AN: Bet none of you saw that coming, did ya? ;) I know, I know this story is long overdue for an update, so I apologize for taking such a ridiculously long break on doing that…hopefully it's worth it? Well, even if it's not, it's here now so go on and read it and leave me a review to let me know what you think! :D

I even provided a little recap for everybody (so I don't get yelled at)!

Review from chapter 21 + 22: Kagome arrives on the northern territory and briefly begins a spar with Koga to reclaim the land for her own, however Naraku shows up with a large herd of demons to interrupt the wolf's war. Kagome takes chase and after a difficult battle where her demon blood surfaces for the first time, manages to badly injure him and keep him from stealing the treasure. Kazuo and Hoshi together manage to change her back to her normal half demon self and get her on the road to recovery…but she has a long road ahead of her. Meanwhile, Inuyasha and his group arrive back in the village to find Kohaku is actually alive and somehow managed to make it back on his own. On top of that, they're apparently ghosts that are back from the grave. Shortly after their arrival home the village is attacked by hundreds of demons. Kagome, who manages to overhear the voices of a herd passing overhead realizes that they could be in trouble and, despite still being in bad shape, runs off to help.

Also, here's little bitty reminder:

"Woof" is animals and/or demons in their true form speaking

"Woof" is normal, human conversation

And 'woof' is someone's thoughts

Phew, ok….now you can go enjoy the latest installment of the story! Enjoy! :D

Chapter 23: Reunion

"Damn it," Kagome cursed as she ran, "I should have…I should have…"

Should have what, she wasn't sure. Since she'd left the cliff side and Kazou she'd been forcing herself to run as fast as she ever had, unconcerned for her own injuries. She hadn't stopped for anything, not even to make sure she was still traveling in the right direction. Instead she occasionally lifted her nose to smell the air as it blew past her nostrils. Navigating was much harder this way, but she had no choice.

There was no doubt that she'd be ahead of the herd she'd spotted with Kazou. She was much faster than they could ever wish to be, but if her assumptions were correct and all of the demons she'd seen travelling in the same direction days earlier were seeking the jewel as well, she may be too late.

"No!" She shouted into the air as she dropped from a grassy cliff beside the peak of a waterfall to land with a splash in the stream below. She didn't miss a beat, leaping again to clear the water and sprinting across the rocky shore.

"You better not die on me," she said, much quieter, and with that very real possibility in the front of her mind, she forced her body to move even faster. It should have been impossible, especially considering her wounds, after all they'd only just begun to heal when she'd left what remained of the northern kingdom. Having a strong motive kept her going though, and the adrenaline raging through her body made things even easier. She was by now completely numb to her pain.

Kagome lifted her head again as the wind blew, stronger than before, across her face. It carried the scent of many people and smoke, it was the scent of a village ahead, but not the one she wanted to stop at. Normally, she'd avoid a crowded place and go around it, playing it safe to avoid any unwanted attention, especially from any hunters or even an untrained weakling with a bow and arrow and a lucky shot.

This time was different. She took to the trees on the river's edge, traveling quickly across the tops of their branches and waiting for the last possible moment to jump, then soaring over the crowded village now below her. She ignored the awe struck shouts of the children and horrified cries of their parents when they spotted her, gliding through the sky as if she had wings. She only landed once, nearly knocking over a middle aged man who had been far too shocked by her sudden appearance to move out of the way. Before he could so much as blink however she was gone again, disappearing back into the trees on the other side of the village.

She let her body fall back to the ground, miraculously avoiding being hit by any of the long, thick branches that blocked her from the earth. Instead, most of them crumbled under her weight and the impressive speed she put behind it. The second her feet touched the ground below she was moving forwards again as if nothing had even slowed her down.

'They'll be fine without me,' Kagome told herself stubbornly, 'the village is full of skilled warriors, not just Inuyasha. Miroku, Sango and Kirara should be there too…'

'But,' she thought, remembering the heavy, black clouds of demons she'd seen days earlier, 'even the most skilled humans are still just that, human. They have limits that demons don't.'

Even though the masses she'd seen earlier were all lesser demons, monsters that, had they been alone wouldn't last five seconds in front of a village full of highly skilled warriors, much less one, together they could still threaten the village. Furthermore, demons that were in interest of something powerful and addictive, such as the jewel of four souls, fought harder and lasted longer than they normally would if they were only looking for a meal.

'And if they're attacking together, one after another after another, the village won't have any time to recover. How could I have been so stupid? Even if I had taken the time to listen a little better…I knew it was odd when I kept seeing so many, but…' sheshook her head. That didn't matter anymore, she couldn't go back and change the past now, and for all she knew the village and everyone in it was safe, however unlikely that possibility may be.

Then another thought struck her, so hard that she nearly tripped over her own feet. "Naraku," she breathed, her blood boiling at the very sound of his name, 'what if he's been behind this?'

It wasn't an unreasonable idea. He had failed to get the treasure from the northern kingdom because Kagome's demon side had overpowered him, so maybe the next logical step was to take the jewel. If he had that on his side, there was no doubt he would be given the strength to take the rest of the treasures and bring Onigumo to life again.

'And since he's still recovering from our fight, he's gathered many demons to weaken the village before he goes in to steal the jewel. The bonus is that he knows I'm not there to do anything to stop him…' her hands closed into tight fists at her sides as she ran. 'Slimy bastard. I wouldn't be surprised at all if this was all his doing.'

On a positive note, if Kagome was correct, the circumstances meant that she would likely be at the village long before Naraku decided to show up. On a not so positive note, hundreds of demons would beat still beat her there and she was looking at facing Naraku again in the very near future.

'And that demon…' she thought, baring her teeth, 'whatever happened last time…I can't let it happen again.'

Her frown deepened as she caught sight of a gray blur moving quickly to keep up with her, and struggling quite a bit in the process. The blur, which was actually a wolf, glanced at her when it realized it had been noticed, golden eyes begging her to slow down so that they could talk. She couldn't do that, but she could give the wolf a ride and a break from running.

She reached down with one arm, never breaking speed as she scooped the animal up and held him close to her chest to steady him. When he'd finished squirming she spoke up, trying her best to keep the urgency out of her voice, "what's going on? I assume you know something or you wouldn't have come looking for me?"

"Kagome-sama," the wolf began uncertainly, "you're badly wounded. I can smell the fresh blood and the poison still inside of you, wouldn't it be wise to take a break?"

"No," the hybrid bit back at him, "answer my question or you're of no use to me."

"The village, the one that your human pack stopped at, they're being attacked," the wolf replied quickly, clearly not keen on the idea of being tossed back on the ground should she decide he was useless. "The others stayed behind to try and do what they could to help…I came in search of you…"

Kagome's grip tightened around the wolf's shoulders and belly, only lessening when a whimper from the canine reached her ears. She had been hoping, perhaps foolishly, that she'd arrive at the village and be surprised to see that all was well, that there had been no demon attacks and not a single drop of blood had been shed. She'd hoped that the groups of demons she'd seen earlier were not interested in the jewel at all and were hunting something else entirely. From the sounds of her current passenger's story however, it seemed she had been right on target.

"How're they doing?" she asked, not sure she wanted to know the answer.

The wolf hesitated a moment, then sighed. "They weren't doing well when I left, Kagome-sama. I have no idea how they're faring now."

"Damn it!" Inuyasha yelled in frustration as he took out another demon with the Tessaiga. One of many that were relentlessly attacking his village at the moment. He'd killed what seemed like hundreds already, but no matter how many were killed, more came in to take their place, destroying their homes and taking lives.

'This has to stop,' Inuyasha thought, his hands gripping Tessaiga's hilt tighter at the sound of a pain filled scream from somewhere in the midst of this mess. 'There has to be an end somewhere. Otherwise this village will be nothing but a graveyard…and the jewel will…'

He glanced briefly to his left at the sound of a high pitched and very canine scream, watching as another wolf hit the earth. He wasn't sure when, but at some point a large pack of wolves had charged into the village and begun fighting alongside the humans. They didn't do much good, and were easily killed off by the monsters they fought against, but together they had managed to take out a few of the smaller demons and for that Inuyasha was grateful.

'Did they…did they get sent here by Kagome?' he asked himself, slicing through the demon who had only seconds ago killed the wolf. It was the only logical answer. Rushing to aid a village full of humans in the middle of a war against monsters ten times their size was hardly normal behavior for a pack of wolves. Even less 3expected was the way they fearlessly attacked the demons, not running away even when there were only a few of them left.

'But does that mean…is she watching out for us still? Does she know what's going on?'

Inuyasha was ripped from his thoughts when a tentacle like appendage wrapped itself snuggly around his left leg. Before he could even think to cut down the demon that had grabbed him he was on his back, staring up into the four hungry eyes of a very ugly beast.

"Hiraikotsu!"

Inuyasha sucked in a sharp breath as a blur of white and red tore through the demon, missing his face by a handful of inches. When he opened his eyes again he caught sight of Sango, flying high above the battlefield on the back of the two-tailed cat, Kirara. She effortlessly caught her weapon with one hand as it flew by her, not even bothering to look. Instead, she stared down at him with a rather unimpressed expression on her face.

"Pay attention to what you're doing, idiot!"

"You worry about yourself!" He howled back at her, refusing to thank her in the chance that such an act might further damage his already wounded pride.

Miroku too fought beside him, working skillfully with his halberd to slay one demon at a time. Inuyasha could tell by looking at him that he was more than frustrated, he had no doubt why either. If the village wasn't so crowded and if there weren't so many that were injured but not dead, only unable to make it to safety without help, he could unleash his weapons power. If he did that now, however, he'd run the risk of sucking in one of the villagers and the hunter refused to take such risks. Instead, he worked tirelessly like the rest of them, hopelessly trudging through the sea of monsters.

'And I'm in the same position,' he thought angrily, 'there's no way to release the wind scar right now, it's too crowded here.'

Sango had taken into account the possibility of taking out a villager with her boomerang bone, which is why she had taken to the skies. There she could see and aim better, making sure she wouldn't accidentally harm a villager when she threw her weapon. She could also take care of the majority of the demons still pouring into the village from the forest, painting the already dark sky an even deeper black.

'Still, this is never ending,' Inuyasha thought, slicing through yet another beast and saving a handful of young women that had been too shaken by the very sight of it to run. "Hurry up and get somewhere safe!" he shouted at them, waving his sword towards the opposite side of the village. "Try to stay in the shadows, you'll be less likely to be spotted."

The girls stood quickly and followed his direction and with a sigh the swordsman turned his attention briefly to where his main concern resided. It wasn't the shrine that his gaze fell on, while that too was a very important thing to guard, he had other priorities that stood well above protecting jewel of fours souls. Instead he looked towards the tiny hut where he had left his sister and when he saw it, his heart nearly stopped.

A demon, one with a beak for a mouth, spines covering its entire back, six legs and an impressively long, snake-like tail stood just beside the house, screaming and snapping at a pair of wolves who were attacking it. It wasn't the demon's proximity to the hut so much as the fact that, in its irritation, its tail swished back and forth rapidly and with enough force to do significant damage to anything or anyone standing behind it.

In this case, the place where Rin was hiding was directly behind it and, as if the monster had read his mind, its tail tore not only the roof, but the majority of the house down in one sweep. A terrified scream, one Inuyasha recognized too well, poured from the remains of the hut as the walls fell. To further Inuyasha's growing anxiety as he ran to his sister's aid, the demon was now moving towards it, no longer seeming interested in the wolves who tried their best to distract it. The idea of a fresh meal, a defenseless child with nowhere to go, was much more interesting.

"NO!" Inuyasha howled as he charged towards the demon, it didn't seem to hear him, another monster did however. A much bigger, uglier beast that looked like an odd combination between a turtle and a frog with a hardened shell covering its back, a long neck with a beak like mouth and an equally long and thick, spiny tail and four limbs that resembled frog legs. With an effortless bound, it intercepted Inuyasha before he could make it to Rin's side, staring down at him with a hungry grin.

"You," he said, his voice coming out rough and hard to understand, "you look like a tasty one…"

"Get out of my way you," Inuyasha snarled in response, swinging at one of its front legs. He missed when the demon tucked its appendage up towards its body, retreating partially into its shell, but Inuyasha hadn't been concerned with hitting the demon so much as getting around it anyway. The second he noticed the opening he took off in hot pursuit of the demon that was currently sorting through the debris in search of his next potential meal.

"RIN!" He called, despite when he saw the beast pause, its expression changing to one of interest, and lick its lips. It had clearly found her, but as it drew back slightly, mouth gaping in preparation to strike, a blast of red flames shot from the pile of wood. That was followed quickly by none other than Shippou, who somehow managed to carry Kohaku's limp body on his back all while dragging Rin, who ran with a slight limp, along behind him with one hand.

He hesitated only long enough to get a better look at their attacker before letting out a yelp, much like that of an injured dog, and running the rest of the way across the wood to the ground. It had taken no time at all for the beast to recover from the kit's attack, in fact it had been more surprised than injured, and it was now in hot pursuit with an angry squawk.

"Inuyasha!" Shippou cried when he spotted the swordsman running towards him, but his relief was short lived when he noticed the much larger demon thundering along behind Inuyasha. "L-look behind you!"

Inuyasha didn't need to look to know what was there, but he waited until he was beside the tiny group to turn. 'Shit,' he thought as he glanced between the two charging beasts, 'This is not my fucking day.'

"Inuyasha!"

For the second time his name was called, this time by Sango as she and Kirara raced through the sky towards him. She drew back her weapon, shouting its name as she threw it with perfect aim for the long neck of the demon that had been charging Inuyasha from behind. But she wasn't prepared for it to dodge and was even less prepared when the beast stood up on its powerful hind legs, reaching out and snapping at her with its mouth.

With a snarl, Kirara stopped short in the air, rearing upright so that instead of attacking the human on her back, the demon's sharp beak closed over her right foreleg. "Kirara!" Sango shouted in surprise, but it didn't last long. Instead of remaining frozen in place like some may have in her situation, she reached for the sword at her hip, intent on defending her friend, but she never got the chance to draw it. Instead, she was thrown from the demon cat's back as Kirara was pulled toward the ground by the demon's powerful grip. Sango hit the ground a second later, where she stayed, unmoving.

Kirara meanwhile was still struggling in the demon's strong grip when the boomerang bone, on its return trip towards where Sango had been, sliced into the side of the demon's neck. It roared in protest and the feline took the opportunity to free herself, quickly returning to her master's unconscious body on three legs where she remained.

"Damn it!" Inuyasha called, "Sango! Hey, Sango! You better get back up, you hear me?"

His shouts fell on deaf ears. After such a fall it was unlikely that she'd be waking up any time soon. That is, assuming she was even alive. Inuyasha had no way to check on her or so much as even get close from where he stood, shielding Rin, Shippou and Kohaku from the fury of the smaller of the pair of demons. Instead he cursed, loudly and colorfully as the demon snapped at his blade for the third time. He retaliated with a well-aimed swing that landed on the demon's throat, but it was pointless. Its thick, scale covered skin protected it from any and all of Inuyasha's attempts to harm it.

'Under all those scales is where I need to get,' he thought, eyes widening slightly as an idea came to him, 'fine then,' he thought next, smirking as he prepared for his next move. 'I'll take it under its belly.'

It wasn't easy or convenient, but he didn't have time to strike the stupid thing a hundred times until a couple scales fell away and its soft flesh was revealed. He waited impatiently for the demon to draw back, preparing for its fourth and final strike, before he dropped to the ground. For only a brief moment he remained on his back, angling his sword just right so he could thrust it up and easily slice through the unprotected skin of the beast's belly.

He scrambled to his feet a second later, barely avoiding the waterfall of blood that poured from the wound he'd made, and he had no time to celebrate his victory. The demon with the long neck had since lost interest in Sango and the injured Kirara and was once again towering over him.

"Puny human," it growled, "your entire village will be destroyed soon and everyone in it will fall…"

"Not if I have anything to say about it," Inuyasha spat, stepping past Rin and Shippou to come in between them and the monster. As he went, he stripped out of his fire rat jacket, draping it over his sister's head and shoulders. "Shippou," he said, slightly quieter, "when you see a break, run. Find somewhere safe…and protect Rin with everything you have."

He barely caught sight of the boy's watery eyed nod out of the corner of his eye. That was all he needed, to know his sister would be safe and wouldn't have the same fate that so many others in this village had already succumbed to.

'I won't let her die.' He told himself stubbornly, 'I'll die a thousand deaths before she dies one.'

With that thought secure in the back of his mind he lifted his blade and prepared to strike. The demon in front of him only chuckled, then it lowered its head slightly and proceeded to blow a jet of flames out of each nostril.

Inuyasha's jaw dropped slightly as he saw the incoming, unexpected attack. Quickly, he turning his blade so that the broad side was facing him and the point was towards the ground in an attempt to shield his face and chest from the flames. His hands and arms would still be easy targets for serious burns however, he had no other choice. The easiest option would have been to get out of the way, and fast, but even knowing that she was protected by his robes, Inuyasha refused to move from his position in front of his Rin.

'Rin,' was his last thought, right before the fire hit him, 'stay alive.'

A moment passed, no longer than a heartbeat, then another and another, but there was nothing aside from the sounds of battle in the distance. He expected to feel excruciating pain, similar to what he had felt when he'd been burned by Kikyou, and the overwhelming warmth of the flames as he was surrounded by them, but it never came.

A second later and the furious roar of the demon in front of him forced Inuyasha's eyes open wide. He ripped his blade from the ground and swung it upwards again until its length was parallel with his shoulders. But instead of being greeted by the sight of a frustrated, charging demon, he was presented with something entirely different in front of him.

"What…?"

"What was that?" A familiar, mocking tone entered his ears before he could even comprehend what had happened. "That was pathetic, I didn't even feel it at all."

"Kagome…?" he breathed softly, too surprised by her sudden appearance to speak any louder, "when did you…?"

The demon roared again, cutting off anything else Inuyasha might have said. Kagome, meanwhile, scoffed at its unruly behavior and the sight of a small stream of smoke drifting from its nostrils. It was clearly preparing for its next attack, the first one obviously not having had the desired result. She too prepared for her next move, settling into a crouch but never taking her eyes off the threat.

"You can try again if you'd like," Kagome replied, "but you won't get anywhere with a wimpy flame like yours…not against me…"

That said, she effortlessly leapt from the ground and towards the monster, flying headlong into the pathway of the incoming flames. Her scythe was held tightly in her right hand, and Inuyasha didn't fail to notice the difference in her weapon since he'd last seen it. The blade was now a jet black, with a shine that made it appear brand new. In contrast, the skull was a clean white, and from the eye sockets came a soft, blue glow. Overall, he noticed, much in the same way that Tessaiga transformed from a rusty old blade to a magnificent fang, Kagome's scythe had changed into something much newer.

'Did she learn how to transform her weapon like the Tessaiga?' he asked himself, watching as it passed through the fire and sliced through the top of the demon's beak as if it were molded from a block of warm butter. The demon screamed in agony as blood sprayed from the wound, but it was far from enough to stop it completely. It stood up on its hind legs, much like it had when it had attacked Sango, but instead of biting it pawed at Kagome with its webbed fingers in an attempt to grab her. Unfortunately for the demon, Kagome was much too fast for it to catch her and leapt out of its way with ease.

"Aniki…"

Inuyasha froze, having almost forgotten his little sister's presence behind him. He spun around, dropping to his knees in front of her. She sat with Kohaku's head in her lap and Shippou clinging tightly to one shoulder, the fire rat robes wrapped around all three of them.

"Rin," he breathed, relief flooding him at the sight of her, more or less uninjured. Whether she'd meant to or not, Kagome's sudden appearance had given him the time to check on his sibling, and he was glad for it. "Are you alright?" he asked, reaching for her, "I was worried…"

Rin managed a small smile despite their surroundings. "I'm fine, Aniki," she whispered, "I hurt my ankle a little…but Shippou-chan shielded me when the walls fell and protected me from that demon."

"I got Kohaku out too!" Shippou piped in, proud of his achievement, even though his voice shook with poorly hidden terror.

"You did," Inuyasha nodded, "good job."

"Aniki," Rin began again, "Aniki, Kagome-san is…"

"She'll be fine," Inuyasha answered quickly, gathering his sister in his arms and glancing down at Shippou as he stood. "Shippou, can you manage Kohaku on your own?"

The little kit nodded in response, pulling the much larger boy's limp body onto his back and preparing to follow Inuyasha's lead. The demons were still attacking and lives were being taken left and right, but Inuyasha had to move Rin to safety before he could focus on anything else. His decision sounded selfish, even to his own ears, after all many of the villagers had been killed because there was no one to protect them. There were people in that village, their friends and family, who would morn that loss greatly.

'But I won't let Rin be one of those losses. I can't lose her. Kagome…' he thought, not daring to look back, 'I'm counting on you.'

He had no doubt that the battle would run much more smoothly now that she had arrived. Kagome was faster and had more stamina then any of the humans here, including himself. Granted, he had no idea why she had come to the rescue, only that she had provided him with an opportunity that he would be a fool to miss. And somehow, he knew she wouldn't mind.

But Rin stopped him when she started beating on his chest to get his attention, "Aniki, no!" she shouted, clearly distressed, "Kagome-san isn't fine! Look!"

He frowned, hesitating just long enough to turn and find the hybrid. Upon first inspection she looked fine, soaring through the air and dodging the attacks of the demon she fought with, all while successfully delivering her own. However, looking closer, he saw that her clothes were not the same color they normally were. In fact, the top of her robes and even much of the bottom was stained black with her blood, and she hadn't been here long enough to sustain wounds worthy of that much blood loss.

"You have to help her!" Rin demanded, squirming in his arms, "otherwise she might—"

"She'll be fine!" Inuyasha snapped, doing his best to ignore the gnawing sensation in the back of his mind that said otherwise. He had to make sure Rin was safe before he assisted Kagome, after all, a little girl was much more vulnerable than a half wolf god, even a badly injured one.

"Inuyasha!"

Shippou's startled voice immediately brought him back to reality, just in time to dodge the gaping mouth of a snake as at lunged for him. He'd hesitated too long, and the demons had noticed his vulnerable position.

"Damn it," he cursed, moving Rin under his left arm so that he could draw his sword, "get out of my way or I'll slice you in two!"

The snake only grinned back at him, sticking its thin tongue out at him in a mocking manner before striking again. Inuyasha was ready this time, after all, he wasn't foolish enough to believe the demon would actually take his suggestion and move. This time he easily stepped out of harm's way, slicing through the side of the snake's head as it passed by him.

It crumpled into a pile of convulsing flesh a handful of meters past him before finally growing still in death. "Piece of…" he began, but was cut off as a second demon attacked him from the side. He reacted quickly, lifting up the Tessaiga to block the attack, but he didn't need to. Instead, Kirara took it down, clawing at its flesh and tearing into the monster's neck with her saber fangs.

"Kirara," Inuyasha acknowledged her with a nod, noticing that she had somehow managed to get Sango's still unconscious body onto her back. The feline stepped over the large carcass of the demon she'd just killed, sliding in between its big body and the remains of a hut. She then crouched down, allowing Sango's body to slide the short distance to the ground before stepping over her again.

Shippou scrambled towards Kirara next, dragging Kohaku along with him and settling into the trench that had been created. He glanced at Inuyasha expectantly then, "Kirara said she will guard Rin for you," he explained simply, "so that you can fight alongside Kagome and the rest…"

"Right," Inuyasha nodded, glancing over his shoulder at the hybrid, who now had several more demons that had ganged up on her, in addition to her first. He then turned to Rin briefly, "stay safe," he told her, lowering her into the trench beside Sango and exchanging an appreciative glance with the large feline before turning around.

He wasted no time in getting back to Kagome's side and easily slayed a few of the lesser beasts that had been trying to distract her. A moment later she landed at his side, and it wasn't until then that he realized how heavily she was breathing. He winced, looking at her blood soaked clothing.

"You ok?"

She scoffed, "of course," she lied.

But both of them knew the real answer.

Without giving Inuyasha a chance to call her out on her obvious fib, she leapt back into the air, raising her scythe above her head and bringing it down, point first, on the top of her opponents head. The demon let out another scream of protest as it crumbled towards the ground, its amphibian legs finally giving out on it, but it wasn't quite done yet. In one final attempt to take Kagome down with it, it used the remains of its beak to snag her sleeve and send the half demon flying off course and into a nearby hut. The wooden structure, one of the few that had been left standing, splintered under her weight and the force with which she'd landed.

"Kagome!" Inuyasha called for her, but even after a moment passed he got no answer. He wasn't in any position to go and check on her either, as he was suddenly surrounded by another group of demon, out for his blood. With a frustrated growl he sliced through a beast that had held a strong resemblance to a spider, revealing Miroku's silhouette moving towards him on the other side.

"Inuyasha," the hunter greeted when he reached him, "I thought I saw Kagome, is she…?"

The swordsman glanced towards the pile of wood that was once a home, impatient. She had yet to move from where the demon had thrown her. "She's here," Inuyasha replied, focusing next on a goblin looking creature that was wielding an axe, blocking its incoming thrust with Tessaiga.

"And Sango?"

"She's with Kirara," Inuyasha replied, nodding of his head towards where the demon cat was standing and glancing in that direction himself just in time to see Kirara claw an approaching demon across the face with just enough force to deter it from coming any closer, at least for a moment.

Miroku nodded, driving his halberd through another charging monster, then another and another. "This has to be stopped," he said, as if it was news to Inuyasha, "there has to be some way to end it quickly, before any more lives are lost. If there was a way to move all of the demons to one side of the village…"

"Do you think I haven't thought of that already?" Inuyasha snarled at him, blocking another axe thrust from the goblin in front of him. "There's no way to do it! It would be easy if they were going after the jewel but they don't even seem…"

Miroku glanced at him briefly when he drifted off, raising a questioning brow. "Yes?"

"Shit," he snapped, staring towards where the Shikon no Tama was kept at the top of the stairs. From his position he couldn't see much, only the heads of countless demons that towered over the rest and the smoke that lifted from the flames. "There isn't anyone guarding the thing. Everyone's down here," he pointed out, frustrated, "meaning this would be the perfect time to—"

"Inuyasha!"

His head snapped up just in time to see Kagome clawing through another demon who had decided to take Inuyasha's distraction as an opportunity. The hybrid landed beside him a second later, just as he'd finally beheaded the goblin creature that he'd been fighting.

"Pay attention to what you're doing, idiot!"

He glared at her, but didn't object to her scolding. Instead, he suggested something that would have most likely made him collapse from absolute shock a month or two back. "Go check on the jewel," he ordered, pointing to the top of the stairs, "no one else is protecting it."

The hybrid stared at him, rendered speechless, if for only a moment.

"Do it now," he growled when she didn't move, "this war has been going on for hours already and the jewel has been unprotected—"

I was a realistic worry.

If the jewel was stolen, even by a lesser demon, much like the majority of the herd that had been attacking them for quite a while now, they'd have a lot more to worry about then what they were dealing with now. Not only was Kagome faster, she could likely track the thief much faster than Inuyasha or anyone else, assuming that is that there was one. The half demon had yet to leave Inuyasha's side however, and with growing frustration he opened his mouth to yell at her again, but she cut him off before he could speak.

"I've got a better idea," she said finally, her gaze lifting towards the shrine and the hundreds of steps that lead up to it. There was a good sized space between where the last demon stood and where the steps began. The perfect place to have a massive battle without causing any more damage to the village, that is, if she could manage it.

"I think if I can get all of these demons into that tiny area, then…"

"I've already thought of that, stupid," Inuyasha groaned, growing more frustrated by the minute, "it's impossible to do."

"Not impossible," she corrected, glancing at him over one shoulder, "just difficult."

Before Inuyasha could agree or disagree with the hybrid, or even so much as realize what it was she was up to, she was gone, running in the direction of the shrine like the hell beasts were nipping at her heals.

"Stupid Kagome," he breathed, "what in the hell is she planning at a time like this?"

"I believe she's going to try and draw the demons to her using the release of her demonic aura," Miroku explained nonchalantly, ignoring the swordsman's shocked look as he went on, " and if she does it just right…she might just be successful."

"But," Inuyasha protested instantly. "With the wounds she has…she can't take on that many demons at once!" he spun around again, facing the direction of Kagome's quickly retreating figure, "stop it you idiot! Do you hear me, moron? Come back I said!"

Kagome didn't respond and she didn't look back. She was already too far away from Inuyasha and Miroku to hear the swordsman's insults, not that anything he could have said would stop her now anyway. She hadn't run all the way from the northern kingdom to just sit and watch an entire village roll over on their backs and let a bunch of weak monsters rampage through their town until they were satisfied. Granted, it wasn't as if they weren't putting up a fight, it just hadn't been terribly effective thus far. Too many lives had been taken already for her liking and if she could save even one more, than it would all be worth it.

She didn't slow down as she ran through the streets, dodging the terrified commoners as they searched frantically for safety as well as the spears, swords, axes and arrows of the warriors who mistook her for a threat. She didn't bother to dodge the beasts when she came across them however. Instead, she tore through their hides with her scythe as she went by, considering herself extremely lucky if she managed to aim well enough to kill one.

But what she really wanted to do was get them angry.

'That's right,' she thought as she neared the wall of stairs that stood in front of the shrine, 'get mad, then come after me. They'll be much more vulnerable if they're fighting out of rage.'

Her plan would be unlikely to work had she been dealing with a smaller herd. Ten or less and they would scatter upon feeling her aura nearby, fearing for their lives much like the villagers did now, which would have been just as good considering the circumstances. Now however there were many more than ten. In fact, she'd estimate there were at least a couple hundred, if not more, and that was only counting the demons still standing, not those that had already been slaughtered.

'And when there are this many, they're bound to get cocky, especially when their hunt is disturbed,' she thought, coming to a stop only once she'd made it to the edge of the cement staircase. 'Just like a pack of wolves will defend their kill against something much bigger, like a grizzly,' she went on, turning again towards the village, 'I hope this works. It has to.'

She sucked in a sharp breath when, for the first time since she'd arrived, she took in the reality of the battlefield in front of her. Countless bodies, both human and not laid at the feet of those still alive, making the ground impossible to see past the ocean of blood and flesh. Children's sobs could occasionally be heard past the screams and as her eyes roved over the scene she saw one. A little boy, not even five years old by the looks of it, clutching the cold hand of what she could only presume was his mother.

'This has to work,' she reminded herself, then, without wasting any more time, she let go of whatever restraint she ever held over her aura, sucking in a sharp breath as the free power overwhelmed even her own senses.

Within seconds, any of the demons that had yet to realize her presence knew exactly where she was and for a brief moment, the war stopped. Those that were trained warriors, who had learned to sense the identity of a demon long before they saw it with their eyes or heard it with their ears, stopped and stared at her in awe as well. And then the demons started coming.

There may have been a few that stayed, mostly those that had given up on the fight long ago and decided to instead devour the fresh meat that was not far away and plentiful. Those monsters however were easy targets the moment that the majority had been removed, and were quickly destroyed at the hands of the villagers.

"Want a real challenge, eh?" Kagome asked, her lips curved upwards into a pleased smile as the first of hundreds of demons approached her. "I'd be more than happy to give you one," she said a little louder, "but I can guarantee, you won't make it out of this alive!"

That said, she easily sliced through the first and second of them, enjoying the warmth of her scythe's staff against her palms. The same warmth passed through her entire body, starting from her heart and pumping through her veins as if her very blood was on fire. What she felt now was not fear, despite the mountain of demons charging towards her, all hungry for what strength they could gather from her flesh if they were to devour it, not that they'd ever get to. It was excitement, pleasure and even blood lust.

Lust for the blood of those that had injured and killed the ones she had wanted to protect.

She snarled at them, fiercer even than all of them put together, as they surrounded her, their bodies blocking all the light that had been provided by the moon and the stars. That didn't last long though. She twisted at her pelvis, swinging her weapon back, then forward and in a diagonal line from a point just above her shoulder to her opposite knee. The blade, already burning an impossibly bright shade of white, released a flamethrower across the wall of demons that had dared to come close and their screeches followed as the collapsed at her feet.

She repeated the action again and again, but only managed to take out a handful of the beasts with each strike. 'This needs to go faster,' she thought, willing herself to ignore the painful throb in her shoulder that reminded her of her still healing injuries with every move. 'I won't be able to hold up much longer if I keep going at this rate, then the village will…'

'No,' she cut herself off stubbornly, 'I won't lose to a bunch of pathetic souls like this…especially not with Inuyasha and everyone relying on me.'

And then she froze.

'Again,' she thought, glancing down at her scythe as she swung it again, 'it's like that time that I fought with Takeshi, that big oaf that was causing problems for Kaede and her village. It's the same pulsing, as if this weapon has an actual heartbeat.'

The scythe had already transformed. At some point, she hadn't realized when, although it was before she'd entered the village and started fighting, it had changed its form from the dull and old weapon that she was used to carting around into something with a much more vibrant appearance. That didn't mean much to her now though, not unless she could get it to release its full power on the herd like it had the last time and she had yet to figure out the exact mechanics behind releasing the weapons full potential.

'Even then that might not be enough,' she thought, and then bit back a scream as one of the demons that had been surrounding her sunk its teeth into her injured shoulder from behind. Without looking, she reached her free hand over and behind, digging her claws deep into the monster's face and dragging it in front of her, not caring for the way its strong grip had torn away flesh and muscle as she forcefully removed it. She tossed its body to the ground, at the feet of those that were waiting for the perfect moment to strike, glaring at all of them.

"What do you bastards say we get this over with, eh?" she asked none in particular, not bothering to hide the new fury that gave her voice an edge. 'I have to end this,' she thought, frustrated with her body which was suddenly feeling much weaker, 'NOW!'

The staff in her hand suddenly burned warmer than she'd felt it seconds ago and without hesitating or questioning the reason behind it, she brought the blade down again. This time, much like when she had been fighting Takeshi, a wolf's head appeared from the flames, screaming in fury and wrapping the surrounding demons in a blanket of fire that was uncomfortably hot even for her. The flames dissipated a few moments later, and with them left the tortured cries of the demons whose lives had been taken. Left behind was only ash and a handful of monsters that had been too far back to be affected by the scythe's power.

Kagome bared her fangs at them, raising her weapon again as a threat, although none of them heeded her warning. Not that she could blame them. The entire right side of her body from her upper back down was soaked with blood and a pool was forming at her feet, being fed by a steady drip off of her pant leg. It wasn't difficult for her to imagine that she didn't look like much of a threat at the moment.

Before she could prove to the monsters in front of her that she could still hold her own though, a white light sliced through the remaining bodies from behind. Once the light cleared, a familiar figure, dressed all in red, came jogging towards her.

"That was reckless," Inuyasha bit out, once he'd reached her, "you could have gotten yourself killed."

"No less reckless than what you usually do," Kagome countered, "besides, it's not like any of you had any better ideas. The demons are gone aren't they? Problem solved."

"Except for you," he reminded her, "and you're a mess!"

"I'll be—"

"So help me, Kagome, if you even think about dismissing those wounds without having someone look at them…" he drifted off, shaking his head and turning to face a handful of villagers that had come up behind him. "All of you that are well enough should do what you can for the wounded," he announced, speaking in a tone that was gentle, and yet left no room for argument, "gather those that have passed in one area…we'll start digging once everything else is settled."

"But Inuyasha-sama," one man spoke up, having stayed nearby even when most of the other villagers had quickly moved off to do as they were told, "what about…that…?"

Inuyasha glanced over his shoulder at the hybrid. Though the man hadn't directly spoken her name, or even used a title so that Inuyasha could know who he was talking about, it wasn't difficult for him to figure it out. Most of the villagers had seen Kagome at the beginning of their journey when she agreed to travel with them, but none of them had liked her then, and the same feelings of fear, disgust and intolerance were probably held for her now. Despite the fact that she had saved the entire village from burying probably double what they would be already. These people hadn't had the same experiences Inuyasha had in traveling with her. Even though he had been reluctant to do anything besides clump Kagome in with the rest of the heartless beasts he was used to slaying at the time, he had had no choice but to get to know her. Slowly, somewhere along the way, that had resulted in him realizing that she was hardly the terrible person he'd made her out to be in the beginning. He'd even started to care for her and accept her as a reliable friend.

His curious glance turned into a scowl when he realized that Kagome was now surrounded by a handful of warriors. None of them seemed very open to tolerating her presence either, at least, if any of the weapons they pointed in her direction were any indication.

The half demon herself looked very uncomfortable there, and rightfully so, although she had yet to attempt an escape from her cage of metal. After all, she was by now far too spent to make a crafty escape. Even if she tried she'd likely get hit by something on the way out with their proximity. Instead, she knelt in the middle of the circle the villagers had created around her and where she had collapsed in exhaustion since Inuyasha had last looked at her, visibly restraining the urge to snarl at anyone. It was likely she'd already realized that that would not help her matters any.

"Leave her be," Inuyasha snapped at them, stepping in between the perceived threat and several of the warriors he'd grown up with, knocking a handful of spears and halberds away with one hand. "She's not a threat to any of us," he continued, "especially not in that condition. On top of that she just saved your lives, use your brains and for fuck's sake go do what I told you already!"

Several of the men seemed shocked by Inuyasha's outburst. After all he'd left the village hating demons with a passion stronger than any of them. Then they looked ashamed. They quickly lowered their weapons and headed back down towards the main streets of the village where there were countless bodies to sort through. One man however, one with a messy black bun and equally messy clothing, both covered in the blood of the many monsters he'd slayed as well as his own, hesitated a bit longer. He stared down at the hybrid at his feet with a hatred so bold and undeniable that it nearly made her shiver. He fingered the hilt of his sword for a moment, as if debating whether or not to disobey Inuyasha's orders, and then finally drifted away.

Inuyasha waited for him to get out of ear shot before speaking up, "stay the hell away from him, Kagome, you hear me?"

The half demon barely even heard his request. Suddenly the chill of the night air around her felt quite a bit colder than it had seconds before and she couldn't help a slight chill from running down her spine. The look that man had given her was not anything like the expression of the other villagers. They looked at her with distaste, a lack of trust and an overabundance of fear. But he had looked at her with hatred and bloodlust reflected in his brown eyes.

He loathed her.

He wanted her dead.

'That one…' she thought, watching him until he disappeared into the crowd, 'he's got a major chip on his shoulder. But I can't remember ever seeing him before, so it can't be from something I did, can it?'

"Hey…"

Kagome looked up just in time to see Inuyasha waving his hand in front of her face, one that he'd apparently been holding out to her for a few seconds already, but she had yet to realize. She blinked at the offer a few times, then dumbly put her hand in his and allowed him to lift her gently back to her feet. She didn't fail to notice the fact that his hand remained securely locked on hers longer than necessary, as if he was making sure she was stable enough to stand on her own before he let her go. The half demon opened her mouth slowly to call him out on it, but before she could speak the voices of their traveling companions interrupted them and the swordsman quickly dropped her hand.

"Kagome-sama," Miroku called, being the first to approach along with Toutousai, who together with him supported the weight of Inuyasha's father. "It was a surprise to see you…but I'm sure I can speak for all of us when I say we're very grateful you arrived when you did. None of us would have made it out as well as we did without your assistance."

Kagome nodded, opening her mouth again to speak, this time to reprimand the hunter for thanking her for something so instinctual. This time however she wasn't cut off by anyone else calling for her, but by a familiar, albeit very faint, scent that drifted past her nose. Her eyes immediately leapt to the sky just twenty feet in front of her to see Shippou and Kirara slowly, carefully making their way to the ground.

Shippou had transformed into a large, pink balloon like creature with a rudimentary face, arms and legs and on his back sat Rin, who looked overjoyed to see her half demon role model alive and standing. It wasn't either of the children that caught Kagome's attention though. It was one of the pair of unconscious bodies that Kirara carried on her back, taking great care to not let them fall as she landed. One was Sango but the other, to Kagome's absolute shock, was Kohaku.

"That's…" she began, her voice barely as whisper as she pushed past Inuyasha to get a better look at what she'd thought was her dead companion. "Kohaku is…" she breathed, "He's alive?"

Miroku was the first to respond to her, "right. Last you knew we'd buried him, however…" the man drifted off, smiling over his shoulder at his sibling, "however, apparently he somehow managed to escape death again and come here. He's only woken up once, but not once since we arrived."

Kagome smiled too, allowing a quiet sigh of relief to escape her lips as she took in the sight of all her companions and friends in front of her. While not in the best shape, they were all alive and that's what mattered most. "I'm glad…" she whispered, so low that even Inuyasha, standing right beside her, could barely hear her.

Kagome didn't have long to enjoy the peace of mind that was brought with that knowledge before a small thump on her chest left her nearly gasping for breath. She managed to control herself and hide her pain quickly, before any of her companions could notice. Then, instead of clawing savagely at the youth that had caused her weakened body trauma like her instincts would have liked her to, she raised one hand to gently support the kit now clinging to her chest. Shippou, who had apparently deposited Rin on the ground at some point when she wasn't looking, let out a happy sigh in response to her touch. It was as if he hadn't been sure if she was really there, standing in front of him, until he'd managed to make physical contact with her. Little did the half demon realize, that was the exactly what the boy needed.

It was apparent he wasn't interested in saying anything and instead content with just knowing the hybrid was alive. Kagome was fine with that too, so long as the boy didn't start pounding on her chest and squirming around he wouldn't cause her any more pain other than the initial shock. Inuyasha on the other hand, didn't have the same sympathies for the kit that she'd developed. He snatched the boy from her by the tail and dangled him in front of his face, baring his teeth.

"Think about what you're doing, brat," he bit out, shaking him, "she's badly injured."

Shippou would have normally snapped right back and the swordsman, resulting in an ongoing war of childish bickering and name calling. Clearly the mention of Kagome's wounds were having a different effect on the boy though and instead, he turned apologetically towards the older half demon.

"Kagome?" he questioned worriedly, "are your wounds really that bad?"

"Of course they aren't," she scoffed, sending a sidelong glare to the man beside her, "he's just overreacting."

"Hardly!"

"I have to agree with Inuyasha, Kagome-sama." Miroku spoke up again, "To have bled so much as you have in the time since you've been here, your wounds can't possibly be minor. You should at the very least have them looked at."

"I…" the hybrid opened her mouth to protest again, but this time was cut off by someone else.

"Inuyasha," Taisho began, speaking for the first time since Miroku and Toutousai had practically carried him to the bottom of the steps, "you should take Kagome back into the village and tend to her injuries."

This time it was Inuyasha's turn to protest, although Kagome too looked less than thrilled with the suggestion. "What?" The swordsman barked, "Why do I have to? I was going to…the jewel…" he drifted off as he looked over his shoulder towards the shrine. Again, he'd been too distracted by the attack on his home and Kagome's sudden appearance to think much about the item he'd sworn to protect, no matter what, over and over in the past. Furious with himself for forgetting something so important, he turned and nearly ran up the steps, but he was again stopped by his father's firm voice before he could get very far.

"The jewel is fine for another moment," he reminded the man gruffly, "even if it had been taken you wouldn't be able to stop it, no matter how fast you ran up there. For now take care of those who need it, your little sister and Kagome."

"The jewel is still there anyway," Kagome pointed out tiredly, wishing to end the conversation quickly so she could finally go rest her tired body. "I can feel it," she told them, "or rather…feel the barrier that it is projecting."

"Keh!" Inuyasha snapped, fuming, but still descending the handful of steps he'd climbed in order to get back to the rest of his companions. "I still don't see why I have to."

He was hardly annoyed that he was being ordered to care of Rin, after all, he was more worried about her than anyone else in the village and more than willing to take care of her. Despite that, he did have enough sense to realize that her swollen ankle wouldn't kill or endanger her life in the next couple minutes and was a rather easy fix. If compared to Kagome's injury, which he had yet to see, it would have been like comparing the water within a small pond and an ocean. The half demon didn't seem to care for his, or anyone else's attention to her injuries, however, so why care? If she wanted to suffer alone in the forest and take the risk of a longer recovery, if she recovered at all, then so be it.

"Who else would?" Toutousai reminded the man in a matter-of-fact tone, "The rest of the village is terrified of her, are they not? You two seem to have sorted out your differences since you began traveling with each other."

Inuyasha winced, remembering the way he'd treated the half demon upon her arrival in the nearby forest. It wasn't something he was proud of now, looking back. Kagome certainly didn't seem to harbor any ill feelings towards him about it, but the way the other villagers had treated her, even after she'd saved them, had been an unpleasant reminder.

Without further complaint, the man motioned for Kagome to follow after him, which she did, although to say she looked happy about it would be a far cry from reality. She likely only did so to avoid further conflict and disapproval from her traveling companions. Of course, perhaps somewhere, beneath the stubbornness that usually kept her from letting others worry over her injuries, she knew that this time, it really was quite serious.

It wasn't until Inuyasha had dropped Rin off with a few of the young village women so that her ankle could be bandaged that he found a suitable spot, away from the suspicious glares of the commoners and other warriors, to see to Kagome's injuries. They sat behind the remains of one hut, now only half standing with the roof caved in and two of the four walls crumbled to the ground. Still, it provided enough shelter that they were out of the direct line of sight and it was far enough away that it would be difficult for anyone to eavesdrop.

Once Kagome realized this was where Inuyasha had chosen to stop, she flopped to the ground again, getting herself comfortable and finally closing her eyes to rest. Even if she wouldn't have very long before the swordsman was ready, her body was finally feeling the effects of running and battling the way she had been for the majority of the night and the day before that.

Inuyasha spared her a glance over one shoulder as he dug through the remains of what had been a house, trying his best to avoid the sharp edges of the broken wood with what little visibility there was. 'She must have been exhausted after all.' He thought, turning back to the task at hand, 'despite what she said, those wounds can't just something she can brush off like she normally does. At least, I'd assume they aren't from the way she has blood all over her and how slow she's been since she got here.'

It was true. He'd noticed right upon her arrival that, while she was fighting rather well, she moved and recovered much slower than what he'd learned to expect from her during their travels together. 'Like when she was thrown to the side by that demon,' he frowned, 'she crashed into one of the buildings and it took her a while to get back up. But that shouldn't have been a bad fall as far as she's concerned.'

"Hey, get out of those clothes," he ordered, the words falling from his lips without thought as he pulled a small, two drawer dresser from the rubble. Ripping open one of the drawers, he couldn't help a satisfied smirk from crossing his lips when he found in packed with herbs, bandages and a handful of small clay pots filled with various healing lotions. He frowned a second later though when his imagination began to provide him with more images of what kinds of injuries Kagome might be trying to hide. He was going to need bandages, lots and lots of bandages. And a cold compress, he realized as the short end of a log that had likely been at some point stacked among many others at the back end of the hut, came in contact with his head.

"What in the hell was that for?" he snarled, turning to glare hotly at the woman behind him.

Kagome glared back at him furiously, the look in her eyes promising pain if he so much as dared to come towards her. Her right hand closed over another log, slightly bigger than the first one. "What was that supposed to be?" she barked, "another one of Miroku's one liners? You've obviously been spending way too much time around that pervert—"

"What!?" Inuyasha howled, his shout loud enough that he could have roused the entire village had they been sleeping. "Why would I—what do you—that is not what I meant!"

Kagome's glare hadn't lessened any, but she hadn't chucked the other log at him yet either, so Inuyasha automatically took this as an opportunity to save himself from further pain and explain. "It's not like I was telling you to strip naked, stupid!" he snarled, pointing an accusing finger in her direction as if to place the blame of this misunderstanding on her, "just take off the parts where there's blood!"

Granted, that was pretty much everything by now, but Kagome seemed to understand anyway. With a roll of her eyes, the half demon turned until her back was to him and slowly began loosening her clothes. Inuyasha scowled at her a moment longer before he too turned back to the task at hand. Once he'd gathered everything he stood and made his way towards her, however the sight of her now bare shoulders and backside, and more importantly, the wound he'd be treating, stopped him dead in his tracks.

"Ka-Kagome, you…"

The hybrid in question turned her head slightly, offering him a patient look. She hesitated for a moment before looking again at the woods in the distance, "don't go making a big deal out of nothing."

"That…That's hardly nothing!" Inuyasha bit back, but settled down behind her anyway, taking special care not to look at anything he shouldn't.

He'd seen a lot of serious injuries, even before he'd met Kagome. Working in a profession such as his, where fighting and killing monsters everyday was common place had gotten him used to the idea of being hurt, and having those around him hurt, very quickly as a boy. Of course, when he had met the half demon he had come up with an entirely new definition for what 'serious' meant. He'd learned quickly that what he called a bad injury was something entirely different, and likely unimportant, to Kagome. She'd had a hole ripped through her stomach for god's sake, and even then she'd been restless when he and the others had told her to 'take it easy'.

Her collarbone, he knew had been severed just by looking at the injury. Inuyasha could have comfortably fit his hand in between where her neck ended and her shoulder began. There should have been a bone there, but the only evidence that it still existed was the cross section of white peaking past the inflamed muscle on either side. Based on the vertical length of the cut, he wouldn't be surprised if her scapula had been crushed as well along with a few ribs and whatever else had gotten in the way of her attacker.

Blood leaked from the wound, flowing freely down her back and over her right arm before pooling underneath her. Beneath the crimson coat that painted much of the skin surrounding the wound, he could see that her flesh was swollen and a dull shade of purple, similar to that of a bruise. Despite all that, Kagome sat in front of him with a bored expression on her face, completely oblivious to Inuyasha's inner turmoil.

'I…don't even know how to start,' he thought, unconsciously reaching for some of the rags he'd brought with him. Gathering a few in his hand, he slowly reached for her and, as gently as he could, began soaking up as much of the blood as he could. It wasn't until he made contact that he got the first sign that Kagome was not in fact immune to her pain. She sucked in a sharp breath, her body growing stiff for only a second before she forced herself to relax again, sending him a sidelong, furious stare that insisted he go on.

"Kagome, I…"

"Don't stop now, stupid," she muttered, her tone betraying the strong mask she tried to present. "It didn't really even hurt that bad," she lied, "I was just surprised, that's all.

Inuyasha shook his head in silent disagreement, but did as she'd suggested. Whether or not the process hurt, and he knew it really did, her cut had to be treated. He wouldn't let her leave his sight until it was taken care of.

He lifted the rags again and wiped hopelessly at the blood, handing a few to her as well so that she could clean her chest. It wasn't long before he couldn't distinguish the cloth from the river of blood he'd soaked up, and so be moved on. Next, he lathered her injury, along with the surrounding flesh with the healing lotion he'd found, all while cursing himself for not thinking to grab the medicine she'd lent him. It was likely somewhere beneath a thick layer of broken wood and stone that had nearly collapsed on his sister when she'd escaped with Kohaku and Shippou. It wouldn't be easy to find, and he knew Kagome didn't have the patience and he didn't have the energy to look so instead he continued onward.

Once her skin was thoroughly covered, he set a handful of herbs across the top of her cut and did the best he could with the bandages he'd gathered, since it was not a particularly easy wound to wrap. "You're finished," he told her finally, leaning back so that she could pull her clothes back on. He frowned when she quickly stood up a second later, only wavering slightly as she took her first few steps away from him.

"Where do you think you're going?" He asked, "The woods? You should stay here until you've healed…"

"I can take care of myself," she reminded him stubbornly.

He scoffed, "sure you can. With injuries like those? Don't be a fool!"

"I'm not!" she protested hotly, but then she hesitated, slowly dropping her head in defeat. "It's not…I appreciate what you did, Inuyasha. I really do," she shook her head, "I just...I can't."

The swordsman raised an eyebrow at her sudden behavior change, taking a stab at what exactly she'd meant, "The other villagers?"

"No," she denied, lifting her head again to stare at the moon, "the smell…."

"The smell of what?"

'I really hate it,' she reminded herself. 'No matter how much I'd like to stay and enjoy spending time with them again, to be able to see with my own eyes that they're all really okay. Being here among the death and the blood, the smell is overwhelming…I'd never be able to rest without having the memories.'

"Everything," she elaborated finally, "all of the smells of war…"

"Is it really that bad?"

"Yes."

Inuyasha sighed in response, scratching the back of his head as he looked past the broken down hut they'd been hiding behind. He could hardly see anything besides the torches that his people carried as they moved through the streets, searching for live bodies. He could hear them as they shouted orders back and forth and occasionally called out to their loved ones, hoping they would respond. They never did.

'I guess it makes sense,' he thought, looking back towards his half demon companion and allowing a tired smile to touch his lips for the briefest of moments. 'The smell of the dead even bothers me a little,' he told himself, 'I can't imagine what it must be doing to her…being as close as she is.'

"Stay close then."

Kagome had barely settled into a nest of tree roots beneath the Goshinboku for the night when a rustle in the bushes beside her made her jump. The exhaustion she'd felt from the events of the past few hours had caught up with her quickly since she'd left Inuyasha's side and with that her defenses had fallen making her less alert. Now though, she sat up straight, her ears forward, nostrils flared and her eyes wide open.

It didn't take her long to realize she actually had nothing to worry about.

She frowned once she'd located the creature that had disturbed her, narrowing her eyes on the foliage where he was hiding. "Shippou," she growled, her tone irritated, "what are you doing out here?"

The boy crept from his hiding spot a second later, then, after a moment's hesitation, ran the rest of the way to her. He clawed his way up to large roots of the Goshinboku until he was next to her where he remained, completely silent. When it was finally evident he didn't plan to answer her, she reached for him, lifting him up by his fur vest and depositing him in her lap. She then tipped his chin up with one finger in what was a rare show of affection to the boy.

"Why did you come, Shippou?"

"I was worried!" he blurted out quickly, his eyes pleading as he went on, "and I missed you! I just wanted to…just tonight, I wanted to stay with you…"

Normally Kagome would have refused him, just like any other night he'd tried to snuggle with her. It was the same tough love her mother had treated her to a million times when she was a pup, under the impression that it would make her half-breed daughter stronger, more independent and less needy.

'It worked too, didn't it?' she asked herself. 'But it hurt first…it hurt a lot…'

"I suppose…" she sighed as she loosely wrapped her arms around the kit. "It wouldn't hurt."

Shippou, clearly having not expected her to tolerate his begging much less agree with it, stared at her for a moment, speechless. She rolled her eyes, "don't let your face get stuck like that, brat. It's only for tonight."

The boy's mouth snapped shut a second later and without another word he dove into the older hybrid's arms, burying his face in her belly. It wasn't long before his breathing evened out and the only movement in his tiny body was the gentle rise and fall of his chest. Kagome sighed as she spared him one more glance, draping one arm comfortably over his back.

"Sleep tight, pup." She said, allowing for the first time in a long time a gentle smile to lift her lips, "I missed you too."

AN: Cute, right? :D It's about time she started kind of, sort of warming up to him…I hope you all enjoyed the latest installment, and hopefully I won't take such a horribly long time to update next time (I guarantee nothing with this crazy life I live)! My muse seems to be back for now, so that's a good start…although, I still have school and work to worry about, so please keep that in mind when/if it takes me forever to update again. :3

Chapter 24 is up next, buuuut unfortunately I haven't picked out a title that I like for it yet, so I got nothing for you. :/ Sorry!