I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi

Chapter 106

It only took Kagome a few minutes to wrap a few things in a carry cloth and grab her quiver. Before InuYasha got back from Sango's house, she was on the verandah waiting for him with her bundle tied around her shoulders and her quiver and bow draped across her shoulders, and a big, expectant smile.

He grinned back. "Going somewhere?"

"Just waiting for the right ride." Looking more relaxed and happy than she had in several days, she walked up to him and gave him a quick peck on the lips. "Know anybody who's going my way?"

Laughing, he turned around and let her climb on, and they were off, heading away from the village, across the river and toward the mountains to the west.

Kagome leaned forward. "Is it wrong, to feel so good about leaving everybody behind?"she asked, once they had passed the last of the village fields.

"I don't know," InuYasha said, "but that's how I feel, too." The hanyou leaped over a fallen log.

Resting her cheek against his neck, she began humming. After a moment, she started to sing:

"In the mountains
in the mountains
after living there,
with the wind in the pines,
a little house
can seem a noisy city.

"In the mountains
In the mountains
Red are the azaleas
Red are the camellias
the wind calls out,
the wind in the pines.

"In the mountains
in the mountains,
I hear the water fall
and forget how the city looks
beneath the green trees
swaying in the wind."

"Yeah," InuYasha said. "That says it."

As InuYasha ran cross-country, avoiding roads and places where people lived and worked, Kagome could feel the tension leave him, the muscles in his neck and back unwinding as he put serious distance between them and the village. It was a beautiful afternoon to be traveling this way. Once they disturbed a deer and her fawn who bounded across the path they were taking, which for some reason, Kagome found nearly as startling as the deer did. Another time they flushed a group of birds. InuYasha occasionally leapt into the trees, just to hear Kagome's laughter, but as the forest gave way to higher ground and a stately forest of old pines, he did it less and less.

"I need to take a break," Kagome said. "My leg's getting a cramp."

"I'll find us a good place," he said.

A few minutes later, they found a clearing, a grassy meadow dotted with early spring flowers on a high spit of land. A stand of trees just leafing out stood to the right, a break from the evergreens beyond it. There was a small waterfall that cascaded downhill just beyond the edge of the clearing, marked by willow and hard to see.

"Nice." Kagome lifted her head up to look around as she slid off the hanyou's back.

"This will do, huh?" he said. "Not where I was planning on ending up, but I've been here before. Nice enough place for a break."

"Yeah." She bent forward, almost touching her toes. "I can tell I'm not really used to traveling by InuYasha back anymore. I really needed to stretch."

He laughed, his amber eyes filled with amusement and sat down under a tree. Lacing his fingers together behind his head, he leaned back against the tree's trunk and stretched out his legs. "And to think we used to do this all day. You on my back, me running like there was no tomorrow, like hell was at our backs."

Kagome walked a little bit around the meadow to work out her kinks. She gave him a playful grin. "And more often, we were running towards trouble, instead of away from it. We'll have to do this more often if you want me to get used to it again."

"Fine by me," he replied, a small smirk gracing his mouth. "Just say when. I could do this all the time and not mind it."

"Just say when, huh? Is this the cure for your bad moods?" she said, bending over one more time to stretch.

"Maybe," he replied. "Worked today."

"It did, didn't it?" She walked over and sat down next to him and leaned her head against his shoulder. "You look a lot happier. Where are we going to?"

"There's this place," he said. "I - "

He was interrupted by the sound of something crashing in the underbrush, in the direction of the stream. He sat up, pushing Kagome off his shoulder. "What in the hells was that?"

"Another deer, maybe?" Kagome asked.

The hanyou's ears rotated into the direction the noise came from. He shook his head. "Doesn't sound like one. It's too big."

There was another crash, louder than the first.

"A youkai?" Kagome said. "Doesn't have much youki if it is."

InuYasha rolled to his feet. "Plenty of weak ones out in the wilderness. I think maybe we should get out of here," he said. He squatted down and Kagome got up to get back on when a large red hand appeared at the top of the ravine.

"Kuso," he said. "This one's too big to ignore."

Kagome nodded as he stood up and drew Tessaiga. The sword transformed from ratty katana to immense fang almost as soon as he drew it. Light glittered off the blade.

"What . . . what is it?" Kagome asked.

"Get behind the tree," he said. "We'll find out in a moment."

The red hand was joined by another, and then a wild-haired and red-skinned head, graced with two massive horns. Raging eyes bulged out behind thick, brushy eyebrows. Those eyes swept across the clearing, searching.

InuYasha gave her a little shove. "Behind that tree, now!"

"What is it?" she asked, doing what he said.

"Oni," he said. "We're just not getting any breaks today." His look, though, didn't match his words. There was no irritation or even worry in his glance or his stance, and instead his face lit up with a dark glee. "This stupid monster doesn't know what he's in for today. At least this is a problem I know how to take care of."

"Oni?" Kagome said. Peeking around the tree, she watched InuYasha take a battle stance as he watched the monster crawl up into the clearing. It was big and ugly. "Been too long since I did this last," she said, pressing her back against the tree trunk. Her hands only shaking a little bit as the adrenaline raced through her, she pulled her bow free and grabbed an arrow out of her quiver. Even though it had been years since she had done it last under threatening conditions, the action felt natural, and somehow, reassuring.

"Stay out of the way," InuYasha said, as if reading her mind. "It's been a long time since the last time you were in a fight. I don't want you to get caught in between this ass and me."

"I will," she said, even as she could feel her husband's youki flaring. "Bet he's going to take his time with this fight," she whispered, looking at how InuYasha was moving. "Why some men think this is fun . . . "

The oni hauled himself out of the ravine, and glared down at the hanyou, and then he cracked a huge grin. "Where'd you come from? A little hanyou. Don't matter. I know a gift from the heavens when I see it. Been to long since I ate anything but deer. You'll make a fine dinner!"

"Feh," InuYasha said, circling. "I don't think so. If you have any brains in that ugly head of yours, you'll turn around and go back the way you came."

The oni, tall, nearly eight feet tall and broad to match, gave the hanyou a large, toothy smile, revealing two long fangs and a tongue long enough to touch his chin. "I can taste you already."

"And I can smell your stench, oni," InuYasha said. "Maybe I should throw you back in the stream so you can wash some of that dirt off."

The oni held a massive club in his right hand. Wrapping his left hand around it as well, he lifted it over his head. The only reply he gave InuYasha was to smash down the club at the hanyou.

InuYasha jumped out of the way deftly, but late enough for him to feel the wind from the strike. "So you have a big stick? You think that makes up for your lack of brains? You're going to have to do a lot better than that if you want me for dinner, asshole."

"InuYasha, be careful!" Kagome said from behind her hiding place.

"You don't have to worry about me," he said, not taking his eyes off his opponent. "It's just a dumb oni. It'll only take a few minutes to deal with him."

The oni aimed his club at the hanyou again, bashing the ground with a mighty blow. Dust and some rock fragments flew up in the strike's wake. "So there's two of you, eh? Dinner and breakfast!"

InuYasha dodged and landed behind the oni. "Over here, asswipe," he growled. "Or are you too scared to play?"

Moving surprisingly fast, the oni ignored him and ran toward the tree the hanyou had been talking to. "Something back here for me to eat? You got a woman stashed away? Soft and tender? They always taste better than the men."

"Kuso," the hanyou said. The oni had successfully gotten between him and Kagome. "That's the last thing I was trying to have happen."

Lifting his club, the monster was about to pound the tree Kagome was hiding behind when InuYasha leaped on his back, slashing with Tessaiga.

"No way there's anything there for you, ugly," the hanyou said, jerking his sword free. The blade had cut deeply into the oni's left arm. With a roar, the monster flailed and turned, throwing InuYasha off.

The oni dropped his club for a moment, and placed his right hand over the wound. Lifting his hand back up, he stared at the blood on his fingers as if it were the most surprising thing he had seen.

"I'm . . . I'm bleeding? Damn you, hanyou," he said, picking up his club. Turning his back on the tree, he began attacking the hanyou with blow after blow of his club. InuYasha danced and dodges as he struck, trying to lead the monster in the direction he wanted, but try as he might, he couldn't get the monster away from the line of trees. He drew blood twice more, once again to the monster's arm and once to his right thigh as the oni tried to kick at him.

The oni roared, obviously unused to losing. "Stupid hanyou! You are my dinner! Stand still and take it like a man."

"Hah!" InuYasha said, leaping. "I don't think so."

InuYasha's tactics began paying off. Slowly the monster began to move in the direction InuYasha was hoping for as he leaped and feinted, leading the monster there bit by bit. After dodging around him one more time, InuYasha managed to cut another slice in the oni's leg, and this one was deeper than the first one. As the blood flowed in a red stream down his leg, the oni, off balance, roared and swung his club wildly as his leg tried to give way. In a struggle to catch himself, he spun around. With what looked like it might be his lucky break, the oni caught InuYasha off guard and managed to throw him near the edge of the meadow. Spotting his enemy down on the ground, the oni righted himself.

"Now you're acting like dinner ought to," he said, and began moving in the hanyou's direction.

Kagome had been watching from behind the tree InuYasha had put her behind with a dread she never remembered having before. "I must be really out of practice for this sort of thing," she muttered, even while keeping her bow and arrows at the ready. She watched him dance and feint and strike, at both admiring his grace and fearful at what was happening. But when she saw him get knocked to the ground she could feel her heart in her throat. "No! InuYasha!"

Stepping out of the shadows, she took aim and fired. "Hit the mark!" she said, watching the arrow fly.

The oni stood over the hanyou and was about to bring his club down when the arrow, streaming bright pink light, struck the monster's left arm. As the oni roared, his arm was engulfed in that same light, and exploded into a cascade of bright pink dust.

The monster dropped his club and doubled over from the pain. InuYasha, scrambling to his feet, got himself into position and with a yell of his own, slammed the sword to the ground, releasing five fingers of light that raced to the oni.

"Dinner . . . " the oni said mournfully as the light embraced him and he was ripped into countless chunks of youkai flesh. As the debris rained back onto the meadow, Kagome ran over to her husband, who was busy grinning at the mess he had caused.

"Good shooting, woman," InuYasha said. His grin was broad and his amber eyes almost glowing at Kagome as he circled an arm around her waist. With his free hand, he rested Tessaiga over his shoulder. All in all, he seemed rather pleased. "You still have it, woman. And right at the right moment, too."

"Are you all right?" she asked, looking up at him. She brushed a bit of dust off his chin. Her eyes were nearly as worried as his were jubilant. "When I saw him hit you . . . "

"Feh," he said, unseating his sword and rotating his shoulder. "I'm made of tougher stuff than that. You know that." Sheathing Tessaiga, he brushed the dirt off his jacket and the knees of his hakama. "I might have a bruise, but doubt if it lasts an hour." He looked at her with a cocky grin. "Feels like old times, us fighting together, and you fussing over me after it's over like I was really hurt."

Kagome slung her bow over her head. "It does, doesn't it? But I forgot what it felt like to feel my heart in my throat when you fell this time."

He lifted up her chin. "I'm a hanyou, remember? I can take a lot before you need to worry." His cocky smirk faded into a true smile. "But still, it was really good to have you as backup again. That fall knocked the wind out of me. I might have had trouble getting out of the way without getting a whack. That was some number you did on his arm. You pack a pretty good wallop for someone who hasn't fought a youkai for a while."

She had a pleased grin on her face at his words of approval. "But I need more practice," she said. "I forgot the part that Hitomiko taught me, about using my own powers to push the arrow where I wanted it to go."

"Bah," InuYasha said. "It worked out fine. Wouldn't have been fair if you hadn't left me something to do." He gave her a quick peck on the lips. "You can't have all the fun."

Kagome just shook her head. "You have youkai guts in your hair," she said, noticing a bit of red nastiness in the silver next to his left ear. She turned to look back at what remained on the ground. "At least we don't have to sift through what's there looking for shards anymore. I won't miss that at all."

"Nothing quite like youkai guts, eh?" His amber eyes looked at her playfully. He reached up, and wiped a spot off her cheek. "Of course, sometimes the guts find you without trying."

"They do, do they?" she said, flicking off a tiny bit of dark red off of his arm, barely visible against the red of his jacket.

He looked into her eyes, a playful half-smirk on his lips, a look that slowly smoldered into something more than just the afterglow of the excitement of the battle. Her lips curled into a knowing smile.

With a sigh, he pulled back, stepping to the side of her as his arm went around her waist. "We better get out of here before something else nasty shows up. There's a hot spring not too far from here," he said in a voice that was too husky to be as casual as his words sounded. "Wanna go get cleaned up?"

Kagome laughed a little and smiled as she nodded. As he bent down to carry her out of the clearing on his back, she nuzzled one of his ears with her nose. He shivered slightly and his fingers gently caressed the back of her thighs.

"That's one difference than old times," she said. "You never tried to get me to go off with you alone to a hot spring after a battle back in those days, no matter how messy we were."

"Didn't mean I wouldn't have liked to, you know," he said. "I just knew it couldn't happen then, even with the way you looked at me. You looked just excited as I was a lot of the time. I'd be bouncing with energy after a good fight, and you'd give me that look, and your smell would drive me crazy. Probably needed cold water more than hot those times."

Her lips kissed the back of his neck. "You're right. I was excited. But you're right about the other thing, too. It couldn't have happened then. I was too young, and we had too much company. I was pretty scared of the thought of actually doing anything. Didn't mean I didn't daydream about it, though. I was old enough for that," she replied.

"Daydream, eh?" he said. "Probably a good thing I couldn't read your mind . . . or you read mine."

"So," Kagome said, "What sort of things did you daydream about?"

"You'll have to wait until we get to the spring before I tell you," InuYasha said. "Otherwise, we might never reach it. And I don't know a really good place to stop between here and there."

InuYasha leapt. Laughing, Kagome gave him a little squeeze as she held on, looking forward to whatever it was he was going to tell her.