko murmured as she stoked the fire under her tonic. "Most demons of ye ilk aren't in the mood to talk either."

Kaede heard a soft sigh from the demon. "I get that a lot in these lands. It seems demons around here don't respect life so much as in other places."

"And which other places do ye speak of?" The priestess asked suspiciously, turning to face her.

The demon shrugged. "Here and there. I've found pockets of peace in many places, not a great number of them, but they exist."

Deciding to be direct, Kaede asked, "What be ye purpose here, demon?"

Shippo piped up, "She's looking for Inuyasha!"

The old woman felt a small amount of alarm. It was silly, the hanyou could take care of himself, but she felt protective of him and didn't want to send trouble his way. "Why would ye be searching for Inuyasha?"

The demon smiled sheepishly and rubbed the back of her head. "I'm not really looking for this Inuyasha everyone's talking about. I'm looking for any dog demon, and every human I ask around here seems to think I should find this guy. They think I look like him, something about my ears. Apparently, he's very popular."

Kaede frowned. "Why would ye be searching for other dog demons? Don't ye know any ye self?"

The demon shook her head slowly. "No, Lady Priestess. I wasn't raised with dog demons. I don't know any, and I'm trying to find one in hopes that they will know something of my family."

"That is a very strange tale, demon." The old woman said dubiously.

"Kaede!" Shippo wailed. "Please, don't me mean to her! She really doesn't know any dog demons. She comes from the Far North."

Kaede frowned. It was widely held that there were no dog demons in the Far North, and that they would never go there, so that begged the question of how this particular dog demon got there in the first place. Looking at Shippo's face, though, it was hard to continue an interrogation, so she played along. "If ye be in search of information about ye lineage, Inuyasha is hardly the one to help ye. He is a half-demon, and he too was raised away from most other dog demons. I'd wager he would know as much as ye seem to. The dog demons of the West would be a better choice."

"The West, right." The demon said, assuming a contemplative pose. "I've heard that from a few people now. Head west, they say. As if that's the easiest thing to do in the world."

"Isn't it?" Shippo asked.

The demon shook her head, cheeks growing a little pink. "It would be, if I weren't me…"

"Explain, demon." Kaede said, turning back to her fire.

She sighed. "I lack a sense of direction. It's worse than that, really. If someone points me north, I will eventually be heading south, and if someone points me west, I will eventually arrive at the eastern sea. My feet tend to lead me in circles, and I never suspect that I'm heading the wrong way until I get to somewhere I've already been. I've tried everything I can think of to stay on track, but I always lose my way. I'm certain if I didn't have a sense of smell, I wouldn't have been able to find this place at all. I met a traveling musician that visited here recently on the road and he told me to follow his scent back. I know that if it had rain since he'd been here, I would have been lost all over again."

"That's horrible." Shippo said, worried about his new friend. "How do you get home, if you are always lost?"

"I don't." She replied, swirling her tea. "I don't really have a home."

"But what about the friends you meet in your travels?" Shippo said nervously. "How would you ever visit them?"

The dog demon smiled and took something from her robe. "Here."

Shippo took a rock out of her hand and inspected it. To his surprise, it pulsed with magic, fox magic. "What does it do?"

The demon frowned at him. "Don't you know?"

Shippo squirmed with embarrassment. "Um, uh, yeah! I know!" She titled her head as she looked down at him, and he blushed and cringed. "N-no, I don't really know. I don't know a lot of fox magic. My dad didn't finish teaching me before he died."

"Oh." She said softly. "I'd thought as much from your attacks earlier." This made Shippo cringe again. She reached over and took the stone in order to show him the engraved symbol. "This is a summoning mark. If someone holds this stone and says 'Fuko!' it will send out a beacon that I can follow to whoever possesses the stone."

"Oh. What does 'fuko' mean," Shippo asked curiously.

She laughed. "That's my name!"

"Oh!" Shippo grinned and bowed. "Please excuse me, Fuko, in all the ruckus earlier, I didn't make introductions." The young fox demon stood and bowed again. "My name is Shippo the fox demon." He gestured to Kaede, who looked up from her tonic. "This is the priestess, Lady Kaede."

The demon got to her feet and bowed gracefully. "It's a pleasure to meet you both. I am Fuko, a dog demon from the North."

Shippo's tail was shaking in excitement. "It's nice to meet you, too, Fuko!"

Kaede sighed, and took the brew off the fire to cool. "Well, then. Shall we have some more tea while we talk?"

Once everyone was settled again, Shippo asked. "How do you know fox magic, Fuko?"

"As a child, I met a kitsune youkai who taught me all that he knew, and since then, I've been teaching myself, with a little help now and then."

"You… you can teach yourself?" Shippo asked in wonder.

"You can teach yourself a lot of things, as long as you know the basics." Fuko, looked Shippo over and nodded. "That fox fire you use is a big part of those basics. If you knew a little more, practice and imagination would be all you needed to make yourself a pretty advanced magic user."

"I can transform, too!" Shippo said proudly.

"Well!" She said with a laugh. "That does take a little more skill. Tell me, when you do it, is it just illusion, or can you do things that you couldn't otherwise?"

Shippo thought about it. "I can make myself a balloon or a bird and fly…" Shippo offered hesitantly.

"That's good." Fuko said encouragingly. "Now if you had someone to teach you the finer details of fox magic-"

"You could teach me, couldn't you?" Shippo asked, jumping up.

Kaede looked toward the female youkai and watched as she seemed to consider it. "Well, I suppose I could, but I don't know. My power isn't like yours. Some of the higher level magic I can do isn't exactly fox magic, because I don't have the right kind of energy to do it the same way a fox demon would, just as when a monk or a priestess makes a barrier, they don't make it the same way a demon would." Fuko looked over to the old woman for conformation. "Right?"

"Yes." Kaede said. "That is correct."

"Will you teach me, Fuko?" Shippo squeeze his hands together under his chin and begged. "I want to be stronger, so I can protect my village." When she didn't immediately agree, his eyes grew wide and his lower lip pouted, his tail swirling invitingly. The boy looked as adorable as demonly possible.

"Oooh…" Fuko seemed stricken by Shippo's puppy-dog eyes, and Kaede had to stifle a laugh. She had grown immune to the look, mostly, but it always worked on a newcomer. "Shippo… I don't know if the villagers would want me to hang around, even if it only took a few days to teach you."

Shippo quickly turned to Kaede. "The villagers would let Fuko stay if you said it was safe, Grandma Kaede."

"So they would, child, but how am I to know it is safe?"

Shippo pouted harder. "Fuko wouldn't hurt anybody! Would you, Fuko?"

"No, I wouldn't." The demon said. "But how is she to know that for certain, Shippo? I can't expect someone who doesn't know me to vouch for me to an entire village."

Shippo flopped down into his seat again, growling and pulling his red hair with frustration. "Oooh! Ah, um! Uh! But what if- um! Oh!" The boy suddenly leapt to his feet again. "What if you made another necklace, Kaede? Like Inuyasha's? Then if Fuko tries to hurt anybody, you could stop her!"

Fuko's eyes had widened as she spoke. "Stop me how, exactly?"

Kaede shook her head. "The spell he speaks of wouldn't work on a full demon like ye, Fuko. Besides, I haven't the ingredients for subjugation beads."

Fuko whistled, impressed. "Subjugation beads, huh? But, don't those only work if the wearer has a strong tie to the user?"

"Indeed." Kaede murmured.

Shippo whined. "But- but…"

"But," Kaede said, sipping her tea casually. "I suppose, if Fuko was willing to wear a subduing spell while she was here, she could be allowed to stay and teach ye."

Much to Kaede's surprise, Fuko agreed instantly. "That sounds reasonable."

"Yes!" Shippo, now practically buoyant with happiness, leaped across the space between them and hugged Fuko. "Thank you, Fuko!"

"But what of ye search, dog demon?" Kaede asked, sputtering.

"I've been looking for years. What's a few more days to help out a little fox?"

Fuko ended up spending over two weeks in the village near the outskirts of the Forest of Inuyasha. In that short amount of time, Shippo learned several new tricks and improved greatly on the ones he already knew and Kaede couldn't find one reason to use the wooden bracelet she had fashioned to hold the subduing spell. By the first week's end, Kaede could tell the young kitsune had formed a special attachment to the female inu youkai- he followed her everywhere and brought her presents, like a flowers and smooth river stones. Shippo's instruction time went much more smoothly than even he expected, and it turned out that the boy was an avid student. Fuko encouraged him to write down what he could remember of her teachings every night so that, if he ran into problems with his magic later on, he could fall back on his notes. Sometimes, during his play with the village children, he'd turn toward Fuko- she was always about somewhere- and wave for no particular reason. The demoness would always happen to look up in time to see the gesture and wave back. By the end of the second week, the other children got over their shyness and would watch Fuko teach, especially when she was demonstrating something new, and some of the adults would greet Fuko warmly when they crossed paths. She reminded them all of Inuyasha, because of her ears, mostly- their personalities were certainly nothing alike- and also because of her goodness and strength. Many of the villagers grew accustom to begging favors and small chores in return for food or refreshments, and Fuko was happy to oblige. She had become a strange fixture in the village, if not loved by all, then quietly tolerated.

On the sixteenth day of her stay, Shippo woke feeling hopeful. Fuko seemed really happy here, and she was so nice that everyone liked her. Sometimes she could be a little weird, like when she insisted on sleeping on Kaede's roof on clear nights or when she suddenly jumped into the river flowing through the village for no reason or when she called him 'Po' as if his name wasn't short enough already, but she was sweet and smart and strong and pretty and so fast! Sometimes all he could do was gape at her, she was so fast! Faster than Inuyasha and Shippo's cat demon friend, Kirara, and the wolf demon, Koga, combined! One day, she'd put him on her back to take him to a nearby cliff-side so he could practice different types of aerial attacks and he was so dizzy when they got there that they had to take a break before they even began. Everything around them had gone streaky and nauseating when she ran, and Shippo just couldn't figure out how she avoided running into everything. She'd told him that she was just used to it, but he didn't know if anyone could get used to moving like that.

Shippo hopped out of the hut and stretched his aching body. With his new training regiment, he seemed to be achy all the time, but Fuko had explained that all his activities were simply exacerbating his growing pains, whatever those were. All Shippo knew was that the ache was making him stronger, so he didn't complain. Much.

Turning around to face the hut, he looked up at the roof, and was only a little disappointed to see that Fuko was already gone. For the last few days, she'd been waking early to help the old ladies of the village wash clothes. Shippo wasn't sure why she liked to do this, seeing as the old ladies didn't give her any treats for it, but he supposed she liked to talk to them.

Almost unconsciously, Shippo looked toward the Forest of Inuyasha. Whenever Inuyasha visited the village, he came out of those trees, and it was always as the sun rose in the morning, after he spent the night by the Bone-Eater's Well.

For the little fox, thinking of the well always led to thinking about his absent friend, who was like mother and sister to him. Shippo furiously rubbed his eyes as tears threatened. Sure, he missed Kagome, but it wasn't like she was dead! She was just stuck on the other side of the well, over in her own time, probably doing 'homework' and eating ramen and just being okay. He only made himself mad when he cried over her, because it wasn't like she was dead! It wasn't like that at all!

After a few moments, when the sun finished rising and Inuyasha didn't appear, Shippo headed for the riverbed where the clothes were washed. Kaede was already out of the hut, probably gathering herbs in the forest, so breakfast wouldn't be for a while. He distracted himself from hunger and sadness by focusing on his new teacher. He wanted Inuyasha to meet her. Shippo knew his friend would love Kagome forever, but he thought that if he met someone like Kagome, someone who was sweet and smart and strong, he would want to stay in the village instead of going off to wherever he went for weeks at a time. Shippo convinced himself that this was likely. He knew that wherever Inuyasha went for those weeks he wasn't here didn't make him happy, so making a new friend might make him want to stay. If only he could figure out how to get his friends Miroku, Sango, and Kirara to live here instead of in Sango's old demon-exterminator village. He sighed, because he knew that wouldn't happen, and it was selfish of him to want that. He couldn't help it though, because what Shippo wanted most in the world was for his friends to stay together, even if they had to be apart.

"Hey, Shippo!" The young fox demon looked up, and waved to Fuko. She was walking toward him with a large basket of damp clothes in her arms. The old lady she was carrying it for, who was grandmother to two of his friends, waved to him, and then pointed Fuko toward her house, seeing as she had started to go the wrong way.

Shippo ran up to them just as Fuko was saying goodbye to the old lady and he said good morning to her before following Fuko away. "Well, what are we doing today, teacher?"

"Well." Fuko said glancing down at him and then away quickly, as she walked back toward Kaede's hut. "I was thinking we should just hang out today, Shippo." The boy grinned, about to suggest games and other activities, but Fuko continued. "I've actually taught you all I can for now. Until you're a little bigger, all there's left to do is practice what I've showed you and build up your stamina. Just focus on your notes and keep working, and you'll be quite the formidable little kitsune."

Shippo slowed, and then finally stopped, compelling Fuko to stop too.

Fuko continued to stare toward Kaede's hut, and also toward what she thought was the western horizon. When the little fox took a few steps forward and hugged her leg, she knew that he knew that she would be leaving tomorrow. Still, he begged. "Can't you stay a little while longer, Fuko? Until Inuyasha comes back?"

Fuko reached down and stroked a hand through the boy's hair, which she'd become used to doing. The little fox reminded her so much of her childhood friend that it ached, and it was part of the reason had she stayed so long in the first place. "I wish I could stay, Shippo, but I have to go. I've had to go for a couple of days, now."

The boy looked up at her tearfully. "But, why?"

Fuko smiled at him and knelt down beside him to hug him around his shoulders. He was stiff for a second, which was so like a little boy his age to behave that she laughed. "Remember that summoning stone I showed you when I first got here?"

Shippo sniffled and hugged her back. "Yeah…"

"Well," She said, drawing back. "Someone very special is calling me with one right now. I can feel it. I have to go, and then I must keep searching." Shippo shuddered in her arms and she kissed a tear from his cheek. "I'm going to give you one, you know. A summoning stone. We can make it together, today, right now. That way I can always find my way back to you, Shippo."

The boy bit his lip and sniffled, but nodded in agreement. "Okay… okay!" He seemed to brace himself, and Fuko felt his aura spike. "Alright. So- so, if I have my stone, I can call you whenever I want? And- and you'll come?"

"Absolutely!" She said. "The stone we'll make will work a little differently than the one I showed you before, but, yes."

"Okay…" The boy said with a shuddering sigh, and quickly squirmed out of her hug. "Where… where should we start, if we're making a summoning stone?"

"Breakfast." She said, and started toward Kaede's hut again. "We need the energy."

After breakfast, (during which Kaede revealed that she already knew that Fuko was leaving tomorrow, which made Shippo have a mini-fit that included stomping his feet and demanding to be treated like an adult that could handle bad news maturely) Fuko led Shippo to the river where he picked out a rock. Though he was still feeling a little peeved about the fact that she told Kaede she was leaving days before she told him, he wanted to make this summoning stone really special and he agonized over the choice for an hour while they waded around in the cool water. After he found an almost perfectly round stone and dubbed it his, they got out of the water and sunned themselves on the bank of the river before racing over to the grassy field where they practiced every day. She beat him, of course, but he liked that she never let him win in a serious contest. She'd told him at least a thousand times over the past two weeks that he had to earn victory.

"Now, hold up your rock for me, please."

Shippo held it up and watched with fascination as Fuko carved into it quickly and efficiently with her youkai energy, which was guided by her claw. Seeing her claw glow blue like that reminded him of Inuyasha's deadly half-brother, and Shippo felt a little frightened. "Now," She said. "Hold it tight and think of me." Shippo didn't find this hard at all, he thought of how they had trained together, and played together, and explored the village together, learning things about the people that lived here that Shippo never knew before. Fuko touched the stone after a few seconds, and it suddenly became hot to the touch, but then it cooled just as quickly. "There." She said simply.

Shippo opened her hand and looked at the glittering gold-colored sphere he'd pulled from the river. It felt heavier, maybe. It could have been his imagination. "Thank you, Fuko."

"Oh." She murmured. "It's really more for me than it is for you, Po. I would love to visit this place again. You and Kaede and the rest- we've all been so kind. And I never got to meet your Inuyasha."

Shippo looked up quickly. "The next time he comes back, if I called you…?"

"Of course- but, listen." Fuko placed her hand under his, bringing the stone to his eye level. "This particular stone is just for you, Po. Like the other, if you hold it up and say 'Fuko!' I'll come to you, but that's for emergencies. If you're not being killed, then the proper thing to do with the stone is to carry it with you and think of me every now and then. I'll come then too, and I'll know I'm coming for a visit, not a fight. Remember, calling my name is for emergencies, and I'll come as fast as my legs will carry me. Carry the stone and think of me when you miss me too much to bear and want me to visit." She grinned at him. "Even if you don't miss me at all, don't forget to summon me sometime, okay?"

Shippo smiled widely and nodded. "Okay, Fuko."

Despite the fact that Shippo receive his summoning stone while the day was still young, nighttime approached on swift legs, almost seeming as fast as Fuko. Dinner went by without a whisper and the hours after dark spent playing shadow puppets against Kaede's wall slipped by without notice. It's wasn't until Kaede announced it was time to go to bed that Shippo realized that his last day was gone. Even though there was a crystal clear sky that night, Fuko slept inside, and that made Shippo feel better, but he still didn't sleep much. After a night of tossing and turning, the sight of the lightening sky outside made him queasy.

When Fuko was packed and preparing to leave, a group of villagers came and wished her well. "Goodbye! Goodbye! Good luck, Fuko!" They shouted, and all Shippo could do was give a little wave. When she started walking toward the west with the sun at her back, the little kitsune couldn't stay still anymore.

He ran after her. "Fuko!" He slowed to a stop beside her. "Um. Can I walk you to the cross roads?"

"Of course." She smiled at him and he took her offered hand without thinking.

He blushed when he heard some of the village boys jeering him. "Hey!" Shippo called over his shoulder. "Shut up, you guys!" Not wanting to seem like a sissy in front of them, Shippo let go of Fuko's hand until they were out of sight. "Sorry," He said, and took her hand again.

"I understand." She laughed at him, and Shippo didn't quite understand why he blushed harder.

He wanted to spend these last few minutes telling Fuko how much he would miss her, but- much to his chagrin- she distracted him with talk of the group of little girls in the village that liked to watch him practice his fighting. Shippo didn't know why everyone kept saying they had a crush on him, because they didn't! They were just being nice!

She gave him a kiss at the crossroads. It was just on the forehead, but it reminded him of what his mother would do, and that reminded him of Kagome. Tears came, and this time, Fuko wiped them for him. "I'll miss you." Fuko said. "You're a dear friend, Shippo."

"I'll miss you, too." He said, stiffly. This wasn't all he'd wanted to say, but he was afraid to tell her that he loved her, in case she really only felt affection for him.

Somehow, she knew. "I love you, Shippo."

He looked up at her, eyes shining with gratitude and love, a little toothy grin on his face, tail wiggling with joy, and pointed ears going bright pink at the tips. Fuko smiled and knew she would see him like this when she remembered this place.

"I-I l-l-ove you, t-too, Fuko!" He stammered, and she gave him another kiss, this time on the cheek.

"Summon me sometime, okay?"

"I promise!"

Shippo soon found himself waving goodbye to a blue streak in the distance, and then to nothing at all. He gave a small shuddering sigh when he lowered his hand, and quickly turned around to walk back to the village to wait. He had even more reason now, to hope that Inuyasha came home soon.


Next time...

Chapter II: Crossed Paths and Crossed Swords