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

Chapter 67

For the second time in a very few minutes Kagome stood there, shocked, not believing what was happening to her. Morio's hands were rough and smelled of some odd herbal mixture which made her nose burn and her stomach churn as he began to pull her toward the back of the garden.

"I think we'll just head around the back. I don't know if those people under your power actually would approve of what I was doing," he said.

She refused to walk.

"Going to make me drag you? We'll see about that." He jerked her up, and moved the arm circling around her waist. His palm lay flat against her side and she could hear paper crinkling. "Ofuda?" she said, or tried to, through the muffling of his hands. Kagome could feel the thin tendrils of some magic or other brush up against the edges of her aura, looking for a way to get in.

Morio stopped trying to drag her and waited for the effects of the magic to kick in. "Yes, my little black miko, once I saw you walking with that abomination, I decided that something had to be done," he said as he pulled Kagome closer to his chest. "Shame Haname-obasan couldn't get the elders to believe you were the threat to them that you are, and then have the elders hire me to come and save you from yourself. Poor woman. I guess the amulet I gave her to wear to protect her from you overpowered her good sense."

Kagome's adrenaline kicked in, breaking through her shock. There was a sudden poof followed by the smell of smoke as whatever paper charm he was holding caught fire as her reiki flared. Morio could feel the aura pushing against him

"Kuso!" he said, shaking his fingers while not quite letting go of her. "A spirited little vixen you are. Too bad you haven't mastered the art of barriers yet. Still, that was just a weak spell. I have stronger, and you won't break though that one. We'll cure you soon enough."

Screaming at him although his hand stifled most of the sound, Kagome tried to do something, anything to get him to let her loose - elbow him in the gut, stomp his foot, turn around in his hold, but it seemed as fast as she moved, he anticipated what she was going to do.

He laughed, a breathy sound that tickled her ear in an unpleasant way. His voice purred, soft and rich, like he was trying to be seductive, but it gave Kagome the cold chills, making her struggle more. "Such a strong one you are, little miko. I like how you fight. The talk was right. Once I purge you of that youkai magic -"

This time she caught the edge of his toes as she tried to stomp his foot.

"Bitch, stop that," he said, trying to grab something out of his obi as he tightened his grip around her middle.

She could feel the gorge rise as he squeezed across her midsection, but then there was a rustle in the tree above them and a brief, small flare of youki. Both Kagome and Morio looked up, but could see nothing.

"Be careful, Shippou," she whispered behind the yamabushi's hand.

"You have youkai allies waiting in hiding? Someone besides the one you sleep with?" he said. "Good. More for me to remove from the world."

In quick succession there was a cascade of leaves swirling around them, and then they were surrounded by a fall of whirling acorns whistling at a pitch that had them both wincing.

"Kitsune magic?" the yamabushi asked. He snaked his arm tighter around Kagome, trying to reach the sleeve of the arm that held her mouth closed, without letting loose, but with no success. While Morio tried hard to grab whatever it was he had stored there, there was a loud roar, easily loud enough to alert people in Tameo's house that something was going on. It sounded like a cross between a bull's bellow and a dog's howl, something not of this world that seemed to echo all around them. As Morio looked for the source of it on the grounds around him, suddenly a small form launched from the tree.

"Kagome! I'll save you!"the kit yelled as he landed on the yamabushi's back. "Get off her!"

Pulling on Morio's tea-whisk topknot for better purchase, Shippou started biting the yamabushi's shoulder trying to get him to let her loose. "Kagome's not a black miko, you bastard. Let her go!" he yelled into the man's ear in between bites.

"Arrggh!" the yamabushi yelled, as blood began to trickle down his shoulder. He tried to shake off the kit while holding on to Kagome, spinning around with the young woman in his arms. "Get off me! Get off me! What are you?"

Shippou bit him again. In a voice that must have come from some magic he knew, he rumbled in an eerie tone, "I'm your personal nightmare!"and bit down again. As the three of them circled round and round, Morio, stumbling, somehow managed to throw the kitsune off.

Shippou hit the ground with a yelp, but rolled up on his feet.

"You're just a child," Morio said, and laughed. "And to think I was frightened."

"I'll show you child," Shippou said, and yelled, "Kitsune-bi!" as he threw fox fire at Morio's head.

As the blue fox fire surrounded him, Morio closed his eyes by reflex. Kagome slammed her foot hard on his, and he let go long enough for her to start running. Shippou jumped back up on Morio's back to try to keep the yamabushi busy. Once again he blasted the man with fox fire.

That was all the break Kagome needed and she ran hard. Not watching much of anything, but desperate to get away, she didn't see how Morio hopped on one foot from where she had slammed her heel into his foot. Nor did she see him finally reach into his sleeve for an ofuda. She didn't hear Shippou scream as he saw it and dodge out of the way, turning into a pink balloon and hurrying off. She didn't hear the voices in the distance calling her name. Instead she ran straight into the hard chest of a man who literally appeared out of nowhere.

She shrieked, and looked up.

"Now, granddaughter who isn't my granddaughter, is that any way to treat the person who's come all the way from the August fields to rescue you?"

"Kazuo-sama?" she asked, staring into the face of the family kami.

"Who else?" said the kami. "Now let's see what we can do about this stupid fool who thinks he can attack my family in my own garden."

While Kagome was dealing with the madness of Haname and the plotting of Morio, things were no calmer in Kagemura. As the girl Shizuka ran toward the bakeneko that had disguised herself as the girl's pet, InuYasha went into high gear.

"Dammit girl, get out of the way," InuYasha yelled, as he raced to catch up with the bakeneko. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?"

Shizuka froze as he ran. One, two, three of the ofuda she was holding in her hand caught on the breeze. "I . . . I . . . Chika . . . must save . . . " she stammered. But as the giant cat came near, the girl grew very pale.

The bakeneko, moving on all four legs, licked her lips as she slowed down, then gave the girl a toothy grin.

"Such a good girl," the cat purred, stopping as she almost stepped on one of the ofuda that had drifted out of the girl's hand. "She just wants to save me. It always surprised me how fond you could be. But what were you going to do with all those papers, Shi-chan?" She crouched on the ground, close enough to where the girl stood trembling that Shizuka could feel her breath. "Such nasty things, those papers."

"I . . . I just . . . " Before the girl could say any more, InuYasha leaped onto the back of the cat.

The cat oomphed from the impact.

"Forgot me again?" InuYasha said as he landed. "Seems you have trouble paying attention to more than one thing at a time. Not so good when you're in a fight."

Hissing at his weight, the bakeneko turned around, almost as if she expected to see him behind her. Her tail, swishing fire back and forth, knocked the child to the ground. Shizuka's mother, standing in front of her house, screamed as she went flying from the hit. For some reason, perhaps because the girl was still holding Miroku's ofuda in her hand, the magic fire cascading in a red rain from the cat's tail, scorching the grass wherever it touched, didn't burn her. But she lay very still where she landed, a crumpled, forlorn form.

"Pffft," the bakeneko hissed. She raised a paw and extended her claws. "Damn you, hanyou. Get off of me!"

"You know, cat, you're not worth all this effort," InuYasha said as he straddled her like a horse, his feet dragging on the ground. He leaned his head between her ears. "I think it's about time we put an end to this game."

The bakeneko yowled.

As InuYasha kept the bakeneko occupied, holding on and dodging the paws she used to try to knock him away from her ears, Miroku finally caught up to the girl. She moaned as he lifted her up, which made the monk thankful that she was still alive. Not checking to see how or if she was injured, he ran back to the safety of the house, met half way by the girl's mother who took her from him.

"My baby!" Shizuka's mother cried, brushing the girl's cheek tenderly. She looked up at Miroku. "Thank you."

Miroku gave her no time to examine the girl. "Get inside now!" he said, and pushing the woman forward, hurried them both to the door. Holding the door mat, he turned back to look at the sight of his friend riding on the back of a giant and very angry calico cat that was bucking and running in circles and briefly wondered if some day he would find this funny.

"It's all yours, InuYasha," he yelled, then ducked into the house himself.

All this the bakeneko ignored as she focused on the hanyou. "Get off of me, dog!" she bellowed. "You stink! I'm going to smell like dog all day long."

Hearing Miroku and taking a quick glance to make sure that they were all safely in the house, InuYasha jumped free, landing in front of her, grinned a big, toothy grin, showing his fangs. "There are worse things in life than that. Now, I think we have business to finish."

The bakeneko lunged forward. InuYasha leaped up, bounced once off the top of her head and as he came down, the cat tried to swing her tail out of the way, but it was too late. InuYasha lifted his sword while he was in midair and neatly sliced the tail of the cat from her body before landing surefooted on the ground behind her.

The tail, scattering sparks flopped for a moment like it had a life of its own. The cat screamed, a loud, ear-shattering call that made InuYasha lower his ears for the noise, and before he could move away, a light burst out of the separated tail growing brighter and brighter. He had to shut his eyes from the intensity and throw an arm up, and he could still see light behind his closed lids.

As the light slowly faded, and he dropped his arm, and carefully blinked his eyes open, he could see the cat's tail, or what was left of it, a blackened mummified length stretched out on the grass, but there was no sign of the bakeneko.

But next, he felt something soft brush against his right foot. Looking down, he saw a small cat, not much more than a kitten, with the same brown and black splotches on its forehead, a cat with a bobbed tail. It brushed against his ankle, looked up at him and mewed.

"Well," InuYasha said, "who would have guessed?" He sheathed Tessaiga, then bent down and picked up the cat, who rubbed her head against him, and began to purr. He tucked her up into the crook of his elbow.

"Well, cat, I guess Shippou's uncle was right after all," he said. "The magic was in the tail. No tail, a regular cat."

Shaking his head, he carried the kitten back to the girl's house.