As promised, I am back with the next chapter! Some of you will be rather pleased with this chapter as it gives A LOT of answers. Most of you, however, will get on my ass about the ending, but ah, I had to end it there.

Thanks to SerenePanic, TheEroticFox, xXxAnimeChic101xXx, Corrayyy and AnnaliseIsmeneRomano for reviewing the last chapter! Special thanks to SerenePanic who is EXTREMELY talented for being able to tolerate me! Aha, I shall reply to that titanic message later tonight! I hope...

I apologize for anything off in this chapter - it wasn't beta-ed, but I wanted to get this up today because I owe it to you guys to tell you the story.

Enjoy this revealing chapter! Oh, and to any tennis enthusiasts out there, THE QUEEN, SERENA WILLIAMS HAS WON HER FIFTH US OPEN. CAN WE JUST REVEL IN THAT?

Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha, but I own, Karin, who is the only OC mentioned in this chapter.

Inuyasha stepped into the hut, the smell of herbs overwhelming his sensitive nose. He placed a hand on the bridge of his nose to ease his senses, when he saw a woman hunched over a small pot that hung over a small flame.

He made to go sit beside the woman when she turned around. Her aged face and eyes showed that she was clearly taken aback to see him.

"Inuyasha!" she exclaimed. "What are ye doing here, child?"

"Hi Kaede," sighed Inuyasha, sitting down on the cushion next to her.

He rested his elbows on his knees, slumping forward, his chin on the heels of his hands. He shut his eyes, replaying the events from the past couple of days. The images flitted in and out of his mind, his thoughts on each event jumbling together.

Kaede had opened her mouth to say something to Inuyasha when she saw how concentrated he was. She could see the gears turning in his head and was mildly concerned. Instead of asking him why he was here like she intended, she sat down across from him, watching his facial expression change for a couple of minutes.

His eyebrows knit together close enough to look as if they were conjoined. His eyes looked much like her own, which worried her deeply. Inuyasha was older than she was, but he was also a demon. He wasn't supposed to look a day over 25 years old - he was supposed to be the young and hot-headed demon that she had always seen running around the village.

"What is troubling ye, child?" she asked softly.

Inuyasha let his face slide down his hands, so he was covering his eyes for a split second. He began massaging his temple, taking a deep breath. "I don't know, to be honest."

Kaede leaned back, her eyes not leaving Inuyasha. "Ye don't look too well. Last time ye visited me, ye said ye saw the archer from a distance."

She noticed that he hadn't made eye contact with her the entire time he was here. She exhaled, sensing that the reason Inuyasha had come to her had to do with the archer.

She decided to return to her herbs, knowing Inuyasha would only get cross with her if she mentioned it directly.

"How is ye daughter?" she asked, stirring the herbs. "She's doing well?"

Inuyasha's breath hitched for a moment, startling Kaede. She left the spoon in the pot and sat across from Inuyasha again.

"Ye daughter, where is she?" Kaede asked quickly, noticing that she was absent. "Ye almost always bring ye daughter when ye visit."

Inuyasha buried his face in his hands, on the verge of tears. He swallowed the lump in his throat, pulling at his bangs. "I don't know!" he shouted. "I don't know anything anymore. Kagome was always the one who knew these things. Kagome was the one who was the better parent. Kagome was the one who knew what to do all the time. Now she's gone and I should have known I would lose Karin eventually."

"Hush, Inuyasha," Kaede said soothingly, patting his knee. "Ye need to take a deep breath and start at the beginning for me. This is related to the matter ye mentioned last time ye were here?"

Inuyasha stayed silent for a minute, attempting to gather what little composure he had left. He waited until his breathing returned to the normal speed to begin speaking again. He kept his gaze away from Kaede's as he nodded.

She took a deep breath, knowing what this meant to him. She couldn't figure out what all the appearances by the archer really meant, but she had been working on a theory ever since Miki had been attacked, but, first, she had to know exactly what had happened since then.

"Inuyasha, ye need to tell me what has happened. I have a hunch-"

"Y-you know something too?" croaked Inuyasha, looking at her with watery amber irises.

"Too?" asked Kaede with raised eyebrows. "Has someone else told ye of their suspicions?"

Inuyasha dropped his gaze to the ground. "No one that I care about, or, rather, no one that cares about me or at least my daughter."

"Sesshomaru, ye, brother," Kaede said softly.

A soft growl tore from Inuyasha's throat, prompting Kaede to return to the topic at hand.

"The beginning of the story Inuyasha?" Kaede asked impatiently. "What has happened since I last saw ye? Ye plan - did it work?"

Inuyasha took a deep breath and racked his brains, trying to remember all the things that had happened after he made the plan to see if the archer was Kagome. It was like a blur to him - it all happened so quickly; all at the same time. It was hard to remember which happened first.

Kaede noticed that Inuyasha seemed to be calming down now, which pleased her slightly. The smallest actions meant that he was slowly getting a better hold of himself.

"The plan we made," Inuyasha started. "The plan was to see if the archer had the mating mark."

"Yes, the plan," Kaede said impatiently. "Ye never told me if it worked."

"It did work," breathed Inuyasha. "I saw our mating mark on her shoulder. It's Kagome – not some demonic wench."

Kaede pursed her lips at the word "wench", but she held her tongue. She also held her tongue because Inuyasha's story was literally lending its hand to her theory; however, she did not want to raise false hopes if she wasn't right.

"After I found out it was really Kagome with our mating mark on her shoulder, she ran off... I didn't know what to do," he admitted guiltily.

'What kind of demon lets their mate slip through their fingers twice?'

He suddenly thought of Kagome's side of the family – not her mother and brother, but the deceased members of her family – her father and grandfather.

What would her father have said if he knew what a horrible mate Inuyasha was to his daughter? And her grandfather – her grandfather was vehement against their relationship to begin with, but he had eventually warmed up to the idea when he realized Inuyasha would lay his life down for his granddaughter.

"Keh, lay my life down for her," he muttered. "I couldn't do that. I - I let him down."

Kaede's eyes softened at his words. She could barely make them out, and she realized he was talking about a member of Kagome's family. From his words and tone, she deduced that he was talking about a promise he had made to Kagome's family.

Her heart began to ache for the demon sitting before her. She didn't want to pry anymore, but she had to if she was going to divulge the theory that she had pieced together from the evidence she had been given so far.

"And then what happened?" she asked kindly.

Inuyasha didn't want to say anything else about the archer or anything that happened after he found the mating mark. He had come to Kaede for some emotional support, not to be grilled about every decision he had made.

"Kaede-" he began.

He stopped when she held her hand up, shocked. Kaede never silenced anyone – she always listened to the other person before she offered her words.

'This must be important to her,' he thought.

"Ye must tell me everything that happened," Kaede reiterated. "I have a theory and I can't tell ye if I am not sure of half of the details."

Inuyasha took a heavy breath in, his shoulders slumping forward. He knew he probably had a sour expression on his face from the way Kaede had reacted, wrinkling her nose and giving him a look of disapproval, but he didn't care very much.

'Keh, she's lucky I'm holding my tongue for her.'

However, he put his feelings aside for a moment because he had to admit; he was curious about the theory she had.

He sat up a bit straighter, thinking about what had happened after he found the mating mark on her shoulder.

'I wasn't able to sleep that night... Not that there was any good reason to sleep. What happened the next morning? I can't remember anything except being angry, but… why was I angry?'

Suddenly his thoughts cleared and he was able to remember what happened.

"The Goshinboku!" he shouted, leaping up.

Kaede's eyes snapped up to Inuyasha. She furrowed her eyebrows at his exclamation, which didn't make any sense to her. "The Goshinboku? What about the Goshinboku?"

"I went there the morning after I found the mating mark," he said, now pacing around the hut.

Kaede stood up, her eyes following Inuyasha, wondering what thoughts were pacing around his mind.

"I went to the Goshinboku to think about what happened," he said, turning around and beginning to pace around the hut. "Because Kagome had to have been somewhere these five years. I mean, she couldn't have disappeared off the face of Earth. Wait, could she - nah, I would have known if she used the well. … Right? Of course, I would be able to tell if she used the well. If I could tell before we were mated, I sure as hell can now and -"

"Inuyasha!" exclaimed Kaede, looking a bit nauseous.

Inuyasha stopped, smiling apologetically at her slightly green face. "Sorry, my thought process -"

"Is very erratic like ye behavior," she said curtly. "Ye said ye went to the Goshinboku, where ye and Kagome first met."

Inuyasha sat back down, mulling over the events. "Yeah. I went to the Goshinboku and I wasn't there for long."

"Why, what happened?"

Inuyasha's eyes darkened and his eyebrows knit together. "Sesshomaru showed up," he said darkly.

Kaede seemed to be slightly taken aback. "Sesshomaru? Was that when he told ye of his suspicions?" She asked, remembering the look of pure resentment on his face just minutes before.

He tossed his head back, staring at the ceiling while exhaling. "He said Kagome might have been alive all this time. But I don't understand Kaede! Wouldn't Kagome have just come back to me and Karin if she was alive? She would never ever leave me or Karin - I'm sure of that."

Kaede let the information sink in for a moment. She placed her chin on the heel of her hand as if she was pondering the facts and seeing if they laced together with her theory.

Inuyasha noticed the concentrated look on her face and leaned forward. "Kaede, is there something you know?" he asked cautiously.

"Maybe," she said slowly.

"Then what is it?!" he exclaimed, making her sit up with a jolt.

"Inuyasha! Ye must understand; I do not wish to harm ye by saying anything-"

"So you're going to keep it to yourself to hurt me even more?" he shot back. "Fat load of help that is!"

"Ye must understand. Ye cannot be telling me that ye have not had problems with ye inner demon."

He opened his mouth to contradict her, but failed to do so. He hung his head in shame, knowing she was right.

She took a deep breath, searching for the kindest and gentlest words in her vocabulary. "Alright, I will tell ye of me theory, but ye must promise ye will try to keep ye demon in check, and ye must try to not interrupt me until I am done. Do I have your word?"

He shut his eyes for a moment, breathing in and out before his eyes flashed open, his eyes showing nothing but murderous concentration. He nodded, prompting her to go on.

Kaede gave him a curt nod before starting. "I, too, have had the same theory as ye elder brother-"

"You what?!" he shouted. "Why didn't you tell me?!"

She glared at him, watching him shrink in his seat. "Ye word, Inuyasha," she reminded.

She waited until he was silent. "I have had the same theory as ye elder brother. Kagome did not die in the fire five years ago."

She stopped for a moment to see if Inuyasha had an outburst. She continued when she saw that he was on the verge of exploding.

"Me theory is that Kagome, being a very accomplished miko, used her miko powers the night of the fire. Ye said she was caught under burning wood? Me guess is that she used enough miko power to protect herself from the fire until it died down."

Inuyasha's mind and expression was blank. "S-she used her miko powers?" he asked softly and childishly.

Kaede watched as Inuyasha stood and began pacing. She rose as well, hoping to prevent a potential demon outbreak, but one never came.

"Yes, I believe she used her powers to stay alive."

Inuyasha was still in complete shock. He had actually stopped pacing about the hut, stopping in front of Kaede with a blank expression.

"This is what Sesshomaru was getting at?" he asked softly. "She used her miko powers to stay alive all this time?"

"Inuyasha, it is a great deal to process at this time," she said heavily. "But you must remember-"

"Why wouldn't she return to me?" he asked, interrupting her. "Doesn't she know Karin and I miss her? Doesn't she know I still love her? Because I do. I've never stopped!"

His voice shook with every sentence and it broke Kaede's heart to see him like this. He was just a lonely demon who had thought he lost his mate forever.

"There is more," she replied. "This ties in with what ye said. I believe Kagome has been alive for all these years because she used her miko powers." She took a deep breath before continuing. "I also believe her energy is running low."

She turned to Inuyasha who continued to stare at her blankly. "Mikos are powerful, but they cannot sustain themselves for too long. Kagome has already pushed her limits by keeping herself alive for this long. And with those arrows... She is trying to send ye a message, Inuyasha. Ye have any ideas what she could be telling ye?"

He listened to her in complete silence, mulling over every possibility for Kagome to contact him.

She had attempted to attack Karin and she had succeeded with her attack on Miki. What could she be trying to tell him by hurting the ones they loved the most?

It just didn't make sense to Inuyasha. It just didn't sound like the Kagome he knew and had mated.

He was about to open his mouth when Kaede interrupted him.

"I have wondered about the attacks," she said softly. "I wondered why she would attack her own daughter. Kagome could not inflict harm on even a fly."

"Everything I've seen from this archer proves that it's Kagome, except that she attacked our daughter!" shouted Inuyasha. "And that's kind of a big thing because I know she would never hurt Karin."

His tone grew quiet as he turned away from Kaede.

"She was trapped under the fallen debris and she told me to save Karin first, even if that meant killing her. Karin means the world to her. I just… can't see Kagome, my Kagome, willingly hurting her or even attempting to."

"It is very uncharacteristic of her to do so," admitted Kaede. "And, although Kagome has not known Miki for very long, I do not believe she is ruthless enough to attempt kill her, let alone anyone else."

"So what does this all mean? The mating mark says it's Kagome but her actions-"

"Her actions prove otherwise, but I believe it goes back to my theory," she finished cryptically.

Inuyasha had given up on looking surprised at anything she said at this point. He merely aimed his piercing golden stare at the old woman, his eyebrows furrowing for the umpteenth time that day. He tried to analyze all the possibilities before asking his question.

"How do you figure that out?"

Kaede bit her bottom lip before starting, in fear of what would happen to Inuyasha if she told him of her suspicions. When she saw the look of murderous concentration on his face, however, she went against her better judgement and told him.

"Mikos have never had a reason to use so much miko magic, but they have also never been a demon's mate. Kagome is the first miko, to date, to have been a demon's mate. When a demon and a human mate-"

"It creates a bond stronger than an ordinary demon mating and that's one of the reasons demons and humans don't mate - the shock could kill the human," replied Inuyasha dully. "I remember the talks with my dad."

"Yes, the bond it creates is for life," said Kaede, going off of what Inuyasha said. "I am suspecting that this Kagome being separated from you was an enormous shock to her. Her body could not handle being away from you for that long, so she-"

"Using more miko magic to keep herself alive," Inuyasha said softly, connecting the dots.

"Precisely. I believe she is losing the will to keep using so much magic. It's physically and emotionally draining to use magic to begin with, but to sustain a life for as long as Kagome has… I am surprised she is still alive and able to shoot her arrows with the same precision and accuracy she had when she first met you."

Inuyasha rubbed his temples, trying to comprehend the information. "But this doesn't relate to her attacking Karin and Miki."

"I am getting to that," she replied impatiently. "Sustaining a life by magic takes a toll on a miko's health. My guess is that she attacked Karin because it would give her a reason to live again. Seeing her own daughter get hurt would bring back the same healthy Kagome we knew before the fire."

It was slowly starting to make sense to Inuyasha. His expression cleared and he rose.

Kaede watched him closely, trying to see if he would suddenly go full demon on her, but he didn't.

"So Kagome needs a reason to keep herself alive? That's why she hasn't come back?"

"I do not think she can come back until then," she answered gravely, looking at his emotionless eyes suspiciously. "Her soul is not fully intact yet."

Inuyasha's hand hovered over his Tetsusaiga for a moment, earning a bewildered look from Kaede.

"Then I have a plan of how we're going to do that."

A bit of a short chapter with a cliffhanger, but it provides LOADS of information on what REALLY happened the night Kagome died, so I hope you all liked that!

I hope to be back with the next chapter next Sunday, but it might be a little late because school is being a little shit at the moment. *sigh*

Anyway, reviews and constructive criticism are always welcome! And back to my tennis enthusiasts, any predictions on tomorrow's men's final? Are you all part of the NoleFamily or are you chanting Vamos Rafa?