AN: Hey look, it actually wasn't that long of a wait! :3 Two months? Come on, that's not bad…for me…

Well, Kaede is just down right annoying to wright about with her speech the way it is. I tried to make it as accurate as possible and did my best to keep her in-character, hopefully I pulled it off?

Happyface2107: Well I'm glad you like the story so much. I'm hoping school doesn't interfere too much with my writing ability because my updates are already pretty spread out but only time will tell, so far so good. Yes, I have been reading Glon Morski's story, it's pretty awesome. Anyway, thanks for the review and I hope you enjoy the next installment. :)

Chapter 20: Awakening the Blade

Without breaking speed, Kagome leapt from the treetops and landed a second later on the forest floor. Her feet rarely touched the ground as she flew quickly and silently through the forest, paying close attention to the scents the air carried past her nose. During the last minute or so of travel the scent of a human village had grown progressively stronger. It was the same village, she was sure, that Souta lived in.

Kagome had been surprised, to say the least, how far the boy had managed to come in search of help, and in just one night. 'He must have run nearly the whole way,' she thought, glancing back at the bundle she carried on her back, 'and this forest is pretty dense. It wouldn't be easy to navigate even during the day. I guess that explains where all his scratches and cuts came from.'

She sighed in annoyance. As irony would have it, she had left her healing cream with Inuyasha not long ago. Thankfully the boy's wounds weren't in any dire need of attention, at least not now. If they got infected, however, then that would be a different story.

'That's why I have to get him back so that his people can take care of him,' she thought, frowning as the scent of blood and smoke mingled with that of the villagers, 'and I can take care of that demon…'

Souta had been mostly quiet for the duration of their travel time. Once he had given her a general direction to start with Kagome had explained to him that she could follow his scent straight back to the village. It was a good thing to; because she had a feeling he wouldn't have known how to find his own home in the black of night anyway. He seemed to be recognizing things now however, if the way his tiny hands had suddenly tightened on her shoulders was anything to go by.

"We're close…" he whispered, sitting up a little taller on her back and looking ahead.

Kagome simply nodded, somehow finding the strength within her to move faster. She couldn't help but smirk slightly when the boy whimpered and ducked his head behind hers, trying to avoid the cold night air that whipped across his face and ruffled his bangs. He reminded her of Shippou. He was only a child and thus he was scared easily and still reliant on others for protection and care. Despite that, he was strong willed and brave and even when the cards were stacked against him he tried his hardest to be the adult that he shouldn't have to be.

He was also still very naive.

'The second he realized that I was half human he didn't seem to have any trouble accepting me,' she thought with a scowl, 'but there are good and evil of both worlds. That's something he should know and understand.'

She spared a glance back at him. Now instead of sitting tall he was curled up on her back, his arms tucked underneath his chest and his face buried in the back of her neck. The anger washed away from her face and she sighed. It was rather cold for a human. Without hesitation she called on her fire magic, feeling her skin heat to an even higher temperature then what it usual for her and providing the boy with enough warmth to make him comfortable. Even the air surrounding the pair quickly lost its chill.

'He didn't know what a half demon was either,' she reminded herself, returning to her thoughts once she was satisfied that Souta would stay warm. She frowned as her gaze fell to the ground, blurring beneath her feet from the speed of her run. 'Then again…how many people really know such a thing exists? Even after living a hundred or more years and traveling over most of Japan I've only ever met two besides myself, Shippou and Kazuo. Most of us die at an early age, if we even ever manage our first breath. When Kazuo's mom got pregnant a lot of people wanted to kill her for carrying such a thing, and they succeeded not long after he was born…and my father was killed for the same reasoning.'

"Is something wrong?"

The hybrid glanced over her shoulder again to see Souta staring down at her. He was sitting up again; clearly comfortable to do so now that she had provided him with warmth. "What are you talking about?" she asked, eyes narrowing on him.

He shrugged, "your face looked sad suddenly." He pointed out, and then asked again, "So is something wrong?"

She pondered this for a brief moment before asking the question that was weighing the most on her mind. "Do you trust me to protect you?" She asked bluntly, "and to help your people?"

He looked surprised, but after only a second's hesitation he nodded. "Of course, because you said you would." Then he looked worried, "you…you will won't you?"

"Yes," Kagome answered quickly, easing the boy's fears. "But," she went on, "even though I'm a half demon you didn't seem too worried once I agreed…"

Souta looked thoughtful for a moment, than answered honestly just the way he had before. "Kaede-sama taught me to not judge people based on their blood and instead to recognize their actions as good or bad." He explained, "that's why I was worried at first…but I thought since you hadn't tried to hurt me yet, and you'd come to visit your father where he was buried, you must be a kind person."

Kagome stared at him, unblinking. Clearly she had mistaken him as a naïve child at first, but he was much smarter then she had originally imagined. 'It's not often that you find someone like that,' she thought, silently returning her gaze to the path ahead, 'human, demon or otherwise. Who is this woman who taught him? His mother perhaps…?'

She didn't have time to think any deeper. Seconds after their conversation ended, Kagome and Souta emerged from the thick forest into a valley. In the middle sat a tiny village, with only a handful of houses and barns. Beyond the village the hills got taller and steeper until the land turned from soft grass into hard, rough stone and towered above the houses on a single, rocky hill that stood much taller than some of the mountains Kagome had seen in her past, although she could only guess the true height of the massive structure. A heavy cloud of smoke surrounded the mountain, making it impossible to see much mast the base. Smoke, Kagome realized, that also heavily polluted the air in the valley, making it not only more difficult to see, but also harder to breathe.

Kagome only paused for a moment to take in the condition of the village before making her way across the valley that separated her from the cluster of homes. They all looked as if they needed attention. Some were worse than others and some, she noticed as she got closer, were no longer standing. Most of the wood was darkened with burn marks and the ground was blanketed in soot, making the earth seem as if it was covered in black sand.

'It's obvious it is some kind of fire monster, like the kid said,' Kagome thought, bending down to let Souta off and following after him as he ran towards the village, calling to his friends and family as he got closer. Kagome hesitated only when she caught sight of the first human to emerge from one of the homes.

The woman was tall and thin, wearing a yellow kimono with a maroon skirt wrapped around her waist that nearly traveled all the way to her feet. Her hair was short and brown and her eyes, which looked very kind even though they were filled with worry, matched in color. She cried out as she spotted Souta entering the village and ran to him, falling to her knees and wrapping him tightly in her arms.

'His mother,' Kagome guessed. She scented the air just to confirm that the two were indeed related. It was easy to tell by the similarity in their blood's scent. The hybrid stopped where she was, just a handful of inches from the soot covered ground, and waited to be noticed.

It didn't take long. Villagers poured from the houses at the sound of the woman's overjoyed cries for them to come. First they spotted Souta still wrapped safely in his mother's arms, and then they saw Kagome and froze. It wasn't long before Souta's mother noticed her too and when she did she quickly stood, her young son still gathered in her arms, and despite the boy's protests retreated to the safety of her human pack, joining them in their suspicious whispers.

Some of the people were badly injured, undoubtedly from their last encounter with the monster that she had come to kill. She could smell the strong scent of blood leaking from their bandaged bodies and cringed. 'Where in the hell is Hoshi whenever I need her lately?' She thought with a low growl, scowling over one shoulder to where she knew her pack was still within hearing distance should she call for them. She hesitated however. The villagers were already afraid enough with her there, the last thing she needed to do was bring the rest of her pack into the mix. That would just be asking for trouble.

"What business do you have with our village, hanyou-san?"

Kagome flinched and turned around quickly to face the owner of the new and unfamiliar voice. She was surprised, although she failed to show it anywhere on her person. After all it wasn't often that anyone was able to sneak up on her. Only more rare was for someone, most definitely human, to address her with respect.

The second her blue eyes met with the single brown eye of the stranger, their other eye hidden behind a black patch, Kagome staggered backwards a handful of steps in shock. She instantly recognized the red and white robes of the elder woman. She was a miko, and Kagome had never met a single person with spiritual powers whose goal was not to destroy her. She suspected this woman was no different and so without another thought the hybrid turned to make a speedy departure.

It was obvious the miko was old, her skin was wrinkled and her hair, which was held in a low ponytail by a single white ribbon, was gray due to her age. Despite that Kagome didn't have any doubts that the elder knew how to kill a half demon like herself, or worse, purify her.

'If a miko is with them then they likely don't need my help anyway,' Kagome thought, preparing to break into a run, 'besides, I can hunt down that damn demon and take care of him myself without them ever knowing.'

"Wait, hanyou-san," the elder miko called out to her, and for some reason Kagome hesitated, though only for a moment. The woman sighed and ignoring the protests of the villagers surrounding her, she bent down to lay her bow and quiver on the ground. "I do not believe ye wish us any harm, hanyou-san." She said, standing again, "please, tell me why ye have come to our village."

Kagome glared over her shoulder at the woman, glancing suspiciously at the weapon which the miko had laid at her feet. As if sensing her lack of trust, the old woman took a handful of steps backwards, raising her wrinkled hands up in a sign of peace.

"I wish not to harm ye unless ye wishes harm upon my people or myself, hanyou-san," she explained.

Kagome hesitated still, but her gaze eventually drifted back to Souta. He had managed to escape his mother's protective grasp and now stood beside the miko, one hand clinging to the old woman's clothes as he looked towards Kagome with a pleading gaze. She winced. Whether or not she felt comfortable here, she wasn't leaving until she had taken care of the demon. After all, she had no interest in going back on her word, especially when an innocent child was putting his trust in her hands.

Kagome turned completely until she was once again facing the elder miko. "The kid told me you had a demon problem," she explained, gesturing towards Souta, "I came to see what I could do."

To say the woman looked surprised would have been an understatement. She turned her one eye, wide with disbelief, to look down at the boy beside her before turning her attention back on Kagome. After a moment of complete silence, even the villager's suspicious whispers had stopped; she regained her composure and nodded her head once in agreement. "What the child told ye is true," she said, "A fire beast has been attacking this place regularly for quite some time."

Kagome nodded, remembering what the boy had told her hours earlier. "And despite that," she said, "you've stayed here and allowed this demon to keep attacking you…why?"

The old woman sighed, glancing over her shoulder at the uncertain faces behind her. She then turned her one-eyed gaze back on the half demon. "It's true we haven't tried to escape, but these people have resided here for many generations and survived many things. Our loved ones have lived and died on this land." She shook her head, as if she too thought to some extent that the words coming from her lips were as ridiculous as they seemed, and then she said as much herself, "ye may call it foolish and stubborn but that is the way we've survived here for so long. Even if we were to move, there are dangers to face elsewhere."

Kagome narrowed her eyes. She understood their reasoning, as crazy as it did sound. Her eyes fell on the group of adults and children standing behind the miko. Their bodies were broken, burned and bleeding, even a handful of the children looked as if they had survived an attack or two.

'How long will you be stubborn? Until all of the people are dead and there's no one left to be with?' She asked herself, but then sighed in recognition. Whatever their decision was, it wasn't for her to decide.

"Where is this monster hiding?" She asked the miko, her eyes drifting suspiciously to the mountain in the distance. She nodded her head in that direction and asked, "Up there?"

Once again the woman looked surprised, as if not having expected Kagome to be honest in her willingness to help them. It wasn't often after all that a complete stranger, whoever they were, would come and offer help in such a situation. To put their life on the line in order to protect people they'd only just met.

Kagome caught sight of a small tug at the corner of the old miko's lips, but it was gone in a matter of seconds. She turned to face the mountain, her one eye narrowed as she looked towards the top where the pollution was heaviest.

"Ye can only guess such a thing, however it does seem right doesn't it?" she then turned to face Kagome again, "will you help us, hanyou-san?" she asked, still unsure, "would you come into a village full of people that are afraid of you and that lack trust in your kind and put your life at stake to fight off a powerful monster?"

Kagome's eyes drifted past the elder to the cluster of villagers, holding each other in fear as they regarded her. Clearly the same wisdom that Souta had learned was not shared within the entire village.

"Obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have come." Kagome grumbled, looking towards the old woman again. She hesitated for a moment before adding, "My name is Kagome."

The elder blinked, her mouth gaping slightly as she regarded the half demon. Then she shook her head again, smiling down at the ground in wonder. "Kagome-sama," she repeated the name to herself before lifting her gaze to meet with Kagome's for the umpteenth time. "I am Kaede." She introduced herself, and then turned to the people still huddling behind her. "Ye have nothing to fear, there is not one ounce of blackness in this girl's soul. Go about your business, there's much work to be done."

Without bothering to grace Kagome with another look she wandered deeper into the village, making her way through the path that the villagers made for her as they parted. "Please come with me, Kagome-sama," she said, "There are things I'd like to show ye."

Kagome stared after Kaede suspiciously; somehow even more concerned now then she was upon first spotting the old miko. 'How…does she know me?' Of course Kaede hadn't said it, but the way she had addressed the hybrid and the expression on her face when Kagome had introduced herself clearly told her as much.

"Kagome, come on!" Souta shouted, running to her side and taking her hand in his, leading her in the direction Kaede was going. Kagome obediently followed after the boy, doing her best to ignore the uncertain looks she received from the village people as she passed.

As they made their way through the tiny crowd, the villagers continuing to step out of the way of their leader respectfully, then they moved even further to avoid being too close to Kagome as she followed after the old woman. Kagome wasn't bothered by it; or at least that's what she told herself. She was used to being avoided in this way whenever she was in close proximity to humans. It beat the alternative, being cursed at and chased down with torches and pitchforks.

One thing that did bother her however was how the stench of human blood and burned flesh grew stronger with every step. Kagome's ears flattened and she lifted her free hand to cover her nose, though it didn't do much good.

'Where on earth is she taking me?' The half demon thought with distaste. Despite herself she continued to follow the miko all the way to a rather large house on the far end of the village. It smelled the strongest of sickness and death, and Kagome fought with every ounce of strength she had to keep herself from turning away.

'I might be sick if I get any closer,' she thought, tugging her hand from Souta's as he entered the hut and simply shaking her head when he looked back at her curiously. She wouldn't go any further then the entrance.

Inside a handful of men, women and even children lay on straw mats, their breathing labored and their bodies fully bandaged. They were burn victims, barely having escaped the monster's attacks with their lives, Kagome realized. It only frustrated her more to realize that most of them already carried the scent of death, and she'd learned early on that once that happened, there was no saving them. Not even Hoshi's healing abilities, had she been there, could keep them from passing away.

A handful of others occupied the room in various stages of recovery. Most of them were too weak to move much, however they had given up their beds for those in worse shape. One in particular, Kagome noted, had gained Souta's full and undivided attention.

He was an older man, his skin wrinkled and his hair gray much the same way Kaede's was, sitting with his back leaning against the opposite wall of the hut. His clothes were similar to Kaede's, although his hakama were blue instead of red. He wore the clothes of a priest, Kagome realized. He had a goatee and a thick mustache pointing out on either side of his face, like the whiskers on a cat. His hair was pulled back in a short pony tail sitting atop his head and he regarded the half demon in the doorway with narrowed eyes and pointy, raised eyebrows for a brief moment before turning his attention to Souta.

"Souta…" he breathed when the youngster came to kneel next to him, and he reached out his left arm, the one that wasn't in a sling, to brush the boy's bangs away from his face. "Where have you been my boy? Your mother was worried sick…"

"Sorry, Jiichan…" Souta said, "But I couldn't tell anyone, otherwise they would have tried to stop me!"

"You're only a child," the old man reminded him, "of course we would have stopped you. You're far too young to be running off by yourself."

"But I brought help!" Souta explained, gesturing towards Kagome and grinning up at her, "Kagome said that she'd help us defeat the fire god!"

"A demon…" the man said gruffly, turning to scowl at the young hybrid in the door frame. "If I weren't in this condition I'd slap a purifying scroll on you in an instant and you would be—"

"Be quiet and rest," Kaede silenced him quickly and easily, "Everyone knows your scrolls wouldn't work, even if you were a real priest…"

"Kaede-sama!" The old man protested, "How could you allow such a creature into our village? Especially after all of the attacks we've suffered recently…"

"Jiichan," Souta groaned, reaching for the old man's shoulders to steady him as he attempted to rise. His struggling was useless however, and he only managed to sit up for a brief second before slumping back against the wall with an exhausted sigh.

His grandson smiled weakly at him before turning to Kagome with an apologetic nod of his head, "He means well, Kagome, I swear…"

Kaede stood from where she'd been tending to one of the villagers with greater injuries, dusting herself off and then turning back towards the hybrid. "What Souta says is true. I apologize in his place," she said, only receiving a shrug from the half demon, "he, like the others, doesn't have much tolerance for demons."

Kagome rolled her eyes, turning away from the door, more than ready to leave the hut and the stench it held within it. "Not like most people do," she mumbled, too quietly for human ears to hear.

Kaede meanwhile addressed another woman within the hut, one that was in relatively good shape, at least when compared to that of some of her roommates. She had a few bandages on her arms and face, but other than that seemed healthy. "Would ye mind terribly looking at Souta's scratches?" she asked, smiling when the woman responded positively, "I appreciate it. I need to take care of our guest…"

The old woman joined Kagome a moment later outside, gesturing for the hybrid to follow as she turned and continued to their next destination. "Why did you show me that?" Kagome finally asked, not bothering to silence the growl that rose in her throat. "Because you thought I was lying when I said I'd help you? Because you wanted me to feel pity for your people for the shape they are in?"

"Of course not," Kaede chided, although gently. "I did it only to show you how much I appreciate your assistance in our time of need, as I'm sure the rest would if they weren't so frightened of any amount of demon blood due to the recent attacks. I am sure ye noticed many of the people within that hut won't make it, no matter how much care we offer them. We can only make them comfortable before death comes."

Kagome heard the woman sigh as she turned towards the door of another hut, ascending the steps slowly and gesturing for Kagome to follow when she noticed the hybrid's hesitance. "Come, come, ye are welcome here," she assured her, "if ye hadn't come along, who knows how many more we would have lost..."

Kagome cleared the steps in a single leap, landing softly on the porch and stepping inside the tiny hut. It was much smaller than the house Kaede had brought her to just moments ago, clearly designed for only one. It smelled much better too, of herbs and roots that Kagome rarely scented outside the forest. A fire pit sat in the middle of the hut, a large, clearly well-used pot supported above the blackened wood where some sort of meat stew was cooling. Aside from that, the home was only furnished with a single straw matt and a single dresser in one corner.

Kagome hesitated a moment more as she watched the miko sit down in front of the fire pit. She looked exhausted, and no one could blame her, after all, she was in charge of keeping these people safe and many of them were dying or seriously wounded.

"You don't need to make my coming here sound so special," Kagome grumbled, moving across the room and sitting cross-legged on the other side of the pit. "Anyone at all with the ability to help in a situation like this would have…"

Kaede looked up at her, raising a brow in the hybrid's direction, "Do ye really believe those words or are ye simply trying to belittle yourself?"

"Of course I—" Kagome's words died on her lips when she caught the knowing smile the old miko sent her way. A beat of silence passed between the two before Kagome's gaze fell to the pit in front of her, "not exactly." She admitted.

"I figured as much," Kaede explained, chuckling softly as she reached for a pair of stones sitting by the fire. "However," she went on, "only someone with a good heart would expect as much from others as they were willing to sacrifice themselves. A foolish heart, but a good one nonetheless."

Kaede struck the two stones together once, twice, before lifting her head to smile at Kagome again, "Ye truly are a good person, Kagome-sama," she said, "It is a shame so many expect bad things of your kind, just because of the blood ye have in your veins."

Kagome stared skeptically at the old woman, her frustration growing. Then, with a heavy sigh she glanced at the fire wood, failing to lite despite Kaede's attempts, and reached out a hand towards the pit. She snapped her fingers once and suddenly the room was illuminated with the blue hue of Kagome's fire magic. The warmth of the flames as they danced happily underneath the cooking pot was comforting, and it spread throughout the room quicker than any regular fire would have.

Kaede stared for a moment, before simply shaking her head as she rested the stones on the floor beside her, smile still on her lips, "Thank you."

"You seem awfully confident in my abilities to help you," Kagome pointed out, as if not having heard the woman's thanks. "How do you know I'll pull through?

"I don't." Kaede replied, shocking the hybrid into silence once again, "However I know someone with your heart is the type that would risk their life to save a person in need of help…and that's plenty."

Kagome gaped at the miko as she stirred the meat stew, now boiling thanks to the heat of the fire. "You…" she started, again not trying to hide her frustrated growl, "you shouldn't be so sure…"

It bothered her. She wasn't sure what it was, but it bothered her to no end. Maybe it was the way the miko, someone who Kagome would have expected to want her dead, seemed to trust her with her life and that of her people. Or maybe it was the way she acted as if she knew her as well as if they'd known each other for years, even though they'd only just met.

Or maybe it was that she was so used to being ridiculed, discriminated against, feared and hated that she wasn't sure what to make of the old woman's kind and accepting behavior. Kagome snorted and shook her head, folding her arms across her chest and glaring out the door.

That definitely wasn't the case.

"Of course not, my apologies, Kagome-sama" was the old miko's simple reply, and then she handed the hybrid a warm bowl of stew before making one for herself.

A moment later Souta came bouncing into the hut, wearing a toothy grin and a handful of bandages. He took a seat in between Kaede and Kagome and waited patiently as the miko ladled the warm stew into a bowl for him. The second it was in his hands he started spooning large amounts of meat, vegetables and broth into his mouth, completely ignoring Kaede's warning to eat it slowly. It was rather hot, but the youngster didn't seem to mind. Then again, he was probably starving from his adventures away from home. Only he knew when his last meal had been.

"Are ye not hungry after all?"

Kagome's gaze snapped quickly from her bowl to Kaede's questioning stare and then back again. "Uh…" she began uncertainly, "I…I guess not…"

It was at least partially true.

Although she hadn't eaten in several days her demon blood kept her from needing food on as regular a basis as humans did. A week or two without food wouldn't kill her. In fact, it would take longer than that before her body began showing signs of weakness from not being fed. A fact, the hybrid knew not by choice, but from having survived long periods of time without eating because there wasn't anyone willing to share.

'If only she knew,' Kagome thought wearily, handing her untouched bowl to Souta, who took it from her hands eagerly and finished that too in record time. 'The last time someone offered me food like this, although the situation isn't quite the same, it was blended with a scentless poison made specifically to kill demons.'

Kaede and Souta didn't need to know that though, and neither of them seemed to question her refusal to eat, something she was grateful for. Kagome watched in amusement as Souta finished off his third bowl of stew, finally seeming to have eaten enough to satisfy his stomach, and made his way over to the straw mat to rest.

Kagome waited patiently, her ears trained on the young boy until she was sure he was asleep before looking to Kaede again. The old woman regarded her with a wise, kind smile, as if knowing exactly what the half demon wanted.

"I don't expect ye to remember me, Kagome-sama," Kaede began, "However, when I was just a girl, the same age as Souta, ye saved my life."

"I don't remember…" Kagome admitted, looking at the miko warily, "are you sure you have the right person?"

"I'll admit I had doubts when I first spotted ye, my memory isn't what it used to be after all," Kaede replied, "however when ye said your name I knew ye were the same one who had saved my life 50 years ago. Ye saved my life but ye were not in time to save my eye." she touched the patch covering her right eye, "I've managed without it just fine all these years."

Kagome's eyes narrowed, her gaze drifting to the fire still burning in the pit. 'A young girl with an injured eye,' she thought, 'that does seem familiar.'

She spared another quick glance at the old woman sitting across the fire from her, "That's right," she started, her words barely a whisper, "the miko in training that I met back then…"

"Damn her…" Kagome snarled as she crossed the forest floor with long, fast strides. She had no destination in mind, she only knew that she wanted to get as far as she could from her elder sister lest the wolf god decide to hunt her down for round two. "Damn you, Kikyou, what did I ever do to you?"

She'd managed to make it out of the fight unscathed for once and for that she considered herself lucky, very lucky. Usually her battles with Kikyou resulted in days spent healing, which she never looked forward to.

The young half demon clenched her fists tightly at her sides. "One day," she promised herself, in a voice that was barely a whisper, "one day I'll be strong enough to win. Then none of them, not even Kaasan, will be able to say I have weak blood…"

A scream effectively ripped the hybrid from her thoughts. Her first instinct was to run towards the sound and see if she could be of assistance, but the scent of human blood stopped her and she cringed. She hated that scent more than anything else in the world and ever since her father's death she had done her best to keep herself as far as possible from it.

'But someone's in trouble,' she reminded herself, scenting the air to locate the source of the scream. Once she'd picked up the scent of a handful of demons along with that of a human she shot forward, running with everything she had to get there in time.

She didn't have far to go. Soon the hybrid caught sight of a young girl, ten years old at the most, racing in her direction. She wore a pale orange yukata, tiny black flecks decorating the cloth, and a red obi, both of which were stained with her own blood. Her hair was long and black, held behind her head in a low ponytail and secured there with a white ribbon. Her left eye, the one that wasn't hidden, was brown and full of terror. Her right eye was covered by her own hand as she tried and failed to stop the blood from flowing from whatever injury she had gotten, no doubt from one of the monsters chasing her. In her free hand she carried as long bow.

'If the girl has a bow, why not use it?' Kagome thought, seeing the demons that were chasing the girl appear on the horizon next. They were hardly worth her time, a handful of serpent like creatures, no doubt some of the lowest ranking demons around. Then the hybrid spotted the quiver bouncing back and forth on the child's back as she ran. It was empty.

'Well, that answers my question I suppose,' she thought with a sigh, leaping from the ground and flying over the injured girl to intercept the demons. It didn't take long to dispose of them, as she'd imagined it wouldn't, a handful of quick and accurate strikes with her claws and they fell to the ground, unmoving.

"Feh, pathetic," Kagome grumbled, brushing her hands off on her hakama and then turning to leave. She paused when she spotted the little human, who had since stopped running and was now kneeling a handful of feet away and staring up at the hybrid with her one good eye, clearly shocked.

"You…" she began uncertainly, "you saved me…"

Kagome shrugged her shoulders, stuffing both hands in her pockets and scowling at what was left of the child's pursuers. "Yeah well, you got lucky this time, didn't you?" she snapped, "Someone was able to save your butt, but next time pack more arrows, kid. Or better yet, don't come out into the forest alone."

The child bristled at that, seeming to forget her injury and lack of arrows for a brief moment as she snapped back at her half demon savior. "I don't need to be told such things by you!" she went on, bragging now, "I'm a miko in training! I could have purified them easily if not for—"

She cried out suddenly, both hands covering her bad eye as she bent over herself in pain, rocking slightly and whimpering. Kagome glanced down at her sympathetically. 'Miko in training or not,' she thought as she crouched down in front of the girl's crumpled form, 'she's hurt bad.'

"Let me look," Kagome offered, gently touching the child's shoulder to catch her attention. She frowned when the girl sat up so fast that she nearly fell over in the process. She would have done just that had Kagome not been fast enough to grab the front of her yukata, stabilizing her and effectively keeping her still while the hybrid used her free hand to tug at one sleeve, asking without words that the child take her hand away from the injury.

"Idiot," Kagome scolded gently, "you think I want to hurt you? If I wanted that I could have killed you ten times already…or just let those demons finish the job…"

The child looked at her skeptically through her one good eye but slowly, hesitantly, lowered her hand so that Kagome could see the wound. It was impossible to see much past the blood that still drained freely from her eye, but there was one thing for certain, the little girl would never be able to use that eye again. In fact she could consider herself lucky if she survived the healing process without infection.

Kagome sighed, shrugging out of her haori and biting into the cloth of the white yukata that she wore underneath, tearing a good sized piece out of one sleeve. "I don't really carry bandages around with me," she explained at the girl's questioning stare, "but this should do the trick, at least until you're back home."

"You…" the girl gaped at her, "why are you helping me?"

"Would you rather I let you die?" Kagome replied, not giving her a chance to reply as she situated the makeshift bandaging across her injured eye, brushing her bangs out of the way so they wouldn't irritate the wound. "That's as good as it's going to get," she admitted, sitting back to admire her work, then asking, "Where do you live, kid?"

"My name's not kid, it's Kaede."

Kagome frowned, raising a brow at the child. "Kaede," she repeated, testing the name on her tongue before repeating her question, "where do you live?"

Kaede looked over the hybrid's shoulder to where she knew her village was before returning her gaze to the half demon skeptically. "Why do you want to know?" she asked, unwilling to trust Kagome, whether she was helping her or not, with the whereabouts of her people just yet. "If you expect payment for saving my life then you won't get it. I come from a poor village. We don't have much. Take my life instead and leave my people in peace."

Kagome gaped at her, one brow twitching in agitation and her lips pulled back in a furious snarl. She stood up abruptly, folding her arms across her chest and turning away, "idiot!" she snapped over her shoulder, "What in the hells would I have saved you for if I was just going to turn around and kill you myself? I don't need any of your damn money! What in the hell do you think I'd use it for anyway?"

Kaede blinked several times, shocked by the woman's outburst. "But," she started, unsure, "if you didn't expect payment then why?"

"You're going to need someone to watch over you on the way home, right?" Kagome replied simply, not looking at her. "Besides, you're out of arrows, and with that eye I doubt your aim would be anything to be proud of even if you had any…"

When Kaede remained silent for several moments Kagome finally turned to look back at her. She was still kneeling on the ground, her head bowed and her fists clenching and unclenching nervously on the cloth that covered her legs.

"What's wrong?"

Another moment of silence passed and then finally the girl shook her head dismissively, lifting her eyes meet Kagome's and smiling at her. "It's not far," she explained, "but before we go…would you tell me your name, hanyou-san?"

Next it was Kagome's turn to remain silent, too shocked to speak at first. 'That's the first time, the only time a human has ever addressed me with respect…' she thought in awe.

"My name is Kagome."

'I can't believe I'd forgotten that,' Kagome scolded herself, glanced up from the flames where her gaze had once again fallen while she was lost in her memories to stare into Kaede's one good eye. "You were that little girl…the miko in training…"

"Aye," Kaede replied with a smile, "that was nearly fifty years ago."

Kagome nodded, "and you're a miko now…"

Kaede leaned forward to raise the cooking pot away from the fire so that the stew could cool again. She sat back a moment later, rubbing her shoulder as if she'd strained it completing that simple task.

"I may be a miko, but that meeting we shared fifty years ago changed me forever. When I was in training I was taught to shoot on sight, and I probably would have the day I'd met you had I had any arrows left." She reached for her bow, which sat beside her, and rested it gently across her knees, "you taught me something different. You taught me that not all demons are dangerous and to not judge based on someone's blood."

Kagome scoffed, "I can be plenty dangerous." She pointed out, "I'm just not a danger to you is all…"

Kaede chuckled, "Aye, I suppose that's true." She glanced at Souta, sleeping soundly on the straw man behind her. "I've been trying to instill those teachings into the young ones. Souta tends to be the fastest learner when it comes to those things…I noticed that he made the right choice when it came to trusting you, Kagome-sama…"

"Ah," Kagome felt her cheeks burn slightly and she quickly looked back towards the fire, "well…I guess so…"

Anything Kaede had been about to say was cut short as a scream echoed through the village streets. Both women were on their feet in an instant, their weapons in hand as they started towards the door.

'Damn', Kagome thought furiously, following Kaede out, 'It's because of this smoke that's polluting the village that I can't smell a thing. I completely missed his arrival.'

It wasn't difficult to spot him once they'd exited the hut. He stood in the middle of a crowd, a wicked, toothy grin on his face as he held a young woman high above his head. The villagers that surrounded him looked torn between cowering in fear and assisting the poor girl, but in the end they did nothing.

Kaede was the first to react. She pulled an arrow from her quiver, notched it in her bow and let it fly, all with amazing speed considering her age. The arrow hissed as it tore through the night, leaving a trail of light behind it. It didn't miss its mark.

The demon let out a furious shout as the arrow took a small chunk out of his arm. It wasn't enough to bother him for long, but it was enough for him to drop the woman to the ground, where she was quickly carried to safety by a handful of village men.

The demon meanwhile turned on Kaede, his blood red eyes glowing with fury, "miko bitch," he snarled at her. "How dare you…"

"You're the one that's been causing all the trouble, aren't you?" Kagome asked, stepping out in front of the elder miko protectively and drawing the demon's attention to her. "You call yourself a god? You don't look very godly to me at all…"

Actually, he looked surprisingly human. His hair was black and pulled back into a bun that sat atop his head, tied there with a red ribbon that matched his eyes, and his ears were pointed. His skin was an uncomfortable looking shade of pink, making it seem as if he'd gotten a bad sun burn, but it didn't seem to bother him in the least as he moved. He towered over the villagers, making them look like mere children when compared to his eight foot tall frame.

His upper body was completely bare aside from a pair of arm protectors that covered the lower part of each limb, made of silver metal, and a black beaded necklace with large round beads that looked suspiciously to be made of balls of cooled lava. His hakama were black and torn, tied snuggly around his waist with a white belt, and on his feet he wore wooden sandals.

His eyes flashed with interest as they landed on Kagome. He grinned. "And who the hell are you?" he barked, "Were the fools so desperate to get rid of me that they went and begged a half demon for help?"

"What if they did?" Kagome challenged him, "You don't look like much, I'm sure a mere half demon like me will be enough to take care of you."

The demon's face went from amused to furious in record time. He pulled his lips back to show his teeth, clenched his fists at his sides and let out a howl of fury, which in turn made Kagome scowl and flatten her ears back against the top of her head. The sound of his roar was nearly defining with her sensitive hearing.

"Cut that out!" She barked at him, even though she knew her words wouldn't be heard over the sound of his screams. She lifted one hand, the one that wasn't busy flatting her ears further against her head in a useless attempt to block out the sound, and clawed at the noisy beast.

It had the desired effect. He stopped his screaming. But he had leapt in the air when she struck at him and avoided being hit by the arcs of light sent at him by her claws.

Kagome glared at him, both hands returning to her sides. 'He's going to be a bit more difficult to kill then I thought, especially if he keeps screaming like that,' she thought, groaning inwardly. She could already feel the throbbing of a migraine in her temples. 'I need to make sure he doesn't get the chance to do that again.'

"What's wrong mutt?" He asked, flashing an amused smirk, "got sensitive ears?"

"Is talking all you can do?" the hybrid growled back, preferring not to go that route in the conversation. If he realized he could use something like his obnoxiously loud voice to weaken her, something he had likely already done if he had a brain inside his giant skull, then she might end up with the short end of the stick so to speak.

'Although I'm not entirely sure that isn't already the case,' she pondered, 'he's got size, that's for sure, and my instincts are telling me that he's not to be underestimated…'

"Oh I'll show you exactly what I can do, you little pipsqueak." His grin widened, an amused, sickening grin, "My name is Takeshi, son of fire and lightning," he explained, "now prepare to get crushed little half breed. You don't stand a chance against my awesome power!"

Kagome sunk into a crouch, watching intently as he fingered the cool lava beads around his neck. "Oh I wouldn't be so sure about that," she countered, wary but confident, "so far I'm not impressed."

Takeshi's chuckled as he plucked a bead from his rosary. "I don't need someone like you to be impressed with me," he said as he chucked the ball at the ground. It connected within a handful of feet of where Kagome had been crouching, setting off an explosion that could have been dangerous to anyone within twenty five feet and life threatening to anyone closer than that.

The half demon landed a good distance away, well outside of the zone in which she or anyone else could have been injured. She carried Kaede on her back, much the same way she'd held Souta earlier. She crouched again, allowing the old miko to step down, and then turned to glance at the elder over one shoulder.

"You should go," she said, nodding in the direction of the forest from where she'd come. "Take the villagers too. I won't be able to fight at my best if I have to worry about protecting everybody."

"How sweet of you, half breed," Takeshi cooed, his voice clearly indicating that he thought otherwise, "to worry about the humans here. You shouldn't waste your time. When I'm done with you I'm going to kill each and every one of these bastards."

Kagome turned to face him again, glaring. "That just means I'll have to make sure you're dead before I leave here, doesn't it?"

She would have said more had she not been distracted by a sudden and repeating pulse, like that of a heartbeat, lifting from her scythe. It steadily grew in strength until it had matched the heartbeat within her chest, beat for beat. Following the odd throbbing was a wave of warm energy that reminded the half demon of her fire magic. The warmth surrounded her right hand, drifting up the length of her arm and into her chest.

'This is…' the half demon thought, staring down at the scythe's blade in wonder, 'this is like when I held the Tessaiga for the first time…but it's different somehow too.'

After a moment the pulse died down to a soft, barely noticed throb that repeated every few seconds. Soon after Kagome felt the chill return to the staff's metal surface. The hybrid sent a second quizzical look down at her weapon, but quickly dismissed its odd behavior. She had more important things to pay attention to then her scythe acting weird, like the 8 foot tall self-proclaimed fire god charging at her for instance.

"Get out of here!" Kagome shouted over her shoulder, gesturing at Kaede again to leave for safer ground as she faced the giant beast head on. The old woman looked as if she wanted to protest, and probably would have had the safety of her village not been at stake. She quickly gathered the villagers around her, ordering the healthy and strong to carry those who weren't as fortunate as they made their way towards the tree line.

Kaede hesitated only a moment longer than the rest, watching as Kagome easily cleared Takeshi's height as she leapt over him, cracking her scythe over the back of his head as she passed him on the way down. She didn't do it hard enough to significantly injure him, although with the thickness of his skull one would wonder if anyone was capable of such a feat, only enough to knock him off balance and anger him into focusing on her and not the escaping villagers.

'Please, Kagome-sama,' Kaede thought, bowing her head and brining her hands together in a brief moment of prayer for the hybrid's safety, 'please make it through this battle safely.'

"You half breed bitch!" Takeshi snarled, swiping at her with one large fist as he turned, which she also managed to dodge rather easily. "You'll die right here in this village!"

Kagome only smirked at him, leaping into the air and landing softly on one of the empty village houses. She dropped into a crouch atop the roof. 'What an idiot.' She thought as she observed his movements carefully. For a moment he only glared at her, but soon after he was on the move again, making his way over to the hut she perched on. 'I've already figured out one of his weaknesses, anger. He gets angry and then he gets sloppy. I've seen it a million times. Can't bring emotions like that into a fight and expect to win.'

Aside from knowing that she could have an advantage over him if she got him angry, she also had speed on her side. Takeshi was fast, but not nearly as fast as she was. Besides that, when she'd leapt over his head she'd noticed that once the big oaf got moving at top speeds he had a more difficult time slowing down and it was nearly impossible for him to make sharp turns, at least without ending up on his butt.

Kagome hunkered down on the roof as Takeshi grabbed onto the side of the building, ripping large holes in the wood with his giant hands and rocking the entire structure back and forth in an attempt to get her down. "Come on down mutt," He growled at her, "or are you afraid I'm going to tear you up, limb from limb?"

"Hardly," Kagome called back, and then cleared him by twenty feet in a single jump seconds before the entire structure came crumbling to the ground thanks to his relentless behavior. The hybrid turned to face him once she'd landed. "You giant fool," she taunted, "You'll never catch me at the rate you're going!"

He came after her again and again, but she only continued dodging his pathetic attempts to grab her. She knew better then to get within his reach. If she got too close and he was able to get a hold of her, she might be in for a rougher battle then she wanted, much rougher.

"Stop running away!" He howled as he buried one fist in the ground, the one that was aiming for her.

"Stop running, huh?" Kagome asked from where she balanced a handful of feet off the ground on the edge of a wall, one of four that used to be the structure of a house before Takeshi got to it. She glanced down at her scythe. 'I wonder,' she thought, preparing to leap away as Takeshi came thundering towards her again, arms flailing, 'will you transform the same way Tessaiga does? Only one way to find out I guess…'

As Takeshi was arriving at her perch, both fists slamming into the already weakened frame of what once was a home, Kagome leapt from it. She didn't go very far this time. Instead she landed right behind him; swinging around to face him at the same time he turned to face her, scythe in hand.

Takeshi's eyes narrowed as he caught the blade in one of his massive hands, squeezing it tightly in between his thumb and the rest of his fingers. He grinned down at her, noticing the displeased look on her face. "What was that, half breed?" he asked, laughter in his tone, "your pathetic weapon won't be able to leave a scratch on me."

He demonstrated by using his free fist to pound on his opposite arm a few times, not even flinching despite the amount of force he used. "You see?" he asked, his grin widening to show off his teeth, "my skin is much tougher then even yours…"

'Damn thing, going to be useless all over again, are you?' She thought, glaring at the weapon. While he was distracted with his own gloating she managed to force it free of his grasp, stumbling back a handful of feet when the blade came loose from his grip.

"Doesn't matter," Kagome replied confidently, "I can take you out just fine with my own claws."

But her words were spoken on deaf ears she realized as she glared up at him. His eyes were no longer on her. Instead he stared past her towards the opposite end of the village, in the direction of his mountain. Kagome's heart sunk when she turned and spotted the little boy standing, frozen with fear, in the middle of the street.

"Souta…" she whispered, eyes widening as she realized that he'd likely been forgotten inside Kaede's hut due to the panic caused by Takeshi's arrival. 'I've got to get him out of here somehow,' she thought, but she realized a second too late as Takeshi, shoving her out of the way, went thundering past.

'That ugly bastard will kill him with a single strike!' She thought and took off after the beast, 'I have to make it there in time!'

"You little brat!" Takeshi howled as he approached Souta, who looked for all the world like a little rabbit about to be devoured by a bear. Kagome wasn't the only one who realized he was much too frightened to do anything to save himself, and Takeshi let out a deep throated laugh as he made a grab for the boy.

"I'll use you as bait," Takeshi promised, "and then once I've destroyed the half demon I'll devour you and your entire village!"

"You won't!" Kagome yelled back, placing herself protectively in between the boy and the giant, scythe held horizontally in both hands to block Takeshi's fists. The ones that were meant to grab Souta. Kagome groaned as the force of the impact shook her entire frame, blinking several times to clear her vision and then quickly turning to look over one shoulder at Souta.

"Kaede took the others just to the tree line," she explained, nodding towards the forest, "go wait there, and hurry it up!"

Souta didn't hesitate for another second. He bobbed his head up and down a few times in agreement and took off past Kagome and Takeshi, running to where the rest of the village was hiding.

"You bitch!" Takeshi howled at Kagome, clearly furious that she'd dared to interfere with his thought-to-be-great plans. Both hands latched onto the scythe's handle, first attempting to rip it from Kagome's grasp, but when she refused to give it up he decided instead to throw the weapon, along with her attached body, away from him.

Kagome bit back a yelp of pain when her back connected with the ground a second later. Her weapon still held tightly in her right hand, she sat up and then slowly made it to her feet only to be knocked back again as Takeshi delivered a solid punch to her gut. She did let a tiny whimper slip that time as she felt and heard several ribs snapping beneath the force delivered by his fist. It wasn't enough to bring her to her knees just yet, but Takeshi didn't have any problem shoving her the rest of the way down and then wreaking havoc on her body as he pounded on her.

Kagome made an attempt to claw her way to safety, but he wouldn't let her escape so easily. He grabbed a hold of her collar, dragging her back so that he could continue beating her with his hands. Kagome snarled at him, unable to do much more in that moment then turn over and let him pound his fists into her back over and over.

She flexed her claws, glancing at him over one shoulder and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. 'Stupid oaf,' she thought, too focused to be bothered by his punches, 'Your skin might be too tough to penetrate but I bet your eyes aren't…'

She was about to turn and give him a piece of his own medicine, claws right through the eye, but the sudden return of a heartbeat within her scythe's staff stopped her in her tracks. Her eyes grew wide as she stared down at the weapon still clutched in one hand. The fire that she'd felt burning it's way though her hand, down her arm and into her chest was back as well, and much hotter than before.

'What…?' she asked herself, her gaze snapping to the empty eye sockets on the wolf's skull where she could see a faint blue glow from within. 'What in the hell is it doing now?'

"Stop hurting her!"

A small voice, trembling and uncertain, cut like a knife into the air, gaining both Kagome's and Takeshi's immediate attention. It had the desired effect; Takeshi instantly stopped pounding his fists on Kagome's back, but only in interest of coming after Souta instead.

"So you didn't leave after all?" Takeshi asked with a sickening grin. He laughed, "I'll make you deeply regret that decision, brat!"

"Souta," Kagome yelled, biting her tongue to keep a string of profanities at bay, "I thought I told you to leave! Get out of here!"

Takeshi was already on his way towards Souta, who was once again frozen in fear as he realized the position he'd put himself in. The demon cleared Kagome's body in one stride and marched towards the youngster with intent to kill.

'You won't get the chance to lay a hand on him, you bastard,' Kagome thought, quickly coming to her feet behind the departing monster and striking at him with her scythe. She didn't expect it to seriously injure him, after all, the last time it hadn't so much as left a scratch even after it had started acting strangely. The plan was only to distract him long enough to get Souta to safety. When the blade connected with Takeshi's should however, it cut through his tough skin like a knife through warm butter, severing his right arm.

Kagome didn't take long to recover from her shock, leaping out of the way as Takeshi swung at her with his left arm, howling in pain. She landed beside Souta, giving him a meaningful look and then pointing one clawed finger towards the tree line.

"Go," she ordered, crouching in front of him, "and I mean it this time."

"But he was hurting you," the boy protested. He reached up to rest a hand on her cheek where an angry purple bruise was already forming.

"I'm fine," Kagome insisted, batting his hand away gently, "now get going."

Souta nodded, still looking over one shoulder at her as he turned to run towards the forest where his family was waiting. Kagome sighed as she stood and turned to face Takeshi again. He was furious, as was to be expected, after all, he'd lost his right arm. He glared at her from where he stood several hundred feet from her, bent over slightly, left hand clutching his right shoulder which bled freely, creating a pool of crimson in the dirt below his feet.

"Not such a piece of junk after all, is it?" Kagome asked with a grin, straightening her right arm out in front of her to show off her newly transformed scythe. A transformation, she guessed, that wasn't unlike the one she was used to seeing in Inuyasha's sword.

The blade had a dark shine to it, making it appear black in the light. In contrast the skull, which now had a small hide of dark brown wolf's fur growing from where the vertebrae would have begun and covering the connection between the skull and staff, was a clean white. The eye sockets had a soft, blue glow coming from within that reminded Kagome of her fire magic and the staff was a deep purple, almost black.

She lowered her staff, her grin turning into a threatening snarl as she took a step forward, "now that it's transformed," she said, "it's time to take care of you for good."

"We'll see who takes care of who, half breed scum," Takeshi snapped, slamming his fist into the ground with enough force that Kagome felt the earth shake beneath her feet. He flashed his sickening, pain-promising grin at her once before slamming the ground again and again.

Kagome braced herself as the ground started shaking on its own accord, no longer caused by his relentless pounding. The earth groaned below her feet as it finally split with a loud crack, opening up a massive hole in the ground that began at Takeshi's fist and traveled past Kagome, or where she had been standing before she moved out of the way, and to the first of many trees that stood in the valley before the forest, splitting the trunk clean in half.

Kagome stared in awe at the canyon the beast had created, eyes widening further as she noticed the steam rising from the crack, followed soon by red hot lava. She cautiously stepped closer to the large opening, staying far enough away that the lava couldn't reach her. Her gaze snapped back to Takeshi when she heard him scream.

He grabbed at his rosary with one hand, tearing it from his neck and hurling it at the ground. He didn't notice when it exploded against a handful of still standing houses. Flames jumped from the wood, working quickly to destroy what little stability was left within the structures before moving on to the surrounding houses, the field and the trees but he was too preoccupied with his own transformation.

He was getting bigger, Kagome noticed, much bigger. He'd already towered over her at eight feet, but now he was nearly twice that size and still growing. His rock hard skin was, quite literally, turning into stone and as the transformation process reached his right shoulder, the hybrid watched as his arm was regenerated, stone by stone.

Finally his screams subsided and Kagome uncertainly lifted her ears from where they'd plastered themselves against the back of her head in attempt to soften the horrible noise. Her fur bristled as he lowered his head, having lifted it up as he howled to the heavens, and smirked at her.

"Half breed," he said, addressing her in a much deeper, rougher voice then before, "now you will definitely pay a price for your interference!"

Kagome felt her instincts screaming at her to be careful, but she trampled her discomfort down quickly. "It's doesn't matter what form you take you know," she taunted, "You won't be able to scare me off."

Takeshi only chuckled, slamming his fists together and stepping forward, but instead of charging her like Kagome expected him to, he took a short leap into the air. He tucked his legs in, wrapping his arms around his knees and ducking his head until he resembled a large bolder. When he hit the ground again he started rolling, and he was fast.

As he rolled through the flames and lava his compacted body caught on fire and soon Kagome was left with no choice but the get out of the way and watch as he flattened any remaining structures. Her body grew rigid as he made a sharp turn, after destroying the last house, and came after her, leaving a blaze of fire behind him as he shot forward in her direction.

'How in the hell am I supposed to stop that?' She asked herself, and then she glanced at her scythe.

She braced herself as he came rolling towards her at breakneck speeds, stretching both arms out in front of her with her scythe held horizontally in both hands. She felt her ribs protest strongly as he collided with her. Her whole body protested, but the pain in her chest combined with the force of their collision nearly forced the hybrid to her knees. She moaned, looking up as she finally slid to a stop several hundred yards from where she'd started.

Takeshi had uncurled himself and now held her scythe in one hand, positioned in between both of hers, while his opposite arm was pulled back, fist clenched as he prepared to strike. "I'll knock your head clean off, bitch!"

She ducked to one side just in time to avoid having him do just that, only catching the side of his rocky fist with her cheek, causing a long, deep slice on the right side of her face. Kagome glared at him, hands tightening on her scythe and sending a sudden wall of blue fire straight up and into his face.

He only laughed at her attempts. "You stupid fool," he chuckled, releasing her weapon and then shoving her back. He leapt backwards, landing a handful of feet from her and sending another great tremor through the earth, making the lava that still seeped from the crack jump and splatter.

"I'm fire proof! None of your silly magic tricks will have an effect on my body!"

He lunged at her again, his back and shoulders still aflame as he landed in front of her and latched onto her scythe, even as she buried it into his collarbone. He snarled, not showing any pain as he snatched the weapon from her and tore it out of his rocky flesh, holding it in between his thumb and pointer finger as if it was a toothpick and then throwing it away.

"Now what are you?" He asked, "Without your weapon, what can you do?"

"Plenty," Kagome barked at him, the surprise of her confident response slowing Takeshi down enough that she could leap up the length of his body, digging her claws into the side of his head with one hand and burying two fingers into his left eye with the other.

"How's that for pathetic, eh?"

He cried out in protest, throwing his head from side to side as blood spat from his injured eye. He grabbed onto her blindly with both hands and, with a furious shout, he slammed her into the ground. She hissed as her broken ribs were once again jarred by the rough landing, struggling fruitlessly to free herself as he held her down by her neck with one hand, preparing to slug her with the other. Seeing the impending danger she raised both arms, free from his grasp, to block his massive fist. She instantly regretted the idea as pain shot through her forearms, but it was preferable still to having her skull flattened instead.

Takeshi laughed again, raising his fist as if threatening to punch her again. Kagome glared at him in response, while her mind worked furiously to come up with a plan of escape. Both hands moved from where they'd been shielding her face, digging into his wrist, the one attached to the hand that held her down. He couldn't feel the pain, so it was impossible for him to notice when she'd nearly severed his arm a second time, this time at the wrist.

Kagome's ears twitched on top of her head as a chattering noise, like that of teeth clicking together, caught her attention and ultimately distracted her from her escape. She glanced towards it just in time to see her scythe flying towards her as if it'd been thrown, but she knew that was impossible. There was no one nearby that could have done so.

She raised one hand from Takeshi's nearly destroyed wrist, catching the weapon and grinning up at the rocky beast, noticing his frustrated expression. She swung the blade, connecting at his cheek and digging deep into the side of his head. He howled in fury this time, not in pain, as he leapt back. He could no longer feel pain since his body had been turned to stone.

Kagome allowed herself a brief glance in the direction from which he scythe had flown. Just as she'd thought, there was no one there. Her gaze returned to the weapon. 'My scythe came to me when I needed it?' she asked herself in amazement, 'is that part of the bond that Toutousai spoke of?'

Kagome's eyes flickered back to the fight at hand when she heard the telltale sounds of Takeshi crushing his fists together. He was predictable, another weakness, the hybrid noted. He was about to charge her again, and this time she was more than ready.

She sunk into a battle ready position, legs spread to steady her body, back and shoulders sunken slightly and one hand stretched out before her, holding her weapon. She smirked at the scythe, feeling it quiver with an unbridled amount of strength and energy that she had never felt before.

"It's time for this fight to be over, Takeshi!" She shouted at him as he lunged towards her for the umpteenth time.

She brought the scythe down in sideways arc in front of her chest. The weapon released a loud hiss as it sliced through air and for a brief moment Kagome was blinded by the light of the flames as a large wolf's head materialized within the fire and quickly moved forward to encase the approaching demon in a tornado of what would normally be flesh-melting temperatures. Takeshi of course was not affected by the flames, however hot, but he was easily torn into shreds by the fangs that followed.

After the fire and smoke had cleared, Kagome stared in awe at what was left of the stone beast. He was no more than a pile of rubble now, spread out across the ground in front of her, which had been mutilated by her scythe's powerful attack. Four trenches were dug into the ground, resembling claw marks, and where Takeshi had stood was nothing more than a pit of torn up and melted earth.

"So that's it, huh? The scythe's strength?" She asked herself, sitting down right there in the middle of the destruction. First she looked at Takeshi's body, or what remained of it, and then she turned to look at the flattened village houses and burned fields and trees that surrounded the once livable area. The fires had died when their creator did, but the damage he'd left was permanent.

Kagome's eyes drifted to her scythe next, and she grinned as she noticed that it had quickly returned to its previous form. 'I think I've finally figured out what that old goat was trying to tell me,' she thought, 'a bond with a weapon…who knew.'

Kagome stood a moment later and turned towards the tree line where she could already see the villagers making their way out from behind the trees. She'd protected them at least. She may not have been able to save their home but they were free from the burden that was Takeshi and that was most important.

She managed a sad smile as she made her way towards them, spotting Kaede out front. The old woman was smiling at her with a thankful and happy glow in her good eye. The rest of the villagers looked happy too, and they showed their thanks and approval with cheers and laughter as they surrounded the hybrid. No one seemed to notice the destruction of their home.

'And who says they don't have one still?' Kagome thought, ruffling Souta's hair as he attached himself to her waist. 'Father's village has been abandoned for many years. It needs help but…it's a place to live and it's not far from here...'

Kazoo watched the sun rise through narrowed eyes. He stood at the base of the mountain, the same place where Kagome had left from many hours ago, claiming everything was fine. Although he hadn't believed her, he'd trusted her not to do anything rash and gone about his business with the pack and his mate.

Now he was beginning to second guessing his trust in Kagome.

'Where are you, Kagome?' He asked himself, bowing his head and allowing one clawed hand to come up and massage his temples. 'If she got into some sort of trouble she would have called for us, wouldn't she? But it doesn't take this long to visit someone's grave…parent or not…'

His head snapped up a second later when the long awaited scent of Kagome's return filled his nose. He gaze snapped towards the direction which she approached fro, a disapproving scowl already in place when he caught sight of her silhouette. "Hey, Kagome!" he barked, "Where in the devil have you—"

His words cut off abruptly when noticed her less than pleasant expression and her bruised and charred appearance. He raised a questioning eyebrow, "what in the hell happened to you?"

"Don't start," she ordered, nonchalantly wiping at the dried blood left over from a nasty slice on her right cheek as she passed him on her way to the nearby pond.

Kazuo watched her retreating form for a brief moment before following; ignoring the death dealing glare she delivered to him over one shoulder. "Where did you go, cousin? How did you get those injuries?" he questioned her relentlessly, not expecting her to answer him but continuing on despite himself, "You know the elder's been pretty pissed since you left earlier. He keeps going on and on about how we 'should have left' and how 'you're causing trouble for him all over again'…"

"I don't care what that old fleabag thinks." Kagome bit out, wading into the water until she was waist deep, then ducking her head under for a brief moment to clean her hair. She scrubbed pointlessly at her clothes and flesh, muttering profanities under her breath as she did so. Her ribs still throbbed with every movement, but she ignored them for the sake of getting the god awful scents that she'd somehow collected while at the village from her body.

Kazuo's nose twitched as he watched her, amused. "You won't get the stink out that easily," he told her, "death, blood, sickness…those things cling to you easily but never really leave."

"I can still try, can't I?" She asked, "It wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't had to move a bunch of them."

Once everything was said and done, and the villagers had agreed to make the move, Kagome had somehow allowed herself to fall into the role of a pack mule. She'd helped move many of the sick and injured that were still unable to do anything for themselves. Now that she was covered in their scent she regretted it.

She stretched her arms out in front of her chest and dove forward into the pond, swimming a few strokes out into the deeper waters. She turned back towards Kazuo once she'd reached the middle where the water was colored a deep, dark blue, treading water as she looked down at herself. Her nose was still scrunched up as if even submerging most of her body in water didn't clean the scent away. It didn't.

"Damn it..."

"So," Kazuo began again, taking a seat on the bank and smiling at the familiarity of it all. The pond was a comfortable place for the pair. They'd often come here as pups to fish for frogs and minnows when food was scarce within the pack, which was most of the time. "What were you doing that got you near that god awful scent anyway?"

Kagome sighed in recognition and then began her swim towards the shore. She knew him well enough. He wouldn't be giving up any time soon. "Helping," she offered.

"Who?"

"A village," she went on, climbing to shore and aiming a million water droplets at her cousin as she shook off, similar to the way a dog might, much to his chagrin. She then turned and dropped onto her back beside him, staring up at the sky. "I guess I'd met their leader once when she was only a pup, but I didn't remember it until she said as much. Now she's a miko that's running the place..."

"I thought you were visiting your old man's grave."

"I did that too."

"And these?" Kazuo asked, poking at one of the fading bruises on her face. "How'd these come to be?"

Kagome smirked, batting his hand away and sitting up. She pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around her bent legs and looking out at the warm water in front of her. It was soothing to sit beside him and talk about nothing important, and it was most likely one of the last relaxing moments she'd share with her cousin for a while.

"Some idiot demon that called himself 'the god of fire'," She explained, "Cocky bastard…he was easy to dispose of."

Kazuo laughed, "If he was so easy to take care of you wouldn't have gotten injured." He pointed out, earning a roll of the eyes from the half demon beside him, but she didn't correct him. His smile drifted from his face a moment later.

"You know the elder will be coming down soon and he'll be angry at you for leaving again, for however short a time." he said, ending the peaceful moment between the two cousins as quickly as the words tumbled out of his mouth. "He'll be even more pissed to know it was to help a bunch of humans. You know he'll be able to smell them all over you, even if you did just bathe."

"It doesn't matter what he thinks," Kagome said, trailing a finger over the length her cut. It had closed quite a while ago, and was well on its way to being nothing more than a tiny scar. Then that would disappear too. "I'll be mostly healed before nightfall. It'll take us that long to get there and then…"

Kagome's words drifted off and she slowly, hesitantly turned to face the furious golden gaze of the elder wolf as he towered over her. "Half breed scum," He snarled at her, baring his teeth, "that scent fits you well, the scent of humans, pathetic…weak…"

"My scent is none of your damn business." She bit out, sick of bowing down to the old wolf; even if she knew she'd pay for mouthing off. At that particular moment she just didn't care.

She climbed to her feet, approaching him and pausing only when she was inches away. "You're the one that told me to 'get lost' earlier, isn't that right?" she taunted, "You're just lucky I decided to come back this time. You're far too old to rule anything, one of these days you'll have to step down…" she smirked, "and then I'll be there. Of course that is only if I don't take over the north first."

She didn't need to elaborate for the old wolf to know what she was implying. Each and every one of wolves that lived within his territory knew that eventually the elder would fall. Some, particularly the youngsters, had already begun challenging his authority just as she was doing now. Even wolves outside of the old man's ruling area had come to threaten him, but not a single one ever won.

It wasn't all that important. The wolves only wanted their moment of glory before they too would be taken down, most likely by Kagome herself.

"Who you little worthless piece of flesh," the elder barked at her, snapping at her with his teeth, threating but not willing to go closer then the air a handful of inches from her face. "I should have you killed right now for your unbelievable disrespect! How dare you speak to me like that!"

"Are they ready to leave?" Kagome asked next, swiftly changing the subject.

The old wolf glared at her, his eyes speaking volumes of the ways he would like to torture her. "They've been ready for some time," he spat, "as I said they would be."

"Good."

She glanced up and spotted a handful of wolf demons, some of her pack mates included, watching her from a distance, waiting for orders from their respective leaders. She then turned to look at Kazuo who, shocked by her display of dominance over the elder who had kept her fuming but quiet for many years, remained silent and simply blinked up at her. She jerked her head in the direction she was heading, a non-voiced order for him to follow. He came to his feet and stood beside her a second later, waiting. She looked back at the elder.

"So am I," she told him, "it's about time Koga and his pack mates learned who the real god is around here."

The old wolf continued to growl at her for a brief moment before turning to acknowledge the majority of the wolves who would only follow his command. At least, unless Kagome beat them into submission, something she was likely willing to do.

"Follow her," he bit out, and when they didn't move immediately he followed through with a snarl that threatened a painful ending to anyone who didn't heed his warning. "It's what Misako wanted!" he snapped, "and that's an order, not a request! Get moving!"

AN: If you thinkKagome's taking names and kicking butt out there, well, just wait till you see her in chapter 21. :D That's sure to be pretty action packed, for those battle-happy readers. Anyway, it's about time she stood up for herself isn't it?

I debated for a while about whether or not I wanted Kaede and Kagome to have met before. I finally decided it would provide an interesting twist to the story. I mean really, you didn't see that coming did you? ;) Anyway, for those who might not know, the actual story of what happened to Kaede's eye is provided in anime episode 148.

Yes, I know Kagome took for freaking ever to get her scythe to transform. You can all blame me for being so indecisive on how I wanted to work that out…I'm still brainstorming actually. XD

And I've got to know… what's with Glon Morski and Happyface2107 being my only reviewers this last time? Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for all the reviews I get but I happen to know that there are more than two people reading this story. Is it too much to ask for a little more feedback? I don't bite, I promise. :)

Random fun facts: iophobia is the fear of poison, cibophobia is the fear of food and apparently there is a yet-to-be-named fear of soup as well. Not that Kagome actually has a phobia of any of these things…just saying. XD

Important-ish bit here: There is a brief description of the scythe in the beginning of chapter 5 that might need some tweaking when I get around to it. Look there to see what it looks like when it isn't transformed, because I'm not saying it twice…. Also note: I've completely lost track of whether it's day or night now that I don't have to pay attention to Shippou. It's whatever-a-clock at the moment. XD

Chapter 21 Preview: The Northern Kingdom

Inuyasha blinked several times as he watched the young woman, clutching her daughter close to her chest with one arm and dragging her young son along behind her with the opposite hand, run for the village. 'Funny,' He thought, rather annoyed by their lack of what he imagined would have been a proper greeting, 'I thought they'd be happy to see me, but that woman looks as if she's just seen a ghost.'

Silly Inuyasha, don't you know you're supposed to be dead? Anyway, that's it for now! Happy almost Thanksgiving for those who celebrate it, happy whatever-you-celebrate for those that don't! ;)