Title: Love is Blind
Author: Hairann
Challenge: Dokuga Holiday Exchange 2012

Gift for: Madison

Prompt used: Sesshoumaru is stuck in his inu-youkai form and only Kagome understands him.

Universe: Divergence after first battle in Inu no Taisho's tomb.
Warnings: This story is bit harsh toward some of the characters but I believe it is what would have happen logically if the beginning of the story was changed as I have done. And I find it is more realistic, or at least that is the approach I took with this story. Also should warn you that the story is a bit rushed, but after 50k in Nov for NaNo, I only had Dec to work on this story and get it complete while going to school and working full time.

Rating: MA for language, violence and threats of rape.

Word Count: 38,580


Note: All dialog in the first five scenes, aka the part before the divergence, is taken directly from the Inuyasha manga. It is dubbed so it may not always be perfect. I do not own this dialog, the rest of the dialog along with all descriptions were written by me. With one exception, Kanna's 'her soul won't be contained' line, I do not own that one.

Note 2: There are a few explanations at the bottom if you are still confused about anything.

...

Inuyasha sat panting unable to believe what had just occurred. Only moments ago the surrounding area had been a beautiful field partnered with a crystal, clear river. There had been a small hut off in the distance and vibrant, green lily pads in the water. Green grass and clear, blue sky. A gentle breeze that brought with it all of the pleasant scents of spring.

Now the place was no more than a wasteland. The sky was dark, filled with clouds threatening to storm. The grass was dead, some patches so much so that they had turned black. The river so dirty, so polluted that it looked as if you were staring into a black hole when you gazed into it. Instead of lily pads, it now housed fleshless bones of a demon or animal.

The air heavy with the scent of sulfur caused the hanyou to have even more difficultly getting his breathing back in order. "Inuyasha!" he heard Kagome scream from behind him, his dog-like ears easily picking up her heavy footsteps as she ran toward him. He could hear the panic and worry echoing in her voice, but still he could not believe it.

It wasn't the change of scenery that had him staring off into space disbelievingly or struggling for each breath. But the the fact that he had been tricked completely, even when he himself had thought it was a trick from the start. He still fell into the trap. "Are you alright?" Kagome inquired concerned as he heard her kneel down behind him.

Even still what was worse was what had been used to trick him. He couldn't answer her question, not even sure which emotion should be prominent in his mind and almost afraid he would take it out on her. Should he be angry that his half-brother had chosen the person he used to trick him? Saddened by the fact that things weren't as they seemed?

Happy Sesshoumaru never truly had a hold over her soul? Frustrated with himself for being tricked? Over-joyed that he got to see her face again, hear her voice, even if it was never truly her? He wondered briefly if it even really mattered. He was already feeling everyone of those emotions and more. And none of it was true.

"It was..." Inuyasha began after finally being able to get his breathing back to normal. "Just a lie. All a lie." It hadn't been his mother's soul placed in a new body of flesh and wrenched away from where ever her soul had been resting as Sesshoumaru had claimed. That thing that had held him in its arms, as he wished his mother could again, it wasn't her.

"But all for the best dear brother. Now I know where the grave lies." Sesshoumaru informed him in his slightly feminine voice as he walked gracefully over to them. Before he could come out of his shock, Sesshoumaru had wrapped his long, slender fingers around the back of his neck, just above the rosary, and raised him off of the ground.

"Oh!" Kagome gasped as the move startled her and she quickly began to worry about her hanyou friend. She could do nothing else than watched as the full-demon held him out at arms reach, almost as if he didn't want him to touch his person. It was easy to see that it was quickly becoming difficult for him to take in air and his lungs were already beginning to scream for it.

"I never imagined it could be in such a place..." Sesshoumaru continued with what could only be described as a sadistic smirk, seemingly unconcerned with his half-brother's lack of air issues. "Can you imagine Sesshoumaru being so blind?"

...

It could only be described as majestic. It didn't matter that they were currently free falling, upside down from the sky; it didn't stop them from taking in the sight. It was enormous. Possibly larger than some of the oldest trees they had seen. One thing was clearly obvious, it was the skeleton of a demon. A warrior by the looks of things.

Upon its torso was a large breastplate, seemingly made of bone and metal, or perhaps it was wood. While the majority of it was made up of the black, metal looking material, a strip of bone ran across the top. A spike just above where the pecks would have been had there still be any flesh. A large, diamond-shaped, purple jewel resting in between.

Two metal clips seemed to be all that was holding the two pieces together, cracks clearly visible in the bone. On the shoulders were pads made up of five columns, made from the same bone as the chest piece, with two, large spikes on the first and three smaller ones going vertically on the bottom three columns. Only about a third of the right canine remain connected to the jaw.

Trees, bushes and vines grew from every opening and along the armor. The flapping of dozens of birds' wings could be heard overhead. As one got closer, they could see that only its wings were normal and the rest was no more than a skeleton. When it was near enough, Inuyasha grabbed Kagome and landed on the bird's back.

As they came upon its massive and open jaw, he squinted to see it with blood still oozing from his left eye. Though it was less painful, it hadn't completely stopped bleeding since his half-brother had reached in and pulled out what he had called 'The right black pearl'. Staring, unblinkingly, only one word was whispered from Inuyasha's lips. "Father."

Kagome's gaze shot to him in shock as she wondered if she had heard him wrong. "What?" she finally managed before turning her gaze back to the humongous skeleton in front of her. "You mean those bones...that's your father?" she questioned starting wide-eyed at it, wondering how anything living could have ever been that big.

"Can't you see the resemblance?" Inuyasha shot back at her and she was unsure if he was being sarcastic or not. Giving it another once over she could see the tale tell signs that it had been a member of the canine family, but there was nothing else to tell her the two could have possibly been related to each other.

"But...but it's so huge..." Kagome finally managed as she glanced back over at that hanyou sitting beside her. How could it be possible that a demon that large had been the father to both Inuyasha and his half-brother Sesshoumaru? There had to be something she was missing for the major difference in size to not make it impossible.

"His Lord father was a giant demon who was getting on in years." Myoga began to explained, suddenly appearing on one of the white fangs on Inuyasha's rosary. "That's his true form, free from all spells. The treasure blade laid to rest inside your Lord father's remains...'that's' what Sesshoumaru's got his greedy eyes on!"

...

Sesshoumaru stood completely still, undaunted by the wind blowing his white hair behind him. The 'HWOOOHHH'ing sound it made, echoing off the bones around him. The inside of the remains were mostly hollowed out, leaving more than enough room for a demon of his size to stand. An uncountable number of human skeletons littered the ground at his feet.

But all of this went unnoticed. Sesshoumaru had his eyes on only one thing. There mere feet from him, embedded in stone, stood an old, rusted sword who's hilt seemed moments away from rotting away completely. "At last, my precious, I have found you. My dear Tetsusaiga...my steel-cleaving fang..." he greeted with the slightest of smiles.

"At last have found you. The blade impaled in my dear father's remains said to possess the power to cut down a hundred demons with a single pass. The 'steel-cleaving fang'...Tetsusaiga." Sesshoumaru continued as he began to move closer toward the sword. Reaching one of his slender hands out, Sesshoumaru began to wrap his fingers around the hilt.

"Carved from your Lord father's own fang, they say it was. So the holdin' of it is just the same as inheritin' his demon powers!" Jaken, a short imp or toad, one can never be too sure, exclaimed as he made his way over to his lord, having followed him there, albeit more slowly. He was impossibly short, with large yellow eyes that took up most of his green face.

But instead of Sesshoumaru pulling the sword free and gaining his father's power, when his hand clasped around it fully, a large shock wave emitted from the hilt, stinging his hand. As he pulled his hand back, smoke rose from the singed flesh as his demon blood worked to heal the burn in a matter of moments.

...

After being thrown back by Jaken's attack, trying to stop him from interfering with Sesshoumaru and Inuyasha's fight, Kagome landed part way onto the stone slab that held the sword. Using the hilt as leverage to help her regain her balance, Kagome cried out as Sesshoumaru's claws got dangerously close to Inuyasha's throat.

"Inuyasha!" she screamed as she raced toward him praying, to any Kami that might be listening, that she would be able to reach him in time. Unaware of the fact that her hand was still wrapped firmly around the hilt. Instead of singeing her hand or forcing her to lose her balance when it refused to give, as it would have had it been one of the others, it came loose from the stone.

In less than a fraction of a second, the three males had their eyes glued to her form in shock. "I'm sorry. It just slipped out." Kagome insisted as she held onto the sword with both hands and raised it until it was parallel to her body. She turned toward them, equal amounts of disbelief and confusion in her eyes as well.

"If the great lord Sesshoumaru couldn't...if the flea-bitten Inuyasha couldn't...how in the seven hells could 'she' do it?!" Jaken demanded as his large, yellow eyes got impossibly larger. Inuyasha used the distraction to try to attack his half-brother once again, but before he could land a strike Sesshoumaru had moved and was now towering over Kagome.

"What are you that you were able to draw the Tetsusaiga?" Sesshoumaru inquired ignoring the girl's threats and Inuyasha's insistence that she wasn't part of the fight. "Alas, I'm afraid she is. Merely by being your companion." Sesshoumaru called over his shoulder before turning back to Kagome with his arm raised. "My talons bid you goodbye."

Allowing the poison to leak from his claws, he had soon doused Kagome in it, leaving nothing more than a pile of melted goo on the ground. Screaming her name, Inuyasha rushed over and began digging through it to try to find any trace of the girl. Finding none, he turned back and attacked his half-brother, still having problems seeing out of his left eye.

"Man! I thought I was 'dead'!" Kagome thought out loud to herself as she began to pull herself out of the melted muck. "Okay you!" Kagome screamed standing in front of Sesshoumaru with the blade of the sword pointing toward his face. "You tried to 'kill' me, didn't you?! Well, you're gonna 'regret' that! I'm about to make you 'pay'!"

...

"I mean let me 'protect' you! Do you 'hear'?! Just sit tight and watch." Inuyasha told Kagome before turning back to face his half-brother, who stood before him in his true form. That of a large, white dog, who's long, red tongue hung out the side of his mouth as he watched to see what the hanyou was going to do next.

'Now." Inuyasha thought to himself as he raised the sword once again in front of him. 'B-bump. B-bump.' 'The blade...has a pulse?! I can hear it...it has a 'heart-beat'!' Rushing toward Sesshoumaru with the sword raised, Inuyasha managed to get a decent hit in, tearing a large gash into his half-brother's right, front leg.

'It's turning into a 'fang'?!' "'Goodbye brother'!" Inuyasha roared as he rushed forward once again, this time aiming to damage his other front leg. But at the last moment, Sesshoumaru turned his massive body away and so Inuyasha had redirect his aim toward the closest thing. Which happened to be Sesshoumaru's face.

With one quick swing of the transformed fang, Inuyasha dragged the blade across his eyes. Paying no heed to the blood that was now cascading down on him, Inuyasha leaped back to get a clear shot of the damage. But before he had the chance to, Sesshoumaru had transformed into a great ball of energy and quickly left the remains.

"Inuyasha are you okay?" Kagome inquired concerned as she rushed over to the hanyou who was crouching down, leaning on his sword for support. The remains around them were completely silent for a few moments before Inuyasha began to do something completely unexpected. He began to laugh, which quickly turned into a sound that chilled Kagome to the bone.

"Thanks old man you left me quite the heirloom." Inuyasha whispered, Kagome and Myoga unsure if they were meant to hear or if he had been merely talking to his father's remains. Neither knowing if it would be a good idea to disturb him, they began making their way back the way they had come in. Silently deciding to wait for Inuyasha outside.

...

Kagome could not believe what she had witnessed over the last few weeks since they had returned from the tomb. Inuyasha had become a completely different person, even worse than the one he had been when they first met. Something happened to him when he overpowered his brother and defeated him in battle; he became arrogant and cocky. And not like he had already been, but a hundred times worse.

Before the battle he would avoid villages unless he had no choice, mainly because Kagome would decide to help them, but now he would walk right into the middle of a town acting as though he owned the place. He would only deal with problems that did not concern him if she begged him or if they crossed his path, but now he went looking for them. It had gotten to the point that he would attack any warrior he saw, demon or human.

At first Kagome had thought his new found confidence had been a good thing as he was more willing to help out those they crossed paths with, but soon she realized that he wasn't actually helping them; they merely pointed him in the direction of his next opponent. After nearly a month had passed and things between them had only continued to get worse, Kagome had finally given him a piece of her mind.

She had threatened to go back home and never return if he didn't straighten up his attitude, but he didn't even bother to call her on her bluff by bringing up the fact that they needed to collect the shards that she was responsible for losing or that she wasn't cruel enough to abandon him. He had only said to 'so go' and jumped up in his tree for the night. Figuring he wasn't serious, Kagome had settled in for the night only to awake the next morning completely alone.

For the first few days, Kagome managed to convince herself that he was only trying to teach her a lesson and that he would return soon enough; pointing out how she was too weak to be without him. But when a full week had passed and she still had not heard from him, Kagome began to realize that she had truly been abandoned. Honestly she knew she shouldn't be too surprised, she had barely known him as it was, but she thought that they were connecting as friends.

Had even thought that maybe, just maybe, they could one day be more than that. But Inuyasha had never even seen her as a friend; she had truly been nothing more than a shard collector to him. She would never know if they would have become the friends she had been hoping they would, would never know if he could grow to like her as she found herself already starting to like him, because he had not given them a chance.

He had abandoned her and had no intention of coming back for her. For the first time since Kagome came to this era, she was completely alone. There was no priestess or half-demon to protect her, no villager she could stay with. It was just her and her bow that she could barely use. There was no way that she would be able to search for the shards on her own and didn't want to risk her luck by staying in the past any longer than she had to.

Gathering up her few belongings, Kagome tossed her backpack over her shoulders and started heading in the direction she knew the well would be. She didn't know how long it would take her to reach the well or what dangers might lurk along the way, but she did know that she had no other choice but to go home. Just like Inuyasha had told her to do. There was nothing left holding her in the past anymore that she could actually do anything about.

All that was here was collecting the pieces of the shattered jewel, but she could not do that on her own and any Kami that might be judging her actions wouldn't hold that against her. At least, she hoped they wouldn't. They couldn't expect an untrained teenage girl to fight off all of the demons, and humans alike, that were collecting the shards unprotected. Even if it was her that shattered the jewel in the first place.

But even as she thought this, she began to wonder who exactly would it be that would finish collecting the jewel. Would it be a good person such as herself, who would not have used the jewel for their own selfish reasons? Or would it be someone like Inuyasha who only wanted it for selfish reason, who would use the jewel's wish to turn himself into a full demon? Would the outcome of the jewel's wish be used against her and added to her karma?

Shaking her head to clear such thoughts, Kagome reminded herself that it wasn't her problem anymore. Even though she shattered it, she couldn't possibly gather the pieces by herself and she would only die trying. As a sudden thought crossed her mind, she stopped walking and held up the necklace that was hanging around her neck. In the vial, danging from the end of the chain, was two small pink shards. The realization that she still carried them with her brought two things to mind.

One was good news; that whoever it was that gathered the shards would never be able to wish on the jewel since they would forever be missing the pieces. But the bad news was that the demons would soon be hunting her as soon as they realized she had them. As it dawned on her that she had wasted days waiting around for Inuyasha to return, Kagome began to run as fast as she could toward the well; which she still had no idea how far away it was.

...

For two days Kagome had been walking alone, finding it increasingly more strange that she had not passed a single village or human along her journey so far. And, not that she was complaining mind you, not even a demon or animal had crossed her path. It was almost as if she was completely alone in the world and the thought had her more than a bit scared.

While she was happy to not be attacked by a demon, or another human that did not approve of her choice in wardrobe, she was starting to fear she might go insane if she did not find another soul soon. It was an unnerving feeling to begin to wonder if she would slowly lose her mind to isolation.

It would soon prove to be one fate she need not worry about, but that did not mean that her actual fate wouldn't be much worse. Just after dawn on her third day of walking, Kagome stumbled upon another living being, two in fact, but they were at the very top of the 'three people she never wanted to see again' list.

As she silently stepped into the clearing, almost completely filled by a gigantic body of white fur, she suddenly found herself wishing she had never left the clearing she had been abandoned at. Though she could not see the much smaller demon that she was certain would be with him, it was not hard for her to figure out just who was laying down on the ground only a few feet away from her.

Having no desire to be killed by Inuyasha's older brother, Kagome took a step back, hoping to get back into the cover of the dense trees before her presence was noticed, and stepped on a dried twig. The resounding 'crack' sounded deafening in the otherwise quiet clearing. Before she could react, or even realize that the noise had been caused by her, a massive head turned toward her and apparently recognizing her, the golden eyes glared at her as the corners began to turn red.

Deciding it was far too late to even try sneaking away, Kagome spun around and moved to run into the woods as fast as she could when she found the smaller demon quickly overtaking her and blocking her path; his strange wooden staff pointed directly at her. Letting off a tiny 'eep', Kagome moved to run around him when he raised the staff above his head and a blast of fire shot out toward her.

Unable to react quickly, Kagome found herself slipping backwards onto her backside when she tried to take a step back and slipped on a patch of mud. The resulting 'thud' was so loud that she was certain that her family would be able to hear it 500 years later. Fighting the urge to wipe off the back of her skirt, as this was no time to worry about her appearance, Kagome was about to stand back up when she noticed the large shadow falling over her.

"Please don't kill me," she pleaded as she dropped her head down and covered it with her arms; as though they would be enough to stop the impossibly large paws. "I didn't mean to disturb you, I was just going home," she insisted, hoping he would be in a good enough mood to listen to her pleas, though she seriously doubted he even had a good mood.

For the longest moment, the clearing was quiet except for the sound of their breathing and it took Kagome a minute to realize that he had not killed her. Daring to open her eyes and look up, she found him staring down at her in silence. Some how understanding that meant he wasn't planning on killing her, at least for now, Kagome scrambled to her feet before dusting off her clothes.

"I will just be on my way then. You will not see me again," Kagome promised with a slight bow before moving to step around him. As the massive paw dropped down in front of her, she barely had the chance to stop. "If you don't want to kill me and you don't want to let me leave, then what do you want?" she inquired confused and more than a little afraid.

As Sesshoumaru growled at her, Jaken began speaking and she turned her attention back and forth between them. "My lord is stuck," was all Jaken said at first, causing Sesshoumaru to turn and growl at him. Apparently not hearing him, Jaken continued, "Something that half-breed did made it so he could not transform back. Though what he could possibly want with a human like you, I have no clue. I vote we just kill you now."

Ignoring the threat and his raising the staff ever so slightly, Kagome turned back to Sesshoumaru; letting her curiosity get the better of her. "What did Inuyasha do that made you get stuck like that? It seemed like a normal attack to me," she insisted confused; unable to remember anything in the battle that would have gotten him stuck in this form. Not unless it was the intended use of the sword, but some how she doubted that.

"Stupid woman, haven't you figured out by now that he can't talk? He can only speak the canine language in that form," Jaken mocked only serving to further confuse Kagome. Either she had lost her mind or he had because she was absolutely certain he was just speaking to her in plain Japanese.

"Umm toad man, who's name I have forgotten, sorry," she began, adding the last word when he gave her a dirty look, "He's been speaking since I walked into this clearing. Did you hit your head or something?" she questioned, drawing confused expressions from both of them; though it was impossible to tell with Sesshoumaru.

Hearing another growl from behind her, she turned back and answered, "Of course I understand you. What kind of a silly question is that? You're speaking Japanese, aren't you?" she questioned rhetorically; mentally wondering what the chances were for them to have both hit their heads and have the exact same language impairment. But a moment later she realized that it couldn't be the problem since they both seemed to understand her just fine.

"Umm human, who's name I have no desire to bother learning, my lord is most certainly not speaking Japanese. He is speaking an ancient canine language that only members of his own clan should be able to understand. How could you possibly understand him?" Jaken demanded, obviously upset that he couldn't understand him.

"How the heck am I supposed to know?" she demanded right back before turning her attention once more to Sesshoumaru. Before she could even ask if he had any idea, he was already growling his theory to her. "The sword? What about the sword?" she questioned and was once again answered in growls without realizing it.

"Okay let me see if I got this straight," Kagome began, deciding if she actually said what he had out loud, then she might have a better idea of figuring out if he was being serious or not. "You think that because I am the one who pulled the sword that I am some how able to understand your clan's language because a part of your father's essence was transferred when I removed the sword. Does that make any sense to you?" she questioned as she glanced over her shoulder at Jaken.

Apparently insulted by her refusal to just instantly take Sesshoumaru's word for it, Jaken actually squawked at her. "If that is what Lord Sesshoumaru said, then that is how it is. How dare you, a lowly human, question His Greatness's word?" Unsure of whether to laugh at his nickname or argue with him about how there was no reason for her to just accept a strange explanation, Kagome opted instead to just turn her attention back to the one who wasn't insulting her.

"Okay, well whatever reason I can understand you aside, can you explain to me why you can't transform back into your human form?" Kagome inquired, more than a little shocked by the words that came out of his mouth next. "Wow! Alright, alright I won't call it your human form anymore. What do you call it then?" For a moment, she just listened to his growls in silence, before asking in disbelief, "You call it your smaller form? Really, that's it?"

Hearing his next set of growls, she shrank a bit under the anger behind them. "Alright, alright, I will not question your right to call your form whatever you want," Kagome assured him before glancing back up at him and noticing something was a little off; he still was not looking at her. "It's rude not to look at someone when they are speaking to you, you know," Kagome pointed without thinking, causing his eyes to shoot toward her.

It was then that she noticed something else that was wrong. Though he was staring straight at her now, he still did not seem to be actually looking at her, but instead over her shoulder into the forest. As an impossible thought crossed her mind, and before her mind could fully grasp what that would mean, her lips were already moving. "You can't see, can you?"

Ignoring the insults Jaken was throwing her way for 'daring to suggest such a thing' as he put it, Kagome listened for the less than polite response from Sesshoumaru she was certain she would soon hearing; not at all surprised when he tried to dismiss the question without actually answering it. "Don't give me that 'you're imagining it' crap. You haven't actually look directly at me once since I got here.

"You can't see," Kagome said again, this time not bothering to phrase it as a question. "Did that happen during the fight with Inuyasha? I remember he injured your face, did that cause you to go blind?" she questioned, not really considering the chances of him attacking her for her curiosity. Even though she knew he was quite capable of killing her if the desire ever arose, it never even crossed her mind that he might do so for simply asking a few questions.

She would never know how lucky she was that day that he was not in the mood to try to get blood out of his white fur without being able to see and unable to tell if the scent of blood was coming from what was left in his fur or from what had spilled to the ground. Jaken knew, however, and he for one could not believe how lucky she had gotten.

"Well you don't have to get snippy with me. I wasn't trying to rub it in your face that he beat you," Kagome insisted honestly to his warning that it was not a good idea to remind him of the battle. To another set of growls, which Jaken thought was nothing more than gibberish, she replied, "You left the battle before he did. Doesn't that mean he won?"

This time when he growled at her, Kagome actually heard a growl and quickly decided that was not a good sign. "Okay so you strategically retreated to tend to your wounds without a winner actually being announced. Whatever," Kagome some what agreed just so he wouldn't decide to kill her, though she didn't actually believe it herself. When you run from a fight, you are named the loser. Simple as that.

Seeing as he didn't seem to think so, she thought it best to keep her objections to herself and let the matter drop. "Wait a minute," Kagome began after a sudden thought crossed her mind. "Does your blindness have anything to do with your being unable to transform back into your smaller form?"

For a few moments, Sesshoumaru remained silent; though Kagome could not tell if he was thinking or just deciding if he should tell her or not. Just as she was about to ask him again, he finally answered and Kagome found herself learning something she could have never imagined. "You have to concentrate on your power to transform? And without being able to see if you can't concentrate on it?"

Seeing as she was basically just repeating what he had said, nearly word for word, Sesshoumaru didn't bother to answer her questions and just took them as rhetorical. Her curiosity taking over, she couldn't help but keep asking him questions; at least as long as he was answering them. "Are you going to get your sight back?"

Unable to keep up with only half a conversation to go by, Jaken just glanced back and forth between the two of them in confusion. Apparently not about to help end his confusion, though truthfully she simply just was not aware of it, Kagome paid no attention to Jaken as she answered Sesshoumaru's latest set of growls.

"But that doesn't make any sense. Why would a problem with your eyesight effect how long it takes you to heal? I wouldn't think the two were at all connected." After a full minute had passed and he had still not answered, Kagome decided he wasn't going to. Perhaps he did not know why they seemed to be connected or he just didn't want to have to explain one more thing to her.

"I'm sorry," Kagome finally whispered, though with his impressive hearing, she might as well have been screaming it. Hearing his insulted response, she assured him, "It is not pity, but remorse. You are basically blind because of me. But there is at least one piece of good news, though. You don't have to worry about ever crossing paths with me again. I am heading home and I am never going to return here."

Having nothing further to say, Kagome turned and disappeared into the forest. Before Jaken could say anything or just be happy she was gone, Sesshoumaru had followed after her. "Will someone please tell me what is going on?!" Jaken screamed into the empty clearing. Sighing loudly to himself, he took off running in the direction they had gone in; not wanting to be left behind.

Making her way deeper into the forest, a bit annoyed that she had to be detoured for so long, Kagome began to wonder just how long it would be before she would be safe and sound inside her family's shrine and in her own time. No longer would she have to deal with demons or half demons or jewel shards. All of it would be in the past, left in the past.

But her retreat home was cut short when she suddenly found herself walking into a wall of fur that had not been there a moment before. Barely catching herself before falling on her backside once more, Kagome stepped back and found herself staring up at the demon lord once more. "What?! What do you mean I am not allowed to leave?" Kagome demanded, unable to believe what she was hearing. She was so close to getting home.

"I have to go home, Sesshoumaru. If I don't, I will be dead within the week and I know you don't care about whether I live or not, but I do. I can not protect myself and I no longer have Inuyasha around to do so. He abandoned me and so there is nothing left for me here," she insisted already knowing he would have no compassion for her plight but hoping for some anyways.

"A debt? What do you mean I owe you a debt? If anyone does, it would be Inuyasha. He's the one that blinded you," she insisted, more than a bit confused as to why he would even want her to repay a debt to him. That would mean that he actually wanted something from her and she just couldn't imagine that.

"Okay, fine. I am the only one that understands you, but couldn't you just find another member of your clan that speaks the language? I'm sure you would rather deal with them anyways," she continued, certain that this would be a good idea, though judging by his response that was not the case.

"You seriously don't have a single member of your entire clan that you would trust with the knowledge that you are blind? That can't be true. They're your family, aren't they?" Kagome questioned in disbelief, feeling sorry for him. She couldn't imagine not being able to trust any member of her family; they were the most important people in her life.

"So you want me to repay my debt to you by translating everything you say until you regain your sight?" she repeated with a sigh, trying to remember where exactly her life went so wrong to bring her to this point. Apparently deciding not to answer her, Sesshoumaru turned and began making his way back the way they had come; just as Jaken had finally caught up.

As a sudden, slightly terrifying thought crossed her mind, Kagome called after him, "What if it's permanent?!" before rushing to catch up with him when he did not answer. Annoyed at the sudden change in direction when he had just caught up, Jaken grumbled under his breath before running back the way he had just come.

The next few days passed without anything noteworthy happening. They traveled in whatever direction it was that Sesshoumaru decided to travel that day; with very few words passed between them. For his part, Sesshoumaru barely said more than a few words and most of which really didn't need to be translated.

It wasn't all that hard to figure out when he growled and disappeared, he wanted them to stay there. A growl and then he laid down, they were camping for the night. The first day they were traveling together, Kagome had made the mistake of translating these growls and got a long earful from Jaken about how he wasn't an idiot and that someone who knew his lord as well as he did would obviously be able to understand his instructions.

So she had decided from then on to just translate when ever he actually asked for her to. Of course, then he complained about having to ask her to do her job and how she should automatically do it. She really couldn't win with the little demon.

Then on the forth day, Sesshoumaru stopped suddenly and both Kagome and Jaken turned toward each other in question. Neither one sure of what was happening. Finally deciding there was one sure way to find out, she inquired, "Sesshoumaru? What is it? Why have we stopped?"

Though she seemed inclined to ignore her for a minute, he finally growled out his response. But as it was so vague, she quickly decided it would be best to repeat, hoping he would explain further. "You smell death?" Much to both her and Jaken's surprise, or at least he would have been surprised if he actually knew what Sesshoumaru had said, he elaborated.

Before Jaken even had the chance to ask what he said, Kagome had already shot off into the woods in the direction Sesshoumaru had been looking. Being told an entire human village had been slaughtered was more than enough to give her almost instinctual need to help others a wake up call. It was even enough to completely override her most basic survival instincts.

She had no way of knowing what had attacked the village or if it would even still be there when she arrived, but neither of these things mattered to her as she ran as fast as she could toward the village. She did not need to know the why or the what, only that people needed her help; even if the only help she could give them was a proper burial.

It did not take her long to find the village he had been referring to; realizing her worst fear had been confirmed as soon as she was standing on the hill overlooking the village center. Everywhere, as far as the eye could see, the ground was littered by bodies; many of which had been attacked from behind judging by the majority of their wounds being on their backs.

For well over a full minute, Kagome could only stand there in utter disbelief that something could do that to an entire village. It wasn't a battle fought during war where both sides lost good men, it was a massacre of men, women and children. Blinking back the tears threatening to escape, Kagome squared her shoulders and began making her way to a half dilapidated tool hut.

Grabbing one of the few tools that was not destroyed, Kagome made her way back outside just as Sesshoumaru and Jaken were appearing on the hill she had been standing on a few moments before. A quick scan of the village and she soon realized only one small portion of it was not covering in bodies. Deciding it would be her best bet for a graveyard, Kagome made her way over and began digging without a word to either demon; whose presences she had yet to notice.

It was not long before she realized just how big of a task this was going to be. She had barely dug two feet down into her first grave and she was already sweating profusely; her arms aching from the workout they were unaccustomed to. Glancing around once more and counting an easy two dozen bodies, she couldn't help but realize she had bitten off far more than she could chew.

It crossed her mind more than once that if Inuyasha had been there, he would have been able to do the job with ease, never even breaking a sweat, before she finally remembered that, while he might not be there, his half brother was. Turning to glance at him, even as she continued to work, she quickly dismissed the idea of asking him for help.

It would have been like pulling nails trying to get Inuyasha to help; his brother was down right impossible. No, she could only count on herself for the job and, if she was being honest with herself, she knew she could not handle it. There was no way she could possibly dig 24 graves by herself and certainly not in a timely manner.

Not wanting Sesshoumaru to make her leave a job half finished, Kagome made a difficult decision; one she was sure would haunt her for the rest of her life. Instead of digging 24 separate graves, she was going to dig one large one. As she thought of all of the mass graves she had seen, or more often read about in the history books, she had always assumed that the people who had dug them had been monsters; too wrapped in their own lives to bother putting forth the time and energy separate graves would require.

But as she found herself not having enough of either and forced to do the very same thing, she began to wonder if she had misjudged them. While she was sure most of them were the monsters she thought them to be, what if some of them were just like her? Alone and pressed for time, but still wanting to give the lost souls she stumble upon a proper burial.

The next time she found herself passing by a mass grave, or reading about it in history class if she ever made it home, she would make sure to give the grave diggers more than just an instant assumption toward their character. She knew it would not make a bit of difference to whoever they were in the long run, but at least she could get a small piece of mind out of the whole thing.

Realizing her straying thoughts were simply to keep her mind off of what she was doing, Kagome happily allowed them to do so as she continued to dig a large hole, shoveling the dirt out as fast as she could. She had just about forgotten they were even there when Kagome noticed a giant shadow passing over her. Glancing up, she paused her actions long enough to hear what Sesshoumaru was growling.

"I understand," she responded to his warning that she would only get until sunset to finish before glancing up toward the West and realizing that was not far off. Though she knew that even with his help she still would not be able to get enough graves dug for all of them, Kagome decided to get herself a helper. If they were lucky, they just might get everyone buried in time if they worked together.

"Sesshoumaru said that you are to help me," Kagome lied to Jaken causing the disbelieving toad to sputter as he glanced back and forth between them. Having no idea what his lord was saying, he had no way of knowing if she was telling him the truth or not and Sesshoumaru's apparent disinterest, as he laid his massive body down and stared off toward the horizon, did little to clarify anything.

Sighing heavily, deciding it was better to help her when he was not actually told to as opposed to not helping her when he had told him to, Jaken began making his way toward the tool hut for another shovel. Grabbing the first one he saw, unconcerned by its broken handle as it would actually make it more for his size, he hurried over to the hole and got to work beside her.

...

Just as the sun was setting that night, Kagome and Jaken finished shoveling in the last bit of dirt over the mass grave. A couple of flowers placed on top and a silent prayer for those lost later and Kagome turned toward him to let Sesshoumaru know she was ready to go. Before she could open her mouth to speak, the most pitiful sound she had ever heard reached her ears.

It was faint, so much so that at first she thought she imagined it, and sounded if it was coming from miles away even though she was sure the source of the sound was mere feet from her. The only thing that she was absolutely sure about was the fact that it was someone crying. Apparently annoyed that she was standing around rather than leaving, Sesshoumaru growled at her; startling both her and Jaken.

"Sorry, I can hear someone crying," Kagome explained, even though she was certain he could hear it if she could, as she began searching through the rubble for the source of the sound. After hearing his response, Kagome was sure she had to have misunderstood, but soon enough reminded herself that the little she knew about the older brother told her that it was exactly something he would say.

"If you heard it this entire time, why didn't you say something before?" she demanded, picking up her pace without waiting for him to respond. For a moment, she debated asking him where the sound originated, but quickly pointed out to herself that he probably wouldn't tell her and she would just waste precious time.

Weaving her way around the debris that covered the majority of the village, Kagome soon came to an overturned wagon that seemed to be where the sound was coming from. Knowing she wouldn't be able to turn the whole thing over by herself, she was grateful to learn that the shoddily made wagon began to break into pieces as she pulled the first board free.

It wasn't long before she had pried enough wood away that she could climb underneath the wagon herself. Reaching in, she grabbed onto the small body, huddled in the darkness sobbing quietly, and crawled her way back out. With far more light to see by outside in the dusk than she had under the wagon, she could now see that it was a little girl she held in her arms.

The instant she opened her eyes and saw a much friendlier face than the last one must have been, she hugged her tiny arms around Kagome's neck as tightly as she could. "It's okay, little one. You are safe now," Kagome assured her without every having the thought that she might not have been. There was no reason for her to wonder if the girl would be safe, in her mind. She had decided she would protect her and, to Kagome, that decision was as good as written in stone.

Holding the girl's tiny frame to her chest, realizing just how cold she was as her cheek rested against her neck, Kagome began making her way back to the others; startled by Sesshoumaru's sudden question. "What kind of a question is that, Sesshoumaru? If you had a heart, you would already know what I was doing," she insisted rather rudely; temporarily forgetting just who she was snapping at.

Though she quickly remembered when his next growl was one of warning and not of actual words, but her inner defiance would not remain dormant for long. Holding her head up high, giving her best 'you don't scare me' look even though he terrified her, she walked right passed him throwing, "You said I was in your debt, Sesshoumaru. You never said I was your prisoner without free will," over her shoulder.

When he hadn't instantly struck her down for defying him, her bravery grew. "The girl goes where I go. You can kill me if you want to, but then you would have nobody to talk to," she reminded him with a bit of a smile in her tone. Somehow, even with as little as she knew of him, she was still certain he would not attack her from behind. Of course, she realized later, that could have just been her desire to see good in everyone and not have anything actually to do with him.

A few days had passed since the oddly paired up group picked up their fourth member and still the little girl had not said a word. She had spent all of her time in Kagome's arms whether she was eating or sleeping, not even looking at the two male members of the group, and Jaken for one had had enough of her strange behavior. Deciding to get to the bottom of it one night while they were camped around the fire, getting ready to settle in for the night, he inquired, "What is wrong with her? You never seem to stop talking and yet she doesn't talk at all."

Ignoring his insinuation that she talked to much, Kagome smiled down at the little girl in her arms, holding her close to assure her that there really wasn't anything wrong with her, before turning her attention back to Jaken. "She's in shock. I can not even imagine what she just went through and sometimes the mind can not deal with what just happened and it sort of shuts down for a while," she told him, not really sure how to explain what shock was even though she understood its meaning herself.

As the little girl in her arms looked away from her for the first time since she had joined them, and having rather interesting timing to do so, Kagome figured she had actually come out of shock at some point before and simply wasn't ready to look away from the safety she found in Kagome's arms. She smiled a toothy grin at Jaken as she noticed him, startling the demon a bit at the sudden change in her behavior. Glancing from him, she spotted Sesshoumaru and her grin only widened. "Doggy."

"That's right, he is a doggy; though a rather large one. His name is Sesshoumaru and the other one is Jaken. And my name is Kagome. What is yours little one?" Kagome inquired even as the little girl climbed out of her arms and began moving closer to Sesshoumaru. Unconcerned that he would attack her since she was just a little girl, Kagome watched in silence as she stopped in front of the massive dog and tilted her head to the side; almost as if she was trying to figure him out.

Just as Kagome was figuring she had forgotten her question, she finally answered so softly that Kagome thought she was actually talking to Sesshoumaru as opposed to her. "My name is Rin," she told them before turning back to Kagome in confusion when Sesshoumaru began to growl at her.

"He says that he is a dog demon and a lord and that he should be treated with respect," she explained to the others before turning toward Sesshoumaru with a smirk she knew he would be unable to see. "Very well, Lord Doggy," she mocked jokingly, causing him to growl at her once more; this time not as nicely as he had a moment before. "Sesshoumaru, if you were going to kill me, you would have done that when we first crossed paths. Besides, like I said before, if you kill me you would have no one to talk to anymore."

The responding growl that answered her words had Kagome shivering unconsciously. "I sure hope it won't be that way forever. I for one would like to be able to see my family again before I die."

Late that night, Kagome was sleeping peacefully beside the fire with Rin only a few feet away when she was rudely awoken by the sound of someone screaming. Startled awake by the sheer terror in her voice, Kagome sat up instantly and turned her attention to Rin; knowing it could have only come from her. What she saw broke her heart; the little girl looked completely panicked and was thrashing around in her sleep, screaming as loud as she could.

"Rin! Rin wake up! It's just a nightmare," Kagome assured her as she quickly crawled over to her and began to gently shake her in hopes it would wake her up. Though it took a few moments, her plan succeeded and she was soon looking at a pair of large, frightened eyes. "Rin, you are okay. The nightmare is over," she assured her softly, ignoring the growls that were coming from Sesshoumaru. There was no reason to translate that he wanted her to keep the girl quiet, but Rin apparently took his growls to mean something else entirely as she jumped to her feet and ran to him; quickly burying her face in his fur.

Within seconds she was already starting to calm down and it wasn't long before she had stopped crying all together. "Mission accomplished," Kagome told him with a smirk since she had managed to get her to stop crying just as he had wanted; he never said how. For a few moments, Sesshoumaru glanced over toward where he knew she would be and Kagome was sure if she had been able to see his face, he probably would have been glaring at her, before laying his head back down on his paws.

Figuring that meant he wasn't going to turn the girl away, Kagome called over softly, "Good night Rin," but was rewarded by a soft snore in response. Amazed that a little girl who had just lived through what she had could find a demon like Sesshoumaru to be a safe haven for her, Kagome couldn't help but smile at the thought that maybe he really wasn't as bad as she had first thought. After all, what kind of a monster would let a little girl cuddle up next to him just because she had woken up from a nightmare?

Laying back down in her own spot, Kagome called out softly once more, "Good night, Sesshoumaru," before closing her eyes without waiting for a response; she already knew she wouldn't be receiving one. Jaken, who had slept through the entire thing, rolled over and began to snore loudly; causing Kagome to laugh at the thought that so much noise could come out of such a small demon.

Early the next morning, Kagome awoke from a mostly good night's sleep; stretching her arms out over her head to work out the kinks as she sat up. Seeing Rin was already awake and adding more wood to the fire, Kagome greeted, "Good morning, Rin. Did you sleep well?" Apparently noticing she was awake for the first time, Rin turned toward her with a large grin before nodding her head enthusiastically.

"Lord Sesshoumaru is very comfy," Rin informed her and Kagome had to bite her tongue to stop herself from laughing at such a thought. Though his fur did look rather soft and warm, she knew it was not an adjective he would be happy with being used to describe himself. "I did not have anymore bad dreams about wolves," she continued, drawing Kagome's attention back to her own question, and finding herself becoming a bit curious. Apparently reading her confusion on her face, Rin explained, "Wolves attacked my village."

Her answer only served to confused Kagome further as she could not believe all of the damage that had been done to the village was from wolves alone. Hearing Sesshoumaru's growl, she fought the urge to say 'duh' to her own confusion. "Wolf demons, of course. I mean there are dog demons and crow demons and even toad demons; why not wolf demons?" she asked herself rhetorically before turning her attention back to what Rin had said.

"If wolf demons are going around attacking human villages, we have to stop them," she insisted not at all happy with Sesshoumaru response, though not surprised by it either. "I have seen no evidence that you are a demon that attacks human villages, Sesshoumaru. Sure you attacked Inuyasha, using despicable methods by the way, but you did not attack me or Rin. You are not the same." When he growled out a correction to her statement, Kagome wanted to laugh for actually forgetting that he had in fact attacked her.

"Okay, yes you attacked me in your father's tomb, but that was only because you were sore that I was able to pull out the sword when you couldn't," she insisted, completely sure of her own words as his attacks had not been aimed at her before that point and it was the only time he attacked her directly. It was Jaken that kept attacking her when they first met. Instead of answering, Sesshoumaru merely stood and began walking away from camp. Shrugging her shoulders at the others' questioning looks, Kagome quickly put the fire out and ran to catch up with him with the others following.

...

Though Sesshoumaru had not said another word until after they had stopped for lunch, Kagome wasn't really concerned about it. He wasn't normally very chatty anyways and she couldn't sense in lingering annoyance or anger from him about their earlier conversation. She just chalked it up to him having nothing to say and instead spent the time walking chatting with Rin and occasionally Jaken when he spoke up to tell her she was wrong about one thing or another.

Figuring it was his way of joining the conversation without having to admit he was doing so, Kagome paid little mind to his antics and was just happy to keep the conversation going. She couldn't stand long periods of silence as her mind would start to wander to things she did not want to think about; whether or not she would ever see her family again, anyone who might have been hurt or killed because of the jewel shards and even how she would feel when it came time to go home for the last time and she had to leave her new friends behind.

Yes, it was far better for her to keep herself busy and so when Sesshoumaru suddenly stopped and growled for them to wait there for his return, Kagome decided to make the most of their break. Having no way to know that he was going out searching for the wolves he could smell following them, as he couldn't be bothered to tell her such things, Kagome let her guard down a bit, though she was not a complete idiot thankfully.

"Jaken, he says you have to protect Rin and I while he is gone," she informed him falsely, though he did not seem to think anything of it and simply nodded his head before going to sit down on a large boulder nearby. Surprised it worked so easily, Kagome simply shrugged to herself before beginning to play a game of tag with Rin. They had only been playing for a few minutes when Kagome was startled by the sudden presence of a shard; causing her to stop suddenly and allowing Rin to tag her.

"Jaken! There's a jewel shard incoming!" she called out to him, but having no idea what she was talking about, Jaken could only sit there staring at her for a moment. Before she could even open her mouth to explain what was going on, a pack of wolves burst into the clearing lead by a few humanoid ones; causing both Kagome and Rin to freeze in fear as the wolves began to growl, saliva dripping from their open mouths as they stalked toward them.

Shaking her head, Kagome regain control of herself and grabbed onto Rin as she jumped out of the way of the wolves that lunged at them. "Jaken!" she screamed out even as she quickly picked Rin up and tried to make her way to where he was currently fighting a few of the wolves; unable to try and aim her bow while protecting Rin at the same time. The wolves were just too quick. She could see him doing his best to fight his way toward them as well, but as the wolves that had been chasing them turned on him, he was quickly out matched.

"Jaken!" she screamed again, this time in concern when one of the humanoid demons attacked him as well and sent him flying across the clearing with a well placed kick to the chest. When he didn't get up, Kagome's voice caught in her throat as the tears began to fall. As the demon that knocked Jaken out began to stalk toward her, showing himself to be the leader as he held up his hand and the others held their positions, Kagome quickly put Rin down and stepped in front of her.

Unshouldering her bow, she notched the first arrow even as she began to walk slowly around the clearing; hoping to get in front of Jaken so Rin could run to him. Wanting to make sure she kept his attention on her instead of on Rin, Kagome shot an arrow at him but the small amount of force she could send it away was apparently no more than an annoyance for him as he effortlessly batted it away. "Tell me something, human. How did you know that I had shards?"

Instead of answering, Kagome pushed Rin toward Jaken before firing off another arrow at the demon in front of her. He swatted that one away as well as though it was nothing and Kagome spat out as she notched her third arrow, "Like I would ever tell you." She pulled the string taunt and went to release it, praying that Sesshoumaru would return from wherever he went soon, only to realize he was no longer standing in front of her.

Spinning around, she barely had the time to notice his grin before he swatted the bow out of her hands and threw her over his shoulder; causing Kagome to cry out and begin to beat on his back with her fists. "Kill the others," he instructed of his wolves and began to walk back out of the clearing. Fighting with all of her might to get him to release her, even though she could already tell she would be no match for his strength, Kagome watched in horror as the wolves stalked closer to where Rin was trying to shake Jaken awake.

"Rin! Jaken!" Kagome screamed as an overwhelming fear began to rise from deep within her and manifested itself as a small, but painful blast of holy power. The blast was big enough to throw the two of them apart, but unfortunately for Kagome, her path sent her flying into a tree. She was unconscious before she hit the ground. Examining his slightly singed hands, the leader made his way back over to her and once again threw her over his shoulder. "Bring the little one. Leave the toad to be another demon's food. They don't taste good anyways," he called over his shoulder before rushing out of the clearing.

An hour later when Sesshoumaru returned to the clearing, he instantly knew that something was not right. Though he could not see the bow and arrows lying abandoned in the grass or the scorch marks in the ground from Kagome's attack, he could smell that a battle had taken place and that the scent of two of his followers was already growing weak. Following the scent of the remaining member, Sesshoumaru tapped him with his massive paw; growling for him to wake up.

Thankfully, it was not long before Jaken regained consciousness and realized he was still alive. Breathing a sigh of relief, he glanced around to check the status of the other two only to realize that they were gone. Growing impatient, Sesshoumaru growled at him. "I don't know what you are saying my lord, but the wolves attacked not long after you had left.

"I am sorry my lord, but this lowly servant failed your orders to protect them. They must have been taken after I was knocked unconscious. I offer you my life for my failure," Jaken told him, bowing his head sadly. He could not believe he had been so weak to lose the fight so quickly, even if he was out numbered. Realizing Kagome had lied to him again about what he had actually said, Sesshoumaru paid no attention to his offering and instead growled at him once more before taking off.

"I have no idea what you just said, my lord, but I am going to follow after you!" Jaken called after him as he glanced up and realized his lord wasn't going to kill him, before climbing to his feet and quickly grabbing onto Sesshoumaru's fur a moment before he took off into the sky and Jaken would have been left behind.

A ways away from the clearing, Kagome found herself cornered in a rather large cave with the only exit blocked off by what must have been the entire demon clan. Guarding Rin behind her, Kagome held them off for the moment when the only weapon at her disposal; a burning stick from the fire nearby. As she glanced around at the wolves, noticing that none of them seemed to be women, she made a mental note that the leader had a jewel shard in each of his legs.

Seeing one of the wolves advancing to her right, Kagome turned ever so slightly to wave the stick at him in hopes of keeping him back only to have the stick wrenched from her grasp as the leader ran forward at a speed she couldn't even see. Startled by his sudden appearance beside her, Kagome had to fight to keep her balance and began backing up away from him; making sure to keep Rin behind her. "I can not wait to rut with such a feisty woman," he told her honestly, putting the fire out with nothing more than the tips of his fingers before tossing the stick away.

"Who the hell do you think you are?! Talking to me like that! Have you no class at all?" Kagome demanded rather insulted by his offensive words; especially since the were uttered in front of a child.

"I am Kouga, prince of the wolf demons and who might you be? Other than my new woman, I mean," he inquired, apparently unaffected by her insult as he gave her another once over; staring a little too long at the part of her legs that wasn't covered by her skirt.

"I am Kagome and I am not going to be rutting with any stinking demon; prince or not," Kagome informed him as she reached behind her back and covered Rin's ears with her hands. She was certain his future words would not be any more proper for a little girl to be hearing.

"You do not have a choice, woman. When a master barks an order, you obey," he insisted laughing; apparently the thought that anyone would try to refuse him was amusing to him. Finding the idea of him, or anyone for that matter, ever being her master as ludicrous and insulting, Kagome did what she always did when something pissed her off; she spoke without thinking.

"You can't be my master. Sorry I already have one," she told him with a smirk, though it was short lived when he demanded to know who it was. Mentally kicking herself for not realizing he was going to ask that when she decided to start this lie, Kagome opened her mouth and said the first name to pop into her mind, "Sesshoumaru." Seeing the recollection in some of the demons' eyes, she added, "Lord of the dog demons," for emphasis.

Deciding if she was going to lie in the first place that she needed to stick with it, she warned them, "He is probably already on his way here at this very moment to find us and when he does, he is going to slaughter every one of you." Instantly she could see they were believing her as a few of the humanoid ones began glancing around nervously. She even began to have a glimmer of hope when one of them wondered if it would be better to let them go, but it was quickly stamped out by Kouga's next words.

"Don't be such a coward, Ginta. Let the little dog come and play with us. We out number him and are a lot stronger than one puny, little dog," he insisted arrogantly and unable to help herself, Kagome actually laughed at the thought of Sesshoumaru being considered puny. Silently praying that he really was on the way to save them and not just happy to get rid of her, Kagome closed her eyes and tried to ignore the demons in front of her as their leader began telling his followers how he would defeat the great dog demon.

As soon as they reached the bottom of the waterfall, able to make out the entrance to the wolf den at the top, Sesshoumaru growled at Jaken before nodding his head toward the cave. "I assume you want me to go up there, my lord?" Jaken asked more than actually assumed and Sesshoumaru nodded his head. Turning around, Jaken quickly hurried up to the top even as he silently prayed the girls were okay. There was no telling if Sesshoumaru would change his mind about killing him for failing if the girls were hurt.

Stopping just outside of the cave, Jaken called out to the wolves, "You have exactly one minute to release the two girls or your entire den will be destroyed!" From inside, he could hear some of the wolves laugh before someone called out that he had one minute to leave or he would be killed. Turning back to Sesshoumaru, Jaken shook his head though he was pretty sure he had heard the wolf's answer on his own.

Growling, Sesshoumaru nodded his head to the side and taking it to mean he wanted him to go there, Jaken quickly ran away from the cave as fast he could in the direction he had indicated. Paying him little attention, Sesshoumaru walked up to the side of the mountain and stood up on his hind legs; dropping his massive front paws down onto it. The entire mountain shook from the force knocking everyone inside off of their feet.

Now thoroughly pissed off that someone had the nerve to actually attack his den, Kouga called for the others to follow him and ran outside. Apparently forgotten about, Kagome quickly gathered up Rin and ran out after them; changing directions as soon as she was outside and noticing Jaken hiding behind a fallen tree. Spotting them, he began jumping up and down as he called out their names and waved his hands.

Making her way over to him, Kagome ducked behind the tree before turning back to watch the fight unfolding before them. Realizing she had never told Sesshoumaru about the shards, she called out, "Sesshoumaru, he has a jewel shard in both of his legs!" Hearing him growl in response, she quickly handed Rin over to Jaken before calling back, "Coming!" Climbing back up the hill, far enough away from the fight that she wouldn't be in the path of any attacks but still close enough that she could hear him, she waited for his next instructions.

She did not have to wait long before he was growling once more and Kagome translated, "My master says to yield to him now or you will all be slaughtered!" Waving off his questioning her using the term master, Kagome almost smiled when she realized some of the wolves were already starting to give up. The desire to do so was short lived when Kouga called out that they would see who would be getting slaughtered before jumping up the hill to land beside her.

Before she had the chance to react, he had her claws around her throat and Kagome quickly found herself having difficultly breathing. "Surrender or the bitch dies," Kouga threatened and Kagome fought against her urge to slap him for calling her such a thing; quickly deciding it wasn't worth losing her life over especially when he probably thought every woman was a bitch, at least if demons were anything like their animal counterparts.

Turning her attention back to Sesshoumaru when he growled at her, Kagome forgot about her current situation for a moment by his words. "Eww, I am not going to repeat that," she insisted only to have him growl it once more. "Fine. Sesshoumaru says that you are to release what is his or he is going to feed you your own entrails," Kagome barely managed to say before shuttering slightly at the thought. In response, Kouga dug his claws into Kagome's neck suddenly causing her to cry out in pain as a few drops of her crimson blood began to trickle down his fingers.

Hearing him growl once more, this time actually directed at her, Kagome exhaled deeply since he wouldn't actually be able to see her nod and wanted to make sure he knew she was still conscious and had heard his instructions. "You are going to regret that," Kagome promised before turning toward Kouga, causing his claws to scape across her neck and screamed as loud as she could right into his ear. As he cried out and reached for his abused ear, Kagome pushed away from him before diving off of the hill before he could realize what she was doing.

As she began to roll head over feet down the hill toward her allies, Sesshoumaru shot poison from his mouth onto Kouga's face. Before Kagome had even made it to the bottom of the hill, Kouga was screaming out in pain as he grabbed his injured cheek. Turning his head in Kagome's direction, Sesshoumaru waited until he could hear her climbing to her feet before growling to her once more. Crying out softly in pain when she tried to step down on one of her feet and realized she had twisted her ankle, Kagome gritted her teeth against the pain.

"He says to call off your wolves and surrender or the next attack takes your life," Kagome translated as she hopped around on one foot trying not to lose her balance. Hearing his warning that they would pay for injuring him, Kagome paid little attention to the threat as he whistled for his wolves to fall back and began making his way back to the cave entrance. Realizing he still had the shards, she called out, "He also said that you were to give up your shards." Seeing he was about to object, she questioned, "What is more important? The shards or your life?"

Turning back to glare at her, Kouga cuts the shards out of his legs before throwing them at her. "I will take great pleasure in breaking your body and spirit before devouring you," he practically growled at her before disappearing back into the den. Hearing the other wolves retreating as well, Sesshoumaru jumped over to where Kagome was gathering the shards and growled at her. "Alright," she agreed as she climbed onto his paw and held on.

After he growled at her once more, she called out to the others, "Get on!" The instant they were holding on beside her, Sesshoumaru took off into the sky above the treetops; causing the three of them to have very different reactions. Kagome squeezed her eyes closed. Jaken yelled out a startled 'ahhh' and Rin cried out a cheerful 'wee'.

It was late into the night when Sesshoumaru finally decided to land and Kagome couldn't help but think that it was about time. She had been shaking the other two awake for some time, worried they might release their grips if they fell asleep and would fall. Plus the pounding headache she was suffering from was a constant reminder that she still had not tended to the wound on her neck.

Though it had long since stopped bleeding, she still needed to clean it to prevent infections. If she was being honest though, it was actually the fact that the dried blood that had crusted to the wound was itching like crazy and she had been unable to scratch it for hours. Not only would she risk falling, but she had no idea if the cuts would start bleeding again and did not want fresh blood to suddenly pop up under Sesshoumaru's nose.

Fortunately for her, the wait would soon be over as Sesshoumaru flew up the side of the mountain and landed just outside a gigantic cave entrance. Hearing his instructions, Kagome translated, "We are to wait here," as she climbed down and began leading the others into the cave. Behind her she could hear Sesshoumaru taking off again, but she wasn't worried about getting attacked at least for the moment. It was easy to see on the way up that the only possible way to reach this cave was to fly.

While there might be other demons that could get up there and pose a threat, at least she knew the wolves couldn't. Once she was certain Sesshoumaru was out of range, Kagome hurriedly wiped away the dried blood; careful to rub it away from the wounds on her neck instead of scratching. Once she was satisfied that the itch was gone, Kagome ignored the questioning looks she was getting from the others and glanced around.

Though the cave was more than large enough to accommodate Sesshoumaru's current size, that was basically all it had going for it; at least in Kagome's opinion as she had no idea what demons actually looked for in their caves. To her it was too cold and damp and their was a faint smell of dead animal still lingering in the air. Wondering how recently Sesshoumaru had been to this cave for the scent to still be there for her human nose, Kagome decided to take care of the one problem she could hopefully fix.

Gathering up some of the branches that were scattered around, realizing at the same time that she had no idea what they were doing there since she doubted Sesshoumaru ever built a fire, she began building one herself as far away from the entrance as she could so the wind wouldn't blow it out. For a moment, she wondered if the wood was there for Jaken from some passed trip they had made up here, but quickly dismissed the thought when he seemed to be as out of place as she felt.

Shrugging it off, she gratefully accepted the armful of sticks that Jaken brought her before glancing over to check on Rin. Seeing her sit down just inside the cave, so she still had full view of the outside, and figuring she was waiting for Sesshoumaru to return, Kagome turned her attention back to the task at hand.

...

Shaking herself awake as she felt her eyes growing heavy, Kagome glanced over her shoulder to find the other two sound asleep; cuddled up next to each other beside the fire. Smiling softly to herself at the sight, she glanced back out at the dark sky; resting her head against the cold, damp wall of the cave.

It was not long before she could feel her eyes growing heavy once more as she started succumbing to her desire to sleep. She was about to give in, knowing nothing would be attacking them anytime soon since she was certain Sesshoumaru's scent still filled the cave, when she heard a familiar voice growling at her.

"You and I both know you would catch me if I did fall," Kagome insisted as she climbed to her feet and backed up far enough into the cave so Sesshoumaru would have enough room. As she stepped back to watch, she couldn't help but notice that he had acquired another follower again. Giving the small, in comparison to him anyways, dragon a once over, Kagome found herself quickly becoming even more curious about his behavior.

He wants them all to believe that he would kill them without a second thought and that they do not matter at all to him, and yet here was proof that he did. The dragon obviously wasn't here for him as it was much too small to carry him in his current form, but it was already saddled so it was not hard for her to figure out that it was in fact meant to be ridden. So wrapped up in thinking how sweet the gesture was, Kagome almost missed his answering her silent questions.

"It's name is Ah-Un? One name for each head I assume," Kagome replied as she walked over and petted the dragon he had gotten for her and Rin to ride. "And yes, it will be much faster with us riding while waiting for my ankle to heal. Thank you." Leading the dragon over to the fire where it would be warm, Kagome patted both of its heads before laying down beside it to sleep. Even as she did so, she could hear Rin beginning to toss and turn in her sleep; her frightened whispers a sure sign she was having nightmares again.

Just as she was about ready to stand back up and wake her up, let the little girl know that she was safe, she sat upright suddenly with a high pitched scream before opening her eyes and finding Sesshoumaru had returned. Before either of them could realize what she was doing, she was already curling up against him one more. Uninhibited by the fact that he could not see either of them, Sesshoumaru glanced toward the little girl for a moment before turning his attention to Kagome.

Seeing no reason to disturb the little girl, Kagome just smiled at him softly before adding, "Good night, Sesshoumaru," when she remembered he couldn't actually see the smile. Thinking nothing more of the strange pair, Kagome laid back down and closed her eyes for some much needed sleep. From where he sat, Sesshoumaru debated commanding her to remove the girl, but soon enough decided against it. He did not feel like hearing her whining and besides, he could always get back at her tomorrow.

Traveling with Inuyasha, Kagome had gotten used to being rudely awoken most mornings with grumbles that she was sleeping too much or that she needed to make him breakfast, but she had to admit in all that time, she was never so rudely awoken as she was by Sesshoumaru the next morning. There were many things you wouldn't mind seeing first thing in the morning when you open your eyes; your lovers face smiling softly at you letting you know without words that they had awoken before you and couldn't bear to wake you up.

An adorable forest creature and their babies foraging just on the edge of the clearing you had camped in. Even the sight of your little brother peaking over your bedspread, telling you to wake up because he couldn't start eating the french toast your mother had surprised you with one Saturday morning until everyone was at the table. All of these, and many more, were far more welcoming than to open your eyes and find yourself staring into the lifeless eyes of a dead boar.

Crying out in surprise, she nearly jumped clear out of her sleeping bag at the sight before turning to glare at Sesshoumaru; though the look threatening his early death was completely lost on him. Not that she thought it would have actually had an effect on him if he had been able to see it. Before she could ask what he was doing, he was already growling out his orders.

"Cook it, please," Kagome corrected even as she stood and began rebuilding the fire so she could do as instructed. Confused by his next growl, she called over her shoulder, "What do you mean 'explain myself'? Explain what?" Hearing the three resounding growls that followed her question, though to her they were actually words, she ticked them off in order.

"The shards are my responsibility to collect because the complete jewel came from my body and I am the one that shattered it in the first place. Or at least I was trying to collect them before Inuyasha decided to abandon me. Now it's more making sure to get the few that cross my path to ensure no one can ever complete the jewel again. No one seeking to do so, other than myself, is doing it for noble reasons.

"They all want more power, power that was never meant to be theirs. Kouga used the shards to increase the speed he could run at and Inuyasha wanted the jewel to wish away his humanity. He believes he will be stronger as a full demon and maybe he would be, but he would also be weaker. There is a powerful strength in the human heart that no demon will ever understand and he wants to throw it away thinking that it's a weakness.

"But I am getting off topic and I doubt you care about any of that. Let's see, why I called you my master, I believe that was your second question," Kagome said more to herself than to him as she tended to the boar. "Kouga was trying to claim that he would be my master, whatever he thought that meant, and I figured that dropping a name like Sesshoumaru, Lord of the dog demons, would scare him off. It would have worked too if he wasn't such an idiot.

"His mistook the shards in his legs of being real power and all of his confidence came from them. The idiot thought he could win by cheating." Shaking her head to clear her mind of thoughts of the wolf prince, she rested back on her hands waiting for the boar to cook while continuing, "And honestly, I lie about what you say because I am only human. It doesn't hurt you any, but it works to my advantage. Right now, I have no other way of getting what I need."

A few days had passed before they finally decided to venture out of the cave and continue on to whatever destination Sesshoumaru had in mind; if he even had one. Honestly, Kagome had no idea what was going through his mind and he seemed to have no inclination to fill her in. Deciding it didn't really matter where they were going since she would be following him for the time being no matter what their destination turned out to be, Kagome was content to ride on Ah-Un while waiting for her ankle to heal.

Rin on the other hand, had opted to stay Jaken on Sesshoumaru's front paw for now, saying she would ride the dragon when she got too tired to stand. Seeing as he didn't object, Kagome thought no harm in it and stretched out comfortably while the group flew a few yards above the ground. More than once Kagome found herself wondering why Sesshoumaru had opted to fly so low, but soon found herself thankful that he had.

Only a few hours into their trip, the group found themselves flying over two demons attacking another one; who seemed to be protecting a forth, much smaller demon behind him. Acting without thinking, when she saw a blast of thunder being sent at the third demon, which she could now see was a fox, Kagome leaped from Ah-Un's back. Barely managing to time her landed correctly, she pushed him out of the way just in time to miss the blast that would have no doubt killed him; judging by the massive crater the attack left in its wake where he had just been standing.

As the two roll out of the way, the demons turn their attention onto Kagome only to be frightened off a moment later when a massive dog landed beside them. Having no way to know he wasn't actually talking to them, or what he was saying, the two quickly decided that this was one battle they could not win and ran away. The one person who could understand what he was saying choose to ignore his demand to know what she thought she was doing and turned her attention to the fox demon as she helped him to his feet; careful to place her weight on her uninjured ankle.

"More demons will continue to attack you as long as you have a jewel shard in your possession. I am gathering up the pieces to make sure they do not fall into evil hands and urge you to give it to me so you will be safe," Kagome told him honestly, hoping she wouldn't have to force him to give it to her. He seemed like he was just trying to protect the little demon who was obviously his son, and who had buried his face in his fur once he realized his father was alright, but she couldn't leave any of the shards that she came upon.

Much to her relief and surprise, he handed it over instantly before explaining, "I have no use nor desire for the shard. My son Shippo found it and I was afraid demons would attack him and held onto it myself. Thank you for saving us, child and good luck on your quest for the shards." Without another word, the two turned and began making their way back home while Shippo waved at her from his place on his father's back.

Turning back to Sesshoumaru, and already knowing what he was going to say, Kagome decided to cut him off before he had the chance. "I know, stupid girl, but I could not let someone die for my mistake. Not when I was right there and could stop it. It may be stupid to you, but to me I would be far worse than an idiot if I just walked away and did nothing. Besides, every shard that I gather is another one that can't be used to hurt innocent people or demons."

"I most certainly do not smell, Sesshoumaru!" Kagome insisted rather insulted by the insinuation that she did a few days later when they suddenly stopped at the bottom of a large hill and Sesshoumaru made a comment about her cloths. "I am so sorry that you have an extra sensitive nose, but I haven't exactly seen a washing machine or a bathtub around here anywhere. Have you?!" she demanded, forgetting for a moment that he couldn't actually see anything.

Apparently unconcerned by her slip, Sesshoumaru let it go as he growled out his instructions once again. "Fine. We'll go buy new clothes. Jaken give us some of Sesshoumaru's money. It seems we need to go on a shopping spree," Kagome informed him as she turned toward Jaken with her hand out; ignoring the second part of Sesshoumaru's growls wondering what a washing machine and a bathtub were.

The much smaller demon glanced back and forth between the two trying to decide if he should listen to her or not, but as Sesshoumaru didn't seem to be trying to correct her in any way, he eventually decided that she spoke the truth. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved the coin purse Sesshoumaru had given him and went to take a few coins out when Kagome grabbed the whole thing. "Don't worry, Jaken. I'll bring you back the change. If there is any, anyways," Kagome told him before turning and beginning to make her way up the hill.

"Come on Rin, we get to go get a new kimono," she called over her shoulder and soon the little girl was running after her, asking if she could get one with flowers on it. Telling her she could get two, making sure to be loud enough that the others could hear her, Kagome took her hand and continued the short trek up and over the hill; finding herself looking down on a small human village once on the other side.

"Keep an eye out for anyone selling clothing, Rin," Kagome instructed as they made their way toward the center of town; ignoring the looks her school uniform were getting her. By now she was already used to the comments that they would no doubt whisper to each other as every villager she had passed had done. She realized the style wasn't exactly on par with the one from this era, but it had been the only thing she could wear.

She refused to dress as a priestess and give Inuyasha or anyone else anymore reason to confuse her with Kikyou and a kimono was hard to run in. She could remember tripping over hers one summer during a festival when she was chasing after her little brother. In this era she had to run far too often, whether to someone or away from them, to get her feet caught up in the material of a kimono. Now she would find something new to wear, since she was certain Sesshoumaru wouldn't take no for an answer, but it would not be a kimono.

"Is that a real priest?" Rin inquired suddenly, startling Kagome as she glanced down at her for a moment before following her line of sight. It did not take long for her to spot the young priest in purple robes speaking with what looked to be the village head. As she watched, completely forgetting about Rin's question, the villager's face began to grow more worried and, afraid they might have spotted Sesshoumaru outside of town and would be getting themselves killed, Kagome moved closer.

She was able to over hear the end of the priest telling the village head that a 'dark cloud' was hanging over the village, but that he would be happy to remove it for a small fee. Glancing up at the sky and sensing nothing ominous in the air, Kagome realized he was trying to con the village out of money she doubted they could spare; judging by the fact that the majority of the huts were in desperate need of repair.

"Excuse me, sir," Kagome cut in just as the village head was about to accept his offer. "Forgive me for interrupting but this man is conning you. There is nothing ominous in the air of your good village and in fact, it is probably the safest right now that it will ever be," she insisted, thinking about Sesshoumaru just on the edge of town. Just because he would not actually defend the villagers, it did not mean that his mere presence alone wasn't enough to keep other demons at bay.

"Forgive me, my lady, but I believe that I would know a bit more of the dangers that lurk around here than you would. I am a priest after all. Now run along as I am sure your daughter will be needing to be fed soon," the priest instructed before turning back to the village head; saying something about silly women. Kagome had been unable to hear his actual words as she had started seeing red. Not only did he think she was old enough to have given birth to a five year old, but he dared tried to dismiss her simply because she was a woman.

"Forgive me, con man, but don't let the clothes fool you. I am a priestess and priest or not, you are a con man. The town is perfectly safe for the moment, you simply wish to pray on their fears to fatten your pocket. If the village head wishes to believe your lies, that is his choice, but he had the right to know the truth," Kagome insisted loud enough to make sure everyone around could hear her. It wasn't long before the villagers were taking action on the village head's command to kick the priest out of town.

With little more than a 'thanks' and a dirty look aimed at her clothing, the villagers went on their way again leaving Kagome to get back to what she was doing there in the first place. It did not take them long to find a suitable outfit for both of them, a bright yellow kimono covered in pink and purple flowers for Rin and an off white haori and hakama with little pink flowers for Kagome, and the two began making their way back out of town.

As they were making their way up the hill toward where Sesshoumaru would be waiting for them, after changing into their new clothes, Kagome was startled to find the priest appearing in front of them. More so than him being there, the fact that he had a jewel shard she hadn't noticed earlier is what surprised her. "You have a jewel shard," she told him before she could stop herself. He seemed startled for a moment before shrugging it off.

"As do you, priestess. I can see the jar around your neck," he explained pointing when Kagome looked confused. She had been too busy trying to figure out how someone else could sense the shards that it never dawned on her that she simply forgot to tuck the jar back in when she changed clothes. "And you are going to give them to me in repayment for making me lose out on that job. I am on a very important mission to defeat an evil demon and I need money to survive. It is not my fault that there are no legitimate jobs in the villages that I pass."

"Conning is conning, priest, no matter what your excuse is. Not only am I not going to give you my shards, as the jewel is just that, mine, but you are going to give me yours," Kagome told him so matter-of-factly, that for a moment he could only stare at her in stunned silence before finally laughing. Before he could ask her what made her so sure, Jaken hit him over the head with his staff; knocking him unconscious.

"I am pretty sure Lord Sesshoumaru is getting impatient waiting for your return," he informed them before turning around and heading back the way he had just come. Stepping passed the priest, Kagome grabbed the shard out of his pocket before hurrying to catch up to the others.

The next couple of weeks passed without anything noteworthy happening as the group traveled across the land, until one day when the afternoon sun beat down on so harshly that they had to stop in the shade to prevent the humans in the group from over heating. Much to Kagome's relief, Sesshoumaru opted to stop beside a crystal clear river; water cool despite the heat. Quickly changing into her bathing suit, and wishing she had one for Rin so she didn't have to wade around in her old kimono, Kagome made her way toward the water.

"And I thought your last outfit was indecent. What is the point in wearing clothing when it is that tight and small?" Jaken called out to her, upon noticing what she was wearing, as he sat by the edge of the water and allowed only his feet to get wet. Glancing over her shoulder to him, Kagome stuck out her tongue before diving head first into the water; causing a large wave to splash back on him. "Ahh!" he screeched startled as he jumped to his feet and tried to drain the water out of his clothing.

"It's called a bathing suit," Kagome told him after resurfacing and causing him to glare in her direction. "It is designed to be worn while swimming and trust me, this isn't tight or small. At least it's not a bikini," Kagome assured him, unconcerned if he knew what one was or not, before diving back under the water and swimming over to where Rin was standing; giggling at the whole exchange. Coming up behind her, Kagome splashed her with a wave of water, yelling, "Boo!"

The little girl lost her balance and landed with a large splash in the shallow water; her laughter only increasing. Scrunching her nose at Rin as she prepared to retaliate, Kagome allowed herself to be splashed back before whispering something too soft for the toad to hear. Seeing Rin's face light up at her idea, she softly counted to three before the two of them turned and began splashing the demon who had just finished wringing the water from his clothes.

"That's it! You both will pay for that!" Jaken cried out as he rushed forward and quickly disappeared beneath the water. Ready for his attack, Kagome kept glancing around waiting for him to resurface, but soon found the minutes ticking away without him reappearing. Realizing he was waiting for them to let their guard down, Kagome smiled at Rin before pointing toward the shore and beginning to make her way out of the water behind her.

Once they were far enough inland that he wouldn't be able to splash them from the water, Kagome turned back toward the river with a smirk as she waited for him to reappear and realize that he had missed her chance. A moment later, a large blast of water hit both of them from behind and Kagome turned around just in time to see Jaken finish emptying the water from his mouth. "How did you carry that much water in your mouth?"

"I am a toad demon. I can do many things that your feeble human mind can not understand," Jaken told her matter-of-factly before walking passed her and making his way back toward the water. Laughing, Kagome sent Rin back to play with him before grabbing the towel out of her backpack and beginning to dry off some of the water. Laying it down in the shade, she laid down on her towel before closing her eyes; deciding to get a bit of rest while she could.

Apparently fate had a different plan as not more than a few minutes after she had closed her eyes, Kagome heard Sesshoumaru growl out a warning at the same time she heard voices she didn't recognize calling out to attack. Jumping to her feet and rushing toward where she knew Sesshoumaru was, she jumped in between him and his three human attackers before they had time to swing their weapons.

Startled by her sudden appearance, the humans jumped back a few feet and Kagome was able to get her first look at them. They were warriors of some sort, each wearing basically the same battle armor with varying colors. Pink and red for the only girl; who seemed to be leading the attack. Green and white for the older man. Green and gold for the little boy; who looked like he couldn't be more than a few years older than Rin. "Do not attack him."

"Why are you protecting a demon? And in your undergarments no less!" the girl demanded even as she kept her weapon, a giant boomerang, poised for action. From somewhere nearby, she could hear Jaken mumble something about him saying that they were indecent first. Ignoring him, Kagome glanced over her shoulder to make sure Sesshoumaru wasn't about ready to attack before turning her attention back to the three in front of her.

"I am not protecting him, I am protecting you three. He could and would slaughter you without a second thought," Kagome informed her before adding, "And it is not undergarments. It is my bathing suit." Shaking her head as she reminded herself that what she was wearing right then wasn't important, she turned her attention back to what was. "More importantly, why are you attacking him without any cause? He has done nothing to you."

"The slayers' village has heard word that there is a demon in the area attacking humans to steal the shards they possess," the girl explained and though Kagome still didn't it was reason enough for them to just attack a demon they crossed paths with unprovoked, she decided not to press the matter. She doubted they would listen to her anyways.

"This is not the demon you seek. He has absolutely no interest in the shards, I on the other hand do. I am gathering the shards," Kagome began, unable to explain her reasoning behind doing so by the girl interrupting her.

"So not only are you a demon whore, but you actually desire to collect the shards to be able to wish to be a demon as well? How low one human can fall," she spit at her and Kagome tried to stop herself, she really did, but her temper won out as it tended to do and she slapped her hard across the face. The female slayer looked about ready to retaliate with her weapon as the two males tightened their grips on their own weapons, but Kagome just stared at her defiantly; unafraid.

"Watch your language. There are children present. Besides I am not a demon's anything and why would I ever make such a stupid wish as to become a demon? No thank you, I am quite happy being the human I was born to be. Now, as I was trying to explain before you so rudely interrupted me with your unwarranted insults, I am collecting the shards because I am the idiot who shattered the dang thing in the first place. Though in my defense, I was just trying to stop a crow demon from stealing the whole thing."

Apparently deciding to forget about the slap for now, the girl cocked her head to the side as she inquired, "Why did you have the complete jewel in the first place? The Shikon Jewel disappeared fifty years ago."

Hating to have to make the connection to Kikyou and herself to complete strangers, but knowing of no other way to explain things, Kagome replied, "I was born with the jewel inside me. I am the reincarnation of the last priestess that had it in her possession. When she died, it was burned along with her body on her funereal pier. Whether it was her intention or not, the jewel someone managed to tie itself with her soul and was reborn with me."

"You want us to believe that you are the Shikon no Miko?" the older male slayer demanded, turning everyone's attention to him for the first time. "Prove it."

"That's easy," Kagome replied with a shrug before pulling the jar, she kept the shards, out from behind the opening in her haori; dumping its contents out into her hand. She wasn't the least bit worried that they would try to steal it from her since they had no way of knowing Sesshoumaru probably wouldn't attack them to stop them. Holding up the chunk for them to see, she explained, "There is not a single speck of taint within this piece when every other piece I have come across have been somewhat tainted at least.

"And originally this was five separate shards that I fused back together myself. That should at least be enough to assure you that I am a pure priestess and not someone with ill intent. And I would demonstrate it for you now, but I do not currently have a loose shard," Kagome explained with a shrug before dropping the shard back into her jar and putting it back in its resting place.

"We have one in our village," the girl informed her, ignoring her father's warning that it should not be known to outsiders. "Come back with me to prove it while my brother and father remain here. If what you say is true, then your group can travel through these parts without further interruptions from the demon slayers. If you are lying, however," she paused, letting the threat hang in the air, but Kagome paid little attention to it; she knew she wasn't lying and didn't need to worry.

"How long will it take to get there and back?"

"It is a half a day's ride there and back," the slayer explained and before Kagome could question the 'ride' part of her answer, she turned toward Sesshoumaru as he began growling for the first time since her conversation with the slayers had begun. Though she was a bit surprised that he had remained silent the entire time, Kagome just chalked it up to him being bored as she was certain the three of them would pose no threat to him.

Instead of replying to his threat that he wouldn't save her if she did something stupid again, Kagome answered, "Don't worry. I will be fine, but if I am not back in 24 hours, come and get me." Unsurprising to her, Sesshoumaru's next growl was not a happy one, warning her to stop lying about what he had said, but she naturally chose to not heed it. "I will be sure to keep myself safe," Kagome assured him with a smile before turning back to the slayer and nodding her head.

The slayer whistled and a moment later a large, cat demon was landing beside her and she quickly climbed on before gesturing for Kagome to do the same. Throwing her clothes over her now mostly dry bathing suit, Kagome did as instructed before pointing out, "You try to attack demons unprovoked and yet you work with one as well. You do realize that's an oxymoron, right?"

Glancing over her shoulder at her passenger, the slayer inquired, "What's an oxymoron?" before patting the cat gently. A moment later they took off into the sky and Kagome grabbed onto her waist tightly, afraid she would fall off. Below them, Rin waved enthusiastically as she called out something about her bringing her back a gift.

"It's putting opposites together, like jumbo shrimp," Kagome explained as she finally began to relax a bit. Sighing at the slayer questioning what shrimp was, she mumbled, "Never mind," before turning her attention to the passing scenery below them. Though it was not as fast as Sesshoumaru and the dragon traveled, it was faster than what Inuyasha would go when she was on his back. Though she was pretty sure that he slowed his pace considerably because he thought she was too weak too handle him going faster.

"Hey you," the slayer called out to grab her attention a few moments later before continuing, "If you aren't his whore, then why do you travel with him?"

"I am not 'you', I have a name. It's Kagome. But to answer your question, I have debt to settle with him and until I do, I travel with him."

"I'm Sango and you shouldn't be forced to travel with a demon, debt or not."

"Honestly, I don't see it as being forced. I actually enjoy traveling with him. There is just something so sad about him not having anyone close to him. I don't mean to say that I pity him, but I have this strange desire to be someone he can trust. It's probably just because I know what it's like to not have anyone in this place that I can depend on or trust my life with. As strange as it may sound, where he is is the only place I want to be."

Kagome realized she must have fallen asleep during the trip as Sango was suddenly shaking her and telling her that they had arrived. Opening her eyes and glancing around, Kagome found them in a rather large town filled with many huts of different sizes, many of which seemed to belong to blacksmiths judging by the equipment that littered their yards. The whole thing was surrounded by a large wooden fence and Kagome couldn't help but think that this was exactly what a warrior's village should look like.

The wooden fence looked sturdy enough to keep anyone out for quite a while, save for flying demon of course. And the large stacks of weapons she spotted all around the compound seemed to be enough to supply a few villages along with this one. Kagome's observations were interrupted when Sango suddenly called out, "Bring me the jewel shard! This one wishes to prove that she is the Shikon no Miko!"

Biting her tongue instead of reminding her that she had a name, Kagome waited in slightly embarrassed silence as the entire village turned their attention to her. Reminding herself hat it was a small price to pay for getting another shard without having to fight anyone for it, she waited in silence while a man exited one of the huts and carried over a small bundle of cloth to them. Accepting it, Sango unwrapped the cloth to reveal a single, tainted shard. "It's still tainted."

"The slayers' village houses no priestess to purify it," Sango explained unconcerned as she tipped the cloth over and dropped the shard into Kagome's waiting hand. The instant it touched her skin, the shard was completely purified and Kagome quickly added the chunk from around her neck to it. Closing her hand, she concentrated on fusing the pieces together for a few moments before feeling a burst of power in her palm.

Opening her fingers, Kagome revealed one slightly larger piece of the jewel then she had held a minute before. "You are as you say you are, Kagome. The shard is yours to keep. Let us return to father and the others," Sango instructed before bidding farewell to the others and making her way toward where her cat demon was playing with a few of the village's children. "Come on, Kirara," she called out to the tiny kitten and Kagome watched in amazement as she transformed back into the demon she had ridden there on.

Before they could climb back onto Kirara, Kagome was startled when a voice called out, "Shard thief!" Opening her mouth to assure which ever village it was that she was most certainly not a thief, Kagome was more than a bit surprised to find the priest standing behind her. Greeting him as 'con man', she wasn't surprised when he got huffy.

"My name is Miroku, not con man and I would thank you to stop trying to damage my reputation, shard thief. You are the one, after all, that stole from me." Turning toward Sango, apparently noticing her for the first time, he continued, "Do no believe anything this thief tells you. She is a fake and a thief."

"Actually Kagome has already proven herself to be the Shikon no Miko by fusing together shards of the jewel after purifying them with nothing more than her touch. You would be wise not to insult her in a place where she has made so many allies. Especially when those allies happen to be demon slayers. Now, what brings you to our village?" Sango demanded harshly, causing Miroku to take a step back unconsciously.

Before he could answer, Kagome did it for him. "Most likely he was going to try and claim that there was an ominous cloud hanging over the village and offer to save the village for a fee. It was the con he tried in the last village we met in," Kagome explained, turning toward Miroku; wondering what lie he would come up with to try and get himself out of trouble this time. Instead, he seemed to have completely forgotten about her and was focused intently on Sango; grasping her hands in his.

"Will you do me the honor of bearing my children?" he inquired so seriously that neither Sango or Kagome knew how to respond to such a request for a moment. Sango was first to recover from her shock as she wrenched her hands from his and slapped him across the face. Instantly, a large red hand print appeared on his cheek, but he seemed unaffected by it as he just continued to stare at her with a dopey looking grin on his face.

"Wow, a con man and a pervert. Did not see that one coming," Kagome admitted before climbing onto the back of Kirara behind a red faced Sango. Holding on tightly, she giggled softly at the sight of him finally falling backwards from the force of the slap. Realizing he was unconscious, a few of the villages made their way over to him and carried him out of the village; tossing him into the ditch that surrounded the fence.

As Kirara landed back in the clearing they had left the others in, Kagome wasn't surprised to find Sesshoumaru laying down with his eyes closed as though the slayers didn't even exist while the two of them remained on high alert; weapons his poised and ready for action, their eyes never leaving his form. Rin seemed to be trying unsuccessfully to start up a conversation with the younger slayer from her spot beside Jaken. He was the only member of their group that seemed to think there was a danger lurking nearby as his hand remained on the staff; even if it was laying in his lap.

"Stand down, father, Kohaku. They are free to go. Kagome is the Shikon no Miko just as she said she was," Sango informed them as she stepped down from Kirara before turning back to Kagome. "You are free to join us if you want. Our village could always use a priestess to strengthen our ranks," she offered with a smile as she helped her off of Kirara back.

"Thank you for the offer, but like I told you earlier, there is only one place I want to be right now. It's where I belong," Kagome told her before hugging the startled girl. Her shock did not last long as she was soon returning the hug before calling for her brother and father to head out. Waving goodbye, she followed after them leaving Kagome in the clearing waving back. When they could no longer be seen, Kagome turned back to Sesshoumaru to ask, "Shall we head out too or do you want to make camp here for the night?"

Instead of answering her, or even acknowledging her presence, Sesshoumaru stood up and disappeared from the clearing before any of them could realize what he was doing. Startled by his sudden departure and certain it wasn't just his usual 'follow me' attitude, Kagome turned toward her equally confused companions. "Jaken, keep them safe," she instructed before grabbing her bow, in case she got attacked on the way, and followed after the demon lord.

Weaving her way in between the dense trees, careful not to trip over anything in the dark, Kagome made her way toward the strange howling she could soon hear. Knowing it was coming from him even if she couldn't actually understand what it meant, she was a bit startled by how sad it sounded to her ears. It was not long before she stepped into a small clearing at the base of hill and found him standing at the top; howling toward the moon.

"Sesshoumaru? Why do you sound so sad?" she questioned as she moved to step toward the ethereal being bathed in moonlight, but was instantly stopped in her tracks when he turned toward her and growled angrily. Startled by his calling her a pest and threatening to kill her if she followed him, Kagome could only stand there staring after him in shock until she could no longer see him as he disappeared back into the forest.

Sighing at his sudden and drastic change in attitude since the last time they had spoken, completely certain he wasn't acting that way simply because she had lied about what he had said again, she turned back toward the forest behind her only to realize she had no idea which way she had come from. Kagome knew that she had arrived in the clearing from where she was looking, but her trail to get there had not been a straight line and she had in fact turned directions many times as she tried to figure out where the howling was coming from.

Sighing heavily once more, this time at her own stupidity, she made her best guess and started walking back through the woods. The sounds of the night-the small animals scurrying toward their homes, birds crying out in warning before scooping up their evening meal, crickets chirping in the heat leftover from the afternoon-seemed to calm her nerves until she suddenly realized that they had stopped. Without warning, every noise around her disappeared entirely.

Knowing that it could not be a good sign, Kagome unshouldered her bow and notched an arrow as she stopped walking and began watching the woods around her; waiting for whoever it was out there to appear. If it was a human, though she doubted it was as the sounds did not stop for her, she hoped she could talk her way out of any problem they might have with her. If it was a demon, she already knew she would be unable to outrun it and trying to do so would most likely just result in her getting a set of claws marks to her back to match the ones on her neck.

Growing tired of waiting, worried her nerves might hinder what little ability she had to defend herself if she waited much longer, Kagome called out, "Show yourself! I may have no quarrel with you, but I will defend myself if you chose to attack me!" Hearing a dark, unfriendly chuckle coming from behind her, Kagome spun around to find herself face to face with Inuyasha; dropping her arrow in her shock. "Inuyasha!" she cried out startled.

"Give me the shard, wench. Don't mistake my forgetting to take it from you as giving it to you. I simply had other things on my mind," Inuyasha informed her, opening his clawed hand for her to hand over the shard as instructed.

"They are not meant for you, Inuyasha. The jewel was not meant for anyone. I can't let you wish away a part of yourself in a selfish wish that will probably turn you completely evil. The jewel is meant to tempt us so we can overcome the dark desires hidden deep within each of us, but not to be actually used by anyone. Whoever tries to use it for their own desires will be tainted, just as the shards are when held by those with ill intentions."

"If you won't give it to me, Kagome, then I will just have to take it from your corpse," Inuyasha told her as he raised his claws and moved to leap toward her when she cried out his brother's name. Slightly startled, Inuyasha's paused for a moment to demand, "Why are you calling out for that bastard?"

Rolling her eyes at her own stupidity, Kagome replied, "Because I am an idiot," when it dawned on her that he wasn't coming to save her this time. He told her not to do anything stupid again and even threatened to kill her a few minutes before. Now for the second time since coming to the past she was standing before one of the brothers completely alone after being abandoned by the other. Only this time, there was no strange side effect from pulling out the sword to pardon her.

"Seems you have been abandoned by both of us now. Poor, pathetic Kagome," Inuyasha mocked, almost as if he had heard her thoughts. Laughing, he lunged at her with his claws raised; knocking them both to the ground before Kagome could even think to notch another arrow. Screaming out as his claws cut across her cheek just deep enough to draw blood, realizing he was planning on taking his time torturing her for refusing him, Kagome let go of her control and allowed her body to react instinctively.

Much to her relief, it reacted just as she had hoped it would and blasted him back with a burst of holy power. Scrambling to her feet when she heard him slam into a tree, Kagome took off running as fast as she could in the direction she hoped their camp would be in. Even if Sesshoumaru would not be there to protect her, hopefully Jaken still would be and would be able to hold him off long enough for all of them to climb onto the back of Ah-Un and take off out of his reach.

Weaving in between the trees once more, Kagome was startled to hear him screaming that he 'would kill her for doing that' from somewhere behind her, even though she knew his threats would come eventually. Able to hear him crashing through the trees behind her and knowing he would catch up to her long before she would be able to reach the camp if she was even going in the right direction to begin with, Kagome blinked the tears out of her eyes while whispering softly, "Sesshoumaru, please."

Before she could even realize what was happening, Kagome found herself running into the solid form of his leg as he suddenly appeared before her. Unable to stop herself before crashing into him, she just held onto his leg for a moment before glancing up at him; biting her lower lip to stop herself from crying. Before she could wonder if he was there to save her or just because he wanted to fight his brother, Sesshoumaru answered her unasked question by stepping his paw over her; blocking Inuyasha's view of her as he appeared before them.

"Thank you," Kagome whispered so softly that she was sure Inuyasha would be unable to hear her before wiping her tears away with the back of her hands. Hearing Inuyasha start to mock him, accusing him of being at the beck and call of a human like some pathetic pet, she peeked out from behind Sesshoumaru's leg as he growled at Inuyasha. Seeing he didn't seem to understand what the growl meant, Kagome elaborated, "Sesshoumaru says that you are to leave before he kills you."

Apparently unconcerned by the threat and not at all curious as to how she knew what he said, Inuyasha just laughed before leaping toward him with his claws raised to attack. Not in the mood to play with his little brother, Sesshoumaru just raised his paw, not currently protecting Kagome, and swatted him away. The force of the swat sent him flying back into a tree where he was knocked unconscious immediately.

Hearing Sesshoumaru growl again, this time aimed at her, Kagome climbed onto his leg as instructed before replying, "I know, I know. I'm an idiot," as he took off into the sky above the treetops. "Thank you for saving me again," Kagome told him appreciatively as she held on tightly to his leg in an attempt to hug him. Laughing at his next growl, she agreed, "Yes, I am sure you just didn't want to wait around for Jaken to figure out what you wanted, but thank you none the less."

...

Sesshoumaru's strange attitude along with the attack from Inuyasha seemed to be completely forgotten about over the next few days as the group settled back into their new routine. They would wake before dawn and have breakfast and then set out walking in which ever direction Sesshoumaru happened to start out in that day; choosing to go by foot now that Kagome's ankle had long since healed. Once the sun was directly above them, they would stop for lunch and then alternate between walking and riding Ah-Un whenever they got too tired until long into the night when they finally stopped to eat and make camp.

Apparently realizing they were running out of meat without having to be told, Sesshoumaru suddenly growled to Kagome one night when they had just made camp before disappearing into the woods. Turning toward her waiting companions, she explained, "He said that he was going hunting and that we are to remain here. And not do anything stupid." Knowing the last part was meant for her, Kagome laughed at the warning as it wasn't like she set out to do something stupid; she usually had no choice in the matter.

Whether it was her humanity demanding she right some injustice or simply her bad luck that brought a potentially stupidity causing situation in front of her, it was never actually her fault that she did stupid things. For a little while Kagome had debated telling Sesshoumaru that he should probably just get used to it, but eventually decided that would not be a good idea. She still had no idea what set him off before and didn't want to risk causing his strange behavior to resurface.

There was no telling when she might be in danger again or when he might follow through on his threat to not protect her. With the jewel shards around her neck, there was always going to be another attempt to steal them from her, another demon she pissed off for refusing to give them up; she was always going to need his protection for as long as she remained in the past. Unsurprisingly, the next time she needed protection came a lot sooner than she was expecting it to.

They had just finished building a fire and were sitting around it, Rin playing with Kagome's hair, when she suddenly felt a shard coming toward them rather quickly. Knowing it couldn't have been Sesshoumaru happening to stumble upon one, as the shard had the tale tell tainting of someone actually using it with ill intent and he never gave her any indication that he had even the slightest desire to have the one around her neck, Kagome jumped to her feet as she unshouldered her bow.

Not knowing what was going on, but knowing that it could not be good, Jaken followed her lead as he readied his staff; placing himself in front of Rin. "There is a tainted shard coming fast. Very strong demon. Be ready," Kagome warned as she scanned the dark woods around them trying to spot whoever it was that was lurking out there somewhere. She could no longer pinpoint the direction the shard was coming from as it almost seemed to be coming from everywhere at once now.

Suddenly realizing what that had to mean, Kagome leaped toward Jaken and Rin, knocking all three of them over the fire just in time to miss the attack that came from above. "Protect Rin, Ah-Un!" Kagome instructed as she pushed the little girl toward the dragon, knowing her and Jaken would have more difficultly fighting their attacker off if they constantly had to keep one eye on the girl at all times. Thankfully Rin didn't argue as she climbed onto the dragon's back and he flew up high enough into the sky that they was out of range from any attacks on the ground.

"You know, it's polite to introduce yourself before just attacking someone!" Kagome called out in mocked offense as she gestured for Jaken to go right while she began to slowly make her way around the campfire to the left. While confused about her being so concerned about their assailant's manners, or lack there of, Jaken did as he was instructed; silently praying that she had a plan. Taking in the appearance of the strange demon before her, his true form hidden behind a blue baboon's mask and a gray pelt, Kagome sent a questioning glance to Jaken but he merely shrugged his shoulders.

He had no more idea of what was up with the strange getup than she did. "Who I am is unimportant as you will not be alive in a minute. The only thing you need to know is that the shard is mine," the demon informed her a moment before he lunged toward her; knocking Kagome off balance before she could realize what he was doing. Landing on the ground with a heavy thud, Kagome felt the wind get knocked out of her as her bow was thrown from her hands on impact.

Seeing his claws aiming for her throat, Kagome grabbed onto his wrists with all the meager strength she possessed and held them as far from her body as she was able. Without taking her eyes off of him, she yelled, "Blast him Jaken!" screaming out in pain a moment later when the toad did as instructed as sent a blast of fire at her attacker; burning her hands in the process. She knew it would not be enough to defeat a demon with as much power as she could feel coming from her, but thankfully it was enough to make him retreat for a moment as he pulled the burning pelt off and tossed it aside.

His true form now revealed, Kagome shivered at the sight of his red eyes and pale face twisted in a look of pure hatred. It was far worse than anything Inuyasha had ever shown her and from that look alone, Kagome knew they were in trouble. There was no way they would be able to defeat the monster before them; especially now that she was completely useless with her fingers too burned to be able to bend them around a bow grip.

Knowing only one being that would be able to save them now, Kagome opened her mouth and screamed out Sesshoumaru's name as loud as she could; silently praying he was still within range to hear her. Roaring in outrage, the demon rushed forward knocking Jaken aside as though he wasn't even there before grabbing Kagome around her neck and lifting her clear off of the ground. "The name Naraku will be the last thing you hear," he informed her as he squeezed tighter, unconcerned about her kicking and hitting him, with her uninjured arms, as hard as she could.

Spinning around, Naraku tossed her across the clearing; aiming her straight for a rather large tree. Certain the force would break her back on impact, Kagome squeezed her eyes closed so she wouldn't have to see her death coming. A moment later when she collided with the tree, it seemed to be rather soft and fluffy. Confused and thankful to still be alive, Kagome opened her eyes once more and found herself staring into the white fur of Sesshoumaru's paw.

"I didn't do anything stupid this time, honest," she swore as he gently set her down in front of the tree she would have slammed into had he not been there. "By the way, he has a shard in his right arm," she informed him before resting her head against the tree and falling unconscious. Between the shock beginning to wear off and realizing just how close she had come to dying, Kagome did the only thing her body could still do at that moment; she fainted.

Turning his attention to the demon before him, Sesshoumaru growled an insult at him, that no one conscious could understand, when he realized he was in face a half demon. It was an insult he usually reserved for his own brother. Without another sound, Sesshoumaru charged at him, swatting him across the clearing before he could realize what was happening. The tree he crashed into, broke in half from the force of his impact; sending shattered splinters of wood in an arch behind it.

Much to Sesshoumaru's surprise, not that anyone could tell, Naraku stood back up and rushed toward him at a speed so fast that only Sesshoumaru was able to see his movements. Moving out of the way of his attack at that last moment, Sesshoumaru matched his increase in speed as a strange, barely visible dance begun between them. From an outsider's perspective, they seemed to disappear randomly, only reappearing a few moments later as one attacked the other. In the blink of an eye, they would be gone again.

Jaken continued to watch in silence as he slowly made his way toward where Kagome was laying unconscious, hoping not to draw the other demon's attention to them. The massive paws of his lord had come rather close to her more than a few times and Jaken worried that she might get trampled on by accident. Deciding to move her out of harm's way just in case, Jaken grabbed onto her arms, careful not to touch the part of her skin that was burned, and went to start pulling her backward when he noticed a dark shadow had fallen over them.

Glancing up, he found Naraku sneering down at them as he raised his claws to strike them. A mere instant before he would have mortally wounded the girl Jaken was desperately trying to pull out of his reach, a massive paw came down on the outstretched arm; slicing through it with claws a hundred times bigger than his own. Naraku screamed out in outrage as he whipped around and moved to retrieve his severed arm, but Sesshoumaru beat him to it and stepped on the arm; preventing him from reattaching it or reclaiming the shard that it housed.

"This is not over dog," he threatened before filling the entire clearing in a dark purple miasma; causing both Jaken and Kagome to begin coughing even as she remained unconscious. Apparently unaffected by the poison, Sesshoumaru began waving his paw back and forth as he fanned the dark cloud away from the others. Once it had dissipated, he discovered what he had expected to; Naraku was gone. Growling at Jaken, Sesshoumaru made his way back over to the fire and sat down where he had been before he had gone hunting.

Standing there in confusion, Jaken tried to figure out what he could have been saying unsuccessfully. "He said to drag me back to the fire, but I can manage on my own," Kagome informed him before coughing and screaming out in pain when she forgot about the burns on her hands and went to stand up using them for support. "I am alright," she assured Jaken, who seemed unconvinced, before climbing to her feet without using her hands and making her way over to what was left of the arm.

Carefully retrieving the tainted shard with the tips of her fingers, as they were the only part unburnt, she dropped it into jar around her neck. Fusing them together would have to wait as she was unable to close her hand around them for the time being. Making her way over toward the fire, Kagome retook her own seat as she started going through her backpack carefully; searching for her first aid kit. Calling for Jaken to open it when she realized she couldn't, Kagome turned her attention to Sesshoumaru as he growled at her.

"He was after the shards I possess," she explained before glancing over to smile at Rin as Ah-Un landed nearby and the little girl made her way over to make sure she was okay. Assuring her she was, she turned her attention back as Sesshoumaru growled again. "I can't get rid of them, Sesshoumaru. If I did, some monster like Naraku might get their hands on them and become unstoppable. If that happened, everyone that died by his hand would be my fault.

"I can not let that happen, Sesshoumaru. I would not be able to live with myself," she told him honestly while trying and failing to open the burn ointment herself. Flashing a hopeful smile at Jaken, she chuckled at the annoyed expression he gave her even as he opened the container and began to gently rub the ointment on her burns. Gritting her teeth against the pain, Kagome turned back to Sesshoumaru as he called for her attention once more.

"Yes, Sesshoumaru. If we gather the whole thing, I can get rid of it," Kagome assured him and without another word, he laid his head down on his paws and closed his eyes. Realizing that meant the conversation was over, Kagome turned back to Jaken as he began to wrap her hands in a roll of gauze she had in her first aid kit. "I am afraid you are on cooking duty until these heal," she informed him once she was finished as she gestured toward the deer on the edge of the clearing; realizing Sesshoumaru must have dropped it there when he returned.

Not wanting to stay there any longer than they had to, Sesshoumaru waited until the meat had finished cooking and Jaken had the chance to cut it up, packing it into Ah-Un's saddle bags, before growling that they were leaving. Not really all that surprised when they continued walking all the way through the night, Kagome and Rin traveled on Ah-Un's back while the latter slept peacefully and the former forced herself to remain awake; unable to hold on and not wanting to fall off in her sleep.

She knew she would be exhausted in the morning, but was certain they would be stopping for a while when they made camp again and she would get plenty of sleep then. Things did not go exactly as she planned, however, as she eventually lost the fight and drifted off to sleep long before they would be stopping to rest. Her peace was short lived when she suddenly felt the presence of a shard nearby and, fearing it might be Naraku again, jolted herself awake.

"There's a shard nearby," she mumbled as she attempted to blink the sleep from her eyes, no longer afraid when she realized the shard was no where near as tainted as his had been. Hearing Sesshoumaru's inquiring growl, she gestured with one of her bandaged hands while informing him, "It's that way. And judging by the small amount of taint, I would say it is in the hands of a human." The words had barely left her lips when he disappeared into the surrounding forest; leaving the others to wait there for his return.

Unsurprisingly, they did not have long to wait as no more than a few minutes had passed when he returned and dropped a terrified old man at her feet; barking out his orders. "He says that you are to give me the jewel shard that you have in your possession," Kagome explain softly while holding out her bandaged hand to him. Seeing he seemed to have no desire to hand it over, she assured him, "I have no intention of using it with ill intent. I gather the shards to keep them out of the hands of evil men and demons alike."

When he still refused to give it up and instead opted to glare her, Kagome sighed. "Look, grandfather, I would really prefer that you give me the shard willingly, then to have the gigantic dog demon take it from you by force. I can not allow a single shard of the jewel to remain out of my possession as there is no telling what kind of a monster might take it from your corpse after killing you," Kagome told him and sneering at her, the old man threw it into her injured hand before taking off screaming into the woods when Sesshoumaru growled a wordless growl.

"You know, Sesshoumaru, that would have gone a lot smoother if you had just taken me with you to retrieve the shard in the first place," Kagome informed him as she touched the shard with her wrist, as the rest of her hand was bandaged, and purified it before dropping it into the jar with the others. Glancing up at him as he growled again, this time giving an actual message, Kagome replied, "Yes, fear speeds up the process, but it also causes more problems.

"The story of an righteous elderly man willingly giving his shard to the Shikon no Miko to protect his village would go over much better than the one about the giant dog demon kidnapping a frail old man and forcing him to give up his shard. Stories will always be spun when old men wish to relieve their glory days or give others reason to believe they are not yet useless. This one will not be spun in our favor."

Whether he heeded her warning about the villagers becoming angry at them, or more likely he just didn't want to have to waste his time with a bunch of humans, Sesshoumaru had opted to fly for a while; bringing the group far away from the village he had taken the old man from. Grateful they wouldn't be able to follow them, as she did not wish for an entire village to lose their lives because they dared to attack Sesshoumaru, Kagome put up with the constant moving and lack of sleep for as long as she could.

Just as she was about ready to drop, Sesshoumaru finally landed in a clearing to make camp. Unlike the others before it, this one was so small that there was barely enough room for the massive dog to lay down; meaning there was no room for a fire and the entire group was forced to sleep within the shelter of his legs. Not that any of them minded, it was more than warm enough that they did not need a fire and there was no where, any of them could imagine, that would have been more protected.

It was there, nestled up against his warm fur, that the group stayed for many days; eating the left over deer and playing games quietly as they waited for the time to pass. It took her a few days to realize that he must have been waiting for her hands to heal as the only time he seemed to pay any attention to them was just before dusk each day when Jaken added more ointment to her burns and re-bandaged them.

"The burns are healing up nicely. I should be able to close my hands again in a few more days," Kagome told him, though she made it seem as though she was talking to Jaken. She figured there must have been a reason he didn't just ask her and decided to keep quiet about her knowing he was checking up on her for now. Jaken, for his part, seemed completely confused by her words as he could easily see how she was doing for himself. Chalking it up to the girl being strange, he packed up the supplies before turning his attention to Rin as she began calling out his name.

The next few days passed by slowly for the group and Kagome found herself going stir crazy from just sitting there with very little to do but sleep. So when she suddenly heard someone crying out for mercy, she jumped to her feet before she realized what she was doing and went rushing toward the sound. She was still too injured to use her bow and stood no chance of defending herself against a demon at the moment, but all that mattered to her right then was that she could actually get up and do something.

Later she would realize how stupid she was being, but as they say 'hindsight is 20/20'. Behind her in the small clearing she could hear Sesshoumaru growling something the others had no way of understanding, but decided against going back to explain that he had been threatening to kill her and just get it over with. That having someone to talk to was not worth dealing with her. Figuring that meant he would not be coming to her rescue, Kagome contemplated going back to the safety of the clearing for a moment before she heard someone cry out, "Please don't hurt me. I mean you no harm."

Unable to stomach the idea of running for safety when someone so obviously needed help, Kagome pressed on and soon burst through the dense trees to find a not entirely uncommon sight, though it did still seem strange to her. On the right, there was a large group of villagers armed with pitchforks and torches. On the left, there was a large demon, though still small in comparison to Sesshoumaru's current form, unarmed and cowering away from the villagers.

It was not at all the sight Kagome had expected to see. A single villager being picked on by a large group of humans; sure. A warrior cowering before a large demon, the rest of his party wiped out already; why not? But a demon cowering before a group of humans, who were obviously nothing but farmers? That was something Kagome could have never imagined she would live to see. But odd sight to behold or not, it did not matter to Kagome. He was alone, defenseless and being attacked by a large mob of people he seemed to have no desire fighting off.

Her inner 'protect the innocent' attitude taking charge, Kagome raced up the hill and blocked a pitchfork with her forearm just as it was about ready to strike the defenseless demon. Thankfully the elderly man that swung the weapon did not have much strength to speak of and the attack would leave little more than a bruise on her arm. "All of you should be ashamed of yourselves," Kagome told them as she brushed the farming tool away from her with a sweep of her arm; the old man too startled to keep a hold on his weapon.

"This is not your concerned girl, this is a village matter. This half-breed has been attacking our villagers," one of the villagers accused when he got passed his shock at her sudden appearance and desire to protect the demon. Confused, Kagome turned back to the demon for a moment as she took in his rather unfortunate form. She had thought that all half-demons, what few of them that might exist, would look rather human as Inuyasha did. Never had she imagined that the joining of human and demon blood could result in such an unfortunate looking creature.

But as she took in his large blue eyes, gentle though frightened, she couldn't help but see an underlying cuteness hidden within that she doubted the villagers ever took the time to notice. Taking in more of his form, it was impossible to miss the many scars that littered his arms and legs. Turning her attention to his hands, she found no signs of offensive wounds to match their claims, but instead traces of soil beneath his nails.

Turning back to the villagers, Kagome spat at them, "He is no more responsible for attacking your villagers than I am. He has nothing but defensive wounds on his body, no calluses on his hands from holding a weapon. There is nothing but soil beneath his nails and scent of herbs. He is nothing more than an herb farmer and you have no right to accuse him of attacking your villagers without any proof; half-demon or otherwise.

"He is obviously too afraid to have attacked anyone and you should all be ashamed of yourself for ganging up on a single defenseless demon!" Hearing one of the villagers grumble that he was a half-demon, she added, "That's even worse. Not only are you attacking someone who is defenseless, but you are attacking someone that is half-human. Apologize to him for your rude behavior." Instead of complying, which she really didn't expect them to, the villagers sneered at her before walking away; one calling over his shoulder that he couldn't hide behind a little girl forever.

"You're the ones running away from said little girl!" Kagome called after them mockingly, annoyed at being called a little girl. Turning her nose up at the few that actually turned around to glare at her, Kagome turned her attention back to the half-demon behind her. "Are you okay? I hope they didn't hurt you," she told him honestly as she searched his form for any new wounds. Not finding any, she breathed a sigh of relief.

"No, little one. They have not harmed me. I am Jinenji and I thank you for saving me. Forgive me, but I must ask. Why did you save me?" he questioned as he tilted his head to the side and looked down at her with confusion and gratitude in his expression.

"I am Kagome and I saved you because you were out numbered and showed no interest in fighting, silly. Speaking of, why do those villagers think you are responsible for the attacks anyways? You're obviously not a fighter and I can not imagine someone as gentle as you ambushing villagers," Kagome insisted as she watched him gently prod the growing bruise on her arm. After a few moments, he pulled some leaves from the basket he had dropped on the ground and handed them to her.

"Seep them in water and apply it to the bruise. It will heal faster that way," he instructed before turning his attention back to her question. "The villagers accused me for no other reason than that I am a half-breed. My mother and I have lived on this very spot for my entire life. About 15 years ago, the villagers decided to settle down near by and have tried to force us to leave ever since. We have no where else to go and this herb garden was left to me by my father," Jinenji explained before both of their attention was caught by screams coming from the direction the villagers had left in.

"Sesshoumaru?" Kagome wondered softly to herself as she took off running toward the sound leaving Jinenji standing there wondering why she was rushing toward danger when she couldn't defend herself against a real threat and who 'Sesshoumaru' was. Glancing between her shrinking form as she got further and further away from him and his mother who was standing silently in the doorway of their hut that the villages had been trying to burn down.

Realizing it only still stood because of Kagome's interference, Jinenji took off running after her; ignoring his mother's calls for him to come back and let the villagers deal with their own problems. When he arrived at the village, he found villagers running screaming in every direction except for one. Rightly assuming that was the direction the demon attacking them was in, he quickly made his way that way; arriving just in time to see a large larva demon grab hold of Kagome and about to stab her with its rod-like tongue.

Rushing forward, Jinenji quickly grabbed Kagome around the waist and pulled her free just in time to stop her from being killed. Unable to protect himself at the same time, Jinenji suffered a stabbing to the back and cried out in pain before dropping Kagome safely on the ground and swinging back around on the demon. Grabbing onto its tongue tightly, so it would be unable to stab him again, Jinenji punched his fist straight back into its mouth; stunning the demon.

Startled by the sight of him beginning to glow blue, Kagome shielded her eyes just as he began squeezing his arms around the demon's neck; decapitating it with brute strength alone. Peeking out from behind her arm after hearing the sickening sound of its head being ripped from its body, Kagome looked up just in time to see Jinenji punch the severed head with all his strength; sending tiny chucks of demon flesh in every directions, including Kagome's.

"Eww," Kagome complained as she shook the gunk from her hair before standing up and glancing around at all of the villagers as they began making their way back toward her. "Now do you see!" she called out suddenly, startling them. "The half-demon you tried to attack for no reason just saved all of your lives. I hope this will make you think twice next time before you judge someone by their appearance alone."

Having said her piece, Kagome turned her attention back to Jinenji as he tried to tend to his own wound. "Allow me," she offered, waiting until he had knelt down, before ripping open the hole in his shirt more so she could tend to him. "It doesn't look too deep," she assured him as she wiped away the blood with the back of her sleeve and began applying an herb paste that he handed her. Before she could tell him she was finished, the villages began screaming once more and Jinenji pushed her behind him as he spun around to face the new danger.

Peaking out from behind him when she heard Sesshoumaru growl, she gently laid her hand on his arm to assure him there was no danger. "Sorry Sesshoumaru. I did not mean to take so long. Got a little side tracked with a demon problem," Kagome explained as she stepped out fully so he could see her disheveled appearance; her clothes wrinkled and peppered with small bits of demon flesh and drops of blood, a large stain of blood on one of her sleeves and her sweat soaked hair matted to her face.

Hearing his answering growl, she laughed, "Are you insinuating that I smell again? You try having a demon explode all over you and see how pretty you still are." Turning back to Jinenji with a smile, she gave him a hug before telling him, "Stay safe. I hope I meet you again someday, Jinenji." Waving goodbye, she made her way over toward Sesshoumaru and was about to climb up onto his leg when he growled and moved it out of her reach before heading back toward camp. "Your nose is way too sensitive, Sesshoumaru! I do not smell that bad!" Kagome called after him before running to catch up.

"Aright Sesshoumaru, we will wait here," Kagome assured him one night after he informed her he was leaving; watching as he disappeared into the trees. Turning back to the curious looks of her companions, Kagome explained, "Sesshoumaru's going out to scout around to make sure there are no threats in the area. He said to not wait up for him." Making her way over to the campfire Jaken had finished building, pulling out whatever supplies she would need to make dinner.

As soon as it was ready, Kagome passed it out; watching as her new friends quickly devoured it. "Alright guys, let's get some sleep. Dawn will be here before we are ready for it," Kagome told them before stifling a yawn behind her hand; causing Rin to giggle at her. Wrinkling her nose at her, Kagome raced across the clearing toward her, causing her to run away laughing. Quick to overtake the much smaller girl, Kagome lifted her up into her arms and spun her around.

"Bedtime, little one," Kagome insisted before laying her down against Ah-Un's stomach; her sleeping place of choice before she has a nightmare. Against Sesshoumaru's was only for after she woke up during the night. Once they had settled down, quickly falling asleep, Kagome settled down herself within her sleeping bag; deciding to stay awake a bit longer as she waited for him to return. She knew he had said not to, but there was just something she found comforting about knowing he was there when she went to sleep and would be there when she awoke.

But as an hour or so had passed and he had still yet to return, Kagome ended up drifting off to sleep from sheer boredom. From somewhere near by in the bushes, a figure thought to themselves that it was about time before drawing out their power of mind control; attempting to use it on the sleeping girl. Even as the shadowy figure could feel their powers beginning to work, Kagome began to toss and turn in her sleep; fighting against the foreign control.

Afraid the racket she was making in her sleep would wake the others before they were ready to deal with them, the figure released its hold on her and switched targets to the much younger, weaker girl in the camp. Almost instantly the power was able to invade her unconscious mind and take control of her actions. Mentally telling the puppet to rise to her feet, the figure controlled her limbs as a puppeteer would strings, and sent her toward the fire.

Reaching her hand into the end of the campfire, Rin grabbed a hold of one of the sticks that had burned a bit and quickly shook out the fire; before sharpening the end on a nearby rock. Turning toward Kagome, she walked right over to her and raised the makeshift dagger above her head, about to stab it into her chest when Kagome's eyes suddenly opened. Grabbing onto her arm to stop her attack just inches from her chest, Kagome panted for a moment while her foggy mind tried to catch up with what had happened.

"Rin! Rin snap out of it!" Kagome cried out as she glanced into her eyes and saw nothing but emptiness; no sign of the cheerful girl could be seen within their depths. Hearing a noise beside her, Kagome glanced over to see Jaken racing toward them with his staff raised. "Jaken don't hurt Rin! It's not her fault, she is being controlled by something," Kagome insisted, causing the toad to stop suddenly in confusion.

"Whoever it is," Kagome continued as she held Rin off while trying not to hurt the little girl, "should need to be close by to make sure the person they are controlling is doing what they want them to. Go find whoever it is while I hold Rin off." Rolling both of them over so she was on top and would be able to over power Rin easier, Kagome attempted to wrestle away the stick while Jaken opened his mouth to object.

"Go Jaken, I have to stay here. Whoever is out there is probably after the shards and so I am only good playing the decoy. You are the only one that can go. Now hurry up before I accidentally hurt Rin," she insisted, grateful when he finally started moving and soon disappeared into the trees. Turning her full attention back to Rin, she finally managed to get the stick out of her hand, but both of hers instantly went around her neck; choking her with more strength than Kagome thought she would possess.

Prying her fingers open enough to breathe, Kagome took a deep breath before sitting up completely so she was out of her reach; careful to put just enough weight on her to keep her on the ground without actually hurting her. Much to her relief a, much too feminine to be Jaken's, scream came from the woods nearby and Rin suddenly stopped fighting against her. "Kagome? What are you doing on top of me?" Rin questioned innocently as her big, bright eyes stared up at her once again.

"I'll explain later. Go to Ah-Un," Kagome instructed before standing up and retrieving her bow and arrows from beside her sleeping bag. She nearly dropped them again a moment later when Jaken came flying into camp and she barely managed to catch him before he slammed into the tree behind her. Setting him back down on the ground when she spotted a strange woman walking toward her from the woods, she turned her full attention to her as she began to speak.

"I am Tsubaki and those shards around your neck are mine," she insisted as she held out her hand for them; apparently just expecting Kagome to hand them over simply because she said so. Rolling her eyes at her arrogance, Kagome took a closer look at her appearance and realized she was in fact not a demon like she had originally thought her to be. She had the gray hair of an old woman and the youthful face of a young one.

Her clothing, though not the same as Kaede's, somehow reminded her of a priestess; only much darker. The snake coiled around her abdomen, hissed at Kagome as its head weaved back and forth. At first, she had thought the two were actually one being, but upon spotting its tail wrapped around behind her, Kagome soon realized that it was just her pet. Setting aside thoughts of the obviously dark priestess's clothing, Kagome notched an arrow into her bow while speaking to Jaken, "Go with Rin on Ah-Un. Hide out in the woods until it was safe."

Apparently deciding to ignore her laughter at such a thought, Jaken refused, "I am not leaving you Kagome. I do not run from a fight." Holding his head up high, he raised his staff as he prepared for battle, but Kagome was having none of it.

"Jaken I can not deal with her if I am too worried about you too. Besides, it's only a matter of time before she tries to use one of you against me again. Now go," Kagome insisted before suddenly jumping backward when Tsubaki decided to use her distraction as an opening and began to attack. Tossed across the clearing during her opening assault, Kagome barely managed to keep a hold on her bow as she skidded across the hard ground.

Not about to give her another opportunity to attack her, Kagome began notching her arrow once more; filling it with holy power and shooting it toward her incoming target. It missed by a good five feet, but Kagome didn't let it distract her as she ducked behind a tree just in time to miss Tsubaki's next attack with her snake. Coming back around the other side with another arrow already notched, Kagome let it fly while still attempting to put distance between them.

As arrow after arrow missed their target while the two of them continued to dance their way around the clearing, Tsubaki to begin laughing at her opponent. "What kind of a priestess are you anyways? How do you plan to defeat me when you are such a horrible shot?" she mocked as she paused on one end of the clearing for a moment; no longer worried the girl would actually be able to hurt her.

"You're right, Tsubaki, I have horrible aim. I get right on improving that tomorrow," Kagome informed her before reaching back into her quiver; pulling out her last arrow. "But you needn't worry about my poor archery skills, you won't be living to see the next sunrise," Kagome promised as she notched her final arrow and poured as much holy power into it as she could before aiming her bow straight up into the air.

Releasing it, the arrow lit up the night-sky for miles around before it finally disappeared as the power surrounding it waned. Roaring with laughter, Tsubaki turned her attention from the sky back to Kagome as she relaxed to stance. "Pretty cocky for someone who is such a lousy shot and stands no chance of actually hitting me; let alone defeating me."

"I may be a lousy shot, Tsubaki, but there is at least one thing I am an expert on; calling for help," Kagome informed her with a smile, adding, "What? You didn't think all of those arrows peppering the clearing charged with holy power were for nothing did you?" when she seemed confused. Smugly, Kagome gestured behind Tsubaki where Sesshoumaru's massive form was now standing. Hearing him growl, she huffed, "I did not do anything stupid this time, Sesshoumaru. She mind controlled Rin and tried to kill me in my sleep."

Hearing him growl at her once more, she admitted, "Okay fine, yes she is here because of the shards, but I told you I don't have a choice in the matter when it comes to those. I have to keep them out of the hands of monsters like her," gesturing toward where Tsubaki stood nearly forgotten about. "Trying to fix your mistake is not stupid," she continued, barely catching his next growl before he attacked Tsubaki without warning. "Fine, I will give you that one. Making a mistake in the first place is stupid," she agreed halfheartedly as she began gathering up her spent arrows.

Late the following night after the group had made camp once more and everyone who slept fell asleep, Kagome was awoken by the sound of crying. Concerned, as Rin tended to wake up screaming when she had a nightmare, Kagome sat up in her sleeping bag and glanced around the clearing to find it was in fact the little girl that wept; though she remained asleep. Turning toward Sesshoumaru, she found him facing Rin's direction silently.

Deciding that meant he wasn't going to do anything to help her, or perhaps simply did not know of any way to, Kagome figured this time it would be up to her. As whatever Rin was dreaming about did not seem to be waking her up, she would be unable to go over to Sesshoumaru to find the comfort herself. Sitting down beside her, Kagome began gently running her fingers through her hair while calling out softly, "Rin, wake up sweety. It's just a bad dream."

Though it took a few attempts, she was finally able to rouse the sleeping girl and welcomed her with open arms when she climbed into her lap. Wiping the tears from her eyes with her thumb, she offered, "Do you want to tell me what you were dreaming about? Sometimes talking about our nightmares can help make it so they aren't so scary anymore."

"It wasn't scary, Kagome. Just sad. I dreamed of the night my family was killed," Rin explained softly even as she snuggled closer to Kagome's warmth. Wrapping her arms tightly around her, she looked down at Rin in confused silence. The dream about the wolves had always frightened her before, why was it only sad now? Voicing her curiosity, Kagome was even more confused when Rin explained, "Wolves didn't kill my parents; bandits did."

Glancing back at Sesshoumaru to see if he could shed any light onto her confusion, Kagome wasn't the least bit surprised to find he had already lowered his head; apparently finished with his non-existent part in the conversation. Turning back to Rin, who seemed completely unaware of her lack of attention, she admitted, "I'm confused Rin. If wolves were the one that attacked your village, how were your parents killed by bandits?"

"My family died many moons before the wolves attacked," Rin explained as though it was the most obvious thing in the world and as Kagome thought about it, it actually was. It had simply never crossed her mind that there could have been two attacks on the same village because it broke her heart to think of such a tiny girl having to encounter so much evil in the world.

"Who took care of you after your family died?" Kagome inquired after a moment, wondering which of the bodies she had buried had become the second family to be ripped from her life. The answer nearly brought her to tears as she thought of the tiny five-year-old in her arms struggling to take care of herself after losing her parents; being scared and all alone with no one to protect her when the wolves attacked.

"It's okay now, Kagome," a soft voice reassured her, drawing her attention back to the little girl in her lap. "I have a new family now, right?" she questioned with a big toothy grin that forced Kagome to smile right back at her. As a sudden mischievous thought crossed her mind, the perfect way to get Rin's thoughts off of her sad past, Kagome attacked with wiggling fingers; causing her to shriek with laughter.

Startled by the sudden noise, Jaken sat up straight as he glanced around the clearing; grumbling something that sounded like 'who dares attack the vassals of Lord Sesshoumaru'. Freezing like deer caught in headlights, Kagome and Rin both turned sheepish expressions as the tickling stopped and they turned silent. Realizing who it was that was making the noise and why, he grumbled once more about noisy humans before laying back down.

Turning back to each other, both the girls busted up laughing before Kagome was startled into silence once more; this time when Rin suddenly hugged her. "Thank you, Kagome," Rin whispered softly, but honestly before resting back in Kagome's warm embrace. "Are your parents still alive?" she inquired so softly that for a moment Kagome thought that she had imagined it.

"My father is gone, but my mother is still back home waiting for me. Along with my grandfather, my little brother and our really fat cat, Buyo. We live on this huge shrine that has been in my family for generations. Out front there is this huge old tree they call the God Tree; though I have no idea why. I am sure my grandfather told me the legend behind it once or twice, but I can not remember what it was now.

"But I do know that it is by far the tallest tree I have ever seen. And it's really old too; far older than the shrine itself," Kagome explained with a smile as she thought back on her childhood home and all of the memories that went with it. Sighing softly at her memories, she turned her attention back to Rin when she asked another question.

"Yes, I miss them greatly, Rin. They are the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last before I go to sleep. I can not wait until I can see them again," she admitted honestly, watching Sesshoumaru out of the corner of her eye. Though she had no idea what kind of a reaction she was hoping to get from him, a complete lack of interest certainly wasn't it.

Sighing softly at how silly she was behaving, Kagome turned her attention back to Rin just in time to catch her yawn. "Goodnight, Kagome," Rin bid her before climbing out of her lap and making her way over to Sesshoumaru. Curling up next to him, she closed her eyes and within a few minutes, she could be heard snoring. Smiling at how sweet a picture the two made, Kagome headed back over to her sleeping bag.

Just as she was settling in, about to close her eyes, she heard Sesshoumaru's growl. "There is a shrine built near where he was pinned; or at least there will be," Kagome answered cryptically, happy to be the one to leave him guessing for once. Considering how often it was the other way around, she couldn't help but see it as her own little bit of poetic justice.

Though it was slow going, Kagome was slowly starting to figure somethings about herself out and she was not liking was she was discovering. It wasn't that any of it was bad, it just showed how incredibly stupid she could really be. It show how much she was glutton for punishment and disappointment. It was the only reason she could think of that she, a smart girl from the future, would be attracted to him.

And that was the only explanation for the way she was acting. The occasional glances his way whenever she spoke of leaving, how his name was the first thing she thought of whenever she got into trouble. Even her dreams were starting to turn on her as more and more frequently they were about him. She was already starting to act like an idiot around him and she needed to put a stop to that quick.

He barely tolerated having her around as it was, he would no doubt get rid of her the moment he realized she had feelings for him. Her time with him was already going to be short, she couldn't risk him finding out the truth and that meant burying such thoughts of him down deep. Now all she needed to ensure she could do that was something else to keep herself busy with.

Much to Kagome's relief, she did not have long to wait. Just a few days after she had made the realization about herself, she had gathered another shard off of some nameless demon that Sesshoumaru killed and came face to face with a demon he apparently had no intention of fighting. She had shown up out of no where, calling for Kagome to turn around and face her.

A bit surprised to have someone actually calling her by name, Kagome turned around and gave the red headed demon a once over. Certain she had no idea who she was, or what she could possibly want with her, with just a single glance, Kagome just stood there waiting for her to explain herself. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Sesshoumaru laying down; thankfully willing to wait, but apparently having no intention of helping.

"It is all your fault that he can't marry me!" the demon accused, only serving to further confuse Kagome. Before she had the chance to open her mouth, the demon attacked; instantly putting Kagome on the defensive. Unable to draw her how with as little room to maneuver as her opponent was giving her, Kagome did her best to evade the much faster demon's attacks. It was not hard to tell that her luck would soon run out.

"What are you talking about?" Kagome questioned as she barely managed to back up enough from the incoming punches to cause them to just graze her as opposed to hitting her full on. "Who in the world is your fiancé and what did I ever do to him?" she demanded as the demon got in a good shot and knocked her backwards. Apparently startled by the sudden contact, she hesitated for a moment; giving Kagome the change to scramble to her feet.

Unshouldering her bow, Kagome went to notch an arrow only to find them both knocked from her hands a moment later when the demon apparently regain control. Realizing she had no intention of pulling a weapon on her, even though she could easily see one at her side, Kagome soon understood she intended to fight in hand to hand combat. Praying her opponent didn't have some sort of brute strength that she had been so far hiding, since Kagome knew she stood no chance against her if she did, she did her best to evade the incoming blows.

"You disfigured his face and now he can not bear to hurt my reputation by forcing me to keep my engagement to him. You dare pretend to no know what you have done?!" Realizing who she was talking about, Kagome said his name, allowing herself to become distracted long enough for her to knock her off balance. Climbing on top of her and punching her face, the demon screamed out her frustration at her.

"You have no right to say his name!" the demon screamed before jumping to her feet and lifting Kagome effortlessly off of the ground by the front of her shirt and tossing her across the clearing like she was nothing. Thinking to herself that there was the brute strength she was worried about, Kagome quickly climbed back to her feet and moved out of her way just as she came charging toward her.

"How dare you treat a good man in such a way? And to sic your dog on him after you had already yielded!" she screamed in outrage as she rushed toward her again and Kagome couldn't help but shake her head at all of the lies that he must have filled hers with. Kouga was many things, a good man was not one of them. Stopping suddenly, Kagome just stood there staring at her; causing the demon to do the same out of confusion.

"Look," Kagome began only to realize she had no idea what the girl's name was. "What's your name anyways?" she inquired, starting over once she had received it. "Look Ayame, I honestly have no idea what you consider to be a good man, but in my own personal book a good man would never try to kill an innocent little girl or kidnap anyone. And he most certainly would never try to force himself on a woman, even if just verbally, because he couldn't handle rejection.

"He would also not try to use her as bait just because he was losing a fight where he seriously outnumbered his opponent. Hell, a good man would never outnumber his opponent, he would fight him one on one. A good man would never attack someone who was only working as a translator and not actually part of the fight and do this," Kagome insisted as she pulled back the collar of her haori and revealed the four scars on her neck.

"After he lost to Sesshoumaru, he tried to threaten him with my life to get him to give up a fight he had already won fair and square. After that failed and even after his face was disfigured, as you put it, he still vowed to rape me before devouring me. Is this really what you would call a good man?" Kagome demanded, hoping to talk some sense into her, instead, she only seemed to make her even more angry as she screamed at her; accusing her of lying.

Charging her, Ayame tackled her to the ground, beginning to assault her with her claws. Screaming out in pain as one swipe went across her arms and dug in enough to bleed, Kagome sent her flying with an unconscious blast of holy power. Quickly climbing to her feet so she wouldn't make such as easy target when she came back around, Kagome was surprised to find, not only was she knocked unconscious by the blast, that she had been caught by Kouga.

Quickly running to the other side of the clearing, Kagome grabbed her bow and notched an arrow before turning back to him; not about to give him the chance to get close enough to give her more scars. Speaking of scars, Kagome couldn't help but notice he had opted to hide his behind a scrap of fur draped across half of his face. Turning Ayame around so he was carrying her bridal style, he turned his attention to Kagome with a sneer.

"No need to go shooting that thing off, I'm not here to kill you; at least not for the moment. I am just here to retrieve my mate-to-be and make sure she doesn't get herself killed," Kouga informed her before turning back the way he came; apparently wanting to prove he was speaking the truth quickly.

As a sudden idea crossed her mind, Kagome called out to him, "Stay away from me Kouga!" causing him to pause in his step, though he did not turn back around to her. "Ayame obviously loves you very much if she can still see you as a good man as I can only see you as rotten to the core. And to be willing to risk her own life just to protect your honor, that is one amazing woman you have there.

"Do not make her become a widow because your stubborn pride won't let you admit defeat," Kagome advised and without a word, or indication as to whether or not he would listen to said advice, Kouga began walking once more and had soon disappeared from her sight. Her curiosity getting the better of her now that she was no longer in danger, Kagome turned to the seemingly unaware Sesshoumaru to ask, "Any particular reason why you decided to lay down the moment she arrived?"

Hearing his rather rude reply, Kagome couldn't help but feel the sting of rejection even if it sounded exactly like something he would say. "I never said you were my personal bodyguard, Sesshoumaru, though I am glad to hear you would have stepped in if I had been outnumbered or if she had ambushed me. But saying that if I couldn't even handle a single demon than I would have been more pathetic than you had originally thought and that you would have left me to die... Ouch, harsh much?"

Not surprised to not receive an answer from him, Kagome sighed and began following after him as he started making his way out of the camp. Unaffected by their conversation, the others followed along as if nothing had happened.

If he had been anyone else, Kagome was sure his continued silence would have meant that Sesshoumaru was angry with her. She couldn't even begin to imagine a reason that he would be, but it was the only thing she could come up with that might explain his continued silence and the fact that he actually seemed to be ignoring her.

In the week that had passed since her encounter with Ayame, he had only said three things to her; stay, make camp and let's go. Basically he was only speaking to her when he absolutely had to and she couldn't for the life of her figure out why. She was certain that she had said nothing to him that would have angered, or even just annoyed, him, but that was the only explanation she could think of for why he suddenly woke up one morning and seemed to wish she wasn't there.

She had been very careful since that morning to make sure that she too said as little as she possibly could; hopefully she could prevent herself from making him even more annoyed with her. But it seemed to do nothing to help smooth things over between him and Kagome began to fear her time would be up sooner than she thought; even before he got his sight back. As much as she dreaded the thought that once used to be what she hoped for, she knew she wouldn't fight him on it if he suddenly told her to leave one day.

It was no longer what she wished for, but, at the same time, she had no intention of giving him a reason to kill her. As much as she wished they had become something more than enemies, she had obvious been wrong; seeing something that was never there to begin with. If she was being honest with herself, she could admit that she had thought they were starting to become friends. Maybe not super close, tell them all of your secrets and dreams, kind of friends, but friends none the less.

Friends enough that he would let her stay even after he regain his sight, but not all that surprisingly, she had misjudged another dog brother. He was not the demon she had begun to think of him as just as Inuyasha had not been. She continued to see good in people that wasn't really there, but in all honestly she had no intention of stopping. She would rather see good where there is none and take a chance rather than missing out when there was good to be found simply because she was too scared to risk it.

Of course, none of this would actually matter if she didn't make it through this day alive which began increasingly more unlikely when Inuyasha showed up at their camp while Sesshoumaru just so happened to be out hunting. If Kagome didn't know any better, she would swear he had been watching from nearby; waiting for the perfect moment to attack once Sesshoumaru was gone. The only problem with that theory was the fact that Kagome was certain Sesshoumaru would have sensed his presence had he been there when he was still there.

"Jaken protect Rin!" she cried out the moment she spotted him walking into camp before jumping to her feet and unshouldering her bow. Quicker than she could ever remember being, she had notched an arrow and aimed it straight for his chest. She wasn't going to give him the chance to get close enough to make her bow useless in her defense again. She had actually been about to shoot without any warning, knowing she would be unable to last against him long enough for Sesshoumaru to return, when she was stopped by his surprisingly gentle voice.

"I am not here to attack you, Kagome. I am here to apologize," Inuyasha began and Kagome couldn't help but wonder if he was trying to trick her. It did not take long for her to realize that could not have been the case; he had no reason to fear her and need to try and catch her off guard. "Look Kagome, I realize you have no reason to trust me, but I really am just here to apologize for my behavior.

"I allowed my beating my brother to go to my head and while it is no excuse, you have to understand that it was the first time I have ever defeated an enemy that powerful. But that doesn't matter because I am here to promise you that it will never happen again. I know I may not have acted like it, but your friendship means a lot to me, Kagome. I just wish it didn't take losing you for me to realize it."

"I can't go back with you, Inuyasha, even if you are apologetic. I forgive you for the way you treated me, but I can not forget what you have done. Our problems didn't just spring up in the month after your father's tomb, but were there from the start. From the very moment you opened your eyes and saw me for the first time, you have treated me like I was worthless simply because I was not the priestess you wanted.

"Every time you looked at me when you thought I wasn't watching, you looked so disappointed; like I was nothing more than some crappy consultation prize. I am sorry about what happened between you and Kikyou, but you have no right to treat me the way you did simply because I wasn't her," Kagome insisted even as she silently admitted to herself that if she had never started traveling with Sesshoumaru and realized just how badly she had been treated, she probably would have kept suffering through it forever believing things would one day get better.

For a long time, Inuyasha could only stand there stating at her in silence. Eventually he sighed before pointing out, "He's not going to treat you any better than I did, Kagome. At least I have the capability of caring about someone other than myself. Wouldn't it be better to be with someone trying to make up for their mistakes, then with someone who's grace you already know will not last long?" Inuyasha questioned with genuine concern in his voice.

"That's just it, Inuyasha, he already does treat me better than you did. Don't get me wrong, he can't stand me and has made that rather clear, but Sesshoumaru doesn't like me because of who I am, not because of who I am not. I have no delusions about your brother, you can rest assured, I know that one day soon I will be dropped off at the nearest village; if I'm lucky. Or I will wake up one morning to find myself abandoned in he woods again if I'm not," she admitted, not missing the way he flinched at her words.

"But I also know that until my debt is repaid, I will be allowed to stay and he treats me rather well all things considered. I know Sesshoumaru will never be a friend like I want him to be, like I had hoped you would be, but I do know that the remainder of my time in this era will be spent with him," Kagome informed him and though she knew he had no way of really understanding, she was surprised when he reacted as heatedly as he did.

"He is a monster, Kagome, or have you forgotten what he did to me; what he did to you?!" he demanded, sounding far more outraged than Kagome thought he had the right to be. Not that she planned on telling him that, though.

"And how could I follow you after what you did to your brother and to myself? After how you acted after? Inuyasha, he did what he did to me because he could not handle defeat. You did what you did to me because you could not handle victory. What makes him a monster and you not?" Kagome wondered sadly and without judgment as her eyes turned soft. It would seem that it wasn't just humans who sought to blame others for their mistakes, but were unwilling to accept responsibility for their own.

"What the hell did I do to my brother that was so damn bad?! I'm not the one who pretended to kidnap his mother's soul so I could use it as bait to steal his inheritance!" Inuyasha insisted turning his attention toward the others when he heard a gasp. Apparently noticing Rin for the first time, he exclaimed, "What is he collecting human pets now?!"

Deciding it would be best to ignore the fact that he just referred to her as a pet, Kagome replied, "What you have done, it is not my place to tell you, but I did not say what he did wasn't bad, I simply said that what you did was as well. Neither of you are innocent. But right now none of that matters as he will be returning soon and you should leave before he finds you here. He allowed you to live last time, but he has been in a rather foul mood lately. You will not find yourself getting so lucky this time."

"I'll leave, but you should know that apologizing was not the only reason why I came out here. There is a new demon going around gathering up the shards. He is really powerful and I nearly lost my life battling him. With as much of the jewel as you possess, it will not be long before he comes after you; Sesshoumaru there to protect you or not," Inuyasha warned and Kagome knew that if he was admitting defeat, it must have been a pretty powerful opponent indeed.

Realizing there was only one demon she could think of that he might be referring to, Kagome began to describe, "Let me guess, tall, dark and evil guy with long black hair and red eyes? Has a thing for baboon pelts? Goes by the name Naraku?" Seeing him nod his head in agreement, even though he seemed confused by how she could know what he looked like, she continued, "We've had a run in with him once already. Sesshoumaru took his arm during the battle."

Even though it wasn't actually her accomplishment, she still felt slightly smug about it. Perhaps it was because of the way he treated her and the intense evil she could feel rolling off of him in waves. "So he was the one that did that. He still seemed pretty pissed off about it when I faced him. Though you should probably know that it's growing back. He's regenerating it slowly, but will be much quicker if he gets his hands on a larger chunk of the jewel, so be careful. I'm pretty sure you currently hold the biggest piece which makes you his likely target." Having apparently finished saying all he was going to, Inuyasha turned and disappeared back into the forest.

When Sesshoumaru finally returned to the clearing, he did not say anything about Inuyasha's visit even though Kagome was certain he could still smell him in the clearing. More than once, Inuyasha had claimed to be able to smell some lingering scent days after its owner had passed through and if he was able to do it, Kagome knew Sesshoumaru could as well. Probably better.

Figuring he decided not to call attention to it since they were obviously unharmed, Kagome decided to let the matter drop as well. There was nothing she needed to tell him about Inuyasha's visit since they already knew about Naraku so she saw no point in bringing up something he seemed to not want to. Instead, everything seemed to be finally going back to normal. Even Sesshoumaru seemed to be done ignoring her and was back to his usual 'chatty' self.

To be honest, Kagome was beginning to worry about his sudden, and quickly becoming frequent, mood swings, though she had no intention of ever telling him that. He wanted everyone to believe that he was emotionless and she saw no reason to shatter that illusion, but at the same time, she was going to be paying closer attention to his behavior from now on. While she was sure nothing major would come from his odd mood swings, she couldn't chance having an emotional giant running around with Sesshoumaru's power; even if she had no idea how to stop him if things ever came to that.

But his questionable mental health would have to be put on the back burner for now as something far more dangerous was heading their way. They were just about to stop for the night when Kagome suddenly felt a highly tainted shard heading their way at incredibly fast speeds. "Naraku's incoming!" Kagome called out suddenly, startling the others as she unshouldered her bow and nodded to Jaken; who quickly moved to help Rin onto Ah-Un.

Already knowing what was expected of him, the dragon took off into the sky as soon as she was seated safety on his saddle; moving in the opposite direction from where Kagome had an arrow already pointed. Though he seemed completely uninterested by everything going on, it was not hard to figure out that Sesshoumaru was even more prepared for battle than they were; he was, after all, always ready for a fight.

After a quick glance around the clearing, assuring herself that her allies were ready and would be fine, Kagome turned her full attention back to the edge of the forest just as Naraku burst out right in front of her. Startled, she barely had time to release her arrow before he was barreling into her; effortlessly evading the arrow and sending her flying across the clearing. Quickly climbing to her feet, amazed that she actually managed to hold onto her bow this time, Kagome quickly turned it on him once more as he began charging toward Jaken.

A large burst of holy power flying toward him soon changed his attention back to her, even if the arrow did not even come close to hitting him. Seeing Sesshoumaru rushing toward them out of the corner of her eye, Kagome went through the motions of notching another arrow with no intentions of actually releasing it. She could not chance hitting one of her allies with her bad aim. Just as he was about to charge into her once more, Kagome began filling the arrow in her hands with holy power; stabbing it into his remaining good arm as soon as he was close enough.

Though it was not enough to purify his arm as she had been hoping, it was enough to cause him to scream out in pain and anger, reeling back as he pulled the offended appendage out of her reach. Much to her disgust and horror, a tentacle began to slither its way out of what remained of his arm before it grabbed onto the arrow and yanked it free.

Shivering at the unnatural sight, moving away to safety when she saw Sesshoumaru charging toward him, Kagome watched as much of the fight between them as she could, but it was not long before they were moving much too quickly for her to keep up with. Making her way toward Jaken, while still keeping an eye on the battle in case Naraku decided to change targets again, she gave him a quick nod before notching another arrow and aiming it toward the ground.

Suddenly, a very loud and feminine scream echoed through the clearing and Kagome instantly turned toward where Ah-Un was still flying above; Rin still safety seated on his back. Confused, she turned back as the two finally began visible once more as Sesshoumaru paused briefly to turn unseeing eyes toward her; apparently believing her to have been the one is danger. Too late they both realized just who had made the sound as that very being stabbed Sesshoumaru in the belly with his tentacle; causing a piece of it to break off in his flesh even as the end continued to wiggle.

"Sesshoumaru!" Kagome screamed as the massive dog began to wobble a bit; managing to remain standing though it seemed to take all of his strength and concentration to do so. Even as she ran toward him, Kagome began to pump as much holy power into her arrow as she could before shooting it into the back of Naraku; who had been too busy gloating and insulting Sesshoumaru to notice she was there.

As the arrow purified the demon in front of her, Kagome paid it little attention even as the baboon pelt fell to the ground accompanied by a soft thud. The only thing she cared about at that moment was getting to Sesshoumaru's side as soon as possible. As she is standing there trying to figure out what to do, he laid down on his side, growling out his commands to her. "If you are sure," Kagome agreed and without waiting for him to confirm, knowing he would not have told her to do something he wasn't sure about, she wrapped her fingers around the tentacle and began to softly count to three.

Once she had reached the desired number, she grabbed on tightly and yanked back as hard as she could, as he had instructed her to do; finding the tentacle resisting against her. Once she managed to over power it and rip it from his flesh, blood began gushing from his wound causing her to cry out in panic and worry. Quickly putting her hands over the wound, Kagome pressed as hard as she could, not worried about accidentally hurting the demon lord, but soon realized it was not doing any good as the blood continued to pour over her fingers. Her hands were just too small.

As an idea crossed her mind, she called out, "Jaken, hurry and bring me my sleeping bag!" Much to her relief, though perhaps only due to the sheer desperation in her voice, Jaken moved quickly without argument and was soon dragging the much larger blanket toward her. Grabbing it from his hands as soon as he was in range, Kagome quickly pressed it against his wound as tightly as she could; wishing there was a way for her to tie it in place. As it was, she would have to stand there like that until the bleeding stopped, though it was not her own comfort she was concerned about, but the fact that if she fell asleep from exhaustion, there would be no one around tall enough to hold the blanket in place.

And considering how worn out shooting those arrows had made her, she knew it was a very real possibility. Realizing just how late it had grown, Kagome called over her shoulder, "Get some sleep you three," after hearing Ah-Un land not far behind her. Once they had fallen asleep, which had not taken long all things considered, Kagome peeled back a corner of the blanket to check on the wound to find there was no change.

Hearing Sesshoumaru's growl, she glanced up to look at his face only to realize she could see nothing but his belly with the way he was laying. "I'm glad to hear the bleeding will stop soon. It's a good thing you have such strong, demon blood that it can start healing you so quickly, we both know I would not be able to keep us safe for long," Kagome admitted honestly, more than a bit surprised by what Sesshoumaru growled at her next.

"You know, Sesshoumaru, I think that is easily the sweetest thing you have ever said to me. Insisting that I not put myself down like that," she told him softly, unable to prevent the large smile from appearing on her face; not that she had wanted to. It wasn't everyday that the great and powerful demon lord seemed to care enough for it to matter to him what she thought about herself and she knew it wouldn't last long.

In fact, she wasn't even able to finish thinking such a thought before the illusion was shattered by his next growl. Laughing softly, Kagome agreed, "Of course you said that because it does not look good for you to associate with someone who is so weak that they feel the need to put themselves down, but I would prefer to believe it is because you care. It makes you seem more real and approachable. But that isn't really important right now. The only thing that is important is that you rest up and heal quickly.

"If that monster returns, I will not be able to keep him at bay for long if you are still wounded. And that is not putting myself down, but being honest about my skills versus his," Kagome insisted, before turning an annoyed expression his way at his next growl; unconcerned by the fact that he couldn't actually see it. "Of course I know that was a fake. If I had really purified a demon, nothing would have been left of him; certainly not a baboon pelt. I may be new to all of this, but I am not an idiot," she continued hotly before checking on the wound once more; happy to notice the bleeding had slowed a bit.

Taking notice of the blood soaked sleeping bag in her hands as she pressed it against the wound once more, she realized just how cold she was going to be now that her only blanket was rendered useless. Deciding to have a little fun, Kagome whispered, "You know you are going to have to keep me warm now, right? Since I gave up my sleeping bag to help you." Hearing his response, Kagome laughed once more before answering, "Yes, you could just let me freeze to death, but you won't."

It came to no surprise to anyone in the group when Sesshoumaru had recovered enough to begin traveling again after only a few days. Though Kagome thought he should rest a bit longer, she decided it would be best to hold her tongue. There was no reason to piss off Sesshoumaru by suggesting that he wasn't yet strong enough to defend himself if Naraku was to attack again. She decided instead that it would be better to make good on what she had told Tsubaki and began practicing with her bow every free moment that she had.

If he wasn't back to 100 percent yet, than she hoped she could help make up the difference by getting better herself. In any case, it wasn't like she could actually get worse than she already was by practicing. So each day when she had a few minutes to herself, usually before they set out in the morning and after making camp for the night, she would stand a bit away from the others and shoot arrow after arrow into a tree until her quiver was empty.

Then she would retrieve them and repeat the process over and over until it was time for bed. She did not bother pulling out any holy power while she practiced; worried she might accidentally shoot one of them. And it wasn't as if she actually needed it to work on bringing her power out, she seemed to have that down pretty well. But thoughts of what she still needed to work on would have to wait as she fused the most recently acquired shard and realized something.

"Wow, the jewel is almost complete. I can not believe we collected it so quickly," she admitted as she looked over the jewel in her hand that was only missing about 1/5 of its complete mass. "Once we finish it and you get your sight back, I'm gonna be a free woman," she told Sesshoumaru with a smile, before finishing, 'Which means I will be free to follow you around completely by my own choice as there is no where else I would rather be,' silently to herself.

Even though she knew he couldn't see her watching, Kagome still chose to sneak a peak in his direction instead of looking at him openly. After a few moments had passed without a response coming from him, Kagome decided there wouldn't be one and sighed softly to herself. 'What were you expecting Kagome? For him to beg you to stay? Of course he can't wait to get rid of you. Honestly I should just be happy that he didn't jump for joy; well Sesshoumaru's version of that anyways,' Kagome reminded herself mentally before growing silent once more.

The day had started out as many before it had, with the group waking up before dawn and working together to prepare their breakfast before taking off as soon as Sesshoumaru called for them to go, but for some strange reason, Kagome could not seem to shake the ominous feeling she had woken up with that day. Naturally she had made sure not to let Rin know that anything might be wrong, she quietly warned the others while Rin was busy elsewhere.

Though Sesshoumaru gave no indication that he had even heard her, Jaken nodded his head in understanding before starting glance around as he walked; making sure to keep his eyes on the forest around them. Ah-Un choose to walk along side of Rin when the dragon usually gave the little girl more breathing room. For her part, she seemed to not notice anything out of the ordinary and simply talked happily to the dragon about everything she could think of.

It was just after lunch, not long after the group had started walking again, that her prediction had come true as she felt a chunk of tainted shard coming their way at the same time as Sesshoumaru began to growl. This time it wasn't actual words he was speaking, but a growl of warning; to both his allies and his approaching enemy. Whistling to Ah-Un, the dragon quickly nudged Rin who climbed onto its back without further instructions and held on tight as the dragon took off into the air just as Naraku burst through the tree line.

Once they were sure the little girl would be safe, Jaken and Kagome turned their attention to the threat as Sesshoumaru began battling with him; raising their staff and bow in case the fighting came to them. As she watched in silence, praying that Sesshoumaru would win without any serious injuries, Kagome couldn't help but notice that his severed arm had grown back and that his shard had not been placed within it once more.

A quick scan of him quickly revealed it to be hidden within his chest and Kagome called out its location to Sesshoumaru. Though he once again showed no indication that he had heard her, Kagome knew he had and didn't let his silence bother her. He needed to keep his full attention on the demon in front of him and if he paused for even a moment to acknowledge her, he might give Naraku an opening to attack him that might not otherwise be there.

And that was the last thing Kagome wanted. Naraku, on the other hand, reacted to her words by threatening to rip apart her limbs before dashing around Sesshoumaru and heading straight toward where Kagome was standing. Once she made sure her arrow would be far enough away from Sesshoumaru, Kagome filled it with as much power as she could before shooting it toward him; fighting the urge to scream in frustration when he easily sidestepped it.

Notching another arrow, Kagome was just about to begin filling it with holy power when she glanced up and found him mere inches from her face. She began pouring her power into the arrow even as he lifted her by the front of her shirt and threw her across the clearing. Landing with a thud, barely registering that she had not impacted anything hard as she had been expecting, Kagome fired her arrow at the retreating demon; causing him to scream out in pain and anger when it managed to imbed itself in his leg.

Though it was not enough to purify him, much to her disappointment once more, she could just barely make out the burn his leg had suffered from where she lay on the ground. As he turned to attack her once more, Sesshoumaru stepped in his path and began battling with the demon again; completely blocking her view. Hearing a groan coming from beneath her, Kagome quickly jumped to her feet before helping her savior to stand.

"Thank you, Jaken. I owe you one," Kagome insisted spying the large tree behind him that she would have crashed into had it not been for him. Whispering softly so only he could hear, she instructed, "Head toward the right side of Sesshoumaru. I will guard the left in case he tries to go around him. Be ready for anything." Nodding his head in agreement, Jaken did as she instructed even as Kagome was making her way around the left side of Sesshoumaru's massive canine body.

But no matter how far she seemed to go around him, Naraku always seemed to be one step ahead of her as he moved further away to keep Sesshoumaru in between them. Doubting it was because he was actually more afraid of fighting her than he was of fighting Sesshoumaru, Kagome knew he must be planning something; she simply could not figure out what it was. A quick search with her senses around the clearing assured her there were no other shards around, nor did she feel the presence of another demon.

Wanting to be sure, she turned her attention to Sesshoumaru for a few moments, trusting his ability to sense other dangers better than her own, but he showed no indication that he sensed anything else either. But as it did not seem to elevate her worries, Kagome quickly decided it would be best to keep her eyes open to other dangers anyways. The eerie feeling she had all day that something was coming had turned out to be true, there was no reason to think that this one wouldn't as well.

Finding out soon after that she had in fact been correct about the second danger did absolutely nothing for Kagome as there was no presence to feel growing closer and know to protect herself from. One moment she was perfectly fine, watching as Sesshoumaru continued to fight Naraku unable to see the other demon herself as she kept her ears open for any other danger that might be lurking nearby. The next moment she found it impossible to breath as she felt as though her very life force was being drained from her.

Choking back a sob at the sheer pain she could feel as her soul was pulled through her back and away from her body, Kagome turned around slowly, almost as if she was moving in slow motion, and found the strangest demon she had ever seen standing there. She looked barely older than Rin, covered from head to toe in white including her long hair and nearly her skin as well. As it was, the pale flesh was washed out against the bright white that surrounded it.

In her hands, was a mirror which Kagome quickly realized was what was stealing her soul; she could see it being pulled into the reflective surface. "Sesshoumaru," she barely managed to choke out as she dropped down to one knee under the pressure; her bow the only thing keeping her upright as she plunged the end into the ground and rested most of her weight onto it. From behind her, she could barely make out Naraku telling the demon, who he called Kanna, to hurry up as he fought to keep Sesshoumaru's attention on him.

"Her soul won't be contained," Kanna explained to him in a voice far more void of emotion than she had ever heard Sesshoumaru's been. "It is too large," she continued and while Kagome had no idea how her soul could possibly be too large, the demon's confusion gave her the perfect opportunity to strike back. Struggling to rise to her feet, nearly breaking her bow under her own weight, Kagome stood upright before slowly notching an arrow.

Pouring as much power into her arrow as she could, praying what she was about to do would not turn out to be as bad an idea as using the crow's foot to guide her arrow, Kagome aimed her bow at the mirror and let go. Before the demon had the chance to react, the arrow flew the short distance between the two and stuck the mirror dead center; causing the reflective glass to shatter into a million pieces. Instantly the freed soul returned to her like a stretched out elastic that had been released.

Though still a bit wobbly on her feet, Kagome quickly notched another arrow and aimed it straight for the demon girl; releasing it as soon as she had been able to fill it with power. Apparently unconcerned by the incoming projectile, Kanna barely even bothered to step out of the way; effortlessly avoiding the attack. Before she could ready another one, the girl disappeared completely as Naraku called her name; reappearing on the other side of Sesshoumaru where Kagome could no longer see her.

Hearing Jaken squawk, startled by her sudden appearance, Sesshoumaru turned his attention toward him just long enough for Naraku to make his way around him; rushing toward Kagome. Quickly readying the arrow, Kagome raised it up to aim it at his chest only to look up and find him already standing mere inches from her face. Seeing him reaching for the jar around her neck, Kagome poured as much power into the arrow as she could before releasing it into his chest.

Even as he roared in agony, Kagome reached her free hand up to her neck and sighed in relief when the jar was still there. Her relief was short lived, however, as a moment later she felt a sudden sharp pain in her chest and glanced down in disbelief to find a tentacle protruding from her chest. Somehow she found that she wasn't surprised that a demon like Naraku had managed to attack her from behind even as the skin on his chest was being purified in front of her.

As he began to pull away and Kagome feared he would survive her attack, she grabbed onto the tentacle and began to pour her power into it much as she did with the arrows. She knew instantly that it was working as the demon screamed once more before stabbing her with another tentacle in effort to make her loosen her grip. Feeling herself beginning to lose the ability to remain standing, Kagome poured everything she could into one last burst of power; unable to even find the strength to smile when the tentacles began to disintegrate.

With the tentacles no longer keeping her up, Kagome felt herself dropping to the ground, a soft, "Sesshoumaru," passing her lips before she began to choke on her own blood. As her eyes closed for what was to be the last time, she did not see Naraku being destroyed completely by Sesshoumaru's fangs nor Kanna disappearing at the same time that he did. More importantly, she did not see the massive form of Sesshoumaru shrink back down to his smaller form before standing over her prone body.

As Jaken came running over, startled both by his lord's transformation and the girl's death now that he could actually see her, Ah-Un landed nearby; allowing Rin to disembark now that the threat was gone. For a long moment, Sesshoumaru just stood there staring down at her in silence before his hand finally reached for the sword at his side. Unsheathing it, he watched as the pallbearers appeared before him; their chains encircling Kagome's form.

For a moment, he simply watched them in silence until the sword in his hand began to pulse almost as if it had a heartbeat of its own. Staring down at the sword in his hand, Sesshoumaru wondered, not for the first time, why his father had chosen to give him this sword. He was a warrior, not a healer. He needed a sword that could cut through his enemies and yet he was given a sword to bring others back from the dead.

Before that very moment, Sesshoumaru could have thought of no reason to ever want to bring anyone back to life and now, a nagging thought began to creep into his mind; what if it didn't work? What if his father had exaggerated about the power behind the sword? What if it could only heal and not raise the dead? But even as Sesshoumaru thought this, the swords pulse grew stronger in his hand, almost as if to tell him that his father spoke the truth.

Knowing there was only one way to find out for himself, Sesshoumaru turned his attention back to the pallbearers before him and cut through them effortlessly with one swing of his sword. As they disappeared, so did the chains weighing her down and Sesshoumaru waited silently to see if she would live again. A few moments later, as everyone waited on pins and needles, Kagome sucked in a loud breath; causing everyone to release the one they had been holding.

As she slowly opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was Sesshoumaru standing over her; sheathing his sword. It took her a few moments to realize he was actually in his smaller form. It then dawned on her that she had been dead a moment before; she could actually remember dying. "How did you do that? I am sure I was dead. And since when could you transform back?" Kagome demanded, seriously doubting he just happened to regain his sight the moment he needed to transform back to somehow save her.

Instead of answering her, Sesshoumaru stared down at her in silence for a few moments before turning and walking away; disappearing into the forest without an explanation or instructions. Not about to let things go without an answer, Kagome called over her shoulder for Jaken to watch Rin before disappearing into the forest in the direction he had gone. It did not take long for her to catch up to him as he did not seem to be moving very quickly.

The reason being she found out a moment later when he turned around to face her. "You are far too easy to predict, Kagome. Even a fool would know that you would follow. Such predictability will get you killed one day," he warned, though his words were completely ignored as Kagome asked her last question again. "For a while," he replied offhandedly, as though such a thing as him being able to transform back into his smaller form was completely irrelevant.

"Why didn't you tell me?!" Kagome demanded as she thought back over the last few weeks, trying to figure out exactly when he had regain his sight; wondering exactly how long he had been lying to all of them. As a thought crossed her mind, she guessed, "Your weird behavior lately. It was because you regained your sight, wasn't it? The suddenly ignoring me for days. The short temper, well shorter than usual anyways.

"That night you were howling at the moon, did you have your sight back then? Wait no, you couldn't have had it back then. You wouldn't have been so sad if you did. How long, Sesshoumaru? How long have you been lying to us? Lying to me by pretending you still couldn't transform back? Why didn't you tell me?!" Hearing his humorless laugh a moment later, Kagome couldn't help but think it was actually meant as an insult to go with his next words.

"I do not have to tell you anything. You are just a stupid human that was following me around because I made you. You are not my equal," Sesshoumaru practically spat at her, causing Kagome to shrink back slightly from his venomous tone.

Shaking her head, Kagome replied sadly, "You are half right, Sesshoumaru. Apparently I am nothing more than a stupid human because I actually thought our friendship was real. I thought we had become allies, comrades during our time together, even friends that could depend on each other; but it was all in my head wasn't it? But you are half wrong, too, Sesshoumaru. I may have started out following you because you made me, but I kept following you because I wanted to.

"I have had plenty of times where I could have left and never looked back. Sango offered to let me join them at the slayer's village. Inuyasha came back for me; apologized to me. But I chose to stay with you, I chose you over them. Not because of some stupid debt or because you made me, but because I really thought there was more to you than the heartless bastard you wanted everyone to think you were. You came for me. You saved my life. You protected me.

"I thought..., but I guess it really doesn't matter what I thought, does it? I guess I was wrong again; misjudged another demon to be more than a monster. I can't believe that I could actually..." Shaking her head, Kagome cleared such thoughts from her mind; not having the strength to say them out loud now. "I will take Rin and leave. If you just give me a few minutes head start, you won't even have to see me again."

Turning around, Kagome moved to take a step toward the camp only to find Sesshoumaru standing in front of her again. Startled by his speed, even if she should have been used to it already, she tripped over her own foot and would have landed with a heavy thud on the unyielding ground had Sesshoumaru not caught her. Before she could even think to ask him why he had protected her again, he had demanded, "Finish your sentence."

"No," Kagome insisted as she wrenched herself out of his arms, not wanting him to see the goosebumps his touch had caused. "You have hurt me enough Sesshoumaru, you don't need to add rejection and humiliation on top of it." Stepping around him, she once again began heading back to camp only to be interrupted a second time; startled by what he growled at her. Without turning around, she demanded, "What do you mean you're scared? Lord Sesshoumaru doesn't get scared."

"Before I met you, you would have been right. Nothing had ever scared me in my entire life; not even my first battle. But I am afraid now. I am scared of losing you. You died, Kagome. Completely. No heartbeat. No breath. And I was terrified that the stupid sword my father left me wouldn't work. That it wouldn't bring you back. You can not just scare me like that and then walk away as though nothing happened."

"What do you want from me, Sesshoumaru?" Kagome demanded softly as she continued to keep her back to him; unsure of how to react to his words. The thought that she could actually cause such a strong and powerful demon to be scared was something she had no idea how to handle. She wasn't even sure she could believe it.

"I do not want anything from you, Kagome. I just want you," he told her so softly that Kagome found it had become hard to breath as her entire body seemed to freeze in anticipation for what he would say next. Hearing what he growled to her, she actually forgot how to breath for a long moment as she stood there staring into the forest in silence; stunned. Finally regaining control over herself, Kagome turned and rushed into his arms; catching him slightly off guard when she pressed her lips against his.

It did not take him long to get over his shock and begin returning the kiss even as he wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her off of the ground. Once the desperate need for air had won out, the two finally parted as Sesshoumaru set her down on the ground once more. Reaching up to cup his cheek, she smiled before admitting what had already become obvious, "And I have fallen for you, Sesshoumaru."

Explanations:

*Why Kikyou wasn't there- Without Kagome being near Urasue when she created Kikyou's copy, she was never able to get any of her soul back and become more than an empty shell. I assume she either killed Urasue and then died, or just died.

*Kouga portrayed as he is- As you remember from the warning up top, I took a more realistic approach with this story. And to me a stranger threatening to kill your friends and then just up and deciding you were his woman and planning to take you against your will, is not someone you are going to want to be friends with. Plus by the time she meets him she already knows that wolf demons attacked Rin's village.

*Her reaction to Miroku- Again going for more realistic, but also she had already had to deal with Kouga and she's already fed up with the injustices so when she comes across him conning a villager, her protect the innocent mindset kicks in.

*No Shiori- The whole reason they even came upon Shiori was because Inuyasha was looking for the ability to break through barriers. Without Inuyasha around, there was no reason for them to go there.

*Kanna as only incarnation- Naraku didn't start creating his 'offspring' until he had collected a good chunk of the jewel, but since Kagome managed to take what he had collected at first and there was no Kikyou to give him Kagome's shards, he never actually had very much of the jewel. So he was only able to create Kanna.

*No Band of Seven- Again, Naraku didn't have the shards to spare.

*Sesshoumaru suddenly having feelings for her- Actually it isn't really sudden, if you look really closely you can see fragments of it hinted at. Though it is a bit more rushed than I would have liked, I purposefully did not just come out and show it to make the story go more with the prompt. It's also why even the readers don't know what he is saying without Kagome translating it for them.

Side Note: A few years ago, I had already written the first five scenes and had decided not to write this story; at least until it seemed to fit perfectly with the prompt I got. But I had given someone permission to finish the story and I can not for the life of me remember who that was. I have looked everywhere and have not found the story in use, but if you are reading this and you know who I gave permission to or are that person, please let me know so I can just confirm it was never written. Or in case it was, to get the person I gave permission to to confirm that it was originally mine.

It was originally titled Blinded by Love.