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Bonds Through Time: The Adventures of Inuyasha and Kagome

Chapter Text

 It just seemed like a normal day in the village. Farmers were going about, tending to their fields and livestock. The village women were out doing their laundry. The children frolicked and laughed as they ran about in the streets.

 Yes...everything seemed relatively peaceful on this day...until it happened.

 "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!" cried a man as he ran through the streets. "INUYASHA IS ATTACKING THE VILLAGE!!!"

 Not long after the villager crier appeared, the villagers gasped as they spotted a blur of red, flying through the sky. It appeared to be a young man dressed up in a red kimono, appearing to be no older than 15...and yet, upon getting a closer look at his visage, it was clear that this boy was not human...not completely, anyway. Atop his head was a long mane of silvery-white hair and golden yellow eyes with slit pupils. His fingers were tipped with nails so long that they looked claws, and in his grinning mouth were canines longer than the average man. His most noticeable feature of all, though, were the two pricked up ears on the top of his head.

 He only went by one moniker: Inuyasha, the dog demon.

 "Outta my way!!" he shouted as he leaped through the air, over the crowds of fleeing villagers. Some tried to bind him down with rope nets, but he easily sliced through them with his claws. That's when he crashed through the roof of a large shrine, covering his mouth and nose with the sleeve of his robe to block the smell of incense and sage. Soon, he found it: a pink, marble-sized gemstone, glistening in all its splendor as it hung from a beaded rosary...and it was exactly what he came for.

 "The Sacred Jewel of Four Souls," said Inuyasha as he went up and snatched it from its pedestal. "Finally...it's all mine!"

 "Halt, demon!! Drop the jewel!!"

 Inuyasha turned, only to dodge the many arrows that were being fired at him. Candles were knocked over from the onslaught, setting the floor ablaze, and thus, Inuyasha jumped out from the hole in the roof he had made...leaving the temple to explode.

 "Heh!" he grinned. "See ya later." He then looked down at his prize with a look of triumphant greed. "Finally...a way for me to become a full demon, at last!" With that, he ran from the temple grounds, attempting to escape into the forest...but just as he was about to disappear beyond the trees...

 "STOP, INUYASHA!!!"

 An arrow flew through the air, and just as Inuyasha passed in front of this one tree...the projectile pierced through his chest, causing him to grunt in pain, as well as drop the gemstone. He gasped before he attempted to reach out for it...and yet, his body felt unusually weak.

 The gem hit the ground while Inuyasha remained pinned to the tree, his arm still outstretched. He then looked up and saw the one who shot him: a woman with long, black hair that was tied back in a ponytail. She wore a white haori and a hakama while holding a longbow in her hand.

 Her eyes...her eyes were filled with this intense anger and hatred.

 "...K...Kikyo...?" Inuyasha asked, feeling his strength leaving him...and for some reason, his voice carried the subtle hints of betrayal. "But...but why? I thought that you...that you..." He then sighed as his body soon went limp and his eyes closed.

 Once the villagers seemed at ease, enough, they approached the dog demon boy, but they didn't get too close, for fear of his awakening.

 "Is...is he dead?" asked a young man.

 "I don't know," said an older man.

 "...He's...not dead..." Kikyo spoke up as she approached the villagers...leaving a trail of blood behind her...blood that was seeping from her right shoulder.

 "L-Lady Kikyo!!" cried one of the men as he went to her side.

 "The arrow I struck Inuyasha with has only sealed him," said Kikyo. "He has now been put in an eternal slumber. He will remain there until his body rots away." She then grunted as she fell to her knees, to the villagers' shock and worry.

 "Sister!!"

 Kikyo looked back and saw a young girl run up to her, her right eye covered in bandages.

 "Sister! Are you all right?!" she asked as she sat on her knees.

 "Kaede," Kikyo said as she forced herself to smile at the child, gently cupping her face.

 "Sister, we must treat your wounds!" cried Kaede, her good eye beginning to well up with tears.

 "No," Kikyo answered. "It's too late...I've lost too much blood. I'm not long for this world."

 "No...!" Kaede whimpered as she hugged her older sister. "Please, Kikyo! I beg of you, please don't die! Please don't leave me!!"

 "...Kaede," Kikyo said as she gently stroked her younger sister's hair. "I'm...very sorry to ask this of you...but please...carry out this one wish."

 "...Yes, sister...!" Kaede replied.

 "The Shikon Jewel," Kikyo said as she picked it up. "I want you to burn it along with me...I shall take it with me to the netherworld. This way...it will not fall in evil hands." She then looked at Kaede, who sniffled as tears fell from her eyes. "...Please...do this for me...please, Kaede?"

 "...Yes," Kaede nodded, causing Kikyo to smile as she gently embraced her.

 "Good girl," she praised. "Remember...I love you..."

 "I love you, too, Kikyo...!" Kaede replied...and not long after, Kikyo collapsed on the ground...her body growing cold.

 "No!" cried one of the village men. "Lady Kikyo!!"

 "Lady Kikyo! Open your eyes!!" cried a young man.

 "It's too late," said an elderly man, grimly. "She's gone, now."

 Kaede sobbed quietly as she held her dead sister's sleeve, tears falling upon her skin. Despite seeing it with her own eye, she prayed that this was just some horrible nightmare that she'd wake up from and Kikyo would be at her side...but alas, she was hit with the harsh reality.

 As the villagers mourned the loss of the priestess they cherished so dearly, one man glared up at Inuyasha, whose body remained pinned to the tree with this almost peaceful look on his face.

 "...I hope you're satisfied, you damn, detestable half-breed!" he shouted. "Lady Kikyo lost her life because of you! Once your flesh rots away from that tree, I hope you burn in hell where you belong!!"

 For good measure, he even spit on the boy's face before he turned and followed his fellow villagers away to prepare Kikyo's funeral. They placed her body on a funeral pyre, along with the jewel, which she held in between her hands before her flesh and bones all turned into ash.

 And thus, Kikyo left the mortal coil, taking the Sacred Jewel with her, never to be seen again...

 Or was it?

Chapter Text

 Tokyo, Japan, 1997.

 At this day and age, the air that was used to be filled with the tweeting of bird songs and babbling brooks were replaced with the sounds of blaring car horns, roaring motors of motorcycles, and the chattering of the people that were moving about the concrete streets. Old wooden huts had been replaced by towering skyscrapers and supermarkets from which people would buy their food from instead of going out to hunt for it. Instead of horses and wagons being used as transportation, people got around on foot, by bicycle, by car, by bus, or by metro train.

 Yes, the days of civil wars and demons were truly a thing of the past as time gave way to the modern age. However, even as the world continues to modernize and advance...some things in this world never changed.

 High atop a flight of stairs and beyond a torii gate stands the Higurashi Shrine. However, not many people visited it, though...at least not as far as tourists go. It was quite popular among locals in the neighborhood, at least. It actually did have a reputation of dispelling bad omens and cursed objects and such.

 Behind the shrine, however, was a much more modern-looking house...and it is here where our story takes place.

 "The Shikon Jewel?"

 "That's right! With this, not only will we be protected from danger, but our business will be even more prosperous!"

 Kagome Higurashi, your typical, average 14-year-old junior high school girl, leaned against the tea table in boredom as she glanced over at her grandfather, Sanosuke Higurashi, who held up some sort of charm in his hand.

 "And we're selling these glass marbles?" asked Kagome in a bit of a deadpan tone.

 "Are you listening, child?" asked Sanosuke, causing Kagome to sigh.

 She could kind of understand why her grandfather was so intent on teaching her these kinds of things. After all, the Higurashi Family had been shrine keepers for generations and normally, the job would fall to the next of kin...except for the fact that Kagome's father and Sanosuke's son, Hikaru, as well as Sanosuke's wife were no longer with them. Thus, it was up to Kagome to continue the tradition when she came of age and Sanosuke passed away. There was just one problem with that: Kagome never showed interest in learning these sorts of things, mostly because she didn't believe in things like "spirits" or "demons" and whatnot.

 "Now listen carefully, Kagome," said Sanosuke. "The story of the Shikon Jewel begins with-"

 "Oh, by the way, Grandpa!" Kagome interjected as she crawled up to Sanosuke on her knees and gave him this little puppy-eyed look. "You know what tomorrow is, right~?"

 Sanosuke only chuckled. "As if I'd forget my precious granddaughter's birthday!" He then reached into the cupboard and pulled out a box that was neatly wrapped up in wrapping paper and tied with a pretty ribbon that made Kagome squeal in delight.

 "Oh, Grandpa~!" she exclaimed.

 "It's a day early," Sanosuke began, "but Happy Birthday, Kagome!"

 "Oh, Grandpa, you shouldn't have!" Kagome said as she eagerly tore off the paper and opened the box, only to gawk in horror. "Uhh...you really shouldn't have." She then reached inside and pulled what looked like some sort of paw with webbed toes. "What...IS this?!"

 "It's the mummified water imp hand!" Sanosuke answered. "The legends say that whoever holds it shall- huh?"

 "Here, Buyo," said Kagome as she handed the limb to Buyo. "Eat."

 The chubby cat meowed before he took the paw in his mouth and sauntered off with it.

 "Wait a minute!!" Sanosuke shouted as he tried to chase after the cat, who was surprisingly fast despite his weight. "That's expensive, you know!!"

 Kagome could only sigh as she stood up and headed to her room.

 Here in the Higurashi Shrine, Kagome had been living here with her mother, Atsuko, her younger brother, Sota, and her grandfather. The shrine itself held lots of history, and in the backyard was a very tall 500-year-old tree known as the Sacred Tree. There was also an old dry well in the old well house next to the shrine that had its own legend. Pretty much everything at Kagome's house was legendary.

 Sanosuke would always try and tell his granddaughter of the story behind the Sacred Jewel of Four Souls...but even when Kagome tried to pay attention, she just couldn't remember. She honestly didn't care, though. She felt that the past didn't matter...

 Until the next day: her 15th birthday.

XXX

 

 "Bye, Mom! Bye, Grandpa! I'm off to school!"

 "Be careful!"

 Kagome rushed out of the house, wearing her backpack and her green and white sailor uniform, as well as a pair of brown loafers. The only thing she had for breakfast was a slice of toast with butter. After all, she couldn't afford to be late. Just because it was her birthday didn't mean she could relax.

 As Kagome ran across the yard to the stairs, she stopped upon noticing Sota about to enter the well house...and for some reason, he looked a bit nervous.

 "Sota?" Kagome called, causing Sota to turn to look at her. "What are you doing? You know we're not allowed in here."

 "I-I know," Sota replied, "but...Buyo...he-"

 "What about Buyo?" asked Kagome.

 "Well...I think I saw him go in there," Sota replied, "but he didn't come back out. I tried calling him and coaxing him with treats, but he's not coming out of there!"

 "What?!" Kagome questioned before she sighed. "For a cat, he sure is a handful." She then walked into the dark well house, which held an old wooden dry well that had been closed off with boards and some sort of branch and a paper charm over it.

 "Buyo~!" Sota called. "Where are you?"

 "Buyo!" Kagome called before she made little kissing sounds. "Come here, Buyo!"

 No response except for the creaking of the old wood.

 "I'm sure he's down there, somewhere," said Kagome. "Just go get him, Sota."

 "B-but Sis," Sota began, "doesn't this place kinda creep you out?"

 "What are you afraid of?" asked Kagome. "You're a boy, aren't you?"

 "Uhh..." Sota muttered, nervously, only to gasp upon hearing some sort of scratching sound, causing him to hide behind his sister's shoulder. "S-s-something's down there!!"

 "You mean the cat?" Kagome asked, incredulously.

 "I'm not going down there!" Sota cried. "You can't make me!"

 "Ugh...we're gonna be late for school because of you, you big baby!" Kagome said, exasperated. "Fine...wait here. I'll get Buyo."

 With that, she ventured down the stairs and looked around for the wayward housecat.

 "Buyo~!" Kagome called before she made those little kissing sounds, again. "Buyo~! Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!"

 Just then, she heard the same scratching sound, causing her to look over to the well, where she saw the boards that closed it off seeming to move...and that's when she realized something.

 'Wait...it's actually coming from the well?' she thought. 'No way...is...is there really something inside there?'

 Suddenly, she shrieked as she felt something brush up against her ankle, causing her to look down before she sighed in relief, for it was just Buyo, purring softly as he nuzzled her leg.

 "Don't scream like that!!" Sota cried. "You scared me!!"

 "Oh, sure," Kagome muttered, sarcastically. "See? I told you it was just the cat! Now let's go before we-"

 Before she could finish that sentence, Sota narrowed his eyes at something behind his sister before he gasped silently: the boards that closed off the well were cracked...and something was creeping out of it!

 "K-Kagome! Behind you!" Sota cried.

 "Oh, no, I'm not falling for- AAH!!" Kagome started, only to shriek as multiple arms suddenly reached up and grabbed her, causing her to look back and see a naked woman with long black hair that covered her bare breasts...and six arms!

 "Kagome!!" Sota cried.

 "W-what in the-?!" Kagome questioned as she struggled to get away as the woman pulled her down into the well. "H-hey! Let me go!!"

 "Kagome!!" Sota cried as he ran to his sister's aid, desperately grabbing her hand and pulling as hard as he could, even pressing his shoes against the well to anchor himself. Kagome struggled as she looked down again...only to see something she wasn't prepared to see: the woman was connected to an extremely long skeleton...and it extended all the way down into the darkness!

 "Oh, no...!" she whispered in horror before she looked to Sota, who was struggling to pull her away from the woman's grasp. "Sota, stop! Let go! She'll pull you down with me!!"

 "Urrgh...AH!!" Sota cried as Kagome's hand slipped from his grasp. "NO! KAGOME!!"

 "SOTA!!!" Kagome screamed as she fell into the darkness. "GO GET HELP!!!"

 Sota whimpered before he ran out of the well, shouting "MOM!! GRANDPA!!! COME QUICK!!! KAGOME'S IN TROUBLE!!!"

 As for Kagome, she was falling through what seemed like an endless darkness with the monstrous woman.

 "What joy...!" she said in a somewhat raspy voice. "My strength...I feel it returning to me!" As she said this, flesh began to form around her bare, dry bones...revealing the body of that of a centipede!

 "A...a centipede lady?!" Kagome questioned.

 "You..." the woman hissed as she opened her mouth, revealing a mouth full of fangs. "You have it...don't you, girl?" She then licked Kagome's cheek with a 12-inch-long tongue, causing her to shudder in disgust.

 "Gross!!" she shouted. "Get your slimy hands...OFF OF ME!!!"

 At that, Kagome pushed her hand against the centipede woman...and for some reason, a bright light seemed to flash from her palm that caused the monster to shriek in pain. The next thing Kagome knew, the woman had suddenly vanished, but the only trace of her that she found was her disembodied arm, which was still clinging to her sleeve.

 "AAAAH!!" Kagome screamed as she smacked it off. "Nasty~!! Ohhh, I'm gonna need a shower~!!"

 "I...won't lose it...!" a voice whispered, causing Kagome to gasp, for she realized it belonged to the centipede woman. "Not now...the Shikon Jewel...!"

 "The...Shikon Jewel...?" Kagome asked before she suddenly felt herself drop down against cold, dry earth. "Oof! Ugh..." She shook her head before she looked up and saw what she could make out as the opening of the well.

 'Wait...I'm still in the well?' she thought. '...Maybe I was dreaming.' That's when she spotted the severed arm nearby, and it was still twitching. '...Or not.'

 "Sota?" Kagome called as she got to her feet. "Sota, are you there? Did you get Mom and Grandpa?"

 No answer.

 "...Ugh," Kagome groaned in annoyance. "Great." She then looked around and found a vine dangling from the wall. Seeing it as the perfect thing to use, she grabbed onto it and, after checking it to see if it was sturdy enough, began to climb up and out.

 'Well, I know I'm late for school,' she thought. 'Well...maybe I can get a day off, after all.'

 As she looked up, though, she gasped as she saw that she was not standing in her family's yard...but a vast forest.

 "What the-?" she gaped. "Wait a minute, where's the shrine?!" She then looked around. "...Mom?! Grandpa?! Sota!! Can anyone hear me?!"

 No answer came.

 "Oh, well this is just fantastic," Kagome muttered before she spotted something out of the corner of her eye: the familiar branches of the Sacred Tree. "Oh! The old tree! I knew I wasn't too far from home!"

 She then made her way over to the tree, but when she got there, she found that there was no shrine, not to mention the fact that the tree seemed much smaller than it used to be. However, that wasn't what caught Kagome's attention the most. What really surprised her...was the strange white-haired figure lying against the tree, garbed in red robes, covered in tree roots...with an arrow piercing his chest.

 "...A...boy...?" Kagome whispered as the wind blew softly.

Chapter Text

 Kagome stared in wonder at the white-haired boy that was pinned to the Sacred Tree. The wind blew softly, gently pushing up her charcoal locks. She didn't know why, but...she felt drawn to him, somehow, like something compelled her to take a closer look at him.

 "...Um...hello?" she asked as she slowly approached the sleeping figure. "E-excuse me?"

 No answer came from the red-clad youth. Looking at him up close...he was rather handsome, and he looked so peaceful, too...deathly peaceful. His body was wrapped up in roots and the arrow in his chest seemed a bit worn with age. However, out of all the things that caught Kagome's attention the most, it had to be the fuzzy, triangular ears on top of the boy's head.

 "Ooh, dog ears!" the girl exclaimed, excitedly. "They're so cute!" She then looked around to check and see if anyone was watching, and after confirming that she was alone, she reached up and began to pinch the ears, giggling like a little six-year-old...but then she stopped. "Wait a minute, what am I doing?! I don't have time for this! I gotta find a way to get home-"

 "Halt!!"

 THUNK-THUNK-THUNK!! Several arrows pierced the bark of the tree, causing Kagome to shriek as she turned around and several men holding bows and arrows.

 "What do ye think yer doing in Inuyasha's Forest?!" asked one of the men. "Are ye a stranger, girl?!!"

 "I-Inu-who-what?!" Kagome questioned. "W-wait a minute...what are you doing with those ropes? Hold it! S-stay away!! Stop!! AAAAAAHH!!!"

XXX


 Sometime later, in a small village, the villagers had gathered around to check out all the hubbub.

 "You found her in Inuyasha's Forest?"

 "Yes! A girl dressed in strange clothes, yet!"

 "Uh, excuse me!!"

 All the villagers turned to look at Kagome, who was sitting on a straw mat with her wrists and ankles tied up.

 "Was the tying up really necessary?!" asked Kagome. "I am a girl, you know!!"

 "Could she be a spy?" asked a middle-aged man.

 "You don't think there's another fight going on, do you?" asked a more elderly man.

 "Maybe she's a kitsune," whispered a woman who was holding her infant son. "You know, a fox demon that can turn into a beautiful woman to spirit away wayward men."

 Kagome couldn't help but gulp nervously. It was like she was living in a page of one of her textbooks at school. Judging by the clothes, the old wooden huts, and the way they spoke, she realized this only meant one thing: somehow, Kagome winded up 500 years in the past...in the Feudal Era of Japan!

 "Look!" exclaimed a young man. "Hither comes Lady Kaede!"

 "Lady Kaede...?" Kagome whispered as an old woman approached, holding a longbow in her hand. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail, she had a white haori and red hakama, and an eyepatch over her right eye.

 'A...priestess?' thought Kagome. 'I only saw pictures of them in textbooks.'

 "Who are ye?" Kaede asked as she approached Kagome. "What were ye doing in Inuyasha's Forest?"

 "Inuyasha's...Forest?" Kagome repeated.

 "A demon, she must be," an old man whispered. "Just look at how she's dressed..."

 "Hmm..." Kaeder hummed before her good eye suddenly went wide. "Wait a moment..." She then gently cupped Kagome's chin. "Let me see your face for a moment, girl."

 "Uhh..." Kagome muttered, nervously as Kaede turned her head to the left, then to the right.

 "...How odd," Kaede mused. "Perhaps it be my old age, playing tricks on me...but I am almost ye look like my elder sister, Kikyo."

 "...Kikyo?" Kagome repeated.

 "Be at ease, villagers," said Kaede. "This girl be no demon. I sense no malice or demonic aura from her. She is but a mortal, just as the rest of us."

 "Are you certain of that, Lady Kaede?" asked a woman.

 "Absolutely," Kaede replied. "Untie the child."

 Though hesitant, the villagers did as they were told and untied Kagome, who sighed in relief as she rubbed her wrists and ankles, then turned to Kaede before bowing her head in gratitude.

 "Thank you very much, Lady Kaede," she said.

 "It's fine, child," said Kaede. "Why don't ye come with me? Perhaps ye can tell me where ye are from."

 "Uh...sure...if you can help me," said Kagome. "This...this is Tokyo, isn't it?"

 "Tokyo?" Kaede repeated. "Is that the land which ye hail from? I'm afraid this land is known as Musashi."

 Kagome only heaved a defeated sigh.

 'It was worth a shot,' she thought.

XXX

 

 Later that night, at Kaede's hut...

 "So...this Kikyo lady...she was your sister?"

 "Aye."

 Kagome sat in the corner of the room, staring at a flickering bonfire while Kaede stirred a pot that hung over it.

 "Kikyo was the priestess who protected this village, 50 years ago," said Kaede. "Sadly, she died when I was still but a child."

 "I see...I'm so sorry to hear that," Kagome replied, sadly, as she suddenly thought of Sota and the desperate expression on his face as he tried to help her escape from that centipede woman. "If you don't mind me asking...how did she die?"

 "...It was a tragedy," Kaede replied, grimly. "And the very culprit was the one known as Inuyasha."

 "...Inuyasha..." Kagome repeated. "Wait...is he that boy I found, pinned to the tree with that arrow?"

 "Aye, child," Kaede confirmed. "Inuyasha attacked my sister, leaving her fatally injured, and then viciously attacked the village whilst attempting to steal the Sacred Jewel. With her last ounce of strength, Kikyo pinned Inuyasha to the tree with one of her sacred arrows, putting him in a state of eternal slumber. She then perished, and we burned her body, along with the Sacred Jewel as she instructed...and thus, I was left to protect the village as I grew older."

 "...Wow..." Kagome whispered. "So...wait...what does Kikyo have to do with me?"

 "Ye look exactly like her when she was still alive," Kaede replied. "How that is possible, I am not quite sure."

 "...I see," Kagome said.

 "In any case," Kaede began, "'tis best that ye get some rest for the night if ye can."

 "Yeah, you're right," Kagome nodded. "Thank you, Lady Kaede."

 "Just 'Kaede' is fine," Kaede smiled.

 "...Thanks, Kaede," Kagome smiled back, but just then, they heard the sound of a horse whinnying in distress...followed by a sickening crunching sound.

 "What was that?!" Kaede questioned before she and Kagome hurried outside to investigate, only to gasp as a horse suddenly fell at their feet, its belly torn open and guts ripped out of it as blood pooled around its dead corpse.

 "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!" a man screamed as he and several other villagers ran away. "IT'S A DEMON!!!"

 Kagome looked up, only to gasp in horror upon seeing it was the same centipede woman from before, holding a chunk of flesh in her mouth.

 'Her again?!' thought Kagome.

 "Mistress Centipede?!" Kaede questioned. "But she was slain, 50 years ago!"

 "Girl...!" Mistress Centipede hissed before she began to crawl toward Kagome. "Give me the Shikon Jewel~!!"

 "Uh-oh...!" Kagome squeaked.

 "The...Shikon Jewel...?!" Kaede repeated before she glanced at Kagome. "Ye have the jewel in your possession?! How is that possible?!!"

 "I'm not sure!" answered Kagome as she watched Mistress Centipede bite the throat of a man with her huge fangs. "But I know this much...that monster is after me...and if I don't do something, everyone here will get killed!!"

 Some of the villagers tried to ward off the demon by shooting at her with arrows and throwing spears at her, but all she did was swat them away.

 "Lady Kaede!" cried one of the men. "Our weapons are useless against the centipede!!"

 "If we can lure her to the Bone Eater's Well," Kaede began, "we might be able to trap her!"

 "The Bone Eater's Well?" asked Kagome. "You mean that old dry well in the forest, right?"

 "Yes, in Inuyasha's Forest," said Kaede.

 "Then leave it to me!" Kagome declared. "Where's the forest, again?"

 "It's to the east," Kaede replied, causing Kagome to look to the forest from whence she came, and she could see this eerie light coming from beyond the trees.

 "Toward that light, right?" Kagome asked. "Got it!" She then turned and bolted for the forest. "Hey, creepy-crawler! Over here!!"

 "You won't escape me!!" Mistress Centipede shouted as she crawled after Kagome, leaving Kaede to stand there in stunned silence.

 '...She saw a light from the forest?' she thought. 'No...she saw the evil aura coming from it. No mere mortal could see such things!'

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, at the Sacred Tree, Inuyasha remained pinned to the trunk...when suddenly, his ears twitched...and his eyes flew open. His heart pulsed, faintly and slow, at first, but then it became steadier as his body began to writhe.

 "...This scent..." he hissed, his golden eyes glowing fiercely. "...I recognize it...it's the scent of the woman who killed me...Kikyo...!!"

Chapter Text

 Kagome panted as she ran through the forest as fast as her legs could carry her. Behind her, Mistress Centipede wasn't too far off. Of course, Kagome should have expected her to catch up so quickly. What did she expect from a demon with so many legs?

 "Hand over the Sacred Jewel!!" Mistress Centipede demanded.

 "Why do you keep insisting that I have it?!" asked Kagome before she tripped and fell, barely ducking under the demon's long body before she landed on the grass and soil. "Ugh...just my luck...!"

 "Why are you playing with puny bugs like Mistress Centipede, Kikyo?"

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered before she looked up and saw the face of Inuyasha...who had this smug grin on his face. "I...it's you! Inuyasha! Wait...you're alive?!"

 "How come you haven't killed that insect by now...like you killed me?" asked Inuyasha. "You know...you look pretty dumb there, Kikyo. What are you doing, just wasting your time, like some little kid?"

 "Okay, you know what?" Kagome asked, growing more irritated by the boy's haughtiness by the second. "That does it!" She then pushed herself onto her feet. "'Kikyo this' and 'Kikyo that'! Lemme tell you something, buddy! Whoever this 'Kikyo' is, she's not me because my name is-"

 "She's here," Inuyasha interjected as he looked up, and suddenly, Mistress Centipede dropped down from the tree, causing Kagome to shriek in horror as she grabbed her again.

 "H-hey, let go!!" Kagome cried, but just as Mistress Centipede opened her jaws, she was suddenly struck in the side by several spears.

 "We got her!!" shouted one of the village men.

 "Hahaha! Too easy!" laughed another.

 "Phew!" Kagome sighed in relief. "Perfect timing..."

 "Man," Inuyasha spoke. "I'm really disappointed in you, Kikyo."

 "Grrr...!" Kagome growled before she got up in the boy's face. "Will you stop will all this 'Kikyo' nonsense, already?! I don't know who she is!! I just know that she's NOT ME!!!"

 "Who the hell are you trying to fool?!" Inuyasha questioned. "There's no way you're not Kikyo because you...smell...wait..." He then sniffed Kagome before he gasped silently. "...You're...not her."

 "Of course, I'm not!" shouted Kagome, growing more frustrated by the second. "That's what I've been trying to tell you! My name is Kagome! Ka-go-me!! You got it?!"

 "...Yeah...you're right," said Inuyasha as he looked away from her. "Kikyo was...a lot cuter than you."

 "Excuse me?!" Kagome questioned in shock. "I don't think I like your tone, mister- WAAH!!" All of a sudden, Mistress Centipede grabbed her and pulled her up into the air.

 "Hahahahaha!!" she cackled. "You're mine, at last!!"

 "No! Stop!!" Kagome cried as she grabbed onto Inuyasha's white hair. "Lemme go!!!"

 "Ouch! Hey, watch the hair!!" Inuyasha yelled.

 "Look, Lady Kaede!!" cried one of the villagers. "Inuyasha...he has awakened!"

 "Impossible...!" Kaede whispered in disbelief. "That sacred arrow was supposed to place Inuyasha in eternal sleep until his body rotted away...and yet, somehow, the spell has been broken?!"

 "Such a weak body," Mistress Centipede said as she opened her mouth, revealing her gnashing fangs. "I'll devour you whole, girl...Sacred Jewel and all...!"

 "Oh, no...!" Kagome whimpered in horror.

 "Wait...did she say 'Sacred Jewel'?!" asked Inuyasha.

 "Get...OFF ME!!" Kagome shouted as she pushed Mistress Centipede away, and just like back in the well, her palm emitted this peculiar light, causing Mistress Centipede's arms to fall off.

 "Did you see that?!" asked one of the men.

 "That light...it looked just like Lady Kikyo's...!" whispered another.

 'Just like back in the well,' thought Kagome as she looked at her hands. 'How did I do that?!'

 "Damn you, girl!!" Mistress Centipede roared before she lunged at Kagome...and bit down on her left side, causing her to scream in pain.

 "Kagome!!" cried Kaede.

 "She's a goner, now..." Inuyasha muttered.

 Just then, as blood sprayed from Kagome's body...something else fell out from the gaping wound in her side: a light pink, marble-sized gemstone with this illustrious glow.

 "Look there!" called one of the villagers. "Something fell out of the girl's stomach!"

 "...The Sacred Jewel...!" Kaede gasped.

 "...I don't believe it...!" Inuyasha whispered.

 "Ugh...!" Kagome groaned as she looked at the jewel, which rolled out in front of her, slightly stained with blood. "That...was inside me...?!"

 "So you were hiding it!!" Mistress Centipede exclaimed. "I knew you were!!"

 "Hey, you!!" Inuyasha barked at Kagome. "Don't just lie there!! Hurry up and gimme the jewel!!"

 "What?!" Kagome asked.

 "I said hurry!" Inuyasha urged, but then, Mistress Centipede coiled her body around the two, pressing Kagome up against the dog-eared boy.

 "Ah!!" she cried as she struggled to get away.

 "Hahahahaha!" laughed Mistress Centipede. "So, it is you...Inuyasha, the half-demon who sought the Sacred Jewel. So we finally meet."

 'Huh?' thought Kagome as she looked up at Inuyasha. 'Did she say half-demon? Does she mean this guy?'

 "Heh!" Inuyasha smirked. "Don't insult me, Mistress Centipede. If I'd wanted to, our meeting would've been very short...and your last."

 "You know," Kagome began, "I'm starting to think that you're all bark and no bite, here!"

 "...Is that an insult?" Inuyasha asked with a glare.

 "I'm just asking," Kagome started, "can you really do something against her?!"

 "Ha!" Mistress Centipede laughed. "That boy?! He can't do anything against me...since he's pinned to the tree by that sacred arrow. And you can't do anything against me, either, girl. Just sit there and watch..." Soon, she picked the Sacred Jewel up with her long tongue before she swallowed it in one gulp!

 "No!!" Inuyasha shouted. "That jewel is supposed to be mine!!!"

 "She swallowed the Shikon Jewel!!" cried one of the villagers. "What do we do now, Lady Kaede?!"

 Before Kaede could answer, Mistress Centipede's arms began to reattach themselves...even the one that was left in the well when she first attacked Kagome.

 'That can't be good...!' thought the 15-year-old girl.

 Just then, the centipede demon's face began to split in half as her eyes flashed red...and not long after, the human shell that once covered the upper half of her body suddenly fell off, revealing the face of a monster beneath it!

 "AAAAAAAAHH!!" Kagome screamed.

 "Hahahahahahahaha!!" laughed Mistress Centipede. "Yes...YES!!"

 "She's...happy?!" Kagome questioned, only to grunt in pain as the demon began to coil her body around her and Inuyasha, even tighter. At this rate, she would certainly be crushed to death along with him. If only there was a way to stop this beast!

 "...Hey," Inuyasha spoke up, causing Kagome to look up at him. "The arrow in my chest...pull it out."

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered before she looked over at the arrow that had the boy pinned to the tree. "You mean this arrow?"

 "Yes, that arrow!" Inuyasha barked. "Pull it out, right now!"

 Kagome struggled to get her arm free from underneath Mistress Centipede's body, but she managed to pull it out from the creature's thorax before she reached up for the arrow.

 "No, wait, child!!" Kaede cried. "Ye must not remove that arrow from Inuyasha! That arrow is what seals him to the tree! He must never be released!!"

 "Oh, yeah?!" Inuyasha questioned. "And what do you expect, you one-eyed hag?! You wanna end up in the centipede's belly?! The moment her body has completely absorbed the jewel, no one will be able to stop her!!!"

 "What?!" Kagome questioned in shock. "You're kidding, right?!!"

 "If I were, I'd be laughing right now!!" Inuyasha argued. "So what do you wanna do, girly?! You wanna die here with me or what?! You don't have much time to think on it, now do you?!!"

 "...No," Kagome replied before she reached up and grabbed the arrow's shaft. "I...refuse to die here!!"

 And in a flash of light...the arrow was gone.

 "It...it vanished?!" Kaede asked in disbelief...while Inuyasha's body began to pulse, to Kagome's unease.

 "W...what's happening?" she asked as Inuyasha let out an almost dark chuckle, then he went into full-blown laughter...an almost sinister laughter.

 "You're too late!!" Mistress Centipede shouted as she completely wrapped Kagome and Inuyasha in her coils...only for her thorax to be ripped apart!

 "WHOA!!!" Kagome cried as she fell to the ground, having been blown back by the force of Inuyasha's strength. The dog-eared boy somersaulted through the air before he landed on his hands and feet with the grace of that of an expert acrobat...maybe more so as he faced Mistress Centipede, who growled at him, viciously.

 "Miserable half-breed...!!" she hissed.

 "Filthy hag," Inuyasha smirked as the demon lunged for him with the intent of devouring him whole, but the boy just lunged right back with claws extended. "Iron Reaver...SOUL STEALER!!"

 SLASH!!! With a single swing of his arm, Inuyasha rended Mistress Centipede to mere shreds in a matter of 3 seconds, to the villagers' shock and awe.

 "...In just one fell swoop...?!" asked one of them.

 "He truly is a half-demon...!" whispered another.

 Soon, Inuyasha landed on the ground, once again with a grin of wicked triumph.

 "...I'm back," he said.

 "Okay...I guess he's not all bark, after all," Kagome mused as she sat in the middle of Mistress Centipede's body parts...one of which twitched violently, causing her to gasp. "This part of her is still moving!"

 "Be calm," said Kaede as she approached. "Can you see a place where the flesh glows? That is where the Sacred Jewel is."

 "B-but..." Kagome stammered.

 "If ye do not remove the jewel," Kaede began, "her body will reattach itself and she will continue to attack us!"

 "...If I don't take it out...?" Kagome whispered before she looked around and saw a piece of the demon's flesh that was glowing. "There!" Soon, she pulled it out, causing the flesh to disintegrate into nothing but bones, once again.

 "That's it!" Kaede exclaimed. "The Sacred Jewel of Four Souls!"

 "...So this is the jewel that my Grandpa always talked about," Kagome mused as she stared at the gem. "So...this things makes demons even stronger."

 "That's right," Inuyasha replied as he stomped on the bones, crushing them beneath his foot. "Meaning that it's useless in the hands of a human." He then flexed his fingers, causing his knuckles to pop. "So...why don't you be a good little girl and hand it over? Unless you want me to rip you apart, next."

 "...Huh...?" Kagome squeaked in confusion and shock.

 'So, wait a minute,' she thought. 'He's NOT the hero?!'

Chapter Text

 Kagome couldn't believe what she had just heard. One minute, Inuyasha had just saved her life along with the lives of Kaede and the villagers, and the next minute, he's threatening them to hand over the gemstone that just came flying out of Kagome's stomach! The junior high schooler had really come out of the frying pan and jumped right into the fire, here.

 "Do I have to spell it out for you?" asked Inuyasha. "Give me the Sacred Jewel, right now!"

 "Do not give it to him, child," said Kaede as the villagers began to surround the half-demon, who growled in irritation as they held their spears and bows. As they prepared to attack, Kagome glanced down at the Sacred Jewel in her hand.

 'The Shikon Jewel makes demons stronger,' she thought. 'Could it be that it's cursed?'

 "...You know something?" Inuyasha asked. "I'm not a very patient guy...and you know what else? I can't stand to breathe in your stench any longer, woman!" On that, he lunged for Kagome, who gasped before she turned and ran, but she ended up tripping on Mistress Centipede's bones. That seemed to prove more fortunate than anything else, however, for Kagome could see the flashing streak of Inuyasha's claws in the air as he swiped at her, narrowly missing her head. It did manage to cut off a few strands of hair, though.

 Kagome soon fell to the ground, but she was careful not to drop the jewel, at least, while Inuyasha landed in front of her.

 "Heh," he smirked as he flexed his claws. "Want me to scratch your back?"

 "You really tried to hurt me, just now, didn't you?!" asked Kagome.

 "Shoot him! Quickly!!" shouted one of the village archers as he and several others fired arrows at Inuyasha, who easily broke them like they were mere sticks. Then he leaped up into the air before he swiping his claws, once again, causing two trees to fall down on the men, who ran as fast as they could to get out of the way.

 "Hmph!" Inuyasha scoffed as he landed on one of the stumps. "Who the hell do you idiots think I am?! You really think that you can hurt me like I did with that damned centipede?!!" He then glanced over at Kagome, who let out a frightened squeak as she got up and ran, taking the Sacred Jewel with her.

 "Help!!" Kagome cried as she ran through the forest with Inuyasha in hot pursuit.

 "You're not going anywhere!!" he called after her.

 "Err...Lady Kaede?" asked one of the villagers. "Methinks that perhaps we may have preferred the centipede, after all."

 "Oh, dear," Kaede muttered as she reached into her robes. "Somehow, I knew that eventually, it would come to this." She then pulled out a necklace made of some indigo and white beads.

 Meanwhile, Kagome continued to run as fast as she could away from her pursuer, who leaped through the trees with such speed that he was almost invisible to the naked eye.

 "Prepare yourself!!" Inuyasha called from behind her.

 "Prepare...for what?!" Kagome asked, only to gasp when she saw Inuyasha lunge for her again. Thankfully, she managed to duck her head down, just in time, but she was sent flying a bit when Inuyasha's claws ended up hitting the earth behind her. As Kagome glanced back, she gasped upon seeing several fissures in the soil.

 If she had gotten hit by those claws...her body would've been in shreds.

 That's when Kagome realized something: in her haste to avoid the attack, she had accidentally dropped the jewel!

 "Oh, no!" she cried. "Where is it?!" She didn't have to look very long, for she spotted it, not too far from her reach. However, Inuyasha had also eyed the gem before he jumped down from the trees to get it.

 "Finally," he said. "It's all mine!"

 Just then, something flew through the air toward the dog-eared boy and encircled itself around his neck, causing him to glance down in confusion as the same necklace that Kaede held appeared on his person.

 "What the hell?" he asked as he landed on a tree root, too distracted by the beads to notice Kagome reach for the Sacred Jewel. "What is this thing?!"

 "Quickly, child!" Kaede called out to Kagome. "The word of subjugation!"

 "The what?!" Kagome asked as she picked up the jewel. "What word?!"

 "It matters not!" Kaede replied. "Your word has the power to hold Inuyasha's spirit!"

 Seeing that Inuyasha was distracted, Kagome got to her feet and ran off, once more, but she ended up falling down a cliff and dropping the jewel, once again. Kagome gasped as the gem bounced along the ground before it began to roll across a wooden bridge over a river. As she was about to get up to grab it, though, Inuyasha soon appeared from over the treetops.

 "You, overpower me?!" he questioned, mockingly. "Ha! You can't even stand on your own two feet, wench!!"

 Kagome panted as she held her injured side. Even if she wasn't wounded, there was no way she was able to outrun Inuyasha with his outrageous speed and agility.

 "...A word to hold his spirit?" Kagome repeated to herself as she forced herself to stand. "But...how will I know which one?!"

 Inuyasha flew through the air, the wind giving a piercing howl as the full moon broke through the clouds before he landed on the bridge, just as the Sacred Jewel rolled toward him.

 "Heheheh..." Inuyasha snickered as he reached down to grab it. "Nice try, girly, but it looks like I win this one!"

 Kagome whimpered as she tried to think of what to say, and if there was one thing she hated, it was thinking under pressure. Still, she had to do something to keep the jewel out of Inuyasha's hands. As she muttered and stumbled over her words, she caught Inuyasha's triangular ears twitching...and at that moment, only two words came to mind.

 "Uhh...SIT, BOY!!" she demanded...causing the necklace around Inuyasha's neck to flash.

 "What in the-?" Inuyasha asked...but then, all of a sudden, THWACK!!! He was suddenly pulled, facefirst against the bridge!

 "...It...it worked?!" Kagome asked as she made her way across the bridge.

 "W-what the...what is this thing?!" Inuyasha questioned as he tried to pull the necklace off, and yet it wouldn't budge. "Get it off of me!!"

 "I'm sorry, Inuyasha," Kaede called from the cliff, "but even you lack the power to remove the Beads of Subjugation!"

 "Beads of what?!" Inuyasha questioned. "What do you think I am?! Some kind of rowdy, feral dog?!!"

 "Depends," said Kaede. "Do ye not tend to scratch thine ears with your own feet?"

 "Why you...!!" Inuyasha growled, although his face flushed a bit red from embarrassment. "I'd come up there and finish you off, if you weren't half-dead already, you old cyclops!!"

 "The word, please, Kagome," said Kaede.

 "...Sit, boy," Kagome commanded, and just like that, THWAM!! Inuyasha was pulled facefirst against the bridge, once more, and this time, the resulting force was so much that the bridge broke, thus causing Inuyasha to plummet into the river below.

 "Well, that puts an end to that affair," said Kaede. "Shall we go home, then?"

 "Well, that was weird," said Kagome as she picked up the Sacred Jewel. "All I did was say 'sit, boy'...although I kind of wish that I thought of it, sooner." She then grunted as she held her stomach, which was still bleeding from when Mistress Centipede bit her. Now that the adrenaline had subsided, the pain was finally beginning to settle in.

 "Come along, Kagome," Kaede ushered. "I shall tend to your wounds."

 "Thank you," said Kagome as she followed the elderly priestess. As she did, though, she momentarily glanced back at the river which Inuyasha fell in.

 "I would not fret over him so much, child," said Kaede. "Inuyasha is not one to be slain so easily. He will be back."

 "...I guess," said Kagome as she kept walking.

 '...If he's really a bad guy,' she thought, 'then how come he didn't kill the villagers?'

 Concurrently, down at the riverbank, Inuyasha had managed to pull himself from the rapids and onto dry land. He shivered from the chill of the water before he got down on all fours and began to shake his body, just like a dog would do to dry himself off, then growled as he glared after the direction in which Kagome left.

 "That damn girl," he cursed. "Thinks she can make a fool outta me, huh?!" He then began to leap toward the tree branches, following after the group...and yet, as he did, he felt this odd tingle in his chest as his golden yellow eyes fell upon Kagome.

 '...I don't get her,' he thought. 'She...smells like Kikyo...but at the same time, she doesn't...so who is she?'

Chapter Text

 The next day, everyone had returned to the village and had gone back to doing their business as if everything was normal. The farmers tended to the fields and the villagers patched up any holes in their roofs from when Mistress Centipede attacked. There was still talk about Kagome, though, and some were even peeking inside Kaede's hut to get a look at her.

 Right now, the old priestess was tending to the girl's injury.

 "Ah!" Kagome cried as Kaede dabbed her wound with a wet cloth. "That stings..."

 "That's how you know it's working," Kaede said. "I still can't believe that the Sacred Jewel has reappeared here, after all these years...and I am certain that any evil beings who desire it will be appearing here, quite soon."

 "You mean more demons are gonna be coming after it?" asked Kagome as Kaede bandaged her wound.

 "Not just demons, child," said Kaede. "Men, as well...and man can be just as evil as demons, if not eviler. In this era of war and chaos, the powers of the Shikon Jewel of Four Souls can make any ambition a reality."

 "I see," Kagome replied. "Still...there's one thing I don't understand." She then glanced over at Inuyasha, who was lying on the floor with his head propped on his palm and his other hand on his hip in a rather lazy position. He had his back turned to her, he was grumbling under his breath, and his pointed ears twitched and swiveled in irritation.

 "Inuyasha, right?" Kagome asked.

 "Yeah, what is it?" asked Inuyasha in a gruff voice.

 "Why are you after the jewel?" Kagome inquired. "You seem pretty strong to me. What would you need the jewel for?"

 "Yes, Inuyasha is quite powerful," Kaede concurred. "However, he is only a half-demon."

 SMASH!! Inuyasha angrily threw a fist into the floor, causing it to shatter a bit while Kagome yelped and hid behind Kaede.

 "You know something?!" the dog-eared boy asked. "I can't stand sitting in the same room with some sassy girl and some cyclops hag who talks about me like she knows me!! Who the hell do you think you are, granny?!"

 "So ye do not recognize me, do you, Inuyasha?" asked Kaede as she stood up to get some more firewood. "It has been 50 years since we last saw each other, Inuyasha...I am Kikyo's younger sister, Kaede. I was but a child when we met, but I have since grown old."

 "Kaede...?" Inuyasha murmured. "...Wait...you're that little brat that's always following Kikyo." He then smirked. "Well, if you're old, then Kikyo must be ancient! Good thing I don't gotta worry about bein' old...at least not for a while, anyway."

 "Kikyo didn't have to worry about aging, either," Kaede said, sadly. "She died."

 Hearing that caused Inuyasha to tense up slightly, something that Kagome took notice of.

 "...She...died?" Inuyasha repeated.

 "Aye," Kaede affirmed. "She perished not long after she sealed ye to the Sacred Tree."

 "...So...she died, huh...?" Inuyasha asked...and Kagome couldn't help sensing just a bit of sadness in his voice, causing her to blink in bewilderment, but he quickly scoffed and smirked. "Well...good riddance."

 "I wouldn't be so sure about that, Inuyasha," said Kaede. "After all...Kikyo may be dead, but her reincarnation is right here in this very room...is that not the truth, Kagome?"

 "...Who, me?" asked Kagome in surprise.

 "Aye, child," said Kaede. "You possess immense spiritual power that has remained untapped for some time. Not only that, but the Sacred Jewel was hidden within you. What other answers could there be?"

 "...But...but that can't be right!" Kagome exclaimed. "This has to be some kind of fluke!"

 "Fluke or no fluke," said Kaede, "Kagome, you have been tasked since birth to protect the jewel."

 "...You've gotta be kidding," Kagome said in disbelief as she stared at the gem in her hand. "You mean I gotta guard this thing, now?!" She then sighed. "Just my luck..."

 "Oh, boy," Inuyasha grumbled before he stormed out of the hut. "I need some air!"

XXX

 

 A while later, after Kagome got a little more rest and was feeling well enough to at least stand, she decided to take a little stroll around the village, just to get her thoughts together. She still couldn't believe what she was hearing, though. To hear that she was actually the reincarnation of the priestess who protected the Sacred Jewel, not to mention last night's attack from Mistress Centipede...it just caused her head to swirl. Not just that, but now, not only did she have to find some way to get home, but she was also tasked with protecting this jewel?

 And to think, all of this happened on her birthday, of all things.

 As Kagome walked through the dirt streets of the village, the villagers looked up and watched her with awe.

 "Did you hear?" asked a young woman. "I heard that she is actually Lady Kikyo, reborn...!"

 "You don't say," whispered an elderly man with a hoe. "Come to think of it, she seems to share Lady Kikyo's regal countenance."

 As Kagome turned around, she gasped in surprise upon seeing the villagers, bowing their heads and folding their hands in prayer.

 "Uh...okay, this is weird...!" she squeaked, but then she felt a light tugging at her skirt, causing her to look down and see a little girl of 7 or 8 years with a light green kimono, followed by several other children her age, and even some that seemed to be at least a year or two older than her.

 "Will you come play with us?" asked the little girl.

 "Yeah, come and pick flowers with us!" said a young boy of at least 10.

 "Let's go play kemari ball!" asked another little girl.

 "Uh...well, umm...I..." Kagome stammered.

 "Please, Miss Kikyo?" asked the girl as she blinked up at her with indigo eyes.

 "Oh, honey, my name's not Kikyo," said Kagome. "It's Kagome. Okay? I'll play with you kids, but only if you call me by real name, all right?"

 "Okay, Miss Kik- I mean...Miss Kagome," said the little girl before the children all began to walk off while pulling Kagome along.

 "...Well...maybe this isn't TOO bad," said Kagome.

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, perched up in a tree branch somewhere on the outskirts of the village, Inuyasha sat with his arms crossed and his left leg dangling over the side. He stared out at the horizon with this...distant look on his face. His ears were flat against his head and he felt this odd weight on his chest.

 "...I can't believe she died," he muttered. "And I never knew." He then shook his head. "Of course, I never knew...how could I? The bitch pinned me to a damn tree!"

 Despite that, he couldn't help feeling this odd sensation in the pit of his stomach...could it have been guilt?

 Before he had a moment to figure it out, he suddenly reached around behind his back and caught something in his hand. At first, he thought it might have been a stone or something, but when he brought it up to his face to see what it was, he found that it was a pear.

 "What the...?" he muttered.

 "Hey! Don't you wanna eat something?"

 Inuyasha turned to see Kagome, down on the ground below. For some reason, she was carrying bundles of fruits and vegetables like apples, persimmons, pears, daikon, carrots, and other things, and she was wearing a flower crown on her head.

 "Where'd you get all those things?" Inuyasha asked.

 "The villagers gave them to me," said Kagome. "Why don't you come down from there and help me eat this stuff?"

 Inuyasha blinked at the girl in perplexity. She was offering him food? Even though he tried to kill her, last night?

 This had to be a trick.

 "Nobody asked you to bring me stuff, you know," said Inuyasha as he tossed the pear back to Kagome, who catches it in her hands. "I'm not even hungry, anyway!"

 Grrrrrrrrrrwwwwwwlll~!! A deep growl soon bellowed from within Inuyasha's belly, causing him to blush as he felt his pride take a hit.

 "Not hungry, huh?" Kagome asked. "I can hear your stomach from way down here!"

 "That was a fart!!" Inuyasha barked.

 "Come on," Kagome said. "If I were somebody who woke up after being pinned to a tree for 50 years, I'd be hungry, too!"

 Inuyasha growled...but his stomach growled louder, causing him to sigh.

 "...Any chance you got any meat down there?" he asked.

 "No, just fruits and veggies," said Kagome.

 "...Fine," Inuyasha said. "I'll take what I can get."

 Soon, the half-demon had come down from the tree and sat next to Kagome...at least several feet away from her, anyway. While the girl quietly munched away on a pear, Inuyasha sat on his haunches with his ears flat against his head like a nervous dog, staring warily at her, even while he was eating some daikon.

 "...Look here, missy," said Inuyasha. "Whatever you're up to, I ain't buyin' it, got that?"

 "Buying what?" Kagome asked as she swallowed her bite of the pear. "Listen...I think it's fair to say you don't like me, right?"

 "Ha!" Inuyasha scoffed. "WAY more than fair!"

 "Okay, okay," Kagome replied. "Look...it's not even me you don't like. It's this Kikyo lady, right?"

 Inuyasha paused...but then he growled and leaped back up into the tree, causing Kagome to sigh.

 "Oh, come on!" Kagome said in exasperation. "Look...I'm NOT Kikyo, okay? I'm Kagome! Come on, can't we just call a truce?"

 "Aha!!" Inuyasha exclaimed. "I knew it! What you don't get it is that I'm only after the Sacred Jewel! You're just trying to get me to lower my guard!!"

 "Oh, really?" asked Kagome while she looked down at the pear. "Well, that's funny, because if you ever tried anything, all I would have to do is the say the word 'sit' and-"

 BAM!!! Inuyasha fell to the ground, facefirst, once again, causing Kagome to gasp.

 "Oh, jeez!" she cried. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean it, that time!"

 Inuyasha groaned as he pulled himself from the ground, his face covered in dirt and grass stains.

 How did he EVER get into this mess?

XXX

 

 Later that night, as everyone began to turn in to prepare for another day of hard work...Kagome lied on a futon that Kaede laid out for her while the elderly priestess slept nearby. Although Kagome did appreciate the woman's hospitality and kindness...the poor girl couldn't help feeling just a little lonely. After all, it had been 2 days, now, since she appeared here in this era...and worst of all, her family doesn't even know where she is.

 She could only imagine their worried faces...especially Atsuko's. It was bad enough when Kagome's father died...she couldn't imagine how her mother must be feeling, probably panicking at the thought of her daughter being missing for 2 days. Even if Kagome did find a way to get back home, what was she going to tell her family?

 "Somehow...I have to get back home," she whispered...and despite her loneliness, she managed to find sleep.

 However, as Kagome lie sleeping in her bed, a nighttime visitor was perched in the window: a crow, glaring at her three blazing red eyes. It hissed as it opened its beak, revealing a row of sharp fangs, as it leered at Kagome...or rather at the Sacred Jewel that was dangling from her neck.

 Just as it was about to creep inside the window, a rock suddenly flew at it, causing the crow to squawk before it turned to see the glowing yellow eyes of Inuyasha, who flicked a mere pebble at the creature at such a fast rate, that it seemed like a bullet. The crow cawed as it flew away toward the moon as if saying "I'll get you for this!"

 "...Damn," Inuyasha cursed. "There's the first of them, coming to sniff out the jewel." He then glanced back at the hut where Kagome slept. "Well...too bad for them, because I saw it, first."

Chapter Text

 The following morning was business as usual for the villagers. However, while Kaede was out doing her rounds and Inuyasha was off doing who-knows-what, Kagome had plans of her own. Today, she was going to try and find her way back home.

 In Inuyasha's Forest, the junior high schooler quietly made her way through the underbrush, not wanting to catch the attention of any wild animals or worse, demons, nearby. She really didn't want to go through another scare of getting chased by any monsters again. She didn't think she could handle another attack like the one she went through on the night she arrived here.

 'Where is it?' she thought as she climbed over a tree root. 'If I can just find the old well...if I came out through there, then maybe I can go back home through there, too.'

 That's when she spotted the landmark she was looking for, not too far away from the Sacred Tree where Inuyasha was once pinned. Kagome gasped, a feeling of triumph welling up inside her, but before she could make her way to the well, a hand suddenly reached out from behind her and covered her mouth, preventing her from letting out a surprised shriek. Kagome struggled, trying to force her aggressor off of her, but in the end, whoever it was proved to be too strong for her and dragged her away into the woods.

XXX

 

 "What?" asked Kaede. "Kagome has disappeared?"

 "Yes, Lady Kaede," answered one of the village men. "We looked everywhere, but she's not here."

 "...Oh, dear," Kaede said with worry etching her wrinkled features. "Could it be that she has gone off on her own? I warned her of those who sought the Sacred Jewel...did I not warn her nearly enough?"

 Up on the roof of one of the huts, Inuyasha happened to be sitting nearby when his pricked-up ears happened to catch their conversation. He then glanced toward the forest that had been named after him before a growl rumbled in his throat.

XXX

 

 "Ugh!!" Kagome cried as she was thrown on the floor of an old, abandoned manor, surrounded by sleazy-looking men in armor, wielding spears, swords, and bows and arrows.

 Kagome had wound up getting captured by a gang of bandits.

 "Hey!!" she shouted. "Let go of me!!"

 "We brought you the strange girl, as you requested, Boss!" said one of them.

 "Aye, the one wrapped up in strange clothing!" added a second.

 Kagome grunted before she looked up and saw a rather large, bald man, slurping up sake...but...something seemed rather off about him. His eyes crossed...unfocused, his body swayed about, woozily...and skin was rather pale.

 Of course, he could be extremely drunk.

 "The...jewel..." the man slurred.

 "Huh?" Kagome asked.

 "Give me...the jewel..." the boss said, again, letting out a noisy belch as he did.

 '...Okay...either he's really drunk or something's not right, here,' thought Kagome.

XXX

 

   'Damn wench,' Inuyasha thought as he leaped through the trees. 'What is she thinking, wandering off on her own, and with the jewel, no less?!'

 Soon, he arrived at the spot where Kagome had last been seen, but the only things he found there were signs of a scuffle, one of Kagome's shoes, and a trail of drag marks in the dirt, heading deep into the woods.

 "...Great," Inuyasha sneered before he began to follow the trail.

XXX

 

 "Urrrgh..." the boss bandit groaned as he reached his hand toward Kagome. "Give me...the jewel...!" He soon grabbed the girl and lifted her high up into the air, causing her to gasp in horror before he threw her down to the floor. Kagome groaned as she rubbed her head, then looked up and gasped in shock upon seeing that drunkard was holding the Sacred Jewel in his hand!

 "Oh, no...!" she whispered as she remembered how Kaede once said that not only do demons seek the jewel, but humans do, as well...and humans using the jewel for their purposes could be just as bad, if not worse.

 "Hey!!" Kagome shouted as she stood up to take the jewel back. "Give it back, you-"

 Before she could finish, the leader stabbed the floor in front of her with his katana, causing her to squeal in fright before she looked up and saw the gargantuan man towering over her...but his movements seemed rather unsteady.

 "Guuuuhh..." he groaned. "Hold...her..."

 "Right!" one of the bandits said as he and a second one grabbed Kagome by the arms, restricting her movement, while the boss held up his sword, preparing to cleave her in two with the rusty blade.

 "The boss is gonna kill her?!" asked one of the bandits.

 "Heh...what a waste," scoffed another.

 'Oh, no...!' thought Kagome as she saw the blade come down on her. 'I can't look!!' She turned her head away and screwed her eyes shut, preparing for the blade to cut into her face...but then, she heard the sound of the katana slicing into flesh, followed by a scream and the splattering of blood...some of which got onto her. When Kagome opened her eyes, she gasped in horror when she saw that the leader had cut down one of his own men! Even the other bandits were horrified by this sudden turn of events!

 "B...boss?!" asked one of the bandits. "What the hell are you doin'?!!"

 "Ugh...damn..." the drunkard cursed with this twisted smile. "I missed..." He then belched as he approached Kagome, who was attempting to crawl away. "This time...your neck...!'

 "What in the world is with this guy?!" Kagome questioned.

 "I-I dunno!" answered another of one of the thugs. "He normally isn't like thi-" He gagged as the behemoth of a man ended up cutting his throat when he tried to take another swing at Kagome, who screamed as she ducked out of the way.

 "Run for your lives!!" cried one of the bandits. "The boss has gone crazy!!!"

 "Gee, you think?!" Kagome asked as she ducked from another swing of the leader's blade while the rest of the bandits scattered.

 'Here I am in Feudal Japan, playing Duck, Duck, Goose WITH AN EIGHT-FOOT TROLL!!!' she thought before she looked down and spotted a spear, nearby. Seizing her chance, Kagome grabbed the spear before turning to face the giant, pointing the spearhead at his chest. She didn't really know much about how to fight, but maybe she could at least intimidate him.

 "Stop right there!" she demanded. "Don't you come any closer, or else I'll-"

 SLASH!! The blade of the katana easily cut right through the spear's shaft, rendering it useless.

 "Uh...oops," Kagome squeaked before she looked up and gasped as the lumbering ape approached her and raised his sword, preparing to finish her off, once and for all...but just as Kagome braced herself, a red blur suddenly burst through the wall and jumped in between her and the blade, which snapped in half upon colliding with a sleeve of crimson. As Kagome opened her eyes, she saw that it was Inuyasha!

 "Inuyasha!" she exclaimed.

 "Inuyasha?!" asked one of the bandits. "You mean that half-demon?! What's he doin' here?!!"

 "Inuyasha...you saved me-" Kagome started.

 "Where's the jewel?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Huh?" Kagome asked in surprise.

 "The jewel, you dolt!" Inuyasha barked. "Where is it?!"

 "...Oh...right," Kagome answered.

 'Of course, he only came for the jewel,' she thought.

 "Urrrgh..." the bandit leader moaned as he lumbered toward Inuyasha, who glared at him before he covered his mouth and nose with his sleeve.

 "So you've got the jewel, don't you?" asked the boy. "Such a putrid stench...it smells just like a rotting corpse."

 "A...a corpse?!" asked Kagome.

 "Think you can hide in there," Inuyasha started as he flexed his claws, "you DAMN CROW?!!" He slashed the chest plate off of the leader...and not long after, the crow from last night popped its head out of his left pectoral, screeching angrily at the half-demon while the bandits screamed in horror. As for Kagome, she looked ready to vomit.

 "Oh, god, what is that thing?!" asked Kagome.

 "A Carrion Crow," said Inuyasha. "The birdbrain ripped out his heart, ate it, and then used his body to make a bloody nest."

 "So that's why he was acting so strange," said Kagome. "The crow was using him as some kind of puppet!"

 "Carrion Crows tend to let the corpses they control do the fighting," said Inuyasha, "but that doesn't make 'em any less NASTY!!" He then punched his fist into the corpse's chest...but instead of grabbing the crow, the demon ended up flying out of its back.

 "HAA!!" Inuyasha gasped in shock when he saw a familiar object in the bird's beak. "No! Not the jewel!!"

 The crow seemed to let out this crowing laughter before it flew off, leaving the corpses to disintegrate into nothingness.

 "Dammit!" Inuyasha cursed as he threw the broken spear Kagome attempted to use to defend herself at the crow, but this time, it was too far out of his aim. "Get back here, you rat with wings!!"

 "Now what do we do?!" asked Kagome.

 "What do you mean 'we'?!" asked Inuyasha. "This is your fault!!"

 "My fault?!" Kagome questioned. "Excuse me?!!"

 "You heard me!!" Inuyasha barked before he spotted a bow and a quiver of arrows.

 "What is it?" Kagome asked.

 "...Come here," said Inuyasha as he grabbed Kagome by the arm while picking up the bow and arrows. Soon, the half-demon was sprinting through the forest while carrying Kagome piggyback style. It wasn't very long before he spotted the crow, flying away with the Sacred Jewel still in its beak.

 "You're not getting away that easily, you damn bird!!" Inuyasha shouted after it before he looked back at Kagome. "Hey! Don't just sit there! Shoot it!!"

 "What?!" Kagome questioned while holding the bow in her hands. "What do you mean, 'shoot it'?! I don't know anything about archery!!"

 "Don't you understand?!" asked Inuyasha. "Carrion Crows love nothing more than human flesh! So what do you think is gonna happen once it absorbs the jewel and gains strength from it?!"

 Kagome's eyes went wide in horror.

 "Uh-oh..." she muttered.

 "Exactly!" Inuyasha replied. "Now hurry up!!"

 Kagome nodded before she began to take aim at the crow, which ended up swallowing the jewel.

 "Oh, no!" Kagome cried. "It swallowed it!"

 "Dammit, we're running outta time!" Inuyasha cursed. "Hurry up and shoot! Kikyo was a master archer, so all it'll take is one shot!!"

 "Don't call me Kikyo!!" Kagome shouted as she took aim.

 'Heh,' Inuyasha thought. 'Once she gets rid of the crow, I'll just ditch her and take the jewel!'

 "Okay..." Kagome whispered as it looked like she got a clear shot. "Here it goes...!"

 She soon pulled the arrow back on the bowstring, preparing to let go.

 "Now! Shoot!!" Inuyasha called.

 "Go!!" Kagome shouted as she fired the arrow...and at first, it looked like it was about to hit its target...but then it ended up falling right to the ground, missing the crew by a mere foot!

 "What?!" Kagome questioned while Inuyasha gaped in disbelief.

 "...Okay, I'm starting to see the difference between you and Kikyo, now," he deadpanned.

 "Oh, be quiet!" Kagome yelled. "We gotta catch up to that thing!!"

 "And then what?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "Uh...I dunno...yet," Kagome replied. "Just follow it!!"

 "Ugh!" Inuyasha groaned as he followed the avian monster. "Of all the people I get stuck with, why do I have to put up with you?!"

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, at the village, things were looking rather peaceful...but of course, the peace was soon put to an end when a man carrying buckets of water spotted something in the distance.

 "Hmm...?" he hummed. "A bird?"

 But as the shadowy figure drew closer, he saw that it was no mere bird, but the crow...only now, it looked twice as big with a longer beak, narrower eyes, and huge talons!

 "AAAAAAAH!!!" the man screamed as he turned and ran. "RUN!!! A CARRION CROW!!!"

 The villager soon fled in panic, but one unsuspecting mother and her child did not seem to hear the warnings. As she turned around, she gasped in horror upon seeing the demon pluck her 3-year-old son off the ground by his arm, causing him to scream.

 "KOKICHI!!!" screamed the boy's mother before she broke down in tears. "SOMEONE SAVE MY BOY!!!"

 At that moment, Inuyasha and Kagome appeared, leaping after the demon as it continued to fly away.

 "Dammit!" Inuyasha cursed. "The birdbrain's starting to transform!"

 "Oh, no! The boy!" Kagome cried as she spotted Kokichi, who started wailing in fright as he struggled to get out of the crow's talons.

 "MAMA~!!" he cried.

 "Inuyasha, we have to do something!!" Kagome urged. "He's gonna eaten at this point!!!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he flexed his claws, once more. "It's too bad that the kid is weighing it down...too bad for the crow, that is." He then leaped up into the air. "Iron Reaver-"

 "WAIT, NO!!!" Kagome cried, causing Inuyasha to yelp as the crow ended up ducking under his swipe, but while it was distracted, the girl jumped off from the half-demon's shoulders and grabbed Kokichi, who was still in the demon's grip.

 "Hey, you idiot!!" Inuyasha shouted. "What are you, crazy?!"

 "I had to save the boy, first!" Kagome argued, but then gasped when she saw the crow open its beak, preparing to rip off her head with its fangs.

 "Damn you!" Inuyasha cursed. "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!"

 SLASH!!! The crow was soon obliterated by the dog boy's claws while Kagome gently put the boy down on the ground.

 "Are you okay, little boy?" she asked, causing Kokichi to sniffle and nod.

 "Thank you," he said.

 "Hey, wench!!" Inuyasha shouted. "Where the hell is the jewel?!"

 "Seriously?!" asked Kagome. "You're more worried about the jewel than the boy's life?! You really are a demon!!"

 Suddenly, the crow's body started to piece itself back together!

 "It's still alive!!" cried one of the village men while the monster flew off to find another victim, but as it did, Kagome saw a familiar light, shining from the joint in its wing.

 'The jewel!' she thought. 'It's under its wing!!'

 "Get back here!!" Inuyasha shouted as he tried to grab the crow, but it flew out of his reach. "Shit...damn thing's slippery! It'll keep flying until its body completely absorbs the jewel!!"

 'What am I gonna do?!' thought Kagome. 'At this rate, that thing will just keep coming back!' She then gasped as a proverbial light bulb over her head. She took out a bow from her quiver, tied her red scarf around the shaft, and attached...some other third item to it before she began to take aim, once more.

 "What are you doing?!" Inuyasha questioned. "You won't be able to hit it from this distance!!"

 "Just be quiet and let me concentrate!" Kagome barked, taking Inuyasha back a bit before she pulled back on the arrow. "This time...it's gotta hit it...!" With that, she loosed the arrow...and that's when Inuyasha spotted something attached to it: the crow's severed foot!

 "...I get it now...!" he whispered in realized. "The jewel makes its body regenerate...so that means...!"

 "The arrow will end up hitting him!" Kagome concluded, and sure enough, the arrowhead pierces the demon, which exploded into bits of flesh. However, something else burst from the demon, as well: hundreds of thousands of beams of light, shooting across the sky like stars, all over the land.

 "Lady Kaede! Look there!" called one of the villagers, pointing toward the lights. "Those lights...could they be...?!"

 "...Oh, dear," Kaede said. "This does not bode well."

XXX

 

 Sometime later, Inuyasha and Kagome were in the forest, again, searching for the jewel. However, for some reason, the latter seemed rather uneasy. Something about those streaks of light unsettled her, just a bit.

 "Are you sure that the jewel is this way, wench?!" asked Inuyasha as he leaped through the trees.

 "I just have a feeling, okay?" asked Kagome.

 Suddenly, a familiar screeching sound filled the air, causing the duo to look up at the sky and see the crow demon heading right towards them...only this time, it was its disembodied head!

 "AAAH!!" Kagome shrieked. "IT'S STILL ALIVE!!!"

 "Heh," Inuyasha smirked before he easily squashed the bird's heads, causing its brains to splatter everywhere. Not long after, though, a tiny glowing object emerged from its flesh and bounced along the ground.

 "What's that?" Inuyasha asked. "The jewel?"

 "Uh..." Kagome muttered as she walked up and picked up the object: a tiny fragment. "Umm...Inuyasha?"

 "What?" Inuyasha asked.

 "Don't get mad," Kagome began, "but...I think it's...a shard of the jewel."

 A pause...but then Inuyasha buzzed his lips before he began to burst into laughter.

 "I-I'm sorry," he said. "For a minute there, I thought that you said that you..."

 Kagome turned and showed him the tiny fragment she found, causing him to stop in his tracks.

 "...A...shard...of the jewel," he murmured. "You...you shattered...the jewel?!"

 "...You're not mad, are you?" asked Kagome.

 A pause...but then Inuyasha forced a grin and chuckled.

 "Mad?" he repeated. "Why would I be mad? Hahahahaha!" He paused for a moment. "Pardon me, won't you?"

 "Uh-huh," Kagome nodded, allowing the boy to turn and walk away into the forest...and the moment he was at least 10 feet away from her...

 "ARE YOU KIDDING ME, RIGHT NOOOOOOOOOW?!!"

 "Yep," Kagome muttered. "He's mad."

Chapter Text

 "I don't believe this! I just don't freakin' believe it!! HOW in the hell did this happen!?"

 "It's not like I intended for it to happen! Take a chill pill!!"

 Kagome and Inuyasha returned to Kaede's hut later that same night and revealed to what had transpired earlier today...including the shattering of the Sacred Jewel. Kagome even showed Kaede the tiny shard she found as proof.

 "Stop your howling, Inuyasha," said Kaede.

 "Howling?!" Inuyasha repeated. "I am NOT howling! I'm ranting!! Do you wanna hear real howling?! THIS is howling!! AR-AR-AROOOOOOOOOOOOO~!!!!"

 "The word, Kagome, if you don't mind," Kaede said while she covered her ears.

 "Sit, boy," Kagome spoke, causing Inuyasha to faceplant into the floor.

 "OOF!!" he cried. "...I wish you wouldn't do that."

 "Now then," Kaede began as she removed her hands from her ears, "when Kagome shot the arrow at the Carrion Crow, it not only obliterated the demon, but also shattered the Shikon Jewel within it. The jewel itself may have shattered in tens or hundreds of fragments...none can say for certain. We do know this much: they have now scattered across the land, and if even a single fragment were to fall into the wrong hands, the result might be as ill as if that spirit had absorbed the jewel!"

 "...And it's my fault, isn't it?" Kagome asked.

 "Gee, you think?" Inuyasha asked, sarcastically.

 "I wasn't asking you," Kagome sneered.

 "Listen, well," Kaede said. "Kagome..."

 "Yes, ma'am?" Kagome asked in her polite tone.

 "Inuyasha..." Kaede turned to the half-demon, who snorted haughtily.

 "Yeah, what is it?" he asked.

 "Ye must work together to gather the shards of the Sacred Jewel and restore to its original form," the old priestess told them.

 "...Wait...work together...with Inuyasha?!" asked Kagome.

 "Are you kidding me?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Me?! Work with this stupid wench?!! I'd rather eat manure!! And besides, Kaede, last I checked, I'm one of those 'evil spirits' you're referring to, aren't I?!!"

 "For now, neither of you have a choice," said Kaede. "I'm afraid this is the only way."

 "...But...I-I'm just trying to get home!" Kagome said. "I never intended for any of this to happen! I mean...I have a family at home! My Mom, my Grandpa, my little brother...they're all probably worried sick about me!! I've been gone for almost three days, now!!!"

 "Oh, cry me a river," Inuyasha said before he turned and stormed out. "I'm going hunting!"

 "You could show just a little sympathy, you jerk!!" Kagome barked...before she sighed and dropped to her knees, then looked over to Kaede, who looked at her in concern. "...Kaede...I'm really sorry. I don't mean to complain. You've been so nice to me and I'm so grateful! It's just...it's just that...!" She sniffled as tears formed in her eyes.

 "I understand, child," said Kaede as she gently placed a hand on Kagome's shoulder. "You miss your family...and by the sound of things, it seems they are more than likely missing you, as well."

 "...My Dad and my Grandma both died in an accident when I was a little girl," said Kagome. "My Mom tries to be strong, but I know that if something happened to me, she'd be devastated...! My Grandpa is probably worrying himself sick! My little brother is probably crying without me!" She then broke down, sobbing. "I know that I messed up...I know that I have to fix the jewel...but...I really, REALLY wanna go home! I miss my family! I miss my friends! I miss my school!! I wanna go home!! I WANNA GO HOME!!!"

 As Kagome continued crying, not too far away from the village, Inuyasha sat in the branches of a tree...but his ears twitched as he glanced back at Kaede's hut from which the girl's cries were emanating.

 "...She wants to go home, huh?" he murmured before he looked up at the crescent moon. "...I sure wish...I had a home to go back to..."

 A brief image of a woman with long, flowing locks of raven hair and wearing multiple robes of different colors appeared before his mind's eye. Her arms were outstretched and she had this soft, warm smile on her face, though her eyes were unseen. However, the half-demon quickly shook his head and sighed.

 "Why am I thinking about those things, now?" he asked. "It all happened a long time ago..."

 A pause...but then he sighed as he glanced back at the hut.

XXX


 Later that night, Kagome found herself lying awake on her futon while Kaede remained asleep nearby. Though she was exhausted from the events of the day and all the crying she did...this time, it seemed that sleep would not come to her. She sighed as she tried everything she could think of to make herself sleep: counting to 100, counting backward from 100, getting a drink of water...getting up to use the bathroom after getting said drink of water...she even tried to hum herself a little lullaby that Atsuko sang to her when she was little and wouldn't go to sleep.

 Nothing worked.

 Heaving a quiet sigh, Kagome sat up and headed outside into the night air. If she couldn't sleep, then maybe she could get her thoughts together, instead. Maybe then, she could finally get some sleep. As she walked outside, though, she couldn't help feeling as if she was being watched. As she looked over her shoulder, she saw a familiar pair of golden yellow eyes, glowering down at her from the roof.

 "...Hey," Inuyasha greeted before he practically floated down to the ground.

 "...What are you doing, still up?" asked Kagome.

 "I can go a few nights without sleeping, unlike you mortals," said Inuyasha.

 "What do you want?" asked Kagome as she turned away from him with her arms crossed and a pout on her lips.

 "...Listen," Inuyasha said. "I don't like you, and I'm pretty sure you don't like me, either...but whether we like it or not...the old hag's right: I gotta work with you if I wanna get the jewel back together."

 "...And you're telling me this, because...?" Kagome inquired.

 "...I wanna call a truce," Inuyasha said, causing Kagome's eyes to go wide before she turned to face him, completely.

 "...Am I hearing this, right?" she asked.

 "Look, my patience has been tested enough, okay?" Inuyasha asked before he held out his hand. "So...do we have a deal?"

 Kagome looked down at Inuyasha's hand, then back at his face, which held this almost unusual expression of seriousness...if not, reluctance. Still, it seemed that he was willing to at least try and take this seriously. Maybe this could work out to their benefit.

 Besides, what did she have to lose?

 "...Deal," said Kagome as she shook hands with the half-demon.

 "Good," said Inuyasha before he turned and walked away. "Well...see you in the morning, I guess."

 "Yeah," Kagome replied as she was about to head back inside.

 "...By the way," Inuyasha began, causing Kagome to stop in her tracks, "don't...worry too much about your family. You might see them again, one day."

 Kagome blinked in surprise at the half-demon's words. They almost sounded...reassuring...gentle. Was this really the same Inuyasha she was talking to?

 "J-just saying," Inuyasha said. "Anyway, goodnight." On that, he leaped back up onto his perch, leaving Kagome standing on the ground in stunned silence.

 '...Well...that was something,' she thought before she headed inside, only to run into Kaede, who was sitting up on her futon with this almost knowing look on her face.

 "Oh! K-Kaede!" Kagome stammered. "Uh...were you...?"

 "Yes, I was listening," said Kaede. "So, ye and Inuyasha have come to an agreement, yes?"

 "...Yeah," Kagome replied.

 "...Try to tolerate him, just a bit longer," said Kaede. "Inuyasha can be a bit stubborn at times...but deep down within him lies a good heart. It will just take time for it to come out."

 STOMP! STOMP!!

 "You know that I'm up on the roof and I can hear you, right?!"

 Despite Inuyasha's annoyance, Kagome couldn't help giggling just a little, along with Kaede.

 Maybe she could give this a chance, after all.

Chapter Text

 "WAAH!! Oh, that's cold!!!"

 "You do not have to force yourself, child. Come out before ye catch your death of cold!"

 "Are you kidding?! I'm filthy! I've been covered in nothing but blood and gore and mud and demon guts for three days, now! A girl can only take so much!"

 Kaede sighed and shook her head before she tossed another stick into the fire while Kagome, stripped down to nothing but her birthday suit, sat in the cold spring, running her hands along her bare skin. She wished she had at least taken Kaede up on her offer to use the bathtub, but she couldn't wait for the water to heat up since back in this time, there were no such things as hot water pipes. So, she had to go for the next best thing...even if it was freezing cold. The villagers actually thought she was going through some sort of purification ritual instead of just having herself a regular bath.

 One elder even warned the younger men that if one of them happened to go spy on Kagome, the gods would punish him on the spot.

 Meanwhile, up in a tree, Inuyasha sat with his hands behind his head and a bored expression on his face. It was only last night when he decided to swallow his pride and call a truce with Kagome. After all, they still had to gather the shards of the Sacred Jewel and put it back together, again. The only problem was...Kagome didn't exactly know where to start, not to mention she didn't really know what made Inuyasha tick.

 As Kagome came out of the water, gasping for breath, she made her way to the spring's bank in order to climb out...but as she looked up, she gasped as she saw Inuyasha, sitting on his haunches as he stared at her from a cliff on high.

 "SIT, BOY!!" Kagome shouted as she dropped back into the water, covering her chest.

 BAM!!! Inuyasha ended up falling facefirst into the ground, once again.

 "Enjoy the view, did ye?" asked Kaede with a bit of a snide expression.

 "Shut up, you old cyclops!!" barked Inuyasha before he grudgingly clutched at the Beads of Subjugation. "I forgot about this stupid rosary you put on my neck!"

 "I know you're a dog demon and all," Kagome began as she hid behind a bush, "but I didn't think you were that much of a dog!!"

 "What the hell are you talking about?!" Inuyasha questioned. "We called a truce, didn't we?! I wasn't trying to peep at you!! I was trying to-"

 "Take this shard of the Sacred Jewel, correct?" Kaede asked, holding said-shard in her fingers.

 "...Well...I mean..." Inuyasha stammered.

 "So typical of ye, Inuyasha," said Kaede. "If you want to gather the jewel shards, you must combine your strength with Kagome's ability to see-"

 "Yeah, yeah, I know!" Inuyasha interjected with a huff. "I called a truce with her...for now!"

 "Hey, Inuyasha," said Kagome as she came out...wearing the same priestess garb as Kaede, only smaller to fit her figure, and even had her hair tied back in a ponytail. "Mind telling me why you hate me so much, anyway?"

 Inuyasha's eyes went wide as he stared up at Kagome...and for a moment, a brief image of another certain priestess he knew suddenly appeared before his eyes before it went back to Kagome.

 '...Kikyo....?' he thought.

 "Why such a disgruntled look on your face, Inuyasha?" asked Kaede, causing Inuyasha to shake his head.

 "None of your business," he grumbled before he glanced over at Kagome, who was hanging her school uniform up to dry over the bonfire that Kaede had lit.

 "Pardon me...Lady Kaede?"

 Kaede turned to see a woman of at least 40 years, accompanied by her 5-year-old son and his infant brother strapped to her back.

 "I do not mean to intrude," said the woman.

 "What ails ye?" Kaede asked.

 "My daughter," said the woman. "It seems she's taken ill."

 "Taken ill?" Kaede repeated, causing the worried mother to nod her head. "I see...Kagome, Inuyasha...I must head back to the village. Please, try not to get into any unnecessary quarrels."

 "We'll try," Kagome answered while Inuyasha blew a raspberry at Kaede, who walked away with the mother and her two sons.

 'She reminds me of my Mom,' thought Kagome. '...Mom...I know you must be worried sick about me...'

 "...Hey," Inuyasha spoke up, suddenly.

 "What?" Kagome asked.

 "You mind taking off your clothes?" Inuyasha asked, bluntly...causing Kagome to bonk him on the head with a large rock, which caused an equally large bump to form right between his ears. "OW!! What'd you do that for?!"

 "You really are a dog!!" Kagome spat.

 "I didn't mean 'get undressed', stupid!!" Inuyasha barked as he pointed at Kagome's uniform. "I mean I want you to change back into your weird clothes!!!"

 "Why?!" Kagome questioned. "Because they make me look like Kikyo?!"

 Inuyasha tensed up for a moment before he snarled and looked away, crossing his arms inside his sleeves.

 "That's got nothing to do with it," he muttered.

 'Jeez...!' thought Kagome. 'Even Sota's not this immature, and he's in third grade!'

 "Look," Kagome said. "If you can't learn to be just a little more civilized, then we're not gonna be able to work together!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Fine by me. I'll find those shards without you if I have to!"

 "Oh, really?" Kagome inquired. "Which means you don't really need me around, do you?" She then turned and sauntered off. "Well, have it your way, mister!"

 "Wait, what?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Hey, where are you goin'?!!"

 "Where do you think I'm going?!" Kagome asked. "I'm going home! Goodbye, sayonara, and all that jazz!"

 "'Going home'...?!" Inuyasha repeated. "Hey! Wait a minute!!"

 "Nope! Don't try and talk me out of it!" Kagome replied.

 "Before you go," Inuyasha began as he held out his hand, "gimme your shard of the jewel!"

 "What, you mean this?" Kagome asked as she held up a little pouch where she kept said-shard. "Hmm...lemme think...SIT!!"

 THWAM!! Inuyasha crashed into the ground, once more.

 "Bye-bye!" Kagome called as she walked away, swinging the pouch's string on her finger.

 "Get back here!!" Inuyasha called as he tried to stand up, only to yelp as his spine made a rather unpleasant crack. "AGH!! Yep...I think that was my tailbone...!!"

XXX


 Concurrently, in the village, the worried mother had taken Kaede to her hut, where the woman's daughter lied on some straw mats, covered by a kimono. The woman's 5-year-old son stood nearby, but not too close, watching with nervousness as the elderly priestess went to look at his older sister.

 "She seemed so healthy this morning," said the mother.

 "Let me see," Kaede said as she went to take a closer look...but as she did, she could've sworn she heard some ominous creaking noise...like strings being pulled, causing her to gasp as she stopped in her tracks. "Oh, no...!"

 "What's wrong?" asked the mother.

 "Get back!!" Kaede demanded, and no sooner had she said this that the girl suddenly rose up! In fact, she didn't just stand...she was floating over the floor!

 "What in heaven's name?!" the mother questioned in shock. "She's...flying?!"

 "Wait...what's that?" Kaede asked as she squinted her eye. She could see what looked like thin black strings, wrapped around the girl's fingers and wrists...no...more like strands of hair.

 'Hair?' thought Kaede. 'What manner of trickery is this?!'

 Before she had time to contemplate on it, further, a butcher's knife suddenly flew into the girl's hand, which she raised threateningly.

 "No! Haruka, stop!!" cried the girl's mother. "It's us, your family!!"

 "It's not her fault!" Kaede shouted. "Something has possessed her!!"

 Haruka swung the knife down...and blood sprayed into the air.

XXX

 

 The leaves rustled in the wind as Kagome tread through Inuyasha's Forest, scanning the environment for anything familiar. She had already passed by the Sacred Tree where Inuyasha was once pinned, so she knew it must be close by. It wasn't too long before she finally found it: the Bone Eater's Well.

 'There it is!' she thought as she ran up to it. 'The well that I climbed out of...if it brought me here...maybe it can also get me home!'

 She then looked down inside the well...only to squeak in fright, for she saw the decomposing skeletal remains of Mistress Centipede inside. That's when she remembered what Kaede said about how they would throw the remains of demons inside the well, then wait a few days until they had completely gone before they could use it again. How was Kagome going to jump into the well with the bug's bones still in plain view?

 "...Yeah, nothing doing," said Kagome as she backed away, immediately losing her nerve. "Oh, that's so gross...!"

 She then sighed...feeling her heart ache with sadness. She was hoping so much that this would work. She just wanted to see her family again.

 "...What am I gonna do, now?" she asked before she looked up and saw a flock of three tiny sparrows flying through the air...but then, they all dropped down onto the ground...and that's when Kagome saw something really unsettling: the sparrows had somehow been cut into pieces!

 "W...what in the world...?!" Kagome questioned as she stood up, but somehow, she felt something cut into her cheek, causing her to cry out in pain as blood dripped from the wound. "Ow!! What the-?!" She then gasped as she what she had stepped into: a net of thin hairs. "H-hair?! What's going on, here?!!"

 "So...you can see it, can't you? My hair net."

 "W-who said that?!" asked Kagome before she looked up and saw a young woman with her dark green hair in a fan-like bob cut and tied up with a red ribbon. Her outfit was like that of a kunoichi, or a female ninja, and exposed quite a bit of cleavage (and if Kagome wasn't so scared for her life, right now, she would say that the girl was quite endowed). She also had a katana tied against her waist with a bright yellow sash.

 "You've got some sharp eyes, don't you?" asked the woman...the hairs wrapped around her fingers. "Too bad simply seeing them won't do you any good."

 "W-who are you?!" Kagome questioned. "What do you want from me?!!"

 "I am Yura of the Hair," said the woman. "Don't worry...I won't be mad if you don't remember...because you're going to die, today." With a wave of her hand, Yura pulled the hairs around Kagome, who shrieked as she tried to shield herself from them by raising her arms, but all that did was cut the fabric of her robes. Then, one of the hairs snagged onto something within her haori before pulling it out, revealing the pouch that held the Sacred Jewel shard!

 "Oh, no!" Kagome cried.

 "Ooh, what's this?" Yura asked as she took the shard out of the pouch. "Oh, dear...look what happened to the Sacred Jewel. What a shame...but I'll take what I can get!"

 "Hey!" Kagome shouted. "Give that back!"

 Yura only glared at the girl in response before she slid down on one of her hair strands, brandishing her katana.

 "I'll be lopping your sweet head off, now," she said before she swung the blade, causing Kagome to back away on instinct, but she ended up falling inside the well, shrieking the whole way down!

 "Don't think you can get away from me!" Yura shouted as she threw her sword down into the well...and yet, she did not hear the sound of steel cutting into flesh and blood splattering against the well's walls. Humming in bewilderment, Yura looked down inside the well and saw that not only had the bones of Mistress Centipede disappeared...but Kagome, as well.

 "She's gone?" Yura asked as she looked. "That's odd...who was that girl, anyway?"

Chapter Text

 Inuyasha flew through the air, pushing his feet off the tree branches to gain better height. He could hear Kagome's words echoing about in his mind. All he did, though, was scoff.

 "Good riddance," he grumbled. "With her gone, I feel like I got a leash taken off my neck!"

 All of a sudden, he found himself surrounded by several village women, holding knives, sickles, and axes, and all of them were floating through the air while their heads hung limply and there was a dazed look in their eyes.

 "What the-?" Inuyasha muttered, only to yelp when he dodged the weapons, grabbed two of them by their arms, and stomped on the third one's arm as he landed on the ground. "All right, you three, what's your beef with...huh? Wait a minute, these are all village girls!"

 "Stop! Do not harm them, Inuyasha!!"

 Inuyasha turned to see Kaede, who was lying on the ground with a pool of blood forming beneath her.

 "...What are you doing, lying there, all drenched in blood?" asked Inuyasha.

 "How tactful of ye," Kaede deadpanned, but then, the women got back up again, still holding their weapons.

 "What's up with these women?" asked Inuyasha. "How come they're trying to attack me?"

 "'Tis not their fault!" Kaede answered. "They're being possessed by someone...or something! Where is Kagome?! Bring her here, immediately!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he cracked his knuckles. "No need. I'll take care of 'em, myself."

 "No, Inuyasha! You mustn't!!" Kaede cried. "Without Kagome, we're powerless!!!"

 "What do you mean?!" asked Inuyasha. "You're not making any sense, hag!!"

 Up in a nearby tree...Yura smirked as she held the hairs that were intertwined on her fingers.

 "This time," she started, "I will absolutely get their necks."

 "Heed me, Inuyasha!" Kaede called. "The village girls are not in their right minds, and therefore, they do not deserve the tips of your claws!"

 "You think I care?" asked Inuyasha. "They almost tried to kill you, didn't they?"

 "Have you no sense of morality?" Kaede asked as she held her injured shoulder. "Inuyasha, unless ye can defeat the one who is manipulating them-"

 "I don't have time for this!!" Inuyasha shouted as one of the women swooped in on him while holding her ax.

 "Inuyasha! The hair!!" Kaede cried. "Cut the hair that is attached to the girls' wrists!!"

 "What hair?!" Inuyasha questioned. "I don't see no hair!!" As he swiped his claws, the girl who was holding the ax suddenly flew up, avoiding his attack while the other two flew at him from behind, and a fourth one came at him from the front.

 "Look out!!" Kaede cried. "Flee while you can, Inuyasha!!"

 Unfortunately, her warning came too late, for the women soon spun around Inuyasha, entangling him in hair. Instead of struggling, though, he only smirked.

 "Does this puppeteer play me for a fool?" he asked as he grabbed at the strands. "Even if I can't see any hair...I can at least drag whoever's at the other end!!" On that, he gave a harsh yank, but instead, the hair went slack, causing him to fall to the ground. "OOF!! What the hell?!"

 Up in her perch, Yura chuckled as she watched the spectacle.

 "Sorry to disappoint," she said, "but the hair will only grow." Soon, she formed a circle of hair in her fingers. "Now then...time to show your neck, half-demon."

 She pulled the hairs together, closing the circle and causing Inuyasha to get tangled up against a tree trunk.

 "AGH!!" he cried as he struggled to get free...and two hairs ended up getting entangled around his neck. "W-what is this?! I can't get loose!!"

 Just as it seemed that the hair was about to sever his head from his throat, Inuyasha pushed himself off the tree and jumped away, causing the tree to get sliced, instead.

 "Hmm?" Yura hummed as she looked down at the hairs. "The hairs slacked..." She then pouted. "He got free...that's no fun."

 Down below, Inuyasha panted heavily as he rubbed at his neck and coughed.

 "I almost thought I was done for," he muttered.

 "For a human, that would have resulted in instant death," said Kaede before she looked up and gasped upon seeing more villagers hobbling towards them, armed with pitchforks, knives, and other dangerous objects.

 "Great," Inuyasha grumbled. "Here comes more of them! At this rate, they'll just keep coming!"

 "What do you plan to do, Inuyasha?" Kaede asked.

 "...Grab onto me," Inuyasha answered, "and make it quick!"

 Kaede struggled to climb onto Inuyasha's back, but she managed to hold onto his shoulders before he turned and leaped off...straight towards a net of hair.

 "Watch out, Inuyasha!" Kaede cried. "The hair!"

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered...passing right through the net. "You say something?"

 "...Never mind," Kaede replied.

 As the half-demon and old priestess fled, Yura swung through the air with her hair, giggling in delight.

 "Well, it seems he's not so easy to kill, after all!" she said. "This should be interesting."

XXX

 

 After getting a good distance away, the two managed to escape into Inuyasha's Forest.

 "Hey, Granny," said Inuyasha as he laid Kaede on the ground. "You can see the hair, can't you? Show me where it leads."

 "Ye should not ask for the impossible," Kaede replied. "Even if I had both eyes, my sight is not what it used to be in my old age. That is why we need Kagome."

 "Are you saying that that wench is the only one who can see the hair?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Dammit, and I thought I was rid of her, for good!!"

XXX


 "Ugh....w...where am...I?"

 Kagome opened her eyes, and yet found nothing but darkness. She sat up, but she held her head to alleviate the dizzy spell that suddenly came over her. Once the disorientation had passed, Kagome began to get her thoughts together, wondering how it was she ended up here. That's when the memory of Yura ambushing her came back.

 'That's right...that girl attacked me...and I fell in the well-'

 "But we already looked in here, Sota!!"

 "Gramps, I'm telling you! She fell in here! Really!!"

 Kagome gasped as she looked up, instantly recognizing those voices.

 "...No way...!" she whispered. "I...I actually...?!"

 Soon, Sanosuke and Sota soon appeared, the former holding a lamp.

 "It must have been a daydream, my boy," the old man insisted.

 "But Grandpa, I swear!" Sota argued. "Kagome really fell in here!"

 "Ridiculous!" Sanosuke said as he shined the lamp down into the well. "I-"

 "GRANDPA!! SOTA!!!" Kagome cried out the moment the light shone down on her, causing both Sanosuke and Sota to gasp.

 "K-Kagome?!" asked Sanosuke. "What are you doing down there?!!"

 "See, Grandpa?!" Sota questioned. "I told you she fell down here! Hang on, sis! I'll get a ladder!!"

 Kagome's heart pounded in her ears, her eyes wide in disbelief. Sanosuke looked just as shocked as Sota returned with the ladder. As she climbed out with her grandfather and brother's help, she took a good look around, their questions falling deaf on her ears. She could see the now towering Sacred Tree in her yard...and the apartment building across the way, peeking over the branches...and her house on the other side.

 'I'm...I'm not dreaming...I'm really back home...!'

 "Kagome?" asked Sanosuke. "Are you all right?!"

 "Grandpa...Sota...!" Kagome whispered...before she threw her arms around them, sobbing loudly. "I was so scared!!"

 "...Kagome," Sanosuke muttered as he and Sota both returned her embrace. "What on earth happened to you?"

 "Mom!!" Sota called. "Kagome's back!!"

 "What?!" Atsuko's voice asked as she soon came outside. "She's back?! Really?!!"

 "...Mom...!" Kagome whispered as she finally saw her mother's face, then turned around and ran into her arms, sobbing even louder. "Oh, Mommy!!"

 "Oh, Kagome, my baby girl!" cried Atsuko as she held her daughter. "I was so worried about you!!"

 "I'm so sorry, Mom!" Kagome said. "I didn't mean to scare you! I...I just...oh, I'm so happy to see you!!"

 "Shh~!" Atsuko hushed as she gently stroked her daughter's hair. "There, there...it's okay. Everything's all right, now."

 'Yeah...everything's all right, now,' thought Kagome...even though in her mind, she sounded a bit unsure.

XXX


 Back in the past...

 "There...that ought to do it..."

 Inuyasha stood over a large hole that he had just dug in the ground...in which he soon laid Kaede in before burying her up to her neck in soil and dead leaves.

 "It's the least I can do for ya, hag," he said. "I'll just bury you here, okay?"

 "...Do I look dead to ye, Inuyasha?" asked Kaede with a disdainful glare.

 "This ain't your grave, stupid!!" Inuyasha barked. "I'm just hiding you here, for now! I'll come back for you later, I promise!!"

 "See to it that you don't!" Kaede replied while Inuyasha bounded off.

 "Damn that stupid girl...!" he cursed as he leaped through the trees. "I actually need her, and she just up and bails on me! Where did she run off to?!"

 That's when his face lit up as the realization hit him.

 'Wait a minute...'

XXX


 "Haaa...!" Kagome sighed as she sat in her bathtub, which was filled with nice, hot water and bubble bath. Her mother even put in those little lavender bath salts she liked so much. "I'm not just home...I'm in heaven...!"

 "Kagome!" Atsuko called from outside. "Do you need anything else?"

 "No, Mom, I'm fine!" Kagome replied.

 "Well...all right," Atsuko answered. "Dinner will be ready in a couple of hours, so don't stay in there, too long!"

 "I won't!" Kagome replied as she heard her mother's footsteps recede.

 Downstairs, Atsuko was preparing a nice cup of tea for her daughter, but she couldn't help noticing the tension that her father-in-law was giving off. She understood...a bit. When Kagome got in the house, she started telling her family about what had happened: how she fell in the well, how she winded up in the past, even how she met Inuyasha. Of course, Atsuko simply passed it off as Kagome being hysterical after being lost for three days...and yet, something told her that maybe it wasn't far from the truth.

 "...Dad," said Atsuko as she looked to Sanosuke. "What if what Kagome said was actually true?"

 "Hmmm..." Sanosuke grumbled in thought.

 "Grandpa, Kagome is telling the truth!" Sota spoke. "I saw a lady with six arms grab Kagome and pull her into the well! You gotta believe me!"

 Though Sanosuke didn't answer his grandson, he was certainly no fool to the legend of the Bone Eater's Well. He knew the stories of how in the olden days, the remains of monsters and demons would be cast into the well before they would disappear. Somehow, something came alive in that well and abducted his granddaughter...and what if that something was still alive?

 "I can't just sit here!!" Sanosuke exclaimed before he hurried out the door and into the old well house, where he boarded the well shut, placed some paper slips on the barricade, and finally, a new herbal charm. He then sighed in relief as he returned to the house, just in time to see Kagome sit down at the table, wearing some new clothes, a Band-Aid on her cheek, and her hair wrapped up in a towel. After she greeted him and asked him where he went, Sanosuke explained that he sealed up the well with spells.

 "Huh?" Kagome asked. "You sealed it up?"

 "That's right," Sanosuke nodded. "I put up new sutras and even a warding charm on it. That well will remain shut until the end of time!"

 "...I see," Kagome said before she got up and walked out. "I'll be right back."

 "Kagome?" asked Sanosuke. "Where are you going, child?"

 Kagome didn't answer as she went outside to the backyard and entered the well house, staring down at the Bone Eater's Well.

 '...Even after everything that happened...it feels like a dream...but even so...I can't shake this feeling that everything's not okay, back there.'

Chapter Text

 Inuyasha was down on all fours, sniffing the ground like any old dog would do when tracking down prey, or in this case, a certain raven-haired girl.

 "Hmm..." he hummed as he sniffed the ground. "Yeah, she was here, all right. I'd know that scent of hers, anywhere." That's when he noticed the Bone Eater's Well, along with Kagome's folded uniform. "She forgot her clothes?" He then looked up at the well as the realization struck. "I don't believe it...she actually went back to her own world!"

 He then looked over the lip of the well before he grinned.

 "Through here, huh?" he asked. "Well, nice try, wench, but you won't be getting away from me so easily!"

 On that, he jumped down into the well...and there was a flash of light that followed, not long after.

XXX

 

 That night, in Kagome's house, the junior high schooler was lying on her bed on her tummy with Buyo curled up at her side. She let out a contented sigh as she snuggled into her pink pillow and clutched at her warm linens.

 "It feels so good to be home, again," she said...although she had a slight look of uncertainty. "It all seems like a dream, now...but it was only a few hours ago that I was in the Feudal Era." She then thought back to when Yura took the jewel shard from her. "...Yura of the Hair...that's what her name was, right? I wonder who she was...or what she was." She sat up on her knees before she glanced down at Buyo, who cocked his head to one side and let out a bewildered meow.

 "...If Inuyasha ever found out I let Yura take the shard," Kagome began, "I know he'll be furious."

 That's when she remembered something else.

 "Keh! Fine by me. I'll find those shards without you if I have to!"

 '...Right,'
 Kagome thought. 'Inuyasha got through telling me that he doesn't need me around.'

 She then clapped her hands together, startling Buyo into falling off the bed and onto the floor.

 "Right then!" she exclaimed. "I'll just forget everything that happened! After all...I'm not going back, ever again!"

 "Kagome!" Atsuko called from downstairs. "Dinner's ready!"

 "Coming!" Kagome replied as she headed out the door.

 Little did she know that she was going to be in for quite the surprise.

XXX

 

 Downstairs, the family was just about to sit down for dinner: Kagome's favorite dish, oden.

 "Oh, wow!!" she exclaimed in excitement. "It's got everything!!"

 "Hey, Grandpa," said Sota. "Are you sure the well isn't gonna open up, again?"

 "Absolutely positively, my boy!" Sanosuke exclaimed. "I sealed up with the well with powerful sutras! No demon, evil spirit, or beast could ever break through! Kagome, you should trust my mystical powers and-"

 "Uh, Gramps?" asked Sota. "She's not listening."

 "Hmm?!" Sanosuke hummed, questioningly as he looked to his granddaughter, who sniffled as she looked longingly at the bubbling pot of oden.

 'It feels so good to be alive...!' she thought before she grabbed her chopsticks.

 "Oh, boy!" she exclaimed. "I can't wait to-"

 SLAM!! The door suddenly slid open...revealing Inuyasha standing behind Kagome, glowering at her fiercely, causing her and her family to stare at the half-demon in stunned surprise. Of course, Kagome was surprised, but...it seemed her family was even more surprised than her, right now.

 "A...a dog-boy?" asked Sota.

 "...I don't believe it...!" whispered Atsuko.

 Sanosuke, on the other hand, was so stunned, all he could do was stutter.

 "...Inuyasha...?" Kagome asked as she ate a carrot.

 "You idiot!" Inuyasha barked. "Who the hell told you that you could go home, huh?!"

 "But...wait...how did you...?" Kagome stammered. "Where did you come from?!"

 "Where do you think I came from, genius?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Through the damn well!!"

 "The...the well?" Kagome asked. "You mean you can travel through the well, too?!"

 "Impossible!" Sanosuke shouted. "Those sutras I used were passed down through generations! I sealed the well, myself!"

 "Sutras?" Inuyasha repeated before he pulled out one from his hair. "You mean these useless scraps of paper? They don't even work!"

 Sanosuke let out a horrified scream while Sota groaned in exasperation.

 "Gramps..." he muttered.

 "All right, you," said Inuyasha as he grabbed Kagome by the arm. "Enough lollygagging! We're going back, right now!"

 "What?!" Kagome questioned as she pulled her arm away. "No way! I just got back!!"

 "I said we're leaving!!" Inuyasha demanded.

 "And I said no!!" Kagome bit back. "I'm not going back there and you can't make me!!"

 "Oh, yeah?!" Inuyasha asked. "What are you gonna do about it?!!"

 "Hold it right there, young man!" Atsuko shouted, causing Inuyasha to look at her.

 "Yeah, what do you want?!" he asked...before the woman went up and grabbed his ears. "...Uh...what are you doing?"

 "Your ears," Atsuko said. "Are they real?"

 "Mom, I wanna touch 'em next!" Sota exclaimed.

 "Uh, Mom?" asked Kagome. "That's really not cool."

 'Although I did it, too,' she thought, but then she gasped as she noticed something wrapped Inuyasha's sleeve: a strand of black, glinting hair.

 "Inuyasha!!" she cried. "Where did you get that hair on your sleeve?!"

 "What hair?" asked Inuyasha. "I don't see anything."

 "What do you mean, you don't see it?!" Kagome asked as she pulled the hair off his sleeve. "I know you're not blind! It's right here!"

 Just then, the hair suddenly tightened around her palm, causing it to bleed.

 "Agh!!" Kagome cried in slight pain.

 "Kagome?!" Sanosuke questioned. "What happened?! You're bleeding!!"

 "Are you all right, Kagome?!" asked Atsuko.

 '...I'm the only one who can see the hair...!' thought Kagome. 'Is this...is this from Yura?!'

 She then turned and ran outside.

 "Inuyasha, come with me!!" she called.

 "Huh?" Inuyasha asked in confusion before he followed after her. "H-hey! Wait up!"

 "Kagome!" Atsuko called as she, Sota, and Sanosuke hurried out, as well. "Come back!"

 Soon, Kagome reached the well house, but when she got there, she gasped when she saw all these writhing tendrils of black hair crawling out of the well!

 'The hair,' she thought. 'It actually followed us!'

 "Well, what do you know?" Inuyasha asked in his usual snide demeanor as he came inside. "Looks like Granny Kaede was right. Your eyes do work better than hers."

 "You dolt...!" Kagome growled before she turned and glared at him. "How could you let such a horrible thing follow you?!"

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned. "You're saying this is my fault?!!"

 "Kagome!!" Sanosuke called as he, Atsuko, and Sota appeared.

 "Are you okay, sis?!" asked Sota.

 "Stay back!!" Kagome shouted as she shut the doors. "Don't come in here!!!"

 "Kagome?!" Atsuko asked, worriedly. "What's going on?!!"

 Kagome turned around while holding the doors shut, realizing now what kind of danger that not only herself was in, but her family, as well.

 'I've got to stop that thing...but how?!'

 Soon, the tendrils leaped at Kagome, who screamed as she ducked out of the way.

 "Inuyasha!!" she called. "Quick!! In front of you!!!"

 "You mean here?!" Inuyasha asked as he swiped his claws at the hair, but two more tendrils wrapped around his left wrist and ankle. "Agh! Hey!!"

 "Open the door, right now!!" Sanosuke shouted as he pounded his fist against the door.

 "Kagome?!" Atsuko cried.

 "Mom, take Grandpa and Sota into the house!!" Kagome shouted. "It's too dangerous!!!"

 "Dammit!!" Inuyasha cursed as he ripped through the hair, but more just kept coming out of the well and wrapping themselves around his arms and legs.

 'There's just no end to them,' thought Kagome as she watched from the other side of the room. 'No matter how many he cuts down with his claws, more just keep coming out to take their place! ...Huh? What's that?'

 That's when she noticed a particular strand of hair, taut and glinting.

 "That's it!" she exclaimed. "That strand must be manipulating the rest of them! Inuyasha! This one, here! You have to cut this one!!"

 "Which one?!" Inuyasha asked as he blindly swiped his claws, again. "This one, here?!"

 'He can't see it!' Kagome thought. 'At this rate, we'll never...wait...I know!' She then grabbed the hair before she squeezed tightly, causing blood to drip from her palms.

 "There!" Inuyasha exclaimed before he swiped his claws at the hair, once more, and this time, he managed to sever it, causing the tendrils to flop to the ground and then burn away into nothingness.

 "The hair," Kagome said. "It's all gone."

 "Yeah," Inuyasha agreed.

 Kagome couldn't understand. If all Yura wanted was the Sacred Jewel shard she had, then why would she still be after her and Inuyasha? What was her motive?

 Whatever the case was, Kagome knew this much: it seemed she still had some business to attend to.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome called as she headed to the well. "Let's go back! Now!"

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Now you wanna go back?! You were just whining, saying you didn't want to!"

 "I know I said some things," said Kagome, "but I realize now that I have to go back, no matter how much I don't want to!"

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered in surprise.

 '...I can't stay here,' thought Kagome, 'otherwise...Mom, Grandpa, and Sota will all be in danger...and I can't live with that! I can't let them be dragged into trouble because of my stupid mistake!'

 Suddenly, Kagome felt something being draped over her head and shoulders, causing her to look down and see that it was Inuyasha's haori.

 "...Inuyasha?" asked Kagome as she turned to face the dog demon boy, who was wearing his hakama and a creamy white undershirt. "What are you doing?"

 "...It's...woven from the fur of the fire rat," said Inuyasha. "It's tougher than your standard suit of armor...you'll have some protection, at least."

 "...Uh...thank you," said Kagome.

 "Whatever," Inuyasha shrugged. "You're gonna need it, seeing as how you're so weak."

 "Gee, that makes me feel SO much better," Kagome replied, sarcastically.

 "Anyway, come on," Inuyasha said as he jumped onto the well. "Let's get a move on!"

 "Right!" Kagome nodded before she climbed up beside him. "1...2...3!"

 Soon, the two jumped down into the well...with a flash of light indicating that they had gone back to the past.

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, somewhere inside a giant chamber of hair, Yura sat upon a pile of skulls...and some of them still had hair left. She looked at them with this disturbing fondness for them as she held one to her face.

 "I wonder if they're coming yet," she said. "We'll have to show them a grand old time...now won't we?"

Chapter Text

 Yura chuckled as she combed through the hairs of the skulls with a red comb. She even kissed the skullcap before she pulled it away, sitting amongst the huge pile. If one didn't know better...they almost seemed to turn and look at her.

 "Now then, my dears," Yura started, "time for you to come to life, once again."

 With that, she raked the comb over the skull's hair...which caused it to grow...and grow...and grow.

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, in Inuyasha's Forest, Kagome and Inuyasha were just beginning to emerge from the Bone Eater's Well.

 "You idiot," said Inuyasha. "Why the hell would Yura be after us?"

 "I don't really know for sure," Kagome replied, "but I know that even though she has the shard of the Shikon Jewel, she won't stop until she kills us both, and maybe even my family!"

 "...Wait a minute," said Inuyasha. "Did you say she has the jewel shard?! How did she get it?!!"

 "Uh...well, you see-" Kagome started.

 "You moron!!" Inuyasha snapped. "You let her take it?!"

 "Cut me some slack!!" Kagome spat. "She ambushed me and-" She then gasped as she saw a huge tendril of hair. "Incoming! From above!!"

 "Duck!!" Inuyasha shouted as he and Kagome ducked out of the way of the tendril, but they were still surrounded by Yura's net of hair, and Inuyasha was running right towards it!

 "Be careful!" Kagome cried. "They're all around us!"

 "Where?!" Inuyasha asked.

 "Dodge to the left!" Kagome shouted as she held onto the half-demon's shoulders as he leaped all around on all fours. "No! Your other left! Whoa! Now to the right- AAH!! Watch it, you almost got my shoulder!! Now jump!! Jump, again!! Duck!!!"

 Inuyasha grunted in annoyance as he tried to dodge the hairs according to Kagome's directions.

 "Dammit, this isn't working!" he cursed. "We need to trace the hair to its source!! That's the only to get outta this mess!!!"

 "Look out!!" Kagome shouted as she glanced back to see another tendril of hair. "Behind us!! Go left!!!"

 Inuyasha grunted in exertion as he jumped to the left, avoiding the tendril, again, while also avoiding the web of hair.

 "You see anything?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Yeah," Kagome nodded. "Out of all the hair, there are a few that are glinting...I think those are the ones Yura uses to control the rest of the hair. If we follow them..."

 "Then Yura will be waiting for us at the end," Inuyasha concluded as he kept sprinting. "Perfect...we'll ambush her, right in her own lair, and then lop her head off!"

 "Be careful, Inuyasha," Kagome said. "I have a feeling that Yura's not gonna be like that Carrion Crow or Mistress Centipede."

 "You worry too much," said Inuyasha. "Just leave it to me."

 As the duo continued their trek through the forest, Kagome noticed a glow up ahead, followed by the sound of crackling embers.

 "A bonfire?" Kagome asked as she and Inuyasha drew closer to it and saw that it was indeed a bonfire...surrounded by headless corpses of men in samurai armor, as well as strands of bloody hair. "W...what happened?!"

 "Hmm...looks like a group of rogue samurai," said Inuyasha. "They must have stumbled into the web."

 'All of this must have happened while I was away,' thought Kagome. 'Who else could've been in danger? The villagers? ...Kaede, maybe?!'

 "Unlucky bunch of bastards," Inuyasha mused as he took a closer look at the corpses. "Huh...where are their heads?" That's when he noticed Kagome kneeling on the ground. "Oh, what now? Don't tell me you're scared and that you wanna go home..."

 "...No," Kagome replied as she stood up, holding a bow and a quiver of arrows. "I just thought I'd arm myself...that's all."

 Inuyasha's eyes went wide in surprise at the girl.

 "Well?" Kagome asked. "What are we waiting for? Let's go."

 "Uh...yeah," Inuyasha nodded as he let Kagome climb up onto his shoulders, once more. "But are you sure it's a good idea? You haven't had any practice."

 "Well, what better time than now?" asked Kagome.

 'Hmph...' Inuyasha thought. 'For a woman, she's pretty ballsy...maybe she's not so gutless, after all...'

 "Watch out!!" Kagome cried as several more tendrils came slithering towards them. "On your left!! No, wait!! To the right!!!"

 "Make up your mind!!" Inuyasha yelled as he tried to dodge the tendrils. "Jeez, you really are useless- WHOA!!!" All of a sudden, one of the tendrils wrapped around his right wrist and hoisted him up into the air, causing him to drop Kagome.

 "Oh, no!" Kagome cried. "Inuyasha!!"

 "Ugh! Let go of me!!" Inuyasha shouted as the hairs wrapped around both his wrists and his ankles.

 "Hang on, Inuyasha!" Kagome shouted as she stood up. "I'll get you...huh?" That's when she noticed a giant ball of hair, suspended over the valley.

 'A...a giant hairball? ...No...more like a nest...is this Yura's lair?!'

 "Well, well, well..."

 Speak of the devil, Yura soon appeared, standing on one of the hairs like it was a balance beam.

 "What a cute little doggie I caught," said Yura, causing Inuyasha to snarl at her. "Let me guess...you're the half-demon known as Inuyasha, aren't you?"

 "And you must be Yura of the Hair," Inuyasha smirked. "How do you know who I am?"

 "You have quite the reputation among us demons," said Yura. "I hear talk that Inuyasha the half-demon has gone from being the terror of the forest to being some reincarnated shrine maiden's pet, forced to collect the scattered shards of the Sacred Jewel."

 "Pet?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Now listen here, bitch! I ain't no one's pet!! Especially not to that half-wit mortal!!"

 "I'm RIGHT here, y'know!!" Kagome shouted.

 "No matter," said Yura. "You're both in my way, anyway." She then reached inside her bosom and took out the pouch that held the Sacred Jewel shard that Kagome had. "So, I just thought that once I've killed you two, I'll go and gather the rest of the fragments at my leisure."

 "The jewel shard she stole from me...!" Kagome whispered while Inuyasha smirked.

 "You kill me, huh?" he asked. "Oh, that's rich! By the time I'm done with you, you're gonna wish you never met me...let alone know my NAME!!!"

 On that, he tore off the tendrils that were wrapped around his left wrist and his ankles before he swung toward her like he was on a vine.

 "Iron Reaver SOUL STEALER!!!"

 SWASH!!! Inuyasha swiped his claws at Yura, who leaped into the air to avoid his strike, then she pulled out her red comb, raked it through some more hair, then used it to form more tendrils which she threw at Inuyasha, who was wrapped up in it, once again. Even his torso was tangled up, now.

 "Dammit!!" Inuyasha cursed. "That all you got?! Huh?!! You really think that hair can kill me?!!"

 "At first, I thought it would," said Yura as she drew her katana, "but I realized that I'd need to resort to this."

 SLASH!!! Yura swung her sword at Inuyasha, who coughed as a large gash appeared on his chest.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried as blood spilled from his wound.

 "...Heh...!" Inuyasha smirked, forcefully, trying to ignore the pain. "Nice blade you got there."

 "Oh, good," said Yura as she licked the blood off her sword. "It looks like I can kill you, then." She then held up the katana to the moon's light, causing it to gleam. "This is my special sword, Benigasumi...my pride and joy. It can sever flesh and bone without harming the hair. In other worse, I can slice you both up while you're still tangled!"

 But then, she heard something whistling through the air, causing her to turn to see a couple of arrows being shot at her. Yura only scoffed before she used her hair to tangle the arrows...but to her surprise, the hair started to disintegrate!

 "Huh?" she muttered.

 "What the-?" Inuyasha muttered before he turned to see Kagome trying to aim her arrows at Yura. "What are you doing?! Now she's seen you!!"

 "The girl who fell down the well..." Yura realized.

 "Put Inuyasha down, right now!" Kagome demanded as she prepared to loose another arrow. "If you don't, the next one's going right through you!!"

 "Sounds like your master wants her puppy back," Yura said.

 "Shaddup!!" Inuyasha barked. "She ain't my master, dammit!!!"

 "Well, her hair may not be as pretty as your hair, Inuyasha," Yura said as she held her sword, "but...I suppose I could take hers, as well."

 "Not as pretty as his, huh?!" Kagome questioned. "What do you know about it?! You live in a time where shampoo wasn't invented, yet!!" She soon fired another arrow...which accidentally went toward Inuyasha, instead. "Uh...oops."

 "YIKES!!!" Inuyasha screamed as he moved his legs out of the way. "WILL YOU WATCH WHERE YOU'RE AIMING THAT THING, PLEASE!!!"

 "WELL, EXCUSE ME FOR TRYING TO HELP!!!" Kagome spat.

 "WELL, DON'T HELP!!!" Inuyasha yelled, but what he didn't realize was that the arrow ended up hitting Yura's nest, and not long after, there was a bright flash of light. Then, the ball ended up coming loose, causing the skulls that Yura had collected to fall out. There were even the severed heads of the rogue samurai caught up in it!

 "Oh, no!" Yura cried. "My babies!!"

 "Ew, gross!" Kagome exclaimed in disgust before she gagged. "Oh...I think I'm gonna be sick...!"

 "Even the samurai's heads are in there..." Inuyasha noticed.

 "You know them?" asked Yura as she leaned in to meet Inuyasha's face. "Good...because you'll be joining them, soon enough."

 "Oh, yeah?" asked Inuyasha while Yura took a lock of his hair into her fingers.

 "Such pretty hair you have," she said. "It's rather unkempt, though. Don't worry. Once I cut off your head, I'll make sure it's taken care of, properly."

 Inuyasha growled at her, baring his fangs.

 "But first," Yura started as she held up her comb, "I have something to care of." That's when her gaze fell on Kagome, who gasped in horror, while the hair-obsessed woman smirked. "You'll die first, girl."

 Then, she struck some strands of hair with her comb, causing the friction to ignite the hairs into flames...and they were heading right for Kagome!

 "GET DOWN!!!" Inuyasha yelled, but Kagome soon enshrouded in the flames, letting out a shriek of terror as she vanished within them.

 "There," said Yura with a wicked giggle. "Those flames will burn you right down to the bones."

 "INUYASHA!!" Kagome's voice cried from the fire. "HELP ME!!!"

 "No...!" Inuyasha whispered in horror. "No!! KAGOME~!!!"

Chapter Text

 Inuyasha gaped in horror upon seeing the flames that had engulfed Kagome. They roared and flicker as they burned away at anything in their path...and Yura just gave a wicked smile. Then, Inuyasha growled...a deep, almost feral growl as he glared at the hair-obsessed madwoman.

 "You bitch!" he cursed.

 "Aww, what's wrong?" Yura asked. "Does the puppy miss his master? Don't worry...I'll make sure you join her, soon enough!" With that, she grabbed a few strands of hair and swung towards Inuyasha, who reached his fingers into his own wound, then pulled them back out, his joints popping and his claws dripping with his blood.

 "Have a taste of my BLADES OF BLOOD!!" he shouted as he swiped his claws at Yura, who gasped as several glowing red blades came flying at her. Before she could jump out of the way, the blades ended up cutting off her right wrist, which caused Inuyasha's left arm to get loose.

 "That's it!" he exclaimed.

 "My hand..." Yura whispered as she looked at the bloody stump while her hand and Benigasumi were tangled in the hairs.

 "Ha!" Inuyasha laughed as he tore off the other tendrils with his free hand. "Can't really control the hairs without your hand, now can ya?!"

 "How rowdy," said Yura. "Your mother clearly did not teach you how to treat a lady." She then put her comb betwixt her lips and pulled on the hairs with her other hand, causing the skulls from her nest to come flying toward Inuyasha, who gasped as he tried to brace himself against it. The skulls almost seemed to laugh at him, their jawbones clattering as they were thrown at him, but he growled as he smashed them with his fists.

 "Don't waste my time with these stupid skulls!!" he shouted when all of a sudden, something whizzed by him and created another gash on his chest, causing him to scream in pain. "DAMMIT!!!"

 Yura chuckled as her severed hand swung to her side.

 "I almost had it, too," she said. "Another inch closer, and I would have lopped your head, and that pretty hair of yours. Now...let's try again!" She swung Benigasumi at Inuyasha, who growled as he reached inside his wound, again.

 "BLADES OF BLOOD!!!"

 Before the blades could connect with Yura, however, she swung her comb down, causing the skulls to shield her.

 "What the-GUH!!" Inuyasha started, only to cough up blood as Yura's sword stabbed through his back and out his chest before he was dropped on the ground. "Ugggh...blegh...! D...damn...you!"

 "Hmm..." Yura hummed as her hand reattached itself to her wrist. "So it seems that half-demons do have half the strength of regular demons...a pity."

 Inuyasha groaned as he glared up at Yura, who pulled out the pouch from her bosom.

 "I wager you were going to use the Sacred Jewel to make yourself a fully-fledged demon," Yura said as she leaned in closer. "Now, hold still. I don't wanna get any blood on that pretty silver hair of yours."

 "SCREW YOU!!!" Inuyasha yelled as he lunged for Yura, just as she swung her sword...with his hand piercing right through her chest.

 "Huh?!" Yura gasped while Inuyasha smirked and pulled his fist back out.

 "Got you, you stupid- AGH!!" he started to gloat, but then Yura stabbed Benigasumi into his right hand, causing him to scream again.

 "Goodness, you're a rude one!" Yura said...a gaping hole in between her cleavage. "Reaching your hand into the bosom of a woman you just met? You're quite the pervert, aren't you?"

 'How is she still alive?!' thought Inuyasha in disbelief. 'I could've sworn I pierced her heart!'

 Yura then flexed her index finger back, causing the pouch to fly back into her hand.

 "You even tried to take my jewel shard," she said. "You're more stubborn than I thought."

 Inuyasha only glared at Yura...but at the same time, he was growing more and more agitated.

 Kagome was right: Yura was not like all those demons he faced. She seemed impervious to pain and even if he cut her apart, she would just reattach her limbs with her hair. How was he supposed to fight someone who seemed to have no weaknesses?

 "Now then..." Yura grinned as she raised her hand...but then, the hairs on her fingers trembled, causing her to gasp silently before she glanced back and gasped in disbelief. "What?!"

 Inuyasha gasped, as well, for there, climbing up the nest of hair...was Kagome, completely intact!

 'She...she's alive!' thought Inuyasha.

 "Rrgh...!" Kagome grunted as she climbed up onto the hair, trying to ignore her disgust whenever she accidentally grabbed onto a skull.

 "Get down from there!" Yura shouted...actually sounding a bit angry as she pulled at the strands, causing the nest to come tumbling down while Kagome shrieked, hanging on for all she was worth. While Yura was distracted, Inuyasha grunted as he pulled out Benigasumi out of his hand.

 "Have a taste of your own medicine!!" he shouted as he cut her down her back. She did stumble for a moment, but then she turned and growled at him before she swung her hair strands at the half-demon, pinning him against the cliff.

 "Silence, dog!!" she shouted as her hairs pierced his wounds...and yet, despite that, Inuyasha forced a cocky grin.

 "If I didn't know better," he started, "I'd say you seem a little nervous, there, Yura. What's the matter? Something you're hiding that you don't want us to find?!"

 Yura only sneered at Inuyasha...a nervous sweat beading down her face.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome called as she pointed up at a particular skull: one that was crimson red. "This skull, here! It's red! I think she's been trying to protect this one!!"

 "Red?" Inuyasha asked. "It looks like a regular skull to me!"

 "Damn you...!" Yura cursed as she leaped after Kagome.

 "Hey! Come back here!!" Inuyasha yelled as he scrambled to his feet. However, Yura used her comb to swing the hairs around Kagome, entangling both her and Inuyasha, once again. Despite this, Kagome refused to let go and grabbed onto the red skull, even if it did send shivers down her spine.

 "Gross, gross, gross...!" she whimpered.

 "If it scares you that badly," said Yura, "then why don't you let go?" She then swung her katana at Kagome, who shrieked as she braced herself for the cut...but it never came. As she opened her eyes, she gasped upon seeing that the blade was only touching her arm.

 "W...what the...?" she asked.

 "Damn you!" Yura cursed as she used her hair tendrils to lift Kagome off the ground. "What kind of mortal are you?! Why haven't you been maimed?!!"

 'She's right,' thought Kagome. 'Why wasn't my arm cut off? And why wasn't I burned, earlier?!'

 That's when she glanced down at Inuyasha's Fire Rat haori and gasped silently.

 'Of course,' she thought. 'Inuyasha said that this robe is stronger than any standard suit of armor.'

 Somewhere in the tendrils of hair, Inuyasha grunted as he cut his way through with his claws.

 'Talk about being a half-wit!' he thought. 'Because I panicked so badly, I forgot! The Robe of the Fire Rat is fireproof! What is this woman doing to me?!'

 Yura, balancing herself on the hair strands, leaned in closer to get a good look at Kagome's face, only to scoff in indignation.

 "You look any other human to me," she said. "How about we test you out?" She then swung her hands, wrapping a strand of hair around Kagome's throat. "Just one little flick of the finger..."

 Kagome gasped before she closed her eyes, bracing for the worst...but then...

 "BLADES OF BLOOD!!!"

 SLA-SLA-SLA-SLASH!!! Red blades rained down Yuro, this time cutting off both her arms and freeing Kagome from the hair. The girl took in a gasp of hair and coughed before she looked up and saw Inuyasha, who was holding his wounds.

 "Dammit, Kagome!" Inuyasha cursed. "If you pass out, here and now, you're on your own!!"

 "I...Inuyasha...?" Kagome whispered.

 'Did he just...say my name?' she thought as the half-demon reached down to grab her.

 "That should buy us some time," said Inuyasha. "She won't be able to attack much with both her arms severed!"

 "Look out!!" Kagome cried as she pointed behind Inuyasha, who turned around, only to cry out in shock as Yura's sword stabbed right through his stomach. He gagged and coughed up blood before he stumbled and fell down onto the skulls while Yura cackled.

 "Stupid half-breed," she said. "Wasting my time."

 "What...what the hell...are you?" Inuyasha asked as he began to sway from side-to-side, woozily.

 'Not good,' he thought as his vision began to blur. 'I'm almost at my limit...I've lost...too much blood...!'

 "You really thought you could defeat me," said Yura. "Well...let me enlighten you." She then swung Benigasumi at him, one last time. "I'm immortal!!"

 Inuyasha gasped before he braced himself, preparing for the blade to stab right through his heart...but then, the sword froze in midair while Yura gasped in horror as she spotted Kagome, trying to stab the red skull from earlier with one of her arrows.

 "K...Kagome...?" Inuyasha asked. "W...what are you doing?"

 "This skull, here!" Kagome said as she kept stabbing the skull with the arrowhead. "This is her real weak spot! The hairs coming from inside are tied to Yura's fingers!"

 "STOP THAT!!" Yura yelled, furiously. "I'LL KILL YOU, GIRL!!!"

 She swung her sword at Kagome, who gasped in horror before she made one last stab with the arrow, which cracked through the skull, which split open to reveal a red comb.

 "A...a comb?!" Inuyasha asked while Yura froze. Her body trembled for a moment...then it evaporated into nothing but dust, leaving only her leotard and her katana behind.

 "...So that's why Yura was still able to move," said Inuyasha as he stumbled over to Kagome. "She must have put her soul in that comb."

 "Inuyasha! You're hurt!" Kagome exclaimed as she ran over to his side, holding his haori. "I'm so sorry...because I was using your robe-"

 "Never mind me," Inuyasha interjected as he held his shoulder. "Where's the jewel shard?"

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered before she looked around and spotted the pouch she held the shard in. "Oh! There it is!" She then picked it up and took the shard out.

 "Finally," Inuyasha said. "It's over..."

 "...No," Kagome said. "It's just beginning."

 "What?" Inuyasha asked.

 "As long as the shards are out there," Kagome began, "then all kinds of enemies will continue to come after us. We have to gather them...all of them...and keep the jewel out of the wrong hands."

 'I wonder how long it'll take until we gather all of them?'

 "Looks like you're finally seeing sense, then, huh?" Inuyasha asked before he forced himself to stand. "Well...come on, Kagome. Let's go."

 "...Yeah," Kagome replied as she went over to his side. "...Say, Inuyasha."

 "What?" Inuyasha asked.

 "I just realized," Kagome began, "you started saying my name."

 "Yeah, so what?" Inuyasha inquired.

 "Well...I guess that means you're starting to like me a little more, huh?" Kagome asked with a small, hopeful smile.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Don't get used to it. I still think you're pretty weak."

 "Well, excuse me for trying to save you!" Kagome argued as she lightly smacked his arm, causing him to grunt in pain since she accidentally hit his wound. "Oops! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to hit you there!"

 "Ugh...whatever," Inuyasha replied as he began to stumble away, but then Kagome went up, grabbed his arm, draped it around her shoulders, and held her right arm against his right side. "H-hey! What are you-"

 "I know what you're gonna say," Kagome began, "but for now, you can lean on me. At least let me do that for you, okay?"

 "...Fine," Inuyasha said as the duo began to walk back to the village.

 "Hey, Inuyasha?"

 "Yeah, what is it, now?"

 "What happened to Kaede?"

 "...OH, CRAP!!!"

XXX


 Kaede lied in her hiding spot with an irritated look on her face.

 "...I should've known he'd forget about me," she muttered...then let out a sneeze, scattering the leaves around her face.

Chapter Text

 The night air was eerily quiet except for the sound of the howling wind. All around the village, the people were all sound asleep in their beds, not having to worry about demons or being possessed by hairs as sharp as iron. Yes, it seemed that for now, life had relatively returned to normal...but of course, in the Feudal Era, peace does not always last long.

 Inside a chicken coop, several hens were sitting in their nests, sleeping soundly and making little cooing sounds...but as they slept, something crept through the long grass as quietly as a mouse. It momentarily stopped as it glanced around, first to the left, then to the right, and even glancing up at any trees or the rooftops. Then, once it made sure it had not been spotted, its gaze fell on the chicken coop...before it lunged.

XXX


 Kagome grunted as she pulled herself out from over the well, hefting her yellow backpack over her shoulder. It was the morning after she and Inuyasha had defeated the dreaded Yura of the Hair...as well as unburying Kaede (who unceremoniously hit Inuyasha in the face with her sandal), and after Kagome rested back at home for the night, she had come back this morning to take care of something. Once she was out of the well, she panted as she dropped her backpack on the ground.

 "Phew!" she sighed before she opened it up, revealing several items such as textbooks, some notebooks, a volume of her favorite manga, a bag of potato chips (barbecue flavored), and most importantly, a first aid kit.

 "I knew I should have packed lighter," the girl whispered to herself before she put the backpack back on her shoulders. As she made her way out of the forest and over the hilltop, Kaede's Village soon came into sight. As soon as she appeared, the villagers waved to her upon noticing her, prompting Kagome to wave back while smiling warmly.

 "Look! It's Miss Kagome!"

 Soon, Kagome was surrounded by the children that she had played with on the day after she had first arrived in this era.

 "Hi, kids!" Kagome greeted.

 "Are you back to play with us, again?" asked Kokichi, the little boy whom Kagome had saved from the Carrion Crow.

 "Oh, kids, I'd love to play with you all," said Kagome, "but I can't, right now. Have any one of you seen Inuyasha?"

 "Yeah, he's in that tree up there!" answered Mori, a little girl wearing an auburn kimono with a leafy pattern as she pointed at a nearby tree, and sure enough, there was Inuyasha, lying in a tree branch with his arms dangling off the sides.

 "Thanks, kids," said Kagome as she went over to the tree and looked up. "Yoo-hoo! Inuyasha!"

 Inuyasha lazily opened one eye and glanced down at her.

 "...Oh...it's you," he said. "What do you want?"

 "Can you come down from there, please?" asked Kagome. "I need to do some first aid treatment on you."

 "First aid treatment?" Inuyasha repeated. "Keh! I don't need it. Go away!"

 "You do, too!" Kagome countered. "I was there, remember?! You were covered in cuts and stabbed through the gut! Now get down from there!"

 "Nothin' doin'!" Inuyasha replied, causing Kagome to sneer.

 "I said come here!" she demanded, again.

 "Tch!" Inuyasha sucked his teeth.

 "...Sit, boy!" she shouted, causing the half-demon to come crashing to the ground.

 "What'd you do that for?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "I'll just have a quick look, okay?" Kagome asked as she sat on her knees, holding the first aid kit. "When you're wounded that badly, you gotta have medical treatment, you know?!"

 "I said go away!!" Inuyasha barked. "You make it sound like I lost!!"

 "Stop being so stubborn!" Kagome shouted as she grabbed him by his robe. "Now take off your clothes!"

 "N-no!" Inuyasha shouted as he tried to push her off. "Stop it! Let go of me!!"

 Unbeknownst to the two, the village children stood nearby, watching them with curious eyes, just as Kaede appeared, wearing bandages around her forehead and her left arm in a sling while using a longbow as a crutch.

 "Hello, children," said Kaede. "What are ye all looking at-" She then gasped as she saw a rather ghastly sight: Kagome was sitting on top of Inuyasha, trying to get him to disrobe.

 "Stop struggling and undress, already!!" she shouted.

 "I said no!!" Inuyasha yelled.

 "Avert ye eyes!!" Kaede demanded as she tried to shield the children.

 "Hey, what are they doing?!" asked Kokichi.

 "I can't see!" exclaimed a little girl.

 "Huh?" Inuyasha and Kagome muttered as they both looked up to see Kaede approach after she shooed the children away.

 "Mayhaps ye like each other more than I first thought," said the old priestess, causing both Inuyasha and Kagome to look up at each other before they gasped.

 "Get off!" the former yelled as he pushed Kagome off of himself.

 "Hey, watch it!" Kagome shouted.

 "You humans and your stupid concerns," Inuyasha said. "I would've thought you'd have figured out by now that my body's different!" He then pulled off his robe, revealing that his wounds had completely disappeared.

 "Huh?!" Kagome questioned. "They're gone!"

 "For so great a wound to have healed so quickly and leave no scar..." Kaede mused.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he put his robe back on. "Just because it would've killed a normal human, don't make it a big deal for someone like me!"

 'He's not completely human,' Kagome thought, 'and yet, he's not a full demon, either...can someone really be half?'

 "There you are!!"

 Suddenly, the trio turned to see an old man hobbling up to them, wearing a dark red haori and a dark green hakama. His hair was gray with age and tied back in a ponytail and his back was hunched over. The only thing giving him support was an old gnarled wooden cane.

 "I thought I might find you out here, Inuyasha!" shouted the old man.

 "Shinichi?" asked Kaede.

 "What do you want, old man?" asked Inuyasha in irritation.

 "Lady Kaede!" said Shinichi. "Come here! It's an outrage, I tell you!!" He then turned to Kagome. "You, as well, young Kagome! I need witnesses..."

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered. "What's wrong?"

XXX


 The villagers had all gathered at the elderly man's house, muttering amongst themselves as they stared at the scene before their eyes: the chicken coop, torn open...and dead bodies of chickens littering the ground, lying in pools of dried blood and scattered feathers. Some of them were even missing their heads, wings, and other limbs. Not even the eggs were spared, for there were broken shells and dried yolks everywhere.

 "You see?!" asked Shinichi.

 "Oh, my gosh!" Kagome cried. "Those poor chickens!"

 "Something must have come creeping into the night and devoured them," said Kaede.

 "Not something, Lady Kaede," said Shinichi. "Someone!" He then glared up at Inuyasha, who glared right back.

 "What are you looking at me for?!" Inuyasha questioned. "I didn't do it!!"

 "Bah!" Shinichi scoffed. "Do you take me for a fool, half-demon?! You were wounded in the battle against Yura of the Hair, so you decided to slaughter my chickens as nourishment!!"

 "I don't eat chickens!" Inuyasha barked. "At least not raw, anyway!!"

 "I know it was you!" shouted Shinichi. "Who else could it have been?!"

 "Where's your proof, then?!" Inuyasha asked.

 "Proof?!" Shinichi repeated. "You're nothing but a lowly half-demon! That's all the proof I need!!"

 Inuyasha tensed up at this while Shinichi turned to face his fellow villagers.

 "This is how it starts!" the old man preached. "He lulls us all into a false sense of security, making us believe that no harm will come to us, but like any dog, he hungers for meat!! First, he'll slaughter and eat our livestock, and when that runs out, who do you think he'll eat, next?! He might even snatch our children in the middle of the night and devour them!!!"

 The crowd gasped, and some of the children from earlier even hid behind their parents, murmuring in fright.

 "And don't forget," said Shinichi as he pointed an accusing finger at Inuyasha, "he's after the Sacred Jewel, just as he was 50 years before Lady Kikyo sealed him to the Sacred Tree! He's no different from any other demon!"

 Inuyasha growled in his throat, his ears laying flat against his head and his fists tightening until his knuckles turned white.

 "How dare you!!"

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered before he glanced over at Kagome, who glared at Shinichi with a stern look in her eyes. The old man stared at her, clearly taken back by her outburst. Even the other villagers seemed shocked as they all gaped at her.

 "Where do you get off, accusing Inuyasha like that?!" Kagome questioned. "You have no right to blame him for anything, especially when you don't have evidence!!"

 "Kagome...!" Kaede whispered in surprise.

 "It could have been another demon," Kagome began, "or a wild fox or something! What gives you the right to accuse Inuyasha of anything?!"

 "No disrespect to you, young Kagome," said Shinichi, "but I believe you are far too trusting and naive. Inuyasha was once known as the terror of the forest, sending even grown men running for their lives with a single glare of his eyes! He even attacked the village, long ago! If you're not careful, he might even turn on you!!"

 "But that was then and this is now!" Kagome shouted. "He's probably changed!"

 "Not likely," Inuyasha answered, causing Kagome to gasp as she turned to face him.

 "Inuyasha..." she muttered.

 "Just let it go, Kagome," Inuyasha said as he turned and walked away. "There's no point in changing his mind...it's not like I care what people think about me, anyway."

 "That's right, half-demon!" Shinichi shouted. "Just walk away!!"

 "You're a terrible old man!" Kagome spat as she glared at him, then turned and followed after Inuyasha. "Inuyasha! Wait up for me!"

 As she left, Kaede stared after the two of them, intently.

 'To be able to have sympathy for even a half-demon...naive, she might be...but if that is what kindness truly is, I'd rather her stay that way...'

XXX


 Inuyasha walked along through the open field, his eyes downcast as the fallen leaves and blades of grass crunched beneath his bare feet. He sighed quietly as he looked ahead, his golden eyes growing slightly dim as he could feel his chest tighten a bit. Words echoed about in his head as he walked along...words that seemed to make his heart clench, tighter.

 "What's with the weirdo?"

 "Are those...dog ears? Go pull on them and see if they break off or something!"

 "What are you looking at, you dog-eared freak?!"

 "Disgusting half-demon..."


 "Inuyasha?"

 Inuyasha stopped in his tracks before he turned to see Kagome, who stared at him in concern, which caused him to glare at her before he turned away.

 "If you're gonna give me pity," he started, "stop right there, because I don't need it."

 "I'm not pitying you," Kagome said. "I just...well..."

 "...Look," Inuyasha said. "I already told you that I don't care what people say about me. It's not the first time I've heard that kind of crap."

 "Still," Kagome began, "it's not right, what he said. You didn't really slaughter those chickens, right?"

 "Of course, I didn't," Inuyasha said, "but what can I do? People are gonna believe what they want...and I can't change that."

 "...I see," said Kagome as she looked down to the ground.

 "...Why?" Inuyasha asked, suddenly.

 "What?" Kagome asked.

 "Why'd you do that, back there?" Inuyasha asked as he looked back at her. "Stand up for me. Nobody's ever done that for me, before...except for..." He then shook his head. "No...forget about it."

 "Look, Inuyasha," Kagome began, "you might still be indifferent about me, but I couldn't just stand there and let that man talk about my friend, that way!"

 Inuyasha's eyes went wide and his ears perked up before he whirled around to face Kagome, completely.

 "You...you consider me a...friend?" he asked. "But...why?"

 "Why not?" Kagome asked. "Sure, you can be a bit stubborn and rough around the edges, but you're an okay guy, once in a while."

 'She's willing to be friends with me?' thought Inuyasha. 'Even after everything I put her through?'

 "Kagome, you.." Inuyasha started, only to stop and sniff the air before he turned around, glaring intently at the forest.

 "What is it?" Kagome asked. "Something wrong?"

 "...I thought I smelled...no, never mind," Inuyasha said...but then his stomach started to rumble, causing him to tense up and blush a little. "Ah...maybe I should go do some hunting."

 "Wait!" Kagome said as she pulled out the potato chips from her backpack. "Here. How about we share these?"

 Inuyasha sniffed the bag, curiously.

 "It smells like...potatoes," he said. Perhaps it was this that he caught the scent of.

 "They're barbecue-flavored potato chips," said Kagome as she opened the bag. "I figured you might like them, so I brought them from my era. Here, try some."

 Inuyasha blinked before he reached into the bag and pulled out a chip, sniffed it, shrugged his shoulders, and then bit it into it. Almost instantly, he hummed in approval before he reached into the bag to get more of them while Kagome laughed.

 "Good, huh?" she asked. "Do you like them?"

 "Mm-hmm!" Inuyasha nodded as he ate a handful of chips.

 "Help yourself," said Kagome, handing him the whole bag. "I gotta go practice my archery with Kaede, anyway." With that, she left Inuyasha to devour the chips in peace.

 'She offers me food and doesn't complain,' he thought. 'She stood up for me, even though she didn't have to...she even went as far as to call me her friend...'

 He then looked up and watched Kagome's back as she walked back to the village.

 '...Maybe...she's not so bad, after all...'

 As Inuyasha continued his snack, he seemed blissfully unaware that a pair of eyes were watching him through the tall grass. Then it turned and slinked off...heading in the direction in which Kagome had left.

Chapter Text

 "Steady, Kagome. Concentrate."

 "Right...I think I got it...!"

 TWANG!! An arrow was shot through the air before falling a few feet in front of a scarecrow, causing Kagome to sigh in frustration while Kaede stood at her side and several of the village children watched from a distance.

 "Darn it!" she said. "I'm never gonna get this!"

 "Don't get discouraged," said Kaede. "Even Kikyo did not master her archery skills so readily."

 "Well, that's encouraging to know," said Kagome. "Still, I wanna at least get the hang of it. If I'm gonna be fighting alongside Inuyasha while hunting the jewel shards, I have to be able at least hit a target and not hit Inuyasha's head!"

 Kaede chuckled at that while the kids giggled from behind Kagome.

 "I understand," she said as Kagome reached into her quiver and readied another arrow. "Try straightening your arms, just a bit, and keep your back stiff."

 "Okay," Kagome nodded as she did as she was told.

 "Try to keep your legs spread apart a bit more, as well," Kaede nodded.

 "Right," Kagome replied as she spread her feet a bit.

 "All right," Kaede said as she looked to the scarecrow. "Try it, now."

 Kagome grunted as she pulled on the bowstring, then fired the arrow, which struck the scarecrow right in its head.

 "Oh!" she exclaimed, excitedly. "Look! I did it!!"

 "Well done, child!" Kaede praised while the children cheered.

 "You did it, Miss Kagome!" said Kokichi.

 "Way to go!!" shouted a young girl of at least 9 years.

 "Do it again! Do it again!" a younger girl piped up.

 Kagome, feeling her confidence rise, smiled before she pulled out another arrow from her quiver and readied her bow, again.

 "...Tell me, Kagome," said Kaede. "What made ye decide to speak up for Inuyasha as ye did?"

 "What, that?" Kagome asked. "I only did it because Inuyasha didn't kill any chickens. After all, he and I were busy fighting Yura, and he was so injured, all he wanted to do was sleep. Unless he was sleepwalking or something, that's a different story." She then fired another arrow into the scarecrow. "And besides, Inuyasha's my friend. I couldn't let that old man talk about him, that way!"

 "Is that so?" asked Kaede.

 "It's just like you told me," said Kagome. "He might be kind of gruff, but he really does have a good heart, deep down. I mean, he started calling me by my name instead of calling 'stupid' or 'wench'."

 Kaede chuckled at this.

 "It seems he really has grown quite fond of ye," she mused.

 "...Yeah," Kagome replied with a soft smile. "He has, huh?"

 As she prepared to fire another arrow, she suddenly gasped as she glanced back, behind the children, who all blinked in confusion.

 "Something troubles ye, child?" asked Kaede.

 "Something's up," said Kagome. "I...I think I sense a shard of the Sacred Jewel!"

 "What?" Kaede asked in surprise. "From where?"

 "It's coming up behind the kids," Kagome replied, "and whatever it is, it's coming in fast!"

 Just as she said, something sped through the tall grass, darting straight towards the children. Kagome gasped in horror before she ran toward the kids, who, at first, seemed unaware of the impending danger, but then, they all glanced back and saw a shadowy figure darting towards them...and whatever it was, it was quite large!

 "W-what is that?!" one of the kids questioned.

 "Get down!!" Kagome shouted as she aimed her arrow and shot at the creature, but instead of the arrow hitting its mark, the shadow darted off to the right. Gasping in surprise but not deterred, she quickly fired another arrow at the creature, but again, it dodged. The children all whined, worriedly, as the creature drew closer, and Kagome tried to fire another arrow at it, but once again, that proved to be futile as the creature ended up dodging it, again!

 "What's going on?!" asked a young boy with brown hair. "You keep missing it!"

 "It's too fast!" Kagome cried, just as the creature began to draw closer. "Kaede, get the kids out of here!!"

 "But what about you?!" asked Kaede.

 "Yeah, we can't leave you here, Miss Kagome!!" cried Kokichi.

 "I'm not asking!!" Kagome shouted. "Now, go!!"

 "Make haste, young ones!" Kaede urged as she attempted to herd the children back to the safety of the village, but alas, due to the injuries she suffered from the encounter with Yura, yesterday, she could not get them away fast enough. If anything, the children ended up helping her more than she was trying to help them.

 "Come on, Lady Kaede!!" cried one of the children. "Hurry!!"

 "I am trying my best, child," Kaede replied, "but I am not as young as I once I was!"

 Kagome grunted as she tried to shoot the creature, once more, but this time, it ended up jumping over the arrow she shot before it lunged for her. The girl shrieked before she shielded herself with her arms, but then she felt the sensation of being lifted right off her feet and carried off, away from the creature's reach. Kagome gasped before she looked up and saw that it was Inuyasha, who had her cradled in his arms.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome exclaimed in relief. "Boy, am I glad to see you!"

 "What the heck are you doing, Kagome?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "Inuyasha, quick!" Kagome cried. "We gotta protect Kaede and the kids!!"

 "You idiot," said Inuyasha. "It's clearly not after the old hag and the brats."

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered before she turned and saw the shadow glaring at her, hissing viciously with bristling fur.

 "Whatever this thing is," Inuyasha began, "it's obviously your shard of the Sacred Jewel."

 "Oh, that's right!" Kagome realized. "It has one, too! I sensed it, earlier!"

 "Is that right?" asked Inuyasha as he gently put Kagome down on the grass, then cracked his knuckles. "Well, if that's the case..." He then lunged for the shadow with his claws outstretched. "I'll be taking it!! IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!"

 Inuyasha swiped his claws at the figure, but it dashed out of his reach, causing him to growl as he chased after it.

 "Hold still, damn you!!" he cursed as he swiped his claws at it, again, but still, it managed to evade him.

 "It's no use, Inuyasha!" Kagome cried. "It's too fast!! I already tried shooting it with my arrows!!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he lunged for the shadow, again. "You're just not aiming right, that's all!!" He then swiped at the creature, once more, but then it leaped up and Inuyasha grunted as he felt sharp fangs sink into his right bicep, which he immediately wrenched from the creature's jaws.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried. "Are you okay?!"

 "It's just a small bite! I'll live!" Inuyasha answered as he held his arm, then looked around. "Where'd it go?!"

 "That way!" Kagome called as she pointed to the forest, where the shadow sped off into.

 "Trying to run away, huh?" Inuyasha asked before he dashed off after it. "Get back here!!"

 "Wait, Inuyasha! Let me go with you!!" called Kagome as she grabbed her bow and arrows.

 "You worry about getting the hag and the runts back to the village!" Inuyasha called back as he disappeared beyond the trees. "I'll handle this!"

 Kagome sighed as she turned to Kaede and the children, who had all been watching from a safe distance before she approached them.

 "Are you all okay?" asked Kagome.

 "Yes, for the moment," said Kaede.

 "What was that thing?" asked one of the children.

 "I don't know," said Kagome. "Hopefully, Inuyasha can take care of it, but I might go out and help him, soon."

 "I hope so," said Kokichi, worriedly.

 "How about I get you all back to your families, and then I'll go?" asked Kagome. "I can't leave you all alone. What if it comes back?"

 "You're very kind to be concerned about us, child," said Kaede as Kagome walked alongside her, along with the children.

 "Well, of course," Kagome said. "Especially you, Kaede! You're still hurt from when Yura attacked you the other day!"

 "I do not plan on retiring just yet," said Kaede with a light chuckle, causing Kagome to laugh, as well, and even the children laughed as they all headed back to the village together...except for one black-haired, brown-eyed boy, who was wearing a blue shirt and wraps around his ankles. He went over and gently grabbed Kagome by her hand, causing her to glance down at him.

 "Yes, Kotaro?" asked Kagome.

 "...You're not gonna stay mad at my Grandpa over what he said about Inuyasha, right?" asked the boy, Kotaro.

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered before her eyes went wide. "Oh! You're talking about Shinichi?"

 "Uh-huh," Kotaro nodded. "Before I was born, my Grandma was eaten by demons...and then, not too long ago, my parents were killed by ogres."

 "Oh, dear," said Kagome, sadly. "I'm sorry, Kotaro."

 "Ah, yes," Kaede sighed. "The memory of their death still runs quite deep, I'm afraid."

 "Kotaro," Kagome began, "while I am sorry about what happened to your parents and your grandmother, it still doesn't justify what your grandfather said about Inuyasha."

 "...I figured," Kotaro muttered as he looked down.

 "But I will forgive him," Kagome replied as she pet the boy on the head, "so you don't have to worry about that."

 "Thank you, Miss Kagome," Kotaro smiled, causing Kagome, Kaede, and the other children to smile.

XXX


 "Damn, where did it go?!"

 Inuyasha stood in the middle of the forest, looking around for the mysterious creature, but after he broke through the shrubbery, he found that it somehow managed to elude his sight. He growled in irritation before he got down on the ground on all fours, sniffing for any particular scent that the creature had left behind. As he reached a particular patch of earth, he suddenly stopped before he took a few whiffs.

 "...Chicken blood...?" he whispered. "So that's what killed all those birds..." He then sniffed again before his eyes went wide, then turned his head back to the direction he came from. Then he growled before he sped off, headed toward the village.

XXX

 

 "Get home safely!" Kagome called after the kids as they all headed back to their respective homes.

 "Bye, Miss Kagome!" called Mori as she waved to the junior high schooler, who turned and glanced back in the direction where Inuyasha left to chase after the creature.

 "I wonder what happened to Inuyasha," Kagome said.

 "Mayhaps ye should go and catch up with him while ye can," said Kaede. "I'm sure Inuyasha has not gotten too far."

 "With the way he runs?" asked Kagome. "Are you kidding me?"

 With that, she turned to head off to the forest to join Inuyasha in the hunt...but then, she tensed up and gasped.

 "What's wrong?" Kaede asked.

 "...That sensation, again," Kagome replied. "That thing from earlier...it's coming back!"

 Kaede's eye went wide before she turned to face the direction that Kagome was looking before she saw something leap over the fence that surrounded the village.

 "It's here!!" Kagome cried before she and Kaede ran out of the way, causing the shadow to crash into the hut behind them, the occupants inside letting out a shocked scream. As the dust settled and the villagers gathered outside, Kagome looked up and gasped as she saw that it was a large weasel, about as big as a horse and claws that were about a foot-long. Its red eyes flashed as it glared at the girl, hissing ferociously.

 "A kamaitachi!" Kaede exclaimed.

 "A kamaitachi?!" asked Kagome.

 "A weasel demon that claws that cut like the blade of a scythe!" Kaede explained. "They're vicious creatures!"

 As the kamaitachi raised its head up, Kagome gasped in horror upon seeing Shinichi, his arm caught in between the demon's jaws while Kotaro, who had escaped the wreckage of his hut, let out a terrified scream.

 "GRANDPA!!" he cried.

 "Ugh...Kotaro...!" Shinichi groaned.

 "Put him down!!" Kagome demanded as she readied her arrow.

 "I don't think so," said the weasel as it held Shinichi's arm in its jaws. "Unless you hand over the Sacred Jewel shard in your possession!"

 "So that's what you're after!" Kagome shouted. "I should have known!"

 "Yes," the weasel replied. "At first, I thought that I could have that damn half-demon, Inuyasha, be driven out of this village by having him be framed for slaughtering those chickens since he seems to be protecting you, but when I saw that he still came to your aid, I saw that that wasn't going to be enough. I had no choice but to lure him away from you. By the time he gets here, it will be too late." It then snickered menacingly. "Dogs are stupidly loyal, it seems...but at least I got rid of him long enough to get to you!"

 "That's what you think, weasel breath!!"

 "Huh?" the weasel muttered before he glanced back, only for his eyes to go wide.

 "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!"

 The weasel jumped away from the swipe of Inuyasha's claws, dropping Shinichi in the process.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome exclaimed in relief.

 "Who's loyal to whom?!" asked Inuyasha. "I just want that jewel shard you have!!"

Chapter Text

 Inuyasha growled as he stood before the weasel while Kagome stood behind him. Most of the villagers had cleared out of the area by order of Kaede, avoiding the battle that was about to ensue. The only ones who remained were Shinichi and Kotaro, the latter clinging to the former in fright.

 "Kagome," said Inuyasha. "Where's the jewel shard he has?"

 "Hang on," Kagome replied as she took a good look at the demon and noticed a familiar twinkling on its neck. "There! On his neck!"

 "Heh," Inuyasha smirked as he rolled his shoulders, causing them to pop. "This is almost too easy. I'll just rip his throat open and take the jewel shard to boot!"

 "Heheheheheheheh!!" the weasel snickered. "So you say...just try it, half-breed."

 "If you insist!" Inuyasha shouted as he lunged at his foe with his arm reeled back. "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!"

 "Too slow!!" the weasel shouted as he jumped over the half-demon, then turned and raked its claws against Inuyasha's back, causing him to cry out in pain, but he managed to stay standing before he turned and slashed his own claws at the demon, but again, it jumped from his reach.

 "Hold still!" Inuyasha yelled as he tried to swipe his claws at the weasel again, but it still jumped out of his reach. "Stop jumping around, already!!" He then swiped at it, again, but the kamaitachi just jumped and leaped in a circle around him, almost like a dance.

 "Hahahahahahaha!!" the weasel laughed. "With the power of this Sacred Jewel shard in my neck, I am as fast as a whirlwind!!" It then lunged at Inuyasha and swiped its long claws across his chest, causing him to groan as he stumbled back as he clutched the wound, but then he growled while his blood seeped onto his fingers.

 "BLADES OF BLOOD!!!" he shouted as he swiped his bloody claws at the weasel, who tried to jump out of the way, but this time, the bloody blades ended up slashing out his right eye, causing it to screech in pain as it rubbed its paw against the wound.

 "Hey!!" Inuyasha shouted to Shinichi and Kotaro. "If I were you two, I wouldn't be sitting on my ass, watching!! Get outta here!!!"

 "He's right!" Kagome called. "Go! It's not safe here!!"

 Shinichi gasped before his grandson helped him to his feet before they hurried off together. As Inuyasha kept the weasel distracted, Kagome chose this time to try and shoot it while it had its back turned to her. Steeling her nerves, she trained her bow right at the weasel's neck where the jewel shard was. She fired, but the weasel's ears twitched as it ducked its head...however, it seemed it duck down far enough, the arrow ended up grazing its left ear, causing it to growl from the pain before it turned and glared at Kagome, who whimpered in fright as she stepped back.

 "Uh...Inuyasha?" asked Kagome. "A little help if you don't mind!"

 "You impudent wench!!" the weasel shouted as he lunged for Kagome, only to fall just a couple of feet in front of her as it felt its tail being tugged, causing it to turn and see Inuyasha, who growled as he tried to drag him away from her.

 "Stay away from her!!" he shouted. "I'm the one you're fighting, remember?!"

 "Damn you, half-demon!!" the weasel cursed as he lunged at Inuyasha, who found himself on his back as he struggled to push his opponent off before he kicked him in the face before he jumped up and sank his fangs into the weasel's shoulder, then another bite on his left front paw. The weasel growled before it kicked Inuyasha away.

 "I've had enough of you!!" it screeched before it lunged at Inuyasha with claws outstretched. "DIE, YOU HALF-DEMON SCOURGE!!!"

 Inuyasha gasped as he braced himself for the claws to pierce through his flesh...but then, THOK!! An arrow suddenly pierced into the weasel's neck, causing it to gasp as it ended up falling on its side. It groaned as it struggled to stand up, attempting to reach for the projectile lodged in its throat...before Inuyasha leaped into the air with his claws brandished.

 "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!"

 SLASH!!! The weasel's neck was sliced completely open by the half-demon's claws before it fell on the ground. Inuyasha panted before he heaved a sigh and stood up straight before he glanced over at Kagome, who smiled as she came over to his side.

 "...Not too bad shootin', there," said Inuyasha.

 "Thanks," Kagome said. "I think I'm getting the hang of this, don't you?"

 "Eh," Inuyasha shrugged. "It's a slight improvement."

 Even though she detected just a little bit of sarcasm, Kagome couldn't find it in herself to be mad. She just smiled warmly before she approached the corpse of the weasel, then plucked the Sacred Jewel shard from its mangled throat. Soon after she did so, the weasel's flesh soon disintegrated into nothing but bones.

 "That's two shards down," Kagome began, "and...well...a whole lot left to go."

 "Hey, I'll take what I can get," said Inuyasha, just as Kaede and the rest of the villagers began to return.

 "You did it!" exclaimed Kotaro. "You defeated the demon!"

 "We sure did!" Kagome replied.

 "Nicely done, you two," Kaede nodded. "I see that ye are beginning to work together a bit more often."

 "Keh," Inuyasha scoffed. "Don't get used to it, granny."

 "Ahem!"

 Inuyasha and Kagome both looked up to see Shinichi, who was leaning against one of the older men of the village due to losing his cane earlier. Kotaro stood next to him, watching with concern. Then, the elderly man glanced up at Inuyasha, sweat beading down his face before he sighed.

 "I...I suppose I was wrong about you, half-demon," he muttered, causing Inuyasha to glare at him.

 "...Maybe you were," said Inuyasha. "Who can say?"

 "Grandpa," Kotaro chided. "Say you're sorry to Inuyasha, properly. After all, he did save your life!"

 "That's right," Kagome said. "The least you could do is look him in the eye and say you're sorry!"

 "Forget it," Inuyasha spoke, causing Kagome to look at him. "The old man shouldn't force himself. Besides, I didn't really save anybody. I only attacked the weasel because he had a shard of the jewel. Nothing more than that."

 Kagome sighed at Inuyasha's stubbornness. Just once, she wished that he'd just drop this meaningless attitude of his. Then again, that'd probably be too much to ask, so she decided to just leave things be.

XXX

 

 Later that day, as the sun was beginning to set and everyone began to settle down for the evening, Inuyasha sat on the hilltop overlooking the village. The wind blew softly, slightly raising up his hair before letting it drop back down before he heaved a small sigh. His ears pointed back as he heard the sound of footsteps, but he didn't turn to see who it was, for he already knew. Kagome sat down next to the half-demon, drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.

 "...How are you feeling?" she asked.

 "I'm fine," Inuyasha replied. "My wounds healed pretty quick."

 "That's good," Kagome replied, "but I'm not really talking about your wounds."

 Inuyasha glanced over at Kagome, who stared at him with a small smile, causing him to roll his eyes.

 "I wish you'd stop looking at me that way," he said. "It just tells me you're giving me pity."

 "But I'm not," Kagome said. "I'm just concerned."

 "It's the same difference," Inuyasha replied.

 "...Inuyasha?" Kagome asked. "Why are you like this?"

 "What do you mean?" Inuyasha inquired.

 "I mean," Kagome began, "why are you so defensive and so withdrawn? Why wouldn't you accept Shinichi attempting to apologize to you?"

 "...Because that's how things are," Inuyasha answered...his eyes taking on this...unusual sadness. "It's human nature to be fearful of demons...when people see something they don't understand or they think is wrong...they can't accept it. Instead, they choose to be afraid...that's what I've come to realize."

 "...Well, I'm not afraid of you," said Kagome.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "You're just sayin' that to butter me up. You may not be afraid of me, now, but you will be, one day...it's only natural."

 "Inuyasha, look at me," Kagome said, causing the half-demon to glance over at her. "No matter what you say...no matter what anyone says...I'll never be afraid of you. I promise you that, okay?"

 "...And why wouldn't you be afraid of me?" asked Inuyasha. "Give me one good reason why."

 "...I already told you," Kagome said with a kind smile. "You're my friend, Inuyasha...that's all the reason I need."

 Inuyasha blinked at Kagome, who reached over and put a hand on his shoulder, causing him to tense up for a moment as he glanced at her hand, then to the girl sitting next to him as she continued smiling...a warm, genuine smile. Not one that was forced or the kind of smug grin one would give if they were about to do something that would be deemed malicious...this was a real smile.

 Inuyasha blinked at Kagome...then he turned away from her, his eyes fixed on the setting sun...but then, he raised his hand up and (with some hesitance) placed it over hers. Kagome could feel his calloused fingers on her skin...she could even feel a bit of scarring on them, too. Come to think of it, upon getting a closer look, she could make out tiny scars on his hand...and even some around his neck and his face...even his feet.

 '...He only acts this way...because in the past...he's been hurt, before...by humans...no wonder he doesn't trust them.'

 She lightly tightened her grip on Inuyasha's shoulder.

 'Inuyasha...I know you say you don't like pity...but I can't help feeling sorry for you...you're so jaded...so embittered by all the abuse you took...if I were, I'd hate people, too...but I promise...I won't turn you away. I won't be afraid or disgusted by you. I won't be like all the others. I'll make sure that no matter what, you never feel like you have to be alone...okay?'

 Inuyasha quietly sighed as he continued to watch the sunset.

 '...Thank you, Kagome...I never had a friend like you...'

XXX


 Concurrently, quite a distance away from the village, something hopped through the tall grass, panting heavily as it stopped to rest on a rock before it looked up...only to see nothing but a practical ocean of grass, causing the mysterious figure to sigh in exhaustion.

 "I knew that this village was far, but not this far!" a voice complained. "Nonetheless, I must hurry...I must find Master Inuyasha!"

 With that, the figure hopped onward, headed in the direction of Kaede's village.

Chapter Text

 The full moon shone over the stillness of the night. There was the howl of a wolf that accompanied that of the wind. Despite the eeriness of it, a grand army of samurai was seen, celebrating their latest victory, not just of their recent battle, but also because of a successful hunt in which they had brought down a large boar.

 "Tomorrow," said their leader, "we will unite the main force!" He then ripped the boar's head off its shoulders. "Tonight, let us take strength from this flesh!"

 "Your might exceeds even your legends, milord!!" exclaimed one of the samurai.

 "Aye! With you, we cannot fail!" concurred another.

 "Ahahahahahaha!!" laughed the leader as he bit into the boar's meat. "Watch as I rip off the enemy's head, just as I did to this pig!"

 Suddenly, the leader gagged as a hand grabbed his throat, then with almost little to no effort, a shadowy figure held him up into the air, squeezing his airway tighter and tighter until...KRIK!! There was a snap...and the man fell limp, blood dripping from his neck and mouth before he was unceremoniously thrown to the ground, where he lied like a heap of crumpled rags. The surrounding samurai screamed in horror as they saw their leader so easily dispatched before they looked up at the assailant.

 "W-w-who are you?!" asked one of them. "What have you done to the lord?!!"

 The figure turned around, revealing himself to be that of a handsome-looking man with long, silvery white tresses of hair and short bangs that were cut neatly at the ends. There was a purple crescent moon on his forehead, as well as four stripes- two on each cheek- as well as what looked like red eyeshadow. His outfit consisted of a white kimono with a red lotus flower pattern, as well as a yellow and blue sash around his waist. On his chest and left shoulder was a plate of chest armor and a spiky pauldron, while on his right shoulder was a long, flowing line of white fur.

 One might think that he was an ordinary man...except for the fact that he had pointed ears, golden yellow eyes with slit pupils, fangs in his mouth, and claws on his fingertips.

 This man...was a demon.

 "You little men annoy me," he said. "Begone."

 "W...what?!" asked one of the samurai.

 "Jaken," the mysterious interloper called, and not long after, a little green imp appeared behind him. He had big, yellow eyes and had a bird-like beak. He had nothing but a simple brown haori and a pair of gray hakama pants, and he also wore a tall, black, pointy hat on his head which had to be held with a strap.

 "Yes, Lord Sesshomaru?" asked the imp known as Jaken.

 "Is this it?" asked Sesshomaru, gazing at the ground.

 "Hmm..." Jaken hummed before he brought out a staff that had the face of a woman on one side and the face of an old man on the left. He put the lower tip of the staff on the ground, which caused it to tremble slightly before the woman's face opened her mouth and screamed.

 "The Staff of Two Heads has spoken, milord," Jaken said. "This is not the grave that we seek."

 "Hmph..." Sesshomaru scoffed a bit before he turned and walked away. "A pity." He then noticed the samurai beginning to surrounding him, brandishing swords and spears.

 "You're still here?" asked Sesshomaru. "I told you all to leave."

 "Who do you think you are?!" questioned one of the samurai. "How dare you kill our lord, demon?!"

 "Off with his head!!" yelled another before they all charged, causing Sesshomaru to sigh and shake his head.

 "Such barbaric behavior..." he muttered before he turned and walked away. "Jaken...you deal with them."

 "Aye, milord!" Jaken exclaimed as he pointed his staff at them. "Feel the wrath of the Staff of Two Heads, mortal fools!!"

 On that, the old man's head on the staff opened his jaws and unleashed a huge stream of flames, engulfing the entire army! They all screamed in pain as their bodies were horribly burned, none of them escaping the blast of fire...and it wasn't too long before there was nothing left but ash.

 "Hmph!" Jaken scoffed. "Not even a drop of blood left." With that, he turned and followed after his employer.

 Soon, the two of them were crossing the river on a boat, Jaken using the Staff of Two Heads as an oar to paddle their way across.

 "Lord Sesshomaru?" asked Jaken.

 "What is it, Jaken?" Sesshomaru asked.

 "The tomb we are searching for," Jaken began, "mayhaps Inuyasha knows of it?"

 "...Inuyasha?" Sesshomaru asked...before he smacked Jaken into the water. "Don't ever mention that inferior half-breed in my presence...besides, Inuyasha is dead. He was pinned to a tree, 50 years ago."

 "Yes, that is true, milord!" Jaken cried as he climbed back up into the boat. "But rumor has it that someone has broken the seal on him!"

 "...Is that so?" Sesshomaru asked...his eyes taking on mild interest. "Well...perhaps it's time I paid a visit to my little brother."

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, at Kaede's Village, Kagome had come by once again...only this time, she had brought a rather interesting thing along with her: her bicycle. The day before, sometime after the kamaitachi attack, Kagome decided that she could at least have some mode of transportation in the Feudal Era, so she decided to bring her bicycle, or "iron chariot" as Inuyasha put it. It took a bit of effort to get it through to the other side of the well, but at least Inuyasha helped her since it was so easy for him to carry it over his shoulder.

 It did seem to amaze Inuyasha, as well as the rest of the people of the Feudal Era that Kagome rode such a machine without needing it to be drawn by horses.

 As Kagome pedaled her bike through the dirt roads, something was seen hopping through the tall grass and weeds before stopping on a small stone. It was revealed to be a tiny elderly man...only he had a needle-like nose and four arms.

 This man was no man...but a tiny flea.

 "Haa...haa...phew!" he sighed. "I've been hopping for three days straight, now...I think now's a good time to rest." Suddenly, he felt the ground tremble and an odd rattling noise behind him, causing him to turn around, only to be met with the black rubber of Kagome's bicycle tire.

 "Huh?" Kagome asked as she momentarily stopped and looked down, yet saw nothing. "Hmm...that's weird. I thought I ran over something." She then shrugged. "Must have been a pebble."

 On that, she pedaled on and on until she eventually reached the village, and she was soon greeted by Kaede.

 "Ah, Kagome," the elderly priestess acknowledged. "Good to see ye again."

 "You, too, Kaede," Kagome replied. "Sorry I took so long getting back. I had school, today."

 "Nothing to worry about," Kaede replied. "I'm sure ye came looking for Inuyasha, did you not?"

 "Yeah, do you know where he is?" asked Kagome.

 "Last I saw him," Kaede began, "he was headed off with the village children."

 "...Pardon?" Kagome asked in surprise.

XXX


 Inuyasha grumbled as he sat on the grass, arms crossed and his knee bouncing with impatience.

 He couldn't believe the humiliation that he was being forced to endure.

 Behind him, three little girls of 4, 7, and 10 respectively all gathered around him. While the younger two were braiding his silver locks, the eldest girl placed a flower crown on his head. They even decorated the braid with multiple wildflowers of purple, red, and yellow.

 He supposed he did bring it upon himself, though. He had grown bored from waiting for Kagome to get back and he already went hunting for his supper (a nice, plump, juicy rabbit). Since he had nothing else to do, he was going to take a nap until the girl from the future got back, but then he was stopped by these three children. It seemed that there were also bored without Kagome to play with, so they decided that he was the next thing. In spite of his reluctance, Inuyasha decided to humor the three sisters and sat down on the grass...only to immediately regret his decision when they started playing with his hair. He wanted nothing more than to yell at him, but upon seeing their faces, he just couldn't bring himself to do it.

 At that moment, his nose caught a familiar scent and his ears perked up as he heard footsteps approach, causing him to open his eyes as he looked up to see Kagome...who blinked in surprise at the sight before her eyes before she bit her lip in a vain attempt to keep herself from snickering.

 "Laugh and you'll be sorry," Inuyasha warned.

 "Hi, Miss Kagome!" said the eldest sister. "Look what we did to Inuyasha's hair!"

 "I can see that!" Kagome replied. "Umm...girls? I think your mom's looking for you."

 "Oh, right!" exclaimed the middle sister. "We gotta go help with dinner! Thanks for reminding us!"

 "Bye-bye, Miss Kagome!" said the youngest sister as all three ran to head home while Kagome walked up to Inuyasha.

 "So...that's a nice look for you," said Kagome, causing Inuyasha to growl before he shot up and tore the flowers out of his hair.

 "This is ridiculous," he said. "I was the Terror of the Forest! Grown men fled at the mere sight of me! And now, what have I been reduced to?! A plaything for little girls!!"

 "Oh, relax!" Kagome replied. "I think it was sweet of you to let them play with you. Besides, I thought you hate it when people are afraid of you."

 "What gave you that impression?" Inuyasha asked as he walked away. "Jeez...just wait until I'm a full demon, then they'll see."

 "Seriously?" asked Kagome, incredulously. "You're still going on about that?"

 "Of course, I am!" Inuyasha replied. "Speaking of which, now that you're here, we can finally start looking for the jewel shards, again."

 "But I just got here!" Kagome complained. "Can't I at least rest for a second?!"

 "...Okay, there," said Inuyasha as he began to walk. "You had a second. Now let's go!"

 "But Inuyasha," Kagome began, "it's almost sundown! Why can't we do it in the morning? At least, we'd have more daylight!"

 "Daylight, shmaylight!" Inuyasha argued. "I'll have you know I can see just fine in the dark!"

 "Yeah, but I can't!" Kagome countered.

 "Who cares?" asked Inuyasha as he kept walking, leaving Kagome to sigh as she began to follow.

 '...I guess I shouldn't be surprised he has so much energy,' she thought. 'I guess it's because he's half-demon...half-demon...'

 "Inuyasha?" Kagome asked.

 "What?" Inuyasha asked, gruffly.

 "You're half-demon, right?"

 "Yeah, so?"

 "If half of you is a demon...what's the other half?"

 Inuyasha tensed up for a moment before he glared at Kagome, who stopped in her tracks.

 "...Sore topic?" she asked.

 "Gee, you think?" Inuyasha asked before he was about to keep walking...but then he suddenly grunted in slight pain. "Ow! What the hell?!"

 "What? What is it?" asked Kagome in concern.

 "Something bit me!" Inuyasha replied as he pulled his haori down a bit...revealing the same tiny flea-man from before, sucking on his left pectoral. "Huh?"

 "Mmm...blood...!" the flea exclaimed before he pulled his nose out from Inuyasha's flesh. "Ah, Master Inuyasha! It's been quite some time, hasn't it?"

 WHAP!! Inuyasha smacked the flea before he pulled his hand away from his chest, revealing the flattened little creature now stuck to his palm.

 "Well, well," Inuyasha said. "If it ain't ol' Myoga the flea?"

 "Flea?" Kagome repeated.

 "Well, flea demon, more like," said Inuyasha.

 "And just who is this lovely young lass, hmm?" the flea, Myoga, asked.

 "Oh, yeah," Inuyasha muttered. "Myoga, this is Kagome. Kagome, this is my so-called 'vassal', Myoga."

 "Your vassal?" asked Kagome.

 "What are you doin' here, Myoga?" asked Inuyasha. "Aside from sucking on my blood."

 "Ah, yes," Myoga replied. "I bring you troubling news, sire."

 "Hmm?" Inuyasha hummed in intrigue.

XXX


 Later that day, as the sun began to set, Inuyasha, Kagome, and Myoga had all gathered inside Kaede's hut, where the flea soon regaled them of why he had sought Inuyasha out. While they were talking, some of the village children had gathered outside, looking at Kagome's back with great curiosity.

 "Someone's trying to find my Father's tomb?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Indeed," Myoga nodded. "As guardian of his tomb, I could bear it no longer."

 "So you ran off and came looking for me, instead, right?" Inuyasha asked with an annoyed tone.

 "But it is the remains that are important," replied Myoga, "and they are no longer there."

 "Oh, really?" Inuyasha asked. "So where are my Father's remains?"

 "Regrettably, sire," Myoga answered, "no one knows."

 "Pfft!" Inuyasha buzzed his lips. "Some guardian you are."

 "Inuyasha," Kaede began, "they say that your father, the Great Dog General Toga was a phantom beast. That the Western Lands were his domain."

 "Well, I wouldn't know," said Inuyasha. "I was told he died when I was still a newborn whelp."

 "Ah, yes," Myoga replied with a bit of nostalgia in his voice. "Your father was the greatest and most powerful demon of his time...and his blood was quite tasty, as well."

 "Hmph!" Inuyasha scoffed.

 "...Umm...Myoga?" asked Kagome. "If you don't mind me asking...what about Inuyasha's mom?"

 "Ah, Lady Izayoi..." Myoga said, wistfully. "She was a beauty beyond compare...a true- UGH!!" Before he could say more, Inuyasha stomped his foot on top of him and smushed him flat.

 "Inuyasha! What did you do that for?!" Kagome questioned, angrily.

 "Just drop it, all right?!" Inuyasha questioned as he stormed out. "My Mother died a long time ago..."

 "...She...died?" Kagome repeated.

 "Yes, I'm afraid so," Myoga said, having returned from his flattened state while grimly looking to the floor. "Lady Izayoi grew very ill and died when Master Inuyasha was but a mere child...to this day, he prefers not to speak of her."

 'All I did was ask about his mother,' thought Kagome. 'So...if his father is a demon...then could it be that his mother was human?'

 She soon stood up, put on her shoes, and followed Inuyasha outside with her bicycle, just as night had begun to fall. She found him, sitting in the branches of a dead tree while staring up at the full moon. His back was turned to her, but somehow, she could tell that he knew she was there.

 'So he's half-demon...and half-human,' thought Kagome. 'That's why he always acts so moody...because his mother was a human woman.' She then gasped silently. 'Oh, no...if his mother was human...does that mean he hated her, too? Did she...did she abuse him, just like all the others?'

 She tightly clutched the handlebars of her bike...remembering all the times she was grateful to her own mother for all the things she had done for her.

 'Inuyasha...you poor guy...!'

 Suddenly, out of nowhere, Inuyasha dropped down from the tree and grabbed Kagome, pushing her to the ground.

 "Ow!" Kagome cried. "Hey, what are you-"

 "Be quiet and stay low," Inuyasha told her, causing her to gasp quietly.

 "What is it?" asked Kagome.

 "Don't you feel that?" asked Inuyasha. "This unusual chill in the air...it's the chill of death."

 Kagome felt herself tense before she followed Inuyasha's gaze to the sky. That's when she saw it: a carriage, flying through the air before the moon and clouds. Inside of it were a bunch of little imp-like creatures...but behind the straw flap, Inuyasha gasped silently as he could make out the face of a beautiful woman.

 "W...was that a woman in there?" asked Kagome while Inuyasha stood up. "Inuyasha? What's wrong?"

 "...No...it can't be...!" Inuyasha whispered.

 "Inuyasha, what's wrong?" Kagome asked. "Who is that?"

 "...My Mother," Inuyasha answered, causing Kagome to gasp.

Chapter Text

 "Your MOTHER?!" Kagome questioned. "But...but you said that she's dead!"

 "She is dead!" Inuyasha argued as he glared up at the carriage. "At least I thought she was!"

 Despite this...even he sounded unsure.

 'It...it really does look like her,' he thought. 'Even her scent is the same! ...The smell of lotus flowers and fine silk...but...' He then shook his head. 'No! You know it's not her! She's dead and you know it!!'

 Suddenly, an enormous, clawed hand reached down from the dark clouds and grabbed the carriage, smashing it into pieces. As Inuyasha and Kagome watched, it was soon revealed to be a giant ogre with two horns, holding the woman in its claws.

 "What in the world?!" asked Kagome.

 "Put her down!!" Inuyasha yelled as he attempted to attack the behemoth, but then, a stream of fire blocked his path, forcing him to step back before he looked up, only to gasp upon seeing Sesshomaru and Jaken.

 "Don't kill him, yet, Jaken," said Sesshomaru. "Wait until after I've had a word with him."

 "Aye, milord!" Jaken complied.

 "Sesshomaru!!" Inuyasha shouted, venomously.

 "Ah, so you remember me," Sesshomaru grinned. "I'm flattered...little brother."

 "Brother?" Kagome repeated in shock. "You mean he's your older brother?!"

 "Older half-brother!" Inuyasha corrected. "The prissy-ass sonuvabitch..."

 "Hmm?" Sesshomaru hummed as he eyed Kagome. "Well, what's this? A mortal girl."

 "I'm his friend!" Kagome shouted. "You got a problem with it?!"

 "Hmph!" Sesshomaru scoffed. "It seems you inherited our Father's useless affinity for humans...how fitting." He then grabbed the chains around Izayoi's neck, causing her to cry out in pain. "You, with your mortal wretch of a mother...you seek your own level, at last."

 "Damn you...!" Inuyasha growled.

 'So he really is half-human!' thought Kagome.

 "Sesshomaru," Inuyasha started as he cracked his knuckles, "if you came all the way here to insult me, then-"

 "Oh, don't worry, you insignificant half-breed," said Sesshomaru. "I don't have time to waste with you...I just need you to direct me to the whereabouts of our Father's tomb."

 "So it was you!" Inuyasha barked. "You're the one who's been trying to rob our Father's grave! Well, good luck getting anything outta me, because I don't know where the hell it is, and even if I did, I sure as hell wouldn't tell you!" He then spit on Sesshomaru's face, causing him to sneer as he wiped his cheek.

 "How dare you get your disgusting saliva on me," he hissed. "So be it, Inuyasha...it seems your mother isn't that important to you, after all." He then looked to the ogre. "Kill the wench."

 The ogre growled as he began to squeeze Izayoi, who let out a cry of pain as the claws began to pierce into her.

 "Inuyasha! Do something!!" Kagome cried.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Do you really take me for a fool, Sesshomaru?! My Mother's been dead for years!!"

 "A fool, eh?" asked Sesshomaru. "Don't you think that with all my powers that I could be able to bring back your mother's soul from the netherworld?"

 Inuyasha gasped silently, as did Kagome.

 "I even went as far as to restore her original body, as well," Sesshomaru replied. "Even her face matches."

 "Can...can he really do that?" Kagome asked.

 "...It's a lie..." Inuyasha growled. "It has to be a lie!"

 "...I...Inu...yasha...!" Izayoi gasped out, causing the half-demon to look up at her.

 "...Mother...?!" he asked.

 "It's all right," Izayoi assured as she gave him a warm, loving smile...even as her eyes began to fade. "It's all right, my precious boy...even though it was short...I'm happy to see you, one last time...!"

 Inuyasha gasped while the ogre began to squeeze her tighter, causing her to gasp as she felt her bones beginning to break.

 "...Goodbye...my son..." Izayoi whispered.

 "NO!!!" Inuyasha cried as he ran to the ogre. "PUT MY MOTHER DOWN!!! IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!"

 SLASH!!! Inuyasha swiped his claws at the ogre, completely tearing its arm right off and freeing Izayoi from its grasp. The maiden fell, nearly hitting the ground had Kagome not caught her in time.

 "Are you okay?!" Kagome asked.

 "...Y-yes," said Izayoi. "Thank you, child."

 "Of course," Kagome nodded.

 "Kagome!" Inuyasha called. "Get Mother out of here! Get her to the village!!"

 "Right!" Kagome replied as she helped Izayoi to her feet. "Come on! We gotta go!"

 "Don't just stand there, you oaf," said Sesshomaru as he smacked the ogre in the face. "Get them before they escape!"

 The ogre roared in pain before it reached down to grab Inuyasha, Kagome, and Izayoi, who gasped as she reached out to her son.

 "Inuyasha! Look out!!" she cried as a ball of light formed in her hands, which grew bigger until it became a blinding flash, forcing Sesshomaru, Jaken, and the ogre to shield their eyes. When the flash dissipated, Sesshomaru saw that Inuyasha, Kagome, and Izayoi had vanished.

 "They've disappeared, milord!" Jaken exclaimed.

 "...So they have," Sesshomaru replied...before a smirk crept unto his lips. "Perfect."

XXX

 

 "Ngh..." Inuyasha groaned as he sat up and looked around, only to find that he was sitting near a lily pond with what looked like some sort of gate. The area was shrouded in mist and there was the faint smell of flowers. Wherever this place was, it had this...eerie serenity to it. It made Inuyasha feel surprisingly calm. He looked to his right and saw that Kagome was lying beside him, unconscious, but it seemed she was all right...but he could not find Izayoi anywhere.

 "Mother?" Inuyasha asked as he looked around. "Where are you? And come to think of it, where are we, right now?"

 "The border between this world and the next..."

 Inuyasha gasped before he turned and saw Izayoi, who smiled at him.

 "Mother!" he exclaimed as he stood up and approached her. "You're okay!"

 "Yes," Izayoi nodded. "But...I'm afraid it's time for me to go."

 "What?" Inuyasha asked...before his ears drooped. "...Oh...right...back to the other side, huh?"

 "Yes," Izayoi nodded, again, "but...Inuyasha...come and walk with me...remember? Like we used to?"

 Inuyasha blinked at his mother before he glanced back at Kagome.

 "Don't worry about her," Izayoi said. "She'll be all right...for now...come with me."

 Though hesitant, Inuyasha went to her side and walked with her, their reflections showing in the pond as they walked along the grass.

 "This...this place reminds me of where we used to live," said Inuyasha. "I remember...we always took walks by the pond."

 "That's right," Izayoi replied as she gently took Inuyasha's hand in her own, "and I used to hold your hand, just like this."

 Inuyasha stiffened a little, but then he relaxed as he slowly curled his fingers around his mother's own. They felt...clammy...like death, and yet, he couldn't let go. He didn't want to let go.

 This feeling of safety and acceptance...he missed it so much.

 "...Inuyasha," Izayoi said, getting her son's attention. "You've grown into a man, haven't you?"

 "...Well...yeah," Inuyasha replied. "I mean...I was still a little kid when you died, right?"

 "...Such terrible, violent days," Izayoi said, sadly. "And you...all alone? With no one to care for you?" She then looked at Inuyasha, sorrowfully. "Forgive your mother for leaving you so soon..."

 "Oh, it's not that big a deal," Inuyasha replied as he looked away. "I mean...it wasn't your fault."

 "...Inuyasha?" asked Izayoi, causing him to look at her.

 But meanwhile, Kagome groaned as she slowly opened her eyes.

 'What the...where am I?'

 She spotted Inuyasha and Izayoi, standing at the edge of the pond together.

 'Oh, good...Inuyasha and his mom. They're both all right...wait...what's that?'

 She then gave a mental gasp of horror as she saw something that Inuyasha didn't: in the reflection of the water...Izayoi had no face!

 'She...she doesn't have a face!' she thought as she glanced up at "Izayoi" and Inuyasha. 'Then...is she a demon?! I have to warn Inuyasha!!'

 "I...I...In...Inu...!" Kagome tried to say, and yet she could barely get her words out.

 'What's going on?! I can't move! I can't even breathe! How am I gonna tell Inuyasha?!'

Chapter Text

 'Inuyasha...!' Kagome tried to call out to him, yet all she could do was yell it in her head as she watched Inuyasha and "Izayoi" together. 'Inuyasha! That's not your mother! Ugh...no matter what I do, I can't get Inuyasha's attention!'

 As Kagome lay helpless on the ground, "Izayoi" gently held Inuyasha's hands.

 "Inuyasha," she said. "It is time for me to return to the spirit realm."

 "D...do you have to go?" Inuyasha asked. "Can't you stay a little longer? Please?"

 "Izayoi" smiled, lovingly at him before she held up her hands, and soon, a lotus flower formed in her palms before she tossed it to the water, where the petals scattered on its surface.

 "The petals," "Izayoi" said. "Look into the water, my son."

 Inuyasha did as he was told...and as the water rippled from the petals drifting on its surface, he saw something beginning to appear. He could see a ball bouncing across a stone bridge and he spotted someone chasing after it, and upon getting a closer look, he saw that it was a little boy...but not just any little boy: a white-haired, dog-eared, yellow-eyed boy wearing a red kimono...just like him.

 "...It's...it's me...!" Inuyasha whispered. "That's me, back when I was a kid!"

 "That's right," "Izayoi" replied. "That's you...my baby boy."

 As Inuyasha watched the water, he saw that his child-self had caught the ball, but then his ears perked, hearing someone call his name. He turned...and there was Izayoi, this time with a face, smiling warmly at him as she opened her arms, beckoning him to her. Inuyasha cast the ball aside before he ran into his mother's embrace, burying his face in her bosom. Soon, the two were sitting at the water's edge, with Izayoi holding her child in his arms.

 "...Do you remember that, Inuyasha?" asked "Izayoi".

 "...Yeah," Inuyasha said with a fond smile. "You...you used to hold me that way."

 "That's right," said "Izayoi" as she took the half-demon into her arms. "I held you to my heart...just like I'm doing to you."

 "...Yeah..." Inuyasha whispered as he turned to hug her, completely. "Those...those were good times...I...unh...!" He suddenly grunted in pain as he felt something sticking in his back. "M...Mother...what's-"

 "Shh~!" "Izayoi" whispered...sticking her arms inside Inuyasha's back. "Don't fight it...just relax. Let Mother hold you."

 Inuyasha gasped before he suddenly went limp.

 "Ugh...M...Mother..."

 "I won't let you go...not now...not ever..."

 'This isn't good,' thought Kagome as she still lied on the ground. 'If I don't do something, Inuyasha might get killed! Why can't I move?!'

 Suddenly, everything around Kagome began to change. Instead of a beautiful pond of lily pads and lotus flowers, it was a swamp filled with a lake of bubbling tar and mud, and the woman who was hugging Inuyasha had no face, her hair was unkempt, and her robes had slipped off. As for Kagome, she had found herself wrapped up in chains by those same little imps from before.

 'I get it, now!' thought Kagome. 'This is all an illusion! It wasn't real! Not the lily pond, not Inuyasha's mom! Nothing! And I can't move because these little creatures have tied me up!'

 "I...Inu-" Kagome tried to call out to him, only to gag when she felt the chains tighten around her neck.

 'It's no good...I can't move!' she thought...and not long after, a familiar flea suddenly jumped onto her shoulder.

 "Kagome! Kagome!!" Myoga cried. "You must get up! Come on, snap out of it! It's me, Myoga!!"

 It was no use. Kagome just wouldn't budge.

 "This is a disaster," Myoga said. "Who'd have thought that it was Sesshomaru, Master Inuyasha's older half-brother, trying to rob Master Toga's tomb? And here's poor Kagome, bound in chains...can't even swat...swat a...uhh..." He trailed off as he saw Kagome's bare cheek before he swallowed the lump in his throat. "Mmmm...blood...!"

 Unable to resist his base instincts as a flea, Myoga jumped onto Kagome's face before he began to suck her blood...only for the girl to smack him before she sat up, causing the imps to run away in fear as she sat up.

 "Ugh...thanks, Myoga," said Kagome in slight annoyance as she looked at her palm. "I think I'm not paralyzed, anymore."

 "Happy to help...!" Myoga groaned before he noticed the faceless woman, causing him to gasp. "The...the Unmother...!"

 "The un-what?" asked Kagome.

 "She is a demon born from the spirit of a mother who has lost her children to famine and war," Myoga explained. "She tries to fill the void by stealing one's soul."

 "Stealing their soul?!" Kagome repeated. "Oh, no...Inuyasha's in danger! Myoga, we have to hurry!"

 At that moment, Jaken appeared, rowing a boat through the swamp with an oar, panting from the exertion, but then he gasped upon seeing the Unmother...pulling Inuyasha halfway into her own body!

 "My boy," she whispered. "My precious, precious boy..."

 "STOP THAT!!" Jaken shouted as he struck her in the head. "Don't absorb his soul yet, you fool!!"

 "Ugh...Lord Jaken...!" grunted the Unmother.

 "Get the information we're searching for, then you can have your way with him, understand?!" Jaken questioned.

 "...Yes, sir," the Unmother nodded while Kagome and Myoga peered through the tall, dead grass.

 "So that's Jaken, Sesshomaru's henchman?" Kagome asked in a whisper.

 "That's right," Myoga whispered. "He may not look like much, but with the Staff of Two Heads, he is a force to be reckoned. Proceed with caution, Kagome."

 Kagome glanced over at the Unmother, who still had Inuyasha trapped in her grasp. He looked like he was in a bit of pain, but he didn't struggle...and that made Kagome worry. Inuyasha should have figured out by now that this woman wasn't his mother...so why wasn't he fighting back?

 As for Inuyasha...it felt like he was being held underwater as the Unmother had her hands practically wrapped around his chest. It almost looked like she was going to squeeze his heart if she wanted to.

 "Inuyasha?" the Unmother asked. "Do you remember...where your Father's grave is?"

 "...No...I don't know..." Inuyasha whispered.

 "Try to remember," the Unmother urged. "Let your Mother look inside your soul."

 As her hands went in deeper, something seemed to appear within Inuyasha's mind's eye: some sort of black marble.

 "What's that, there?" asked the Unmother.

 "...B...Black...black pearl...on the right...!" Inuyasha groaned. "Mother...it hurts...!"

 "What 'black pearl'?!" asked Jaken. "What is he talking about?! We need more information than that! Go deeper!"

 "But...but Lord Jaken," the Unmother started, "if I go any deeper, the poor boy's spirit will be broken and-"

 "As if I care about that!" Jaken barked. "If that's what it takes, then so be it! If you don't hurry, Lord Sesshomaru will tear me to shreds-"

 BAP!!! Suddenly, Kagome stomped her foot into Jaken's head and grabbed his staff, then used it to whack him into the tar, like she was using a golf club.

 "Stinkin' toad!!" she shouted before she ran to Inuyasha's aid. "Inuyasha, hang on! I'm coming!!"

 The Unmother gasped as she wrapped her arms tightly around Inuyasha while Kagome could grab the ends of his hair, but even then, that was not enough to get him, for the faceless demon started to suck him into her body, even more.

 "No!" Kagome cried. "Let him go!"

 "Never...he's mine," the Unmother said. "He's my baby! I won't let him go! Never!!"

 By now, most of Inuyasha's body had been completely absorbed. The only thing that was left was his left arm, dangling out of her chest.

 "Myoga, what do I do?!" Kagome questioned. "At this rate, Inuyasha's gonna die!!"

 "You have to awaken his soul!" cried Myoga. "It's the only thing that will snap him out of it!!"

 "Awaken...his soul?!" Kagome repeated. "How?!" That's when she spotted the reflection in the water: Inuyasha, back when he was a child, being held by the Unmother.

 'Is that...Inuyasha? Back when he was little?' Kagome thought. 'I get it now. That's part of her illusion! Maybe if I...wait...I don't have time to think about it! Just do it!!'

 "INUYASHA!!" she called as she held up the Staff of Two Heads. "WAKE UP!!!"

 KERSPLASH!!! She struck the water with the staff, causing the Unmother to shriek in agony while Inuyasha fell out of her body. He coughed and gagged, but then he managed to regain his breath and shake his head before he growled and glared at the Unmother.

 "You...you...!!" he hissed.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome cried as she ran over to him. "Are you all right?!"

 "...It was a trick...all of it...!" Inuyasha growled. "I can't believe that she would-"

 "Aww, are you mad, dear little brother?"

 Inuyasha looked up, only to cry out in shock as Sesshomaru picked him up by his throat.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried.

 "Hmm-hmm..." Sesshomaru chuckled. "To think, it was hidden in such a place...I never imagined I'd be so blind."

 "Sesshomaru, you bast-" Inuyasha started, only for Sesshomaru to lift two left fingers...and stab them into his right eye! "AAAAAAAAAAGGH!!!"

 Kagome gasped in horror while Sesshomaru dropped Inuyasha, who screamed and writhed in pain as he held his face.

 "Inuyasha, are you all right?!" Kagome asked as she ran over to him, only to see that his right eye socket was pouring blood, then she glared hatefully at Sesshomaru...who held betwixt his bloody fingers a tiny black pearl.

 "So it was here, all along," he said.

 "W...what is that?" Kagome asked.

 "The Black Pearl...!" Myoga whispered. "The location of Lord Toga's tomb!"

Chapter Text

 Sesshomaru held the Black Pearl in his fingers, the gemstone glistening in the light of the moon. Inuyasha growled as he held his injured eye while Kagome held him by his shoulders, worriedly. As for the Unmother, she lied on the ground, limp and shivering.

 "No wonder I could not find it," Sesshomaru began, "no matter how much I scoured the earth...I only had one clue to the whereabouts to our Father's tomb. 'Seeing, yet never seen...protected, yet unknown to its protector'. Our Father's grave...hidden within a black pearl that had been sealed inside your right eye." He chuckled. "Father always was full of surprises..."

 "So...that's where Inuyasha's dad's tomb is?!" asked Kagome.

 "Precisely," Myoga replied. "I hid it within Master Inuyasha's right eye sometime after his birth."

 "...I can't believe you...!" Inuyasha growled. "You're lower than dirt, Sesshomaru!! Over a puny little black pearl...YOU PRETENDED THAT THAT WITCH WAS MY MOTHER?!!"

 Kagome glanced over at Inuyasha. One might not catch it, at first, but...she could've sworn she heard his voice break.

 "I take it that you're not amused?" asked Sesshomaru.

 "Do I sound amused, to you...YOU BASTARD?!!" Inuyasha yelled as he tried to strike his older half-brother with his claws, but Sesshomaru proved to be faster than Inuyasha, easily sidestepping out of his way. Then, a string of greenish-yellow light appeared from the tips of his fingers.

 "Inuyasha...I no longer have a use for you," Sesshomaru said. "Now die."

 With that, he whipped Inuyasha in the stomach with the light, causing him to cry out in pain as he was thrown back.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried. "Look out!!!"

 Inuyasha gasped as he saw Sesshomaru's whip heading towards him, preparing to lop off his head...but then...

 "NO!!!"

 Without a single warning, the Unmother suddenly jumped in between Inuyasha, taking the full brunt of the whip...completely obliterating her body.

 "She...she protected him?" asked Kagome.

 "Ah...'tis a sad fate," Myoga sighed, grimly. "The Unmother may be a demon, but she still has a mother's heart. She still saw Inuyasha as her own child...thus she could not help but give her life for his sake."

 "...I'm...I'm sorry...!" the Unmother whimpered, her disembodied head lying on the ground. "Forgive me...my baby boy...!"

 "...You...!" Inuyasha whispered.

 "How pathetic," Sesshomaru said as he stomped on the Unmother's head, splattering it all over the earth. "A demon should not have such useless sentimentality."

 "...Sesshomaru...!" Inuyasha hissed.

 "Why you evil, no-good, murderous-" Kagome started.

 "No, Kagome!!" Myoga cried. "Don't antagonize him, further, or else he'll kill us all on the spot!!!"

 "Oh, be quiet, you little coward!" Kagome spat, causing the flea demon to gulp, nervously.

 "Heh," Inuyasha smirked. "She sure got you pegged, Myoga."

 "Jaken," Sesshomaru called. "Where are you?"

 "Here, milord!" Jaken answered as he came running out of the grass, holding the Staff of Two Heads. "Look, milord! The Staff of Two Heads is ours, once again!"

 "See to it that you do not lose it, next time," said Sesshomaru as he took the staff from the imp, "or else your head will also go missing."

 Jaken gulped at this before he nodded his head.

 "O-of course, milord," he replied.

 "Finally," Sesshomaru said as he looked at the Black Pearl. "How I've longed for this moment." He dropped the pearl on the ground, then raised the Staff of Two Heads and pierced the jewel with the tip, causing an eerie black light to shine. Not long after, the head of the old man on the staff began to cackle.

 "Ah!" Jaken exclaimed. "The old man laughs! That means the tomb will open!"

 Soon after, a black vortex opened up out of thin air.

 "Here it is," said Sesshomaru. "The entrance to Father's tomb."

 With that, he and Jaken both entered through the portal.

 "Th-they're gone!" Kagome exclaimed in shock.

 "Hurry, Master Inuyasha!" Myoga urged as he jumped onto his shoulder. "We must follow them before the vortex closes! Do you wish for your older brother to take the treasure your father intended for you?!"

 "Psh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Let him take it."

 "But sire!" Myoga cried.

 "Shut up!" Inuyasha barked. "I never said I wasn't going after him!" He then pulled off the shreds of the robe that the Unmother was wearing from his other shoulder. "Sesshomaru...you're not gonna get away with this!" He then turned to Kagome. "Kagome! Wait here for me! It's too dangerous- huh?!"

 "Hey!" Kagome called, already entering the portal. "What are you waiting for, an invitation?! Let's go, already!"

 "H-hey, wait a minute!!" Inuyasha cried as he and Myoga soon followed her. "Kagome!!"

 Soon, they were flying through a black void, just as the portal closed behind them.

 "What are you doing, you stupid wench?!" asked Inuyasha. "You do realize that Sesshomaru is on the other side, waiting for us, don't you?!!"

 "Exactly," Kagome replied. "I'm not gonna let him get away with playing with my friend's feelings, like he did!"

 "...Again with that 'friend' thing, huh?" Inuyasha asked. "Fine...but it's your life."

 Soon, they emerged on the other side of the portal...but Kagome gasped upon seeing something that even her wildest dreams wouldn't believe: a gigantic dog skeleton, clad in samurai armor as it sat in the middle of a huge mountain. The bones were overgrown with moss and shrubbery and there were even skeletal birds flying around it.

 "What in the world is that?!" Kagome questioned.

 "Not what...who," Inuyasha spoke. "Kagome...meet my Father."

 "Your father?!" Kagome repeated in disbelief.

 "Well...what's left of him, anyways," said Inuyasha.

 "But...but they're huge!" Kagome exclaimed.

 "This is Lord Toga's true form," said Myoga. "Like Sesshomaru and other great demons, he used demonic magic to disguise himself as a man. The reason why his body is so huge is because he was of incomparable stature! And now, his eldest son seeks the treasured sword that lies hidden within his bones!"

 "Sword?" Inuyasha repeated. "What sword?"

 "His greatest weapon," said Myoga. "The great Iron Cleaving Fang...the Tetsusaiga."

XXX

 

 Sesshomaru stood, deep within the very pits of his father's tomb...where hundreds of decayed skulls lie at his feet. One might think that they were human bones...but a closer look revealed that these skulls and skeletons had horns and multiple limbs and even sharp fangs. These were all the bones of Toga's fellow demons...there was no time how many he had devoured during his lifetime. And now, his eldest son stood within his remains...staring at a rusty katana blade that was fixed to a pedestal.

 "At last, I found it," said Sesshomaru. "The Tetsusaiga is mine."

Chapter Text

 "At long last," Sesshomaru said as he approached the katana in the pedestal, "I've finally found the Tetsusaiga...my Father's ultimate weapon, said to fell 100 foes in a single stroke."

 "Aye, milord," said Jaken. "Forged from one of your father's own fangs! Just holding it is just the same as inherited his demonic powers!"

 "Yes," Sesshomaru replied as he reached out to grab the hilt, "and now...I shall take what is rightfully mine."

 On that, he took hold of the sword's hilt...but when he did, it emitted some sort of static shock, causing Sesshomaru to wince before he pulled it back...revealing several burns on his palm.

 "W-what is this?!" Jaken questioned. "The sword...it rejected you?!"

 "...Of course," said Sesshomaru as he looked at Tetsusaiga. "I should have known that my Father would place a barrier around it to keep it from falling into the wrong hands."

 "SESSHOMARU~!!!"

 "Hmm?" Sesshomaru hummed as he glanced up, only to see Inuyasha dropping in on him...literally.

 "THIS FIGHT ISN'T OVER YET, YOU BASTARD!!!" Inuyasha yelled. "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!"

 Sesshomaru simply scoffed before he jumped out of the way, causing Inuyasha's claws to smash the skulls beneath his feet, instead.

 "Have you no sense of decorum, Inuyasha?" asked Sesshomaru. "You are disrespecting our Father's resting place by making a raucous."

 "You're one to talk!!" Inuyasha barked. "You're the one who's trying to rob his grave!! You should respect it by leaving!!!"

 "Master Inuyasha! Look there!" Myoga exclaimed as he pointed at the Tetsusaiga.

 "What is it?!" Inuyasha asked as he looked to the pedestal. "Huh? What is that? A sword?"

 "Hurry! Pull the sword out from the pedestal, sire!" Myoga urged.

 "Why should I?!" Inuyasha asked. "What's the big deal about it, anyway?!"

 "That is your Father's ultimate weapon, crafted from his own fang!" Myoga answered. "A sword that can fell 100 enemies in a single stroke: the Tetsusaiga!"

 "Huh?" Inuyasha asked as he looked at it. "This thing is the Tetsusaiga? This rusty old piece of scrap metal?"

 "Don't be deceived by appearances!" Myoga exclaimed. "I've seen what this sword can do with my own two eyes!" He then glanced over at Sesshomaru, seeming almost smug. "And you, Sesshomaru...you could not pull it out, could you?"

 "Huh?" Inuyasha asked. "Sesshomaru couldn't pull out the sword?"

 "...Are you implying that my weakling of a younger brother can?" asked Sesshomaru.

 "Grrr...who're you calling 'weakling'?!" Inuyasha growled as he flexed his claws.

 "Of course Master Inuyasha can!" Myoga answered. "After all, Lord Toga chose to hide the sword's location in his right eye, did he not?!"

 As for Kagome, she was slowly making her way down one of the roots that were wrapped around Toga's ribs.

 "Well, what are you waiting for, Master Inuyasha?!" Myoga questioned. "Hurry and pull out the sword!!"

 "Nothin' doin'," Inuyasha replied. "What do I care about some rusty old piece of junk?" He then glared at Sesshomaru. "Sesshomaru...all my life...ever since the day you and I met, all you've done is look down on me." He then lunged for his older half-brother. "WELL, IT ENDS HERE!!!"

 "Unlikely," Sesshomaru replied as he dodged Inuyasha's claws, once again, causing the half-demon to strike one of Toga's ribs, instead. When he tried to lunge at him, again, Sesshomaru simply leaped over him, causing him to hit the skulls where he once stood.

 "Dammit! Hold still!!" Inuyasha barked.

 "Same as ever," said Sesshomaru. "You fight as if you were a wild beast...how infantile."

 "Why you...!!" Inuyasha hissed.

 "You can't fight him unarmed, sire!" Myoga cried. "The Tetsusaiga! Use the Tetsusaiga!!"

 "Shut up, Myoga!!" barked Inuyasha.

 "Inuyasha, just get the stupid sword, already!!" Kagome shouted, causing him to look up at her.

 "K...Kagome?" he asked.

 "Sesshomaru can't pull the sword out, right?!" asked Kagome. "Well, if you can't hit him in the body, then hit him where it really hurts: his ego!! Hit his pride, got it?!"

 "...Aha," Inuyasha smirked as he glanced at Sesshomaru. "So you really can't pull the sword out, huh, Sesshomaru?"

 Sesshomaru didn't answer...but he did make a subtle sneer.

 "Ha!" Inuyasha laughed. "That answers that question!" He then looked over at Tetsusaiga. "All right...I think I want the sword, after all...if only to finally wipe off that smug look on your face!" He then approached the sword and placed his hand around the hilt. "This is gonna be more fun than I thought it would be."

 Jaken gasped in horror at this.

 "No! This can't be!!" he cried. "Inuyasha is immune to the barrier that thwarted Lord Sesshomaru!!"

 "I knew it!" Myoga exclaimed. "Undeniable proof that the Tetsusaiga was meant to be for Master Inuyasha's hands, only!!"

 "Rrrggh..." Inuyasha grunted as he began to pull on the sword. "Come on...you...stupid piece of junk!"

 "Come on, Inuyasha!" Kagome cheered. "You can do it!"

 "Pull harder!" Myoga added, causing Inuyasha to yell out from the exertion...and at first, it seemed that the Tetsusaiga was going to budge. Then, there was a flash of blinding light, causing everyone (except for Sesshomaru) to shield their eyes. When the light faded...the sword was still stuck in its pedestal.

 "W...what?!" Jaken asked in disbelief.

 "...Well...that was anticlimactic," said Kagome.

 "...Hey...Myoga," said Inuyasha in a dangerously low voice.

 "Umm...yes, Master Inuyash-UGH!!" Myoga started, only for his charge to grab him and squeeze him between his fingers.

 "I thought you said I could pull out the sword!" Inuyasha said with an almost evil smirk. "So tell me, Myoga...why didn't it work?!"

 "I-I don't know...!!" Myoga croaked. "Please, stop squishing me, milord!!"

 "Well, that was certainly entertaining," Sesshomaru spoke up, causing Inuyasha to glance back at him, "but I'm afraid I've had just about enough of this tomfoolery." Then, he suddenly vanished before reappearing right in front of Inuyasha, who gasped as he stumbled back until his back was up against the ribs.

 "No half-demon will ever possess the Tetsusaiga," said Sesshomaru as he got in his younger half-brother's face. "Do you understand, Inuyasha?" He then raised his claws...which glowed an ominous green light. "Now...allow me to introduce my Poison Claws."

 Inuyasha gasped before he ducked out of the way as Sesshomaru swiped his claws at him. Lucky thing he did, too, for the bones began to melt from one graze of his claws, to Kagome's horror.

 "Oh, no...!" she whispered while Inuyasha tried to evade Sesshomaru, but he proved to be too fast, even for him.

 "You won't escape me," said Sesshomaru as he tried to hit Inuyasha again, but luckily, he managed to duck out of the way before he tried to swipe his own claws back at him, but once again, he missed.

 "Hang on, Lord Sesshomaru!" Jaken called as he raised the Staff of Two Heads. "Allow me to assist you- OOGH!!"

 "Not so fast, you stinking toad!!" Kagome shouted as she jumped down, stomping her feet on Jaken's head.

 "Why you impudent little wench!" Jaken growled before he swung his staff at Kagome, who shrieked as she stumbled out of the way and accidentally grabbed onto the Tetsusaiga's hilt to gain a bit of leverage. That's when she heard a loud crash, which caused her to turn around and see Inuyasha, pinned down by Sesshomaru!

 "Oh, no!" Kagome cried. "Inuyasha!!"

 "K-Kagome! Get out of here!!" Inuyasha yelled as he tried to push Sesshomaru back. "I'll hold him off!! GO!!!"

 "I'm afraid you won't get the chance," said Sesshomaru. "Goodbye...brother."

 "NO!!!" Kagome cried as she tried to run to Inuyasha's aid...but in doing so, she unwittingly pulled the Tetsusaiga from its pedestal!

 "W...what the...?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "HUH?!!" Myoga and Jaken gaped in shock. Even Sesshomaru seemed stunned, his eyes wide with disbelief while Kagome held the rusty sword in her hands, then glanced over at the gawking group.

 "Umm...sorry," she said. "It just...popped out." She then chuckled sheepishly.

 "What the...how did...how did you...what in the-?!" Inuyasha stammered. "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!!"

 "How can this be?!" Jaken questioned. "Lord Sesshomaru could not pull the sword, and even that detestable, flea-ridden Inuyasha couldn't pull it out!"

 "Hey! Who ya callin' flea-ridden?!" Inuyasha snapped.

 "And yet, this mortal girl could?!" asked Jaken.

 "...This...this is a first," Sesshomaru said as he stared at Kagome while Inuyasha glanced over at him, noticing that he was distracted.

 "Don't EVER take your eyes off me!!" he shouted as he tried to hit his older half-brother, again, but true to form, Sesshomaru easily evaded the swipe of his claws before he appeared right in front of Kagome, who let out a frightened squeak.

 "...You...girl," Sesshomaru said with a cold, icy glare.

 "Umm...yes?" Kagome asked as she backed away.

 "What kind of woman are you," Sesshomaru began, "that you are able to pull the Phantom Sword?"

 "Umm...I...I dunno," Kagome replied. "I'm just your everyday, average junior high school student...heheheh...?"

 "Leave her alone, Sesshomaru!!" Inuyasha barked. "Kagome's not part of this!!"

 "Oh, but I'm afraid she is," said Sesshomaru as he raised his claws, "merely by being your companion..."

 "Huh?!" Kagome squeaked.

 "Kagome!! Get outta there!!" Inuyasha shouted. "Run for it!!!"

 "Farewell," Sesshomaru said as he slashed his poison claws at Kagome...and while the poison did not hit her, it did end up hitting the bones above...and she was soon smothered under the melted marrow.

 "KAGOME~!!!" Inuyasha screamed in horror.

Chapter Text

 "Kagome! Kagome!!" Inuyasha cried as he tried to dig Kagome out of the muck. "Dammit, this is why I said for you to stay behind!! Now, look what happened to you!!!"

 "...The poor girl," Myoga whispered, grimly. "Never had a chance."

 "Someone as fragile as her, able to pull the Tetsusaiga?" asked Sesshomaru. "How ridiculous...and not just humans...but half-demons, as well...don't you agree, Inuyasha?"

 "...Sesshomaru...!" Inuyasha hissed as he glared back at his older half-brother. "How dare you!! She was my friend!!!"

 "Your friend, was she?" asked Sesshomaru. "Judging by your reaction...I'd almost say it was more than that."

 "I'LL KILL YOU!!!" Inuyasha yelled as he lunged at the older dog demon. "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!"

 Sesshomaru merely leaped into the air, dodging Inuyasha's claws before he wrapped him up using his fur, pulling him close so that his lips met his pricked ears.

 "How pathetic, Inuyasha," he whispered, coldly, "that you, with your dirty blood, consider yourself my equal."

 BAM!! He swung Inuyasha down into the skulls, causing him to slide towards the ribs and crash. He groaned in pain, but then he growled as he glared at Sesshomaru.

 "Why you...!!" Inuyasha hissed, only to gasp and use his Fire Rat haori to block the lashes from Sesshomaru's whip, which struck him several times.

 "You forget your station," Sesshomaru said, "you worthless half-breed!!"

 WHAP!!! Inuyasha cried as he was sent flying across Toga's skeleton, once again, the skulls clattering around him. He moaned as he held his head, shaking woozily from the disorientation. However, he glared up at his older half-brother, who stood amidst the skulls.

 '...A half-breed...' thought Inuyasha. 'That name...it always followed me wherever I went...and even now...I remember the day I first heard it...'

Flashback

 

 The sun shined brightly over the courtyard where a large group of men and women had gathered, all of them dressed in fine silk robes. They had all gathered around for a little game of kemari where they would pass the ball to each other using either their feet or their heads. As the ball bounced around the courtyard, a young child soon joined them: a child clad in a red kimono. His silvery-white hair seemed to sparkle in the sun and his golden yellow eyes shined as he eyed the ball, which bounced into a young man's hands, the boy ran up to him and reached his hands up.

 The crowd sneered at the boy, some of them even muttering amongst themselves, while the young man held up the ball, out of the child's reach.

 "You want to play, do you?" he asked. "Well...fetch!"

 He soon tossed the ball over his shoulder, where it bounced along a stone bridge. The child eagerly chased after it and caught it in his hands, but as he turned around to bring it back...he saw the crowd all walking away, murmuring things...but there was one sentence that his pricked dog ears caught amongst the soft chatter.

 "Who does that stupid half-breed think he is, thinking he can play with the likes of us?"

 Inuyasha blinked innocently as he attempted to follow, and yet, he only took a single step forward as he watched the men and women disappear.

 "...Half-breed?" he repeated.

 "Inuyasha?"

 The boy turned to his mother, who approached him with a warm, kind smile.

 "There you are," she said. "I've been looking for you. What are you doing out here, by yourself?"

 Inuyasha didn't answer, at first. Instead, he tossed the ball aside and ran into Izayoi's arms.

 "...Mother?" he asked as he looked up to meet her face. "What's a...'half-breed'?"

 Izayoi's eyes went wide...and not long after, they began to well up with tears.

 "...Mother?" Inuyasha asked, worriedly. "What's wrong?"

 "...I'm so sorry, Inuyasha," Izayoi whispered as he pulled her son into her arms, tightly. "I'm so sorry...!"

 Inuyasha blinked innocently as his mother held him while she sobbed, quietly. He could feel her body tremble with each hiccup and he could smell the salt in her tears. All he could do was wrap his arm around her back and pat it gently.

 "Don't cry, Mother," he said. "Don't cry...please?"

 But Izayoi continued to cry...leaving her son confused and sad.

 'That's right...I remember. My Mother...she was crying...crying for me. She knew what 'half-breed' meant...what my life would be like.'

Flashback


 Inuyasha grunted as he propped himself up against the bones of his father, then looked at the spot where Kagome got buried. The Tetsusaiga surprisingly remained intact...but that didn't matter to him...not now. All he could think about was everything Sesshomaru did, just to get that sword...he insulted him...and he disrespected Izayoi's memory by making Inuyasha believe that she had come back from the dead. To top it all off...he dispatched Kagome, the one person aside from his mother to readily accept him and show him kindness of any kind.

 All this for some sword that he couldn't even pick up.

 "...Half-breed or full breed," Inuyasha said, "to me, it don't matter...but when you insult my Mother's memory, THAT'S when I get pissed!" He then glared at Sesshomaru. "For her sake, then, if nothing else...I'M GONNA MAKE YOU PAY!!!"

 On that, he charged at Sesshomaru with such speed that he almost didn't see him coming, causing him to jump out of the way...but this time, Inuyasha actually managed to at least graze him.

 "That was for my Mother!!" Inuyasha shouted. "And this is for KAGOME!!!"

 To Sesshomaru's surprise, Inuyasha leaped up and grazed him again before he could so much as blink!

 "This is inconceivable!" cried Jaken. "Before, Inuyasha could barely so much as spit at him!!"

 Soon, the two brothers landed behind one another...and Sesshomaru's pauldron shattered, falling off his chest and shoulder.

 "...My," Sesshomaru said in mock surprise. "All this over the memory of your mother and a dead mortal girl? Had I known that was what it would take to make you fight me to the best of your ability...I would have killed the wench, sooner."

 A deep growl rumbled in Inuyasha's chest as he stared at the bones where Kagome was buried, then he turned and glared at Sesshomaru.

 "I'm gonna slit your stomach, rip out your guts, put 'em in a bowl, and eat 'em raw!" Inuyasha barked. "By the time I'm through with you, you're gonna wish that you're the one who was lying buried underneath that gunk and not Kagome!!"

 Suddenly, the pile of goop started to twitch, causing Inuyasha to gasp silently as he noticed it.

 "...What the...?" he whispered. "K...Kagome? Is that you?!"

 "GAAAH!!" Kagome gasped as she emerged from the ooze. "Haa...haa...! I...I thought I was done for!" She then glared at Sesshomaru. "Hey, you big jerk! You really tried to kill me, didn't you?!! Don't think you're gonna get away with that!!"

 "KAGOME!!"

 Suddenly, to Kagome's surprise, Inuyasha ran up and hugged her tightly.

 "Uh...I-Inuyasha?" she asked, her cheeks dusted pink.

 "You're alive!" Inuyasha exclaimed with a great big smile on his face. "Thank god, you're alive, you..." He trailed off when he realized what he was doing before his face flushed bright red, then he scowled. "You...are an IDIOT!!!" He then pushed her away, causing her to cry out as she stumbled a bit.

 "H-hey!" Kagome cried. "What was that for?!"

 "Whaddaya mean, 'what was that for'?!" Inuyasha questioned. "I told you to stay behind and let me take care of Sesshomaru, you stupid wench!! You almost gave me a heart attack!! Ya happy?!!"

 "You...thought I was dead?" Kagome asked.

 "Of course, I thought you were dead, you moron!!" Inuyasha barked. "How are you even alive?!!"

 "...The sword," Sesshomaru said as the skulls beneath his feet began to rattle and shake. "It protected her."

 "The...the sword did?" Inuyasha asked as he glanced at the Tetsusaiga in Kagome's hands.

 "Of course!" Myoga exclaimed. "The same barrier that burned Sesshomaru's hand must have protected her! How else would she have survived that deadly attack?!"

 "...Huh," Inuyasha muttered, thoughtfully.

 "Here, Inuyasha," said Kagome as she handed him the rusty blade. "Take it. I think we shouldn't count it out, just yet."

 "Uh...but-" Inuyasha started.

 "She's right!" Myoga agreed. "It's time to put the sword to a real test and use it against Sesshomaru!!"

 "Such big words," Sesshomaru began, "from such small vermin." Suddenly, his eyes went wide and the skulls began to swirl around him.

 "Uh...what's going on?" Kagome asked.

 "...Get behind me," Inuyasha replied. "Now."

 Kagome nodded in compliance as she stood behind the half-demon while Sesshomaru began to throw the skulls without even lifting his arm. The bones shattered against Inuyasha's head, yet he didn't even so much as flinch.

 'What's his problem?!' thought Kagome as she watched Sesshomaru. 'What a jerk!' She then whimpered when another skull hit Inuyasha's face.

 "All right, then," said Sesshomaru. "A test, it shall be...let's see if a half-breed such as you, Inuyasha, can even wield the Tetsusaiga...and I, myself, shall be the witness!"

 On that declaration, the whites of Sesshomaru's eyes began to turn a bloody red and his irises turned a dark blue as what looked like red smoke began to enshroud his body. Then, his face began to grow in length, forming a long muzzle and jaws filled with sharp fangs. Silvery white fur grew all over his body as it began to grow in size. The smoke soon cleared...revealing a giant, demonic dog standing where Sesshomaru once was.

 "W-what is that?!" Kagome asked. "What happened to Sesshomaru?!!"

 "That IS Sesshomaru," Inuyasha replied. "That's his true form."

 "His...his true form?!" Kagome repeated in shock.

 "Yes..." Sesshomaru spoke in a deep, unearthly voice. "Prepare yourself, Inuyasha...if I cannot wield the Tetsusaiga...then neither can you!!"

 ARROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO~!!!! Sesshomaru let out what sounded like a roar and a howl mixed together...which caused Inuyasha to smirk as he held Tetsusaiga in his hands.

 "Bring it on..."

Chapter Text

 Sesshomaru growled as he glowered down at his prey, saliva dripping from his gnashing jaws that melted the skulls beneath him. Kagome clung to Inuyasha's shoulders from behind, staring at the dog demon in fright. As for Inuyasha, however, he only smirked as he brandished the Tetsusaiga.

 "Now that I'm using this," he started, "I'll win for sure."

 "Hahahahahaha!!" laughed Sesshomaru. "You sound certain, Inuyasha...but let's see if you can actually back that up!!"

 As he began to advance toward the two, Inuyasha and Kagome backed away, but the former remained completely unafraid.

 "All right," he said. "Time to see what this sword can really do! I'd say this battle is just about wrapped up before it even starts."

 "Ha! We'll see about that," Sesshomaru replied.

 "Kagome," Inuyasha said. "Go and hide, now, until it's over!"

 "W-where, though?!" asked Kagome, but Inuyasha jumped into the air before he could answer.

 "All right, Tetsusaiga," said Inuyasha. "Time to do your stuff! Prepare yourself, Sesshomaru!!"

 Sesshomaru roared before he lunged at his younger half-brother, who attempted to cut him in his face, but he couldn't even so much as graze him, let alone leave a deep enough gash. Kagome shrieked as she narrowly avoided Sesshomaru's giant paws as he landed while Inuyasha nearly stumbled, but managed to stay on his feet before he glanced at the Tetsusaiga.

 "Dammit! Didn't even leave a scratch on him!" he cursed.

 "Was that supposed to hurt?" asked Sesshomaru. "It doesn't even itch...you foolish half-breed!!" He then lunged for Inuyasha again, but he managed to duck beneath his belly and jump onto one of Toga's ribs, but then dodged again when Sesshomaru tried to strike him down with his claws, then again when he attempted to bite him. The full demon chuckled darkly as he turned to face Inuyasha, his saliva dripping onto the skulls, once again.

 "What's wrong?" asked Sesshomaru. "What happened to that foolhardy bravado of yours, little brother?! All you're doing is running away, just like that little flea on your shoulder!"

 Inuyasha growled in frustration as he glanced at Myoga...who was tying up some kind of bundle around his neck.

 "Hey, Myoga! What the hell is going on with this sword?!" Inuyasha asked. "It can't even bruise, let alone cut!"

 "Well, Master Inuyasha," Myoga started, "it will make a lovely heirloom..." He then chuckled, nervously. "Umm...anyway, it's the thought that counts! Now, if you'll excuse me..." With that, he hopped away. "And don't let that Sesshomaru push you around, all right?!"

 "W-what the-?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Where are you going?! Get back here!!!" He then groaned. "Some vassal I've got..."

 Sesshomaru then let out a rumbling laugh.

 "I knew it," he said. "As if a half-demon such as you could ever use the Tetsusaiga to its full potential! Father was clearly a fool, entrusting you with his ultimate weapon!"

 "Ah, shaddap!!" Inuyasha barked.

 "This battle is over, all right," Sesshomaru began, "and by the end of this, you and that mortal girl will soon be crushed between my fangs!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Well, if you do decide to eat me, I'll be sure to give you a nasty case of indigestion!"

 Sesshomaru growled as he opened his jaws, his breath coming out in a thick, green fog which caused Inuyasha to gag a bit before he covered his nose.

 "Oh, man," he said before he turned to Kagome. "Kagome! Quick! Get outta here!!"

 "And go where?!" Kagome asked.

 "Where do you think, dummy?!" Inuyasha questioned as he pointed up. "Climb up! Up and out!! He's trying to choke us out!! His breath is toxic!!!"

 "What?!" Kagome cried before she began to climb up the roots. "O-okay, I'm going!!"

 "You won't escape from me!!" Sesshomaru roared as he tried to lunge for Inuyasha several more times, but the half-demon still managed to evade his paws, ducking, rolling, and jumping out of the way as best as he could.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome called down as she kept climbing, along with Myoga.

 "Hurry up, girl! Climb!" Myoga shouted. "Even a demon can't stay in those toxic fumes for long!"

 "L-Lord Sesshomaru!" Jaken cried, also climbing up a vine. "I-I can't- AAAH!!" As the green fog began to rise, he scrambled upward as fast as he could.

 "But Myoga," Kagome began, "what about Inuyasha?! We can't just leave him down there!! Are you sure he'll be okay?!"

 "Uh...well..." Myoga mumbled before shrugging his shoulders, accidentally letting go of the root as he did. "Maybe not- WHOA!!" After a moment, he managed to grab onto the root, again. "There's no time for heroics!! It's every flea for himself!!" With that, he continued climbing.

 "Wait! Myoga!" Kagome cried before she glanced down to where Inuyasha and Sesshomaru were fighting. "Inuyasha, hurry!!" She then gasped as the fog starting getting higher, forcing her to keep climbing, as well. As for Inuyasha, he was left to continue dodging Sesshomaru's strikes, but he was starting to lose his footing due to the skulls and the skeletal remains of Toga being turned into mush. He even started to cough a bit as he staggered.

 "Damn," he cursed. "Even I can't stay in these fumes for too long!" He then looked up and took a leap into the air, but as he did, his vision started to blur, and he was also starting to lose feeling in his limbs. Once he had managed to find a foothold on the ribcage, he started coughing as he tried to move his arms and legs, and yet, his knees buckled under his weight.

 "Ugh...Sesshomaru's poison is getting to me," he said. "My arms and legs feel like jelly...!"

 "Aww, does it hurt? Maybe I should put you OUT OF YOUR MISERY!!!"

 SNAP!!! Inuyasha screamed in pain as he felt Sesshomaru's jaws clamp down on him, his upper body dangling from his fangs while everything from the waist down was trapped inside his maw. The great dog demon then jumped back down right into the pit of bones.

 "Hahahahahaha!" Sesshomaru laughed. "You're mine, now, Inuyasha!"

 "Put me down, you bastard!!" Inuyasha yelled.

 "Oh, don't worry," said Sesshomaru. "I'm not going to kill you...yet." He then began to squeeze his jaws tighter on Inuyasha, causing him to scream in even more pain. "I'll just slowly bite down, harder and harder until your spine snaps!!"

 "Rrrgh...!" Inuyasha grunted as he tried to pry his older half-brother's jaws off of him, then looked to the Tetsusaiga in his hand. "I bet even a mosquito with wooden teeth stings better than this stupid sword!!"

 SHUNK!! He then stabbed the blade into Sesshomaru's right eye, causing him to roar in pain.

 "AAAAAAAARRRGH!!! YOU WRETCH!!!" he yelled before he leaped up into the air, crashing through Toga's shoulder plate armor, where Kagome was waiting.

 "Inuyasha!" she called out to him, and as soon as the dust cleared, Inuyasha jumped out while still holding the Tetsusaiga in his hand while Sesshomaru rubbed his eye, then growled at the duo.

 "Now do you see the power of Tetsusaiga?!" Myoga asked while he watched from one of the bushes. "Hoho, you're giving Sesshomaru a proper thrashing, I hope!"

 "Shut up, Myoga!!" Inuyasha barked. "This stupid sword is about as useful as a walking stick!!!"

 "Oh...well, uh..." Myoga muttered. "Maybe it's not your father's sword, after all."

 A pause...before he hopped away, again.

 "Hey!!" Kagome cried. "Myoga, get back here!!!"

 "Ah, forget about him," said Inuyasha as he looked at the Tetsusaiga. "In the meantime, what the hell am I supposed to do with this stupid thing?!"

 "That's IT!!" Sesshomaru shouted. "I've had more than enough of this!! I'M GOING TO DEVOUR YOU BOTH!!!"

 With that, he lunged at Inuyasha again, but he evaded his claws just as it struck with Toga's armor, again. He tried to use the blade to block his older half-brother's claws, again, but he still ended up getting pushed back.

 "That's it, Inuyasha!" Kagome cheered. "Nail him! I think the first one hit!"

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned. "What are you, nuts?! That barely even scratched him!"

 "But the sword is yours now, Inuyasha!" Kagome said. "You just have to believe in it, just like how I believe in you!"

 Inuyasha let out a slight noise of surprise as he heard those words.

 'She...she believes in me...?'

 He then glanced over at Sesshomaru, who growled viciously at him, then he looked down at the Tetsusaiga...then growled in frustration as he remembered all the attempts he made to fight Sesshomaru with it, and yet, nothing he did worked.

 "You really are nuts!" Inuyasha barked as he turned to Kagome. "This stupid sword is nothing but a good-for-nothin' hunk of junk! Now as for me, I'll live since I'm half-demon..." He then grumbled under his breath. "As for you, you ain't got a chance in hell..."

 "...You mean...I should just give up hope?" Kagome asked as tears began to well up in her eyes.

 "Wha...what the-?!" Inuyasha stammered. "W-what are you doing?! You're not crying, are you...?"

 Kagome only sniffled in response.

 "STOP IT!!" Inuyasha snapped. "NO CRYING!!!"

 "Oh, then should I laugh?!" Kagome questioned, angrily.

 "Uh, no!" Inuyasha countered. "You should shut up and lemme protect you, got it?!"

 Kagome gasped silently. Let him...protect her? Did she really hear that, right? Before, in battles like this, Inuyasha would usually say that he was protecting the Sacred Jewel shards that she had, not her...but did he really just say that he'd protect her?

 "How sweet," said Sesshomaru. "You'll protect her, you say, Inuyasha? In that case, I'll make sure you both die together!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he strode toward the dog demon. "You just stay there and watch, Kagome."

 "...Okay...I didn't imagine that, did I?" Kagome asked, still stunned from what she had just heard.

 '...In some ways, he is like Sesshomaru...although I can't really blame him for that, given what he's been through...but in other ways, he's completely different.'

 GRRAAAAAWWWRR!! Sesshomaru roared at Inuyasha, who only rolled his eyes at him.

 "Yeah, yeah, 'roar, roar' to you too, buddy," said the half-demon as he brandished Tetsusaiga once more. "Let's just get this over with!"

 "With pleasure..." Sesshomaru grinned.

 Just then...ba-bump...

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered before he glanced down at Tetsusaiga.

 Ba-bump...Ba-bump...

 The blade began to let out an odd pulsating sound, causing Inuyasha to gasp as he held it up.

 "The...the Tetsusaiga," he said. "It's...pulsing!"

 "Finish him, Lord Sesshomaru!!" Jaken called. "Show Inuyasha what superior breeding can really do!!! Bite him completely in two-"

 BONK!! Suddenly, a skull suddenly hit the imp on the head, causing him to turn and see Kagome, who was holding some old skulls in her hand.

 "We'll just see who eats whom!" Kagome shouted as she threw the skulls at Jaken again, causing him to collapse before she looked up and watched Inuyasha.

 'You've got this, Inuyasha,' she thought with a proud smile. 'I know you do!'

 "You're finished," Sesshomaru said before he lunged for Inuyasha with jaws agape. "Time to die...YOU INFERIOR HALF-BREEEEEEEED!!!"

 "I don't think so," Inuyasha said before he jumped to meet his older half-brother head-on...and when the two collided, there was the sound of something tearing into flesh, causing Kagome to wince as she covered her eyes. As the two brothers landed behind each other, Sesshomaru suddenly seized up before he collapsed on the shoulder plate, causing him to look towards his left arm...or rather, what was left of it: it had been completely severed, causing a huge pool of blood to form!

 "W...what is this?!" Sesshomaru questioned. "My arm...it's been cut off!! But how?!!" He then glanced back at Inuyasha...who had his back turned to him, causing him to growl, furiously. "You...!! What did you do?!!"

 Inuyasha turned to face his brother...holding a sword with a very large blade that gave off this golden yellow aura, and the handguard of the hilt looked like it was covered in white fur.

 "No..." Sesshomaru whispered in disbelief. "This is impossible! That's...that's the Tetsusaiga's true form!!"

 "It's...true form?" Kagome repeated.

 "...It looks like...a fang...!" Inuyasha whispered as he swung the giant blade down...then he smirked. "It is a fang." He then looked up at Toga's skull, where he found a missing canine. "Looks like our old man really did leave something worthwhile, eh, Sesshomaru?"

 Sesshomaru only growled, blood still pouring out of his severed arm.

 "So here we are," Inuyasha began, "two brothers, fighting over our Father's sword. In a way...we're kinda like a couple of puny fleas, jumping around his body. We'd be lucky if he didn't squash us flat...compared to him, you and I are nothin'."

 "Nothing?!" Sesshomaru repeated. "I am his firstborn son!! Everything he had, I was supposed to have!!! You...you are a worthless half-breed!! Our Father died a meaningless death, protecting you and whore of a mother!!! YOU DON'T EVEN REMEMBER HIM!!!!"

 "So what if I don't?!" Inuyasha questioned. "You may be his firstborn, but it was me that Father chose to hide his tomb in! I'd rather give up an eye than give up the sword he wanted to protect from an entitled, spoiled brat like you, Sesshomaru!! NOT BAD FOR A WORTHLESS HALF-BREED, HUH?!!"

 "ENOOOOOOOOUGH!!!!" Sesshomaru roared as he jumped at Inuyasha again.

 "And another thing," Inuyasha added before he jumped back at him. "NEVER INSULT MY MOTHER, AGAIN!!!"

 SLASH!!! With one swing, Inuyasha slashed Sesshomaru in the chest, causing him to scream in pain as blood spurted out from the gash...before he plummeted towards the misty abyss, screaming the whole way down.

 "CURSE YOU, INUYASHAAAAAAAA!!!"

Chapter Text

 "Lord Sesshomaru!!" Jaken cried in horror and disbelief as he saw his employer seemingly plummet to his doom...but then, a tiny ball of light suddenly flew off into the sky, causing the imp to gasp before he began to rush after it. "Wait! Don't leave me, milord!!"

 "Haa...haa...haa...!" Inuyasha panted before he stuck Tetsusaiga into his father's armor. "Phew! Finally..."

 "You did it!!"

 Without a single warning, Kagome suddenly ran up and hugged him from behind, causing him to blush a deep red as she did so.

 "I'm so proud of you, Inuyasha!" she exclaimed. "I knew you could do it! I just knew you could!"

 "Uh...yeah...thanks," Inuyasha replied. "Do you mind letting me go?"

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered before she realized what she had before she gasped and pulled away from the half-demon. "Oops! Sorry about that!"

 "Uh...it's no problem," Inuyasha answered before he glanced over at the sword and gave a smirk. "Looks like I was wrong about this thing."

 "You see?" Myoga asked as he suddenly appeared on Inuyasha's shoulder. "I was right, all along! After all, if you had just listened to me, earlier, I..." He then trailed off when he noticed Inuyasha and Kagome glaring at him. "Uhh...what's with those dirty looks?"

 "You little coward!" Kagome shouted. "You kept bailing on us!"

 "Th-that's not true, I-" Myoga stammered.

 "Ah, save it, you little-" Inuyasha started as he was about to squish the tiny flea.

 "Wait!!" Myoga cried before he pointed to a pair of skeletal birds. "See? Look! I didn't run away! I merely got us a ride home."

 "Huh? Really?" Kagome asked in surprise.

 "Of course!" Myoga replied. "You see? My integrity is unquestionable!"

 "So you really did come through for us, then," Inuyasha asked...a surprisingly warm smile on his face.

 "I...I did?" Myoga asked as he noticed the rare gentle expression on his master's face. "Well...I...uh..."

 "What is it?" Inuyasha asked. "You can tell me."

 "...Oh, I confess!" Myoga cried as he fell to his hands and knees. "I did run away! I was frightened for my life, especially when Sesshomaru transformed! Had I known that you were about to turn the tide, I never would have left!! I'm so ashamed of myself, Master Inuyasha...please forgive me!!! I swear I'll make it up to you!!!"

 "...Hey...Myoga?"

 "Y...yes, sire?"

 "...YOU'RE THE WORST VASSAL I'VE EVER HAD!!!"

 SPLAT!!!! Inuyasha threw Myoga to the ground and stomped his foot on him, even grinding his toes against him for good measure.

 "Damn cowardly flea!" the half-demon cursed while Kagome sighed and shook her head.

 "Oh, well..." Myoga groaned. "Such is a flea's...lot in life..."

XXX


 Soon, the vortex to the netherworld opened, allowing Inuyasha and Kagome to drop down safely back into the world of the living, right at the spot where they had left the village. The sun was shining brightly in the blue sky, bathing the earth in the morning light as they touched the grass.

 "Wow, we must have been in there, all night!" Kagome said. "It's morning, already!"

 "Yeah," Inuyasha replied before he looked up and saw something floating towards him: the Black Pearl, which soon sank back into his right eye. As he blinked, Kagome saw that it had completely healed.

 "How do you feel, Inuyasha?" asked Kagome. "You all right?"

 "Heh," Inuyasha smirked as he rubbed his eye. "Never better. Everything's back to normal and now my Father can rest in peace."

 Kagome smiled and nodded her head.

 "Yeah," she agreed.

 "Anyway, I'm starvin'," said Inuyasha. "Fighting Sesshomaru sure built up my appetite. Let's go back to the village and get some grub."

 "Sounds good to me!" Kagome concurred as they began to make their way back to the village.

XXX


 A while later, after Kagome had eaten her fill of rice, she and Myoga were sitting in Kaede's home, conveying to her what had happened during the night, from their encounter with Sesshomaru and the Unmother to Inuyasha wielding the Tetsusaiga and gaining victory over his older half-brother.

 "So that's what happened, is it?" asked Kaede.

 "Yes," Kagome nodded.

 "A truly harrowing experience, I must say," Kaede mused. "There is one thing that I do not understand, though...how is it that ye, Kagome, were able to draw the Tetsusaiga from the pedestal? Ye continue to surprise me, child."

 "Umm...I don't really know it, myself," Kagome replied.

 "I might have a theory," Myoga replied. "I believe the sword might have sensed Kagome's intentions."

 "My...intentions?" Kagome replied.

 "Tetsusaiga could not be wielded by Sesshomaru, even if he could bypass the barrier due to his sense of entitlement," said Myoga. "Master Inuyasha could not draw it because he only wanted the sword to spite his older half-brother...but you, Kagome...when you saw that Master Inuyasha was on the verge of being killed, the sword allowed itself to be held by you."

 "...Because I wanted to protect Inuyasha...!" Kagome realized.

 "Precisely," Myoga nodded. "Lord Toga forged the Tetsusaiga to protect his mortal lover, Lady Izayoi."

 "And then when Inuyasha said he'd protect me, the sword reacted!" Kagome concluded. "It all makes sense, now! Inuyasha can't use the sword properly unless he uses it to protect others!"

 "Indeed," Myoga nodded, "and for someone like Sesshomaru, who held disdain for mortals and sees no reason to protect them, wielding the Tetsusaiga was impossible."

 "'Tis a strange story, aye," Kaede concurred. "For Inuyasha, his half-human lineage has always been a curse. The love he feels for his mother is also tinged with shame...possibly because he blames himself for her passing...but it's because of those feelings that make him different from most demons. That is why Toga chose to hide his final resting place within his right eye. Perhaps the one who most resembles Toga, it is not Sesshomaru...but Inuyasha."

 "Yes, indeed," Myoga nodded.

 "...Could you excuse me for a second?" Kagome asked before she headed outside.

XXX


 Up in a tree, Inuyasha swung the Tetsusaiga, which had returned to its rusted, chipped form.

 "Hmm..." he hummed before he struck the sword against the tree's trunk, which almost caused him to fall out of the tree when he felt the reverberations from the blade before he let out an indignant sigh. "I guess I spoke too soon...now it's back to being a stupid piece of junk."

 "Hey, Inuyasha!"

 Inuyasha glanced down to see Kagome approaching.

 "Yeah, what is it?" he asked.

 "Do you want me to tell you?" Kagome asked. "You know, how to use the Tetsusaiga properly?"

 "And since when are you an expert?" Inuyasha asked as he jumped down from the tree, holding Tetsusaiga against his shoulder.

 "Well, do you promise you'll protect me with it?" Kagome asked. "Forever and ever?"

 "What?" Inuyasha asked. "What are you prattling on about, now? Is your brain broken or something?"

 "But you said you'd protect me!" Kagome argued.

 "I didn't mean it like that!!" Inuyasha countered. "If you'd just shut up and listen to me for a second, I'd tell you what a sword like this should really be used for, like finding the jewel shards and making me become a full-fledged demon! I sure as hell ain't usin' it to babysit a useless wench like you!"

 "Hey, I'm not THAT useless!" Kagome said. "I thought we were friends!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed, which caused Kagome to growl at him before she began to push him onto a wooden bridge. "H-hey! What are you doing?"

 Kagome then walked away from the bridge before she uttered: "Sit, boy!"

 THWAK!! KERSPLASH!!! Inuyasha's face hit the bridge, which collapsed from the force of the faceplant, which caused him to fall into the stream below.

 "It's my fault for thinking I could teach an old dog a new trick!" Kagome harrumphed as she stormed off.

 "Ugh..." Inuyasha groaned as he climbed out of the stream and shook himself dry. "Whaddaya mean 'trick'?!"

 "Forget it!" Kagome shouted.

 "Hey! Get back here!" Inuyasha called as he ran after her. "I thought you were gonna teach me how to use the sword!"

 "I said forget it! Leave me alone!!"

 "I thought we were friends!!"

 "You just said you didn't wanna be friends with me!!"

 As the two argued back and forth, Kaede sighed as she watched from her hut while Myoga sat on her shoulder, sharing her sentiment.

 "My master still has much to learn," Myoga said. "Still, it's nice to see that he's at least made a friend."

 "Even if they do disagree," Kaede concurred. "I just hope that the more time Kagome spends with Inuyasha, the more she will bring out his better half...hopefully, he will abandon this needless quest for power."

Chapter Text

 Night had fallen upon the village, once again. The villagers were all sound asleep in their huts, not having to worry about any demon attacks...at least not for a while, hopefully. However, as always, there was always someone who was wide awake at this time of night...a certain half-demon.

 Inuyasha stood in the middle of the tall grass and stared up at the moon, the wind pushing his hair up and down while he had Tetsusaiga tied against his left hip. It was the night after his and Kagome's harrowing encounter with his older half-brother, Sesshomaru...who had done some rather despicable actions against him in order to obtain the entrance to their father's tomb. He had roped the Unmother, a demon that was born from the spirit of a mother who had lost her children to famine and war, into posing as Inuyasha's late mother, Izayoi...and not only that, but even after Inuyasha and Kagome managed to escape from the ruse, Sesshomaru continuously belittled the former and even insulted his mother.

 ...His mother.

 It had been so long since he last saw her face, not counting his experience with the Unmother. That warm smile...the gentleness in her eyes...the scent of robes made from the finest silk and lotus flowers that always made him feel safe. Even as the years passed, he still missed every detail about her...but he knew he couldn't do anything about it. Death was just as much a part of life as anything else...he just wished she didn't die so soon.

 Even though Inuyasha wouldn't admit it, he honestly felt sorry for the Unmother, who met her end at Sesshomaru's hand while trying to protect him. It was just as Myoga said...even if she wasn't really his mother, she still loved Inuyasha enough to try and keep him out of harm's way. When he heard her call him her baby boy and how she wished for his forgiveness...he honestly felt his heart sink into his stomach. It was like watching his mother die a second time.

 At least he took some comfort in knowing that he had defeated Sesshomaru. Of course, he didn't believe he was dead, but he was quite pleased with the thought of him hobbling about with an arm. Serves him right.

 "Inuyasha?"

 Inuyasha turned to see Kagome approaching him, a worrisome expression etched on her face while she had her hands behind her back.

 "...Hey, Kagome," Inuyasha muttered as he looked back up at the moon, again, while Kagome soon stood by his side, staring up at it with him with a somewhat fond smile.

 "It's so pretty, isn't it?" she asked. "The moon."

 "...Yeah," Inuyasha muttered.

 "...Hey, Inuyasha?"

 "Yeah, what is it?"

 "Is...is there something bothering you?"

 "Keh! Why would anything bother me?"

 "You just seem so...well...you seem so lost."

 Inuyasha only snorted and rolled his eyes, which caused Kagome to sigh and shake his head. Typical.

 "Okay, maybe I'm wrong," she said, "but you know...I am here to listen if you wanna talk to me. I'm your friend, Inuyasha. Remember that."

 Inuyasha didn't say anything, which caused Kagome to exhale through her nose before she turned to head back to Kaede's hut to sleep...but then...

 "...I...I wanted to believe it was her."

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered as she turned to look at Inuyasha, who kept staring at the moon. "What are you talking about...oh, wait...are you talking about the Unmother?"

 "Yeah," Inuyasha replied before he sighed. "...I knew it was too good to be true...I knew that my Mother didn't really come back from the dead...but when I saw her face...when she started to hold me, just like she did when I was little...I just couldn't help myself." He looked down to the ground as if in shame. "I hate that I was so weak...that Sesshomaru was able to take advantage of my feelings toward my Mother." He tightly clenched his fists. "It stings me..."

 "Inuyasha..." Kagome whispered.

 "...It's been so long since I last saw her alive," Inuyasha replied, "but I still miss her so much..."

 "...I know how you feel," Kagome said.

 "You do?" Inuyasha inquired.

 "Mm-hmm," Kagome nodded. "When I was only a little girl, my Dad and my Grandma both died in a terrible accident."

 Inuyasha's eyes went wide before he glanced back at Kagome, who held her arm as she looked up at sadly at the stars.

 "I still miss them both," she said, "but I try to be strong because I know that's what they'd want me to do." She then looked to Inuyasha. "And I'm sure that your mom wants you to be strong for her, too, Inuyasha."

 "...I know she does," Inuyasha replied as he looked up at the moon, again. "Right before she died...she told me to be strong for her...and I will be, once I become a full-fledged demon."

 'Of course, he goes right back to that...' Kagome thought with a sweatdrop.

 "Inuyasha," she started, "with all due respect...I don't think that's what your mother meant when she said that."

 "Oh, yeah?" Inuyasha asked with slight irritation. "And how would you know?"

 "Well...I...I-I don't," Kagome stammered, "but I still think that you shouldn't become a full-fledged demon."

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he turned and walked away. "I didn't expect you to understand, anyway. When my Mother told me to be strong for her, she obviously meant that she wanted me to become a fully-fledged demon, then nobody would ever pick on me and push me around, ever again!"

 Kagome watched as Inuyasha walked away before she sighed.

 'Somehow...he misinterpreted his mother's last words to him...Inuyasha, this can't be what your mother really wanted for you...somehow, you have to believe that...'

Chapter Text

 "The Sacred Jewel, you say?"

 "Yes! The Sacred Jewel shards! Do any of you know about them?"

 Inuyasha sat on a branch of a tree that was overlooking on a small pond that was being occupied by a small group of kappa.

 "The Sacred Jewel..." one of them mused. "You mean that can increase a demon's power?"

 "Yeah, that's it!" Inuyasha replied. "You know about it, then!"

 "He's asking if we know it?" asked one of the kappa.

 "If we know what?" asked the other.

 "About the Sacred Jewel."

 "You mean the one that can increase a demon's power? It sounds like it could come in handy."

 "Yeah, it does...so what about it?"

 "...What about what-now?"

 Inuyasha groaned as he facepalmed, then sighed as he turned and left.

 "Never mind! Forget it!" he shouted before he leaped off into the trees.

 "...Forget what?" asked one of the kappa. "Who was that guy, again?"

 "Who was what guy?" asked another.

 "Well, Myoga, some help that was," Inuyasha said, sarcastically as he jumped from branch to branch with his vassal clinging to the Beads of Subjugation.

 "Well, I thought that they might have heard at least something, Master Inuyasha," said Myoga. "Still, three days since we left Kaede's Village, and we've not yet found a single clue to the whereabouts of any other jewel shards!"

 "Yeah, yeah, don't remind me!" Inuyasha replied as he landed at a lake bank. "Maybe we've found all the shards we could in Musashi."

 "Hey, Inuyasha!"

 Inuyasha looked up to see Kagome, who was splashing around in the water while wearing a one-piece bathing suit. Her clothes had been folded up on the bank, nearby, along with a bottle of shampoo and conditioner.

 "How'd it go?" asked Kagome. "You find any clue?"

 "No, I didn't," Inuyasha replied. "What are you doing in there, anyway?"

 "What is it look like?" asked Kagome. "I'm swimming!" She then began to do a backward paddle, kicking her legs in the water as she practically glided along the surface. "Why don't you come in? The water's great!"

 "Nothin' doin'!" Inuyasha denied. "I'm not some little kid anymore! We're supposed to be looking for the jewel shards, not frolicking about in the water!"

 "Oh, come on," Kagome replied. "Don't be such a fuddy-duddy! We've been looking for a clue for three days and found nothing! Why don't we use this chance to take a break?"

 "...Fuddy-duddy?" Inuyasha repeated in bewilderment.

 "Come on, Inuyasha, jump in!" said Kagome. "It's not like it's gonna kill you!"

 "Well, I'd certainly like to partake...!" Myoga said with a bit of a blush on his face.

 "Shut up, you pervy old flea!" Inuyasha barked, causing the flea to yelp in fear before the half-demon turned to Kagome. "And you! Get outta that water, now! We're leaving!!"

 "Hmm...nope!" Kagome replied as she began to do a front stroke. "I'm staying here!"

 "You're gonna get pruned if you stay in there!" Inuyasha shouted. "Or worse, hypothermia!"

 "Aww, you do care~!" Kagome said, teasingly.

 "Oh, cripes..." Inuyasha muttered in irritation.

 "Come on, Inuyasha!" Kagome beckoned. "Just get in here! Have some fun!"

 "I don't do fun!" Inuyasha argued as he turned and walked away.

 "What's the matter?" Kagome asked. "You chicken?"

 Hearing that caused Inuyasha to stop in his tracks, his ears pricked up before he glanced back at the young priestess.

 "...What did you call me?" Inuyasha asked. "Did you just call me a chicken?!"

 "That's right...chicken," Kagome answered. "BAWK-BAWK-BAKAAAAWWK!!"

 Inuyasha growled, his ears flattening against his head and a red flush forming on his face. How dare this wench challenge him. Nobody called him "chicken" and got away with it!

 "Mock me, will she?" he asked before he looked up at a nearby tree, then smirked as he jumped into the tree, as high as he could go.

 "W-wait! M-Master Inuyasha, what are you doing?!" Myoga asked, still holding onto the rosary. "You know that I'm still here, right?!"

 "I'll show her," said Inuyasha before he began to sprint along the branch. "Here I go!!"

 "W-wait!!" Myoga cried. "Master, you know fleas can't swim, right?! MASTER!!!"

 Fearing the inevitable, Myoga wisely hopped of Inuyasha's shoulder and onto a hanging leaf, just as the half-demon pushed off the branch like it was a diving board, tucked his arms under his knees, and plummeted towards the lake!

 "BANZAI~!!" he exclaimed before he hit the water with a large SPLASH!!

 "AAAH!!" Kagome shrieked as she shielded herself from the water, just as Inuyasha emerged, a smug, toothy grin on his face.

 "Chicken, am I?" he asked, which caused Kagome to laugh, while Myoga, still dangling from the leaf in the tree, sighed in exasperation.

 "Foolish girl," he muttered. "She figured out that Master Inuyasha can't resist a challenge..."

 "AAAAAAAAAAH!!!" Kagome shrieked again, although this time, this one sounded more terrified, causing Myoga to yelp as he scrambled to get to a sturdier branch.

 "W-what?!" Inuyasha asked in confusion. "What's the matter?!!"

 "My clothes!!" Kagome cried as she pointed at the bank where she left them, causing Inuyasha to turn and see a white blur, hopping off with them!

 "HEY!!" Inuyasha yelled as he quickly swam to the bank and shook the water off, sending droplets flying all over. "Dammit, I knew this was a bad idea! Now, look what happened!"

 FWEEEEEEEEEEET~!!!

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered as his ears perked up a bit at the peculiar sound. "Was that a...a whistle?"

 FWEEEEEEEEEEET~!!!

 "Hey! I hear it, too!" Kagome replied.

XXX


 FWEEEEEEEEEEET~!!! Not too far from the lake where Inuyasha and Kagome were splashing about, there was a young man dressed in a purple shitagi and a blue kimono over it with a square window pattern. He wore a blue obi that had his katana tied at the waist, a pair of wooden sandals, and he had his hair done up in a topknot, tied with a purple string, the traditional hairstyle of most samurai from this era. He had his thumb and index finger in his mouth, making that same whistling sound, and soon after, a little white monkey appeared, carrying Kagome's clothes over its head.

 "There you are, Hiyoshimaru!" the young samurai said as the primate jumped into his arms. "That's a good boy. Now, let's see what you've brought us."

 He then began to rummage through Kagome's uniform before he pulled out...a pink, lacy bra.

 "Huh?!" the samurai questioned. "W-what is this?! This isn't food!!"

 "Ahem!"

 The thief gasped as he looked up to see Inuyasha and Kagome, the latter hiding behind the former with an angry glare.

 "Gimme back my clothes, you thief!!" Kagome shouted, causing the youth to jump to his feet while brandishing his katana.

 "Who are you two?!" he asked. "You look suspicious!!"

 "You're one to talk!" Inuyasha bit back as he stamped his foot up against the young man's face while Hiyoshimaru chattered frantically while running around in a panic.

XXX


 "Mm! Haarf!! Mmph!!"

 The young man and his monkey noisily munched on the potato chips that Kagome (who was now dressed back in her uniform) had offered to him while Inuyasha sat up in the tree, eyeing them cautiously.

 "Tea?" Kagome offered as she offered him a cup, causing the young samurai to nod his head as he began to guzzle down the beverage.

 "What about you, Inuyasha?" Kagome asked while holding up a bag of dog biscuits. "You want a snack, too?"

 "No, thanks," Inuyasha replied. "I already ate a pheasant earlier."

 "First of all," Kagome began, "it's kind of gross when you eat wild animals, and second, if you eat something, you'll lighten my load!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he held up her backpack. "Why do you always bring all this useless stuff back from your era, anyway?!"

 "It's NOT useless stuff!" Kagome argued. "It's clothes and homework and textbooks and...well, you know, convenient stuff!"

 "Ahh..." the young samurai sighed in satisfaction as he and Hiyoshimaru clapped their hands together. "Thank you very much for the meal. These dried potatoes were delicious!"

 "Well, you're very welcome," Kagome replied. "I'm Kagome Higurashi, and this is my friend, Inuyasha."

 "Hmph," Inuyasha snorted.

 "And this is...huh?" Kagome started, only to hear a familiar sucking noise, which caused the youth to smack his cheek before he pulled it away, revealing a flattened Myoga on his palm. "...That is Myoga, Inuyasha's vassal."

 "Salutations...!" Myoga groaned.

 'Who is this girl?' thought the samurai. 'She associates with such strange creatures.'

 "You said you were separated from your fellow samurai, right?" asked Kagome. "Are you from a noble family or something?"

 "I'm afraid I cannot reveal my title," said the samurai, "but since you treated me with such kindness, I suppose I can tell you, milady. I am Nobunaga."

 Kagome gasped as she put her hands on her cheeks.

 "N-Nobunaga?!" she asked before she began to eagerly shake the young samurai's hands. "Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh! I can't believe it's you, in the living flesh!! It's an honor to meet you!!!"

 "Uh...pardon?" asked Nobunaga in puzzlement.

 "What's with you all of a sudden, Kagome?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Don't you know who this is?!" Kagome questioned. "This is Oda Nobunaga! The Nobunaga!!" She then pulled out one of her textbooks and flipped through the pages. "Wait, gimme a second...uh...oh! Here it is! 'Back in his younger days, Nobunaga was known as the Great Idiot'...wait, hold on, that's not it...uh...oh, here! 'Then, in 1560, he defeated Imagawa Yoshimoto at the Battle of Okehazama...'"

 "What the hell are you reading?" asked Inuyasha as he tried to take a look. "Lemme look."

 "Umm...pardon me," said Nobunaga, "but I am in fact not Oda Nobunaga."

 "Wait, what?!" Kagome asked in surprise. "You're not?!!"

 "I am Amari Nobunaga of the Takeda Clan," said Nobunaga, "and if you don't mind, please do not mistake for that 'Great Idiot'." He then stood up and dusted his clothes. "Now then, I'm afraid time is short and I must be off. Come along, Hiyoshimaru."

 Ukiki! Hiyoshimaru chittered as he jumped onto his master's shoulder.

 "Wait, where are you going?" Kagome asked.

 "I have a mission to fulfill," said Nobunaga as he turned and walked away. "Farewell, now!"

 "Uh, wait!" Inuyasha exclaimed. "I wouldn't go that way if I were you-"

 "WAAAAAAH!!"

 THUD!!!

 "...Never mind," Inuyasha said as he looked down at the cliff from which the hapless samurai fell from, landing in a bush below.

 "...Well...he might be an idiot," said Kagome, "but he's certainly not Oda Nobunaga."

XXX

 

 "Come on! Stop your dawdling!"

 "Move it! You've got two legs, now use them!"

 In a nearby village, some men wielding spears were seen, herding a bunch of young girls that looked to be about Kagome's age, about 15 or 16 years old. Their wrists had been bound with ropes and they were being dragged off by a man on horseback, and meanwhile, some of the older villagers, ranging from men and women of middle or elderly age were forced back, away from the young maidens.

 "What are you doing?!" asked one of the middle-aged men. "Where are you taking my daughter?!"

 "Please don't take my big sister away!!" cried a little boy of at least 8.

 "Silence!!" shouted the man on horseback. "These are the lord's orders! We are to gather every young maiden from every neighboring village, no questions asked! Anyone who tries to hide them will be met with severe punishment!!"

 "But why you must ye take the girls to that awful castle?" asked an old woman. "Any girl who goes there has never been heard from again! Please, don't take them!"

 "I said 'no questions'!!" shouted the man before he kicked his heels into his steed, causing the horse to whinny as it began to walk forward, pulling the girls along.

 "No! Please!" cried one of them. "Please don't take me!"

 "Father!" yelled a second girl as tears welled up in her eyes. "Do something! Please, help me!!"

 "Damn you!" cursed the middle-aged man from earlier as he attempted to rush at them, only to get stabbed in the shoulder by one of the spearmen, who then proceeded to stomp on him the moment he fell down. However, what no one realized was that Nobunaga happened to be watching from behind the bushes, and needless to say, he was quite appalled.

 'So the rumors are true,' he thought. 'The lord really has gone mad!'

 "Hey, Kagome. How come we're followin' the dumbass?"

 "Shh~!" Kagome shushed as she and Inuyasha sat behind Nobunaga. "You don't really think we should leave him to his own devices, do you?"

 That's when Inuyasha's ears perked up as he heard a whispering sound.

 "Though the gods may strike us down for it," whispered an elderly man, "they say that the young lord has been possessed by a demon...!"

 "A demon?" Inuyasha repeated as he pushed Nobunaga's head down to listen closer. Even Kagome couldn't resist eavesdropping.

 "They say that the lord has been possessed by a hungry spirit that eats the souls of the young maidens who enter the castle...!" whispered the old man.

 "Inuyasha?" Kagome whispered. "What do you think?"

 "...I think," Inuyasha smirked, "that this just might be worth looking into."

XXX


 Meanwhile, at a large castle that wasn't too far off from the village, there was a young woman with long, black hair that was tied up in a hair band, dressed in fine silk robes that had a cherry blossom pattern, sitting before a rather husky-looking figure...who, for some reason, was completely wrapped up in bandages. Even his eyes were covered up, and he seemed to be wheezing a bit as the young girl poured him a cup of sake.

 "Ahh, my little dewdrop," the figure said. "You've come to see this castle as your home, now, yes?"

 "Yes, milord," said the young woman. "I lack for nothing, here."

 'I must not let him know that I am afraid...I must not let him sense that the changes that this peculiar ailment that plagues him...the growth of his girth...the deepness in his voice...they repulse me as much as he once attracted me...'

 "Huhuhuhuh!" the lord laughed. "Such a sweet sound to my ears..."

 "Umm...pardon me, milord."

 "Yes, my dear?"

 "It is whispered among the halls that you have been gathering young maidens from throughout Musashi...and...yet I have not seen any."

 The lord tensed up, suddenly.

 "May I ask," the young maiden, "where exactly are they?"

 "THAT IS NOT FOR YOU TO KNOW!!!" the lord shouted as he slammed his hands on the floor, causing the girl to gasp in fright before she bowed her head.

 "F-Forgive me!" she stammered. "I'm so sorry for speaking out of turn!"

 "Hnnngh..." the lord groaned before he stood up. "Return to your room...I shall summon you later."

 "Y-yes, milord," the girl replied, and with that, she was soon placed in her bedchamber, where a castle maid attended to her. However...it did nothing to help her uneasiness.

 'Someone...please help me...please, take me away from here...!'

XXX


 Later that night, on the castle grounds, Inuyasha, Kagome, Myoga, Nobunaga and Hiyoshimaru all stared up at the castle from down below.

 "What do you think, Inuyasha?" Kagome asked while Inuyasha sniffed the air and growled.

 "It's no rumor," he answered. "The smell of demon is really thick, here...and where there's a demon, there just might be a shard of the Sacred Jewel." He then squat down in front of Kagome. "Climb on, Kagome. We'll scale it in one leap."

 "Right," Kagome nodded as she climbed onto the half-demon's back.

 "Make room for me, please!" Nobunaga exclaimed as he climbed on, as well.

 "W-w-what the?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Hey! Get off! Who said you could come along?!"

 "I have business here in the castle, as well," Nobunaga explained before he looked up at said castle.

 '...Have courage, Princess Tsuyu...I shall be there, momentarily!'

 "Ugh..." Inuyasha groaned. "Fine, but don't blame if you fall off! Now hang on, tight!"

 On that, he took one leap over the giant log gates, carrying Kagome and Nobunaga on his shoulders.

 "Be careful, sire!" Myoga cried. "Watch where you step!"

 "What are you talkin' about, you old flea?" asked Inuyasha as he landed within the courtyard.

 "Don't you find it odd?" Myoga asked. "A castle of this size, and there's not a single guard or sentry in sight!"

 "...Huh," Inuyasha muttered as he looked around. "You're right. This place is empty."

 "How strange," said Nobunaga. "But why?"

 "Hey, look over here!" Kagome called, causing the two look up and see her standing next to a guard...who seemed to be snoring. "He's...sleeping?"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Probably got drunk on the job."

 "No, wait," Myoga interjected. "Something's amiss, here...it seems that this guard is under a sleeping spell!"

 "A sleeping spell?" Kagome repeated.

 "And if he's under it," Myoga began, "then the rest of the castle must be, as well!"

 Nobunaga gasped before he looked toward the main house of the castle grounds.

 "...Princess...!" he whispered in horror.

XXX


 In one of the castle chambers...the lord stood, staring at a large clutch of what appeared to frog eggs...and inside them were many young maidens!

 "...Hmm?" he grumbled as he glanced back, his left eye revealed through the bandages. "...Intruders...in my castle?!"

Chapter Text

 "PRINCESS TSUYU~!!! PRINCESS TSUYU, WHERE ARE YOU?!! ANSWER ME!!!"

 Nobunaga ran about the halls of the castle, opening and closing doors as he passed by while the guards and castle staff continued to sleep.

 "PRINCESS TSUYU!!!" the young samurai called out. "WHERE ARE YOU?!! IT IS I, AMARI NOBUNAGA, COME TO SAVE YOU!!!!"

 "Uh..." Kagome muttered as she and Inuyasha stood behind him. "Is it okay for him to be running around, screaming like a banshee? We are in enemy territory, right now."

 "So what?" Inuyasha asked. "They're all out cold from that spell...and besides..." He smirked as he cracked his knuckles. "What better way to bring a demon out in the open than causing a ruckus?"

 "...I guess," Kagome muttered.

 "Princess Tsuyu?!" Nobunaga asked as he opened one of the doors, only to gasp upon seeing a lump in the middle of the floor. "Princess Tsuyu!" He soon ran over to the motionless figure. "Hang on, I'll-" He then gasped in horror upon seeing...the wrinkly face of an old woman. "Oh, no...Princess Tsuyu! What manner of monster has done this to you?!" He then sniffled as he covered his eyes with his sleeve while Hiyoshimaru whimpered. "Oh, Princess Tsuyu...!"

 "Umm...Nobunaga?" asked Kagome. "I think you have the wrong person."

 "Huh?" Nobunaga muttered as he looked up and saw Kagome, kneeling before the real Princess Tsuyu, who was also asleep due to the spell. "Oh...I see."

 "Man, you really are an idiot, aren't you?" Inuyasha asked.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome chastised.

 "What?!" Inuyasha asked.

 "Anyway, how do we wake her up?" asked Kagome.

 "I think I can help with that!" Myoga answered as he hopped onto the princess's face and began to suck the blood out of her cheek, only for her to swat him with her hand, squishing him flat. "Ugh...there you go...!"

 "Mmm...huh?" Tsuyu muttered as she sat up. "W-where am I?"

 "Princess Tsuyu!" Nobunaga exclaimed. "You're awake!"

 "Huh?" Tsuyu asked before she gasped silently in surprise. "N-Nobunaga? It's you!"

 "You...you remember me?" Nobunaga asked.

 "Of course, I do!" Tsuyu replied. "How could I ever forget?"

 "Uh...to think that you would remember me, the youngest son of a retainer," Nobunaga said, blushing with a bit of embarrassment.

 "Don't be silly," said Tsuyu. "You and I were friends back when we were very small. You were always so gentle and kind."

 "...Princess..." Nobunaga whispered, bashfully.

 "I don't know about you," Kagome began, "but I think I smell love in the air, don't you, Inuyasha?"

 "...Uh...no," Inuyasha replied. "I think that's cow manure."

 "I remember how all the things you used to do," said Tsuyu, "like fall in the koi pond or slip in horse dung, and that would always make me laugh!"

 "Uhhh..." Nobunaga muttered in embarrassment while Inuyasha snorted, trying to stifle his snickering. Even Kagome and Myoga couldn't help but giggle a little. However, their laughter soon fell short as Tsuyu started sniffling.

 "...I wish I could go back to those days," she said, tearfully.

 "P...Princess Tsuyu," said Nobunaga.

 "Not long after I was married to the young lord and left the domain," Tsuyu began, "my husband began to act strangely."

 "How so?" asked Nobunaga.

 "One day, he collapsed at the edge of the garden pond," said Tsuyu. "He was running a high fever...and slowly, he started to change...and not just in personality! He started growing in girth and his voice has gotten deeper! It's like he's become...a demon!" She then whimpered as she looked down to the floor. "Oh, Nobunaga...what should I do?"

 "It appears that there's no other choice!" Nobunaga declared. "You must leave this place with me! We shall head back to the Takeda Clan!!"

 "What?!" Tsuyu asked in surprise. "But...Nobunaga!"

 "The whispers about your lord husband have reached even the Takeda Domain," said Nobunaga. "I have been given orders by your lord father that if the rumors are indeed true, then I, Amari Nobunaga, must bring you home to safety, posthaste!!"

 "...Then...you came because-" Tsuyu started.

 "No!!" Nobunaga interjected. "Even if they had ordered me to stay home, I would have...I would have..."

 "...Nobunaga?" Tsuyu asked.

 "Yes, Princess Tsuyu?" asked Nobunaga.

 "...There's a monkey on your head," said Tsuyu, looking up at Hiyoshimaru, who was spinning a cup on a stick on his paws.

 "...Yes, Princess," Nobunaga muttered, tearfully, "I know."

 "BAHAHAHAHAHA!!" Inuyasha burst out in laughter, so much so that he fell to the floor, holding his stomach. "AH! OH!! OH, MY SIDES!!! AHAHAHAHA!!!"

 "Come on, Inuyasha, knock it off!" Kagome chided. "It's not that funny!"

 Suddenly, Inuyasha sat up, a serious expression on his face as his ears twitched.

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered. "What's the matter, Inuyasha?"

 "...Hey, dumbass," said Inuyasha as he looked to Nobunaga. "If I were you, I'd take the princess and scram. You'll only be in the way, here."

 "What?" Nobunaga asked. "But our mission is accomplished!"

 "Maybe yours is," Inuyasha said as he cracked his knuckles again, "but mine's just gettin' started."

 Kagome, Nobunaga, and Tsuyu all looked up and gasped upon seeing the lord of the castle...glaring at them through his bandages.

 "Trespassers..." he growled. "You'll regret this...!"

 "What in the world is that?!" asked Nobunaga.

 "My...my lord husband," Tsuyu answered.

 The lord's cheeks seemed to swell before something shot out of his mouth: a long, red tongue that lashed at Inuyasha, who easily leaped out of the way while the appendage ended up sticking through the door, nearly hitting Kagome, who managed to duck down in time as she made a slight yelp of fright.

 "Okay," Inuyasha said. "Let's see what's under those bandages, big boy!"

 SHRIP!! With a slash of his claws, Inuyasha tore the bandages off the lord...but what was underneath caused the group to gasp in disgust, for underneath lied the face of a slimy, green toad!

 "A...a toad?!" Kagome questioned.

 "Yep," Inuyasha said as he clenched his fists.

 "My...my lord husband is...a toad...?!" Tsuyu asked before she let out a heavy sigh and fainted.

 "Ah! Princess Tsuyu!" cried Nobunaga as he caught her. "Please, hang on!"

 "How dare you...!!" the toad hissed, and that's when Kagome spotted a familiar light, glowing on his shoulder.

 "Inuyasha, look there!" Kagome exclaimed. "He has a shard of the Sacred Jewel!"

 "Ha! I knew it!" Inuyasha smirked. "So you've got a jewel shard, huh, you stinkin' toad? Though I gotta say, you don't look so tough."

 "Don't take him lightly, Master Inuyasha!" Myoga shouted. "That there's a Tsukumo no Gama! An Immortal Toad! It's a demon that's over 300 years old! When it comes to fighting, don't think it hasn't seen a thing or two!!"

 "Then I guess he'll have to take them to his grave!!" Inuyasha shouted as he lunged at the toad. "Iron Reaver-"

 "Not so fast!" the toad shouted as his cheeks swelled up, then he let out a cloud of noxious fumes from his mouth, causing Inuyasha to yelp as he fell to the floor, covering his nose.

 "OH, GOD!!!" he cried. "TOAD BREATH!!!"

 "Noxious fumes!!" cried Myoga. "Quickly, Kagome! Don't breathe it in!!"

 "Right," Kagome began as she covered her mouth and nose, "but what about Inuyasha?!"

 "Ugh...I'm fine...I think...!" Inuyasha answered with a cough.

 As for Nobunaga, he was also caught up in the toxic breath of the toad, but he was doing his best to keep his mouth covered while also tending to the unconscious Princess Tsuyu. However, the toad demon snickered as he approached the helpless pair, licking his eyeball with his sticky tongue.

 "Princess..." he slurred.

 "Stay back, demon!!" Nobunaga shouted as he pointed his sword at the demon. "You shall not have her!!!"

 "Mortal fool!!" the toad shouted as he threw his tongue out at Nobunaga, piercing right through his shoulder!

 "Oh, no!" Kagome cried. "Nobunaga!!"

 Ukikiki!! Hiyoshimaru chittered, worried for his master, while the toad soon grabbed Tsuyu and carried her off!

 "Oh, no!" Nobunaga cried. "Princess Tsuyu!" He grunted as he tried to force himself to his feet.

 "Wait, Nobunaga!" Kagome said as she ran to stop him. "Don't move! You're injured!"

 "But I must!" Nobunaga shouted. "I don't care if it costs me my very life! I must save Princess Tsuyu!!"

 "Nobunaga, please, listen to reason!" Kagome urged. "I know that you're in love with her and all, but-"

 "Wait...you know?" Nobunaga asked. "But...how?!"

 "...Well, it was pretty obvious from the getgo," said Kagome, sweatdropping.

 "Why that damned, stinkin' toad!!" Inuyasha shouted as he stood up. "I'm gonna turn him into frog legs!!!"

 "...Glad to see you're all right, Inuyasha," said Kagome. "Anyway, let's go! We've got a princess to save!"

 "I'll lead the way!" said Inuyasha. "I'll sniff out that toad in the blink of an eye!!"

 "Let me go, as well!" Nobunaga shouted. "I must save the princess, no matter what!!"

 "But Nobunaga," said Kagome, "at least let me tend to your injury, first!"

 "There's no time!" Nobunaga argued. "We must make haste, immediately!"

 "No use talking him out of it, Kagome," said Inuyasha before he broke into a run. "Let's move!"

 Kagome nodded before she and Nobunaga both followed after him.

 "Hold on, princess...just a bit longer," said Nobunaga.

XXX


 Meanwhile, Princess Tsuyu groaned as she sat up and looked around, only to gasp in horror upon seeing that she was surrounded by giant frog eggs...with young women inside them!

 "Oh, no...!" she whispered. "These must be the women that were taken from their villages."

 "That's right, my dear..."

 Tsuyu turned around to see the toad, who snickered darkly.

 "And now," he started as drool seeped from his mouth, "you'll be joining them...!"

 "...No...!" Princess Tsuyu squeaked as she backed away.

 "I've been saving you for last, my dear!" the toad exclaimed. "You won't escape...not now, not ever!!" On that, he grabbed the poor princess with his sticky tongue, causing her to shriek in terror!

 "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!"

 SMASH!!! Inuyasha smashed the door open with his mighty claws.

 "Where are you, you stinkin' toad?!" Inuyasha questioned as he looked around, just as Kagome and Nobunaga entered, as well, although the latter looked rather fatigued, even though his shoulder had been bandaged.

 "Nobunaga, are you sure you're okay?" Kagome asked.

 "Don't worry about me," said Nobunaga. "It's only a flesh wound."

 "Nobunaga! Help me!!"

 Nobunaga gasped upon seeing Tsuyu, trapped inside a frog egg with the toad standing in front of her!

 "Hahahahaha!!" he cackled. "Too late! She's mine, now!"

 "Princess Tsuyu!!" cried Nobunaga.

 "Nobu...naga..." Tsuyu slurred as she fell into unconsciousness, once more.

 "Well," Inuyasha said as he looked at all the frog eggs that the women were in, "I guess now we know what's been happening to all those young village maidens."

 "They're all...frog eggs!" Kagome realized. "Oh, gross!"

 "This is how the Tsukumo no Gama nurtures the maidens' souls until he's ready to feed on them!" said Myoga.

 "Are you saying he plans to feed on Princess Tsuyu?!" asked Nobunaga in horror.

 "With the power of the jewel shard," Myoga began, "the toad possessed the young lord's body, as well as his domain! He could get away with anything!!"

 "DAMN YOU!!!" Nobunaga cursed as he charged at the demon with his sword drawn, but the toad unleashed another cloud of toxic gas!

 "Nobunaga, get down!!" Kagome cried, but the young samurai continued his charge, not caring for his own life.

 "Get outta the way, you idiot!!" Inuyasha shouted as he pushed Nobunaga out of the way and drawing Tetsusaiga from its scabbard. "Nice try, toad breath, but now you're wide open!!! TAKE THIS!!!"

 SLASH!!! With a single swing, Inuyasha cut through the vapors, as well as the toad's body!

 "AAAAAGH!!" he screamed.

 "You got him!" Kagome cheered.

 Inuyasha smirked as he held the blade of his sword against his shoulder.

 "Heheh..." he snickered. "Now then...hand over that jewel shard, you slimy old frog. That'll put an end to your snacking."

 "The Tetsusaiga!!" Myoga exclaimed. "It's returned to its true form, again!!"

 "That's because he's protecting Nobunaga with it!" Kagome said.

 "Heheheheh...!" the toad chuckled before he opened his mouth...and not long after, the women in the frog eggs began to turn into orbs of white light and flew into his mouth, and in doing so, his wound began to heal!

 "What the-?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Hey! You're cheating!!"

 "He's eating their souls!!" Kagome cried while the toad snickered while patting his rotund stomach.

 "My girls are very good to me," he said, licking his lips.

 "Why you no-good, stinkin' little wart factory!" Inuyasha barked.

 "Go ahead!" the toad shouted, wiggling his tongue at Inuyasha. "Try and hit me, again! The more you attack, the more souls I'll devour!!" He then noticed Nobunaga in the corner, cutting open the egg in which Tsuyu was trapped in. "Huh?! H-hey! What do you think you're doing?!!"

 "Princess," Nobunaga urged as he gently shook her. "Princess Tsuyu! Please, open your eyes!!"

 "Ugh...Nobunaga...!" Tsuyu groaned as she woke up with a cough.

 "Princess...are you all right?" asked Nobunaga. "You're not hurt, are you?!"

 "...Nobunaga...!" Tsuyu whispered...before she tearfully jumped into his arms, sobbing uncontrollably. "Oh, Nobunaga!! I was so scared!!!"

 "P...Princess Tsuyu...!" Nobunaga whispered, his heart pounding within his ribcage and his cheeks dusted a light pink before tears fell from his eyes. "At last...I can die happy...!"

 "Personally, I wouldn't," said Kagome.

 "That's MY wife!!" shouted the toad as he shot his tongue at Nobunaga. "GIVE HER BACK!!!"

 "Hey, lover boy!" Inuyasha shouted. "Heads up!!"

 Nobunaga gasped as he saw the toad shoot his tongue at him and Tsuyu, who whimpered as they embraced with the former holding up his sword, but then, BAKONK!!! Inuyasha slammed the flat side of Tetsusaiga's blade against his head.

 "Not so fast, toad breath!!" he shouted.

 "Ugh...ugggh...P...Princess Tsuyu...?" the toad asked...his voice surprisingly sounded a bit higher pitched, now.

 "Huh?" Tsuyu asked. "Wait...that voice!"

 "W...what happened?" asked the toad. "Where am I?" He looked around and gasped silently in horror upon seeing the women, trapped inside the frog eggs. "Oh, no...did...did I do this?"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Don't even try your stupid tricks with me, you rotten toad!"

 "No, wait, Inuyasha!" Kagome cried. "I don't think this is a trick!"

 "She's right!" Tsuyu cried. "That's my real husband's voice!"

 "...What have I done?" asked the toad, or rather, the young lord. "This is horrible...! I can't believe what I've done!"

 "You're...the real lord of this land, right?" asked Kagome.

 "Yes," answered the young lord, bowing his head before her. "When that despicable demon first possessed me...I managed to retain some of my human consciousness...until eventually, I lost even that."

 'How awful,' thought Kagome. 'On the outside, he looks like the toad...but it's still him, fighting in there, somewhere!'

 "...Please...I beg of you," the young lord. "Please, kill me!"

 "What?!" Kagome questioned. "But...but..."

 "Now there's an idea," Inuyasha said.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome shouted. "You can't be serious!!"

 "No...he's right," said the young lord as tears spilled from his eyes. "If nothing's done, he'll possess me again...and I will end up devouring my beloved wife!"

 "My...my dear...!" Tsuyu whispered, sadly, while Nobunaga gasped quietly.

 "Before he takes possession of me, again," the young lord started, "please...kill me...and in doing so, you will kill that monster, as well!"

 "...He's...really willing to...?" Kagome asked.

 "Well, how noble of you," Inuyasha grinned in an almost wicked way. "Gotta admit, you got guts...I'll make it quick for ya."

 "No, Inuyasha, wait!" Nobunaga cried. "Please...we cannot just kill him! There has to be another way!"

 "Even if he looks like a toad, right now," Kagome began, "he's still human on the inside, and it sounds like he's a really good one, too!"

 "Even if he is a good human," Myoga began, "he can't fight off the possession long enough!"

 "We have to do something!!" cried Kagome.

 "All right, ENOUGH ALREADY!!!" Inuyasha barked. "He said to kill him, so I'm gonna kill him!! So save your stupid sentimentality!!!" With that, he swung the sword down on the young lord, who closed his eyes, preparing for the blade to cut through his neck...but then, SMASH!! To his shock, the half-demon ended up cutting the floor beside him, instead.

 "I...Inuyasha?" Kagome asked.

 "...Ah, who the hell am I kidding?" Inuyasha asked. "I should've killed him when I had the chance!"

 Kagome could only sigh in relief.

 'He couldn't do it, after all...I knew Inuyasha didn't have it in him.'

 "Well, Kagome, now what do we do?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered.

 "Hello!" Inuyasha said. "You told me not kill him, genius! I'm hoping you have a better idea?!"

 "Oh!" Kagome realized. "Well...I, uh...umm..."

 "I knew it..." Inuyasha murmured.

 "LOOK OUT!!" cried Nobunaga, but before Inuyasha could turn around, he was struck in the torso by a long, spear-like tongue!

 "UGH!!" he cried before he fell to the ground, clutching the wound in his side. "Dammit!!"

 "Inuyasha!!" cried Kagome before she looked up and saw the familiar darkened eyes of the toad, who snickered wickedly.

 "Trying to finish me off, huh?" he asked.

 "The lord!" Nobunaga cried. "The demon has taken possession of him, again!!"

 "See, Kagome?" Inuyasha asked. "I knew we should've killed him!!"

 "And now it's time for my meal," said the toad as he leered at Kagome, "and I'll start with you...pretty girl."

 "Oh, no...!" Kagome squeaked.

 "Wait, Kagome!" Myoga exclaimed. "I just remembered something!"

 "M-Myoga?!" Kagome asked. "What is it?!"

 "I think there just might be a way to rid us of this demon, once and for all, and save the young lord to boot!" Myoga answered.

 "Well? What is it?!" Kagome asked. "Hurry up and tell me!"

 "Well, it's a long shot," Myoga said, "but are you willing to gamble?"

 "Yes, I am!" Kagome answered with a determined expression. "It's not like we've got much left to go on, do we?!"

Chapter Text

 The toad chuckled as he licked his lips at Kagome and Tsuyu, the latter hiding behind Nobunaga while Inuyasha lied on the floor, clutching the wound in his chest and struggling to stand up.

 "I can't wait," said the toad. "I wonder who I'll eat first!"

 "Kagome, don't just stand there!" Inuyasha shouted. "Get outta here!"

 "No way! I'm not going anywhere!" Kagome argued. "Myoga, what do we do?"

 "It's very simple, Kagome," Myoga replied. "Demon or no demon, a toad is a toad, and toads can't stand heat! If he gets too hot, he'll jump right out of the young lord's body! Understand?"

 "...I think so," said Kagome. "So...where are we gonna get heat?"

 "Well, boiling water is out of the question," Myoga answered. "Maybe boiling oil...or fire!"

 "Fire, huh...?" Kagome mused, but before she could think about it further, the toad suddenly grabbed her ankle with his tongue and pulled her up into the air. "YAAAAH!! HEY, LET GO!!!"

 "Miss Kagome!!" cried Tsuyu.

 "No! Stop!!" Nobunaga shouted as he grabbed the toad. "Please, milord! Come to your sense!!"

 "Gah!!" the toad gagged as he dropped Kagome, who gasped as she looked back.

 "Nobunaga, what are you doing?!" she asked.

 "Run away, Kagome!!" cried Nobunaga. "While I'm holding him down, grab Inuyasha and Princess Tsuyu and find some fire!!"

 "Urrgh...dammit...!" Inuyasha cursed as he began to sit up.

 "Inuyasha?!" Kagome asked. "Are you all right?!"

 "Yeah, I'll live," Inuyasha answered as he held his hand against his injury. "It's just a flesh wound." He then glared at the toad with a deep growl. "I heard what you guys were saying. Every stupid, soft, sentimental word of it!"

 "Inuyasha, don't force yourself!" Kagome cried. "You're injured!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "But I guess I'm just as stupid and soft as the rest of you mortals...letting a stupid toad make a monkey outta me." He then held up the Tetsusaiga while he glared darkly. "Move it, Nobunaga!"

 "Haa!!" Nobunaga gasped in horror. "No, Inuyasha! Please, sheathe your blade!! The lord is still alive, trapped within this demon!!"

 "Shut your mouth!!" Inuyasha barked. "If you don't get outta the way, I'll cut you both in half!!"

 "Are you so certain your fang will cut down a mortal?!" asked Nobunaga.

 "Well...no!" Inuyasha replied. "Dammit!!"

 "Try what you will," Nobunaga started, "but I refuse to move! If there is any hope, no matter how small, that the young lord can be saved, I cannot and will not stand by and watch him be slain! Even if he were a commoner such as I!!"

 "And why not?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "...The answer is simple," said Nobunaga. "I am a man who does not believe in killing!!"

 "What...?!" Inuyasha whispered in disbelief.

 "Nobunaga...!" Kagome said in awe.

 "...Oh, Nobunaga..." Tsuyu whispered, putting her hand to her chest.

 "These are dark and bloody times that we live in," said Nobunaga. "A harsh, cruel world that would laugh at words such as mind...but I will hold true to my beliefs! I will not break to this world's will!"

 "...Hmph," Inuyasha scoffed. "Fine."

 "Uh...pardon me?" Nobunaga asked as the half-demon sheathed his sword.

 "I ain't liftin' a finger for any of you idiots," said Inuyasha. "Go ahead and try and beat that slimy toad with your dumb ideals!"

 "Inuyasha?!" Kagome questioned.

 "I...Inuyasha," Nobunaga whispered before he smiled. "You'll see...we will-"

 "NYAARGH!!" the toad yelled as he wrestled out of the samurai's grip, then snickered. "Thank you for your stupid plea for mercy, fool!"

 "Keh," Inuyasha snorted as he sat down on the floor with his arms crossed in his sleeves.

 "Inuyasha, what are you doing?!" Kagome asked in shock. "You have to do something!!"

 "I told you, I ain't helpin'!" Inuyasha argued.

 "But Inuyasha," Kagome began, "Nobunaga doesn't stand a chance!"

 "But if I try and help," Inuyasha started, "I won't hold back! Don't you get it? If I do this my way, the lord will die by my hand!"

 Kagome gasped silently in shock as the realization came to her. As much as she hated to admit it, Inuyasha was right about this one. He wouldn't hesitate to kill both the young lord and the toad that possessed him.

 Right now, it was up to Kagome and Nobunaga to put a stop to this demon, once and for all!

 "...Right," Kagome nodded before she turned and grabbed Tsuyu by the wrist. "Princess, come with me!"

 "Y-yes!" Tsuyu replied as she ran alongside her.

 "Listen, we need heat!" Kagome said. "Do you know where I can get some fire? Maybe there's a torch nearby or a lantern?"

 "I think there's one somewhere up ahead," said Tsuyu.

 Ukikiki!! Hiyoshimaru suddenly darted passed the two young girls, a determined look in the primate's eyes.

 "Hiyoshimaru?" Kagome asked. "Wait, what are you doing?!"

 Uki! Ukiki!! Hiyoshimaru chattered as he ran by.

 'I must help Master!'

 As for Nobunaga, he cried out in pain as the toad impaled him in the arm with his tongue in the same place before he threw him to the floor.

 "Foolish mortal," said the toad before he turned and head out after the girls.

 "Ugh...aaah...!" Nobunaga groaned as blood pooled underneath him. "I...Inu...yasha...!"

 'What an idiot,' thought Inuyasha. 'Maybe this will finally set him straight.'

 "Ugh...Inuyasha..." Nobunaga grunted. "Please...don't...don't kill him...!"

 Inuyasha's eyes went wide...but then he sighed as he crossed his arms.

 'Guy's got guts...I'll give him that...but man, what a waste.'

XXX

 

 Kagome and Tsuyu both panted as they ran down the corridor while Hiyoshimaru hopped along in front of them...when suddenly...

 "Come back, my pretties~!"

 "EEK!!" Tsuyu shrieked.

 "Oh, no, he's coming!" cried Kagome.

 Ukikiki!! Kagome gasped as she heard Hiyoshimaru's cries as the little monkey appeared...holding a lantern with a flame in it!

 "Oh! He found fire!" Kagome exclaimed. "Good monkey!"

 Hiyoshimaru held up the lantern...which was actually quite small.

 "Uh...couldn't you find anything bigger?" Kagome asked with a sweatdrop.

 "Miss Kagome! Look out!!" Tsuyu cried, but as Kagome turned around, she shrieked as the toad shot his long tongue at her! Luckily, though, the only thing he managed to hit was her backpack, from which all its contents spilled out.

 "Miss Kagome, are you all right?!" Tsuyu asked as she helped her sit up.

 "Yeah...I think so," Kagome answered as she held her head.

 "Heheheheh...!" the toad chuckled as he began to close in on the girls. "Your mind, now!"

 "Not so fast, you slimy wart factory!!"

 Kagome and Tsuyu both gasped as Inuyasha soon dropped down between them and the demon, who gasped in surprise before he growled in anger.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome exclaimed.

 "You again!" he shouted. "How dare you interfere, half-demon!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he cracked his knuckles. "I've had just about enough of this idiocy."

 "Inuyasha, wait!" Kagome cried.

 "Stay outta this, Kagome!" Inuyasha barked. "I'm finishing this toad off, once and for all!"

 "But...but...!" Kagome stammered.

 "...I'm sorry," Inuyasha apologized. "This is the only way!"

 Kagome sighed in seeming resignation, but then her eyes fell upon her can of hairspray and then the tiny lantern.

 'Hold on...hairspray and fire...that's it!!'

 She then stood up while holding up the hairspray, just as Inuyasha began to charge at the toad.

 "INUYASHA!!" Kagome called. "GET DOWN!!!"

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned as he turned around. "What are you talking about now-" He then gasped as Kagome pressed the button on her hairspray, and when the strange-smelling mist hit the flame of the lantern, it burst into a jet of fire!

 "HOLY CRAP!!!" Inuyasha cursed as he dropped down to the floor, allowing the toad demon to get hit, instead!

 "AAAAAAAAAAGH!!!" the demon screamed before he turned into a wisp-like form and began to fly through the air. "FIRE!!!"

 "By the gods...!" Nobunaga whispered in awe as he watched from afar.

 "Huh...what do you know?" Inuyasha asked. "She actually did it!"

 "Inuyasha! There!!" Kagome called as she pointed at the toad. "The jewel shard that he has!! Grab it!!!"

 Inuyasha gasped as he spotted the familiar glow of the jewel shard on the toad's neck, causing him to smirk as he lunged for it with his arm reeled back.

 "I'll be taking that shard, now, thank you!" Inuyasha shouted. "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!"

 SLASH!!! With a swipe of his claws, the toad was completely obliterated, leaving only the shard in its place, which Inuyasha caught in his hand.

 "Heheheheh," Inuyasha chuckled as he held the shard between his finger and thumb. "That's three shards for us."

 "And who knows how many more that are left?" Kagome asked. "Still, I think we're making good progress!"

 "Inuyasha! Kagome!" Nobunaga exclaimed as he ran up to them and bowed his head. "How can I ever thank you?"

 "Uh..." Inuyasha muttered.

 "Because of you," Nobunaga began, "the young lord is back to normal and unharmed! All because you were both compassionate enough to-"

 "Compassionate?" Inuyasha repeated. "Look, buddy, I was just about to-"

 "Inuyasha," Kagome chastised. "Just accept his gratitude, okay?"

 "But...I-I really was about to kill the guy," said Inuyasha.

 "Nobunaga?"

 Nobunaga gasped silently as looked up at Tsuyu, who stared at him, which caused his heart to skip a beat.

 "P...Princess Tsuyu," he whispered.

 "Nobunaga!" Tsuyu exclaimed as she stood up and ran toward him with tears in her eyes.

 "Princess Tsuyu!" Nobunaga exclaimed as he stood up and opened his arms...only for her to run right past him and into the arms of the young lord, who had rather beady eyes and his hair done up in a topknot.

 "Thank you so much for saving my dear husband!" Tsuyu exclaimed...causing Nobunaga to drop to his knees.

 "Princess Tsuyu, my darling!" the young lord exclaimed.

 "Oh, my dearest husband," said Tsuyu. "I'm so happy to see your sweet face, again!"

 "I'm so sorry for all the grief I've caused you," said the young lord. "Are you all right? I didn't hurt you, did I?"

 "No...I'm fine," said Tsuyu. "I've been more worried about you!"

 "Well...he looks like a nice guy," Kagome mused. "I mean...as far as young lords go, I guess."

 "Uhhh...sure," Inuyasha deadpanned.

XXX

 

 The following day, the young villages that had not had their souls devoured by the toad were soon returned home. Princess Tsuyu continued to live in the castle with her husband, telling Nobunaga to send word to her father that she is alive and well. It seemed that peace had been restored to Musashi...at least for now.

 Right now, Kagome and Inuyasha sat under a cherry blossom tree, enjoying a nice breakfast of chips and rice balls...but Nobunaga sat away from them with Hiyoshimaru sitting on top of his head.

 "Well, Nobunaga," said Kagome. "The toad demon's gone, the women have all gone home, Princess Tsuyu is with her husband, again, and peace has been restored to the land. So...I think that counts as a 'happily ever after', don't you?"

 Nobunaga only sighed, forlornly.

 "...What's wrong, Nobunaga?" asked Kagome. "Aren't you happy that everything's back to normal?"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Don't you get it, Kagome? He risked his life and put up a big front, and for what? To save the woman he loves, only for her to go into the arms of another man!"

 "...Oh," Kagome muttered in realization. "Right."

 Ukikiki... Hiyoshimaru chittered as he looked at his master, who sighed as he looked up at the sky with a small but sad smile.

 "I...I really am an idiot, aren't I?" he asked.

 "...Yeah, you're an idiot, all right," said Inuyasha. "But hey! You did save the young lord's life. That counts for somethin', right?"

 "...Yes, it does," Nobunaga replied as he turned to Inuyasha and Kagome. "Thank you for saying that, Inuyasha."

 "Pfft!" Inuyasha buzzed his lips and put his hands behind his head as he leaned back against the tree. "Whatever."

 "Well," Nobunaga started as he stood up using a walking stick, "I'm afraid it's time for me to get going."

 "Wait, you're leaving?" Kagome asked.

 "Yes," Nobunaga replied. "It was very nice meeting you both, but I'm afraid we must part ways...farewell, my friends." With that, he turned to leave.

 "Uh...wait!" Inuyasha called. "Nobunaga, watch out for that-"

 "WAAAAH!!"

 THUD!! Nobunaga soon fell off yet another cliff while Hiyoshimaru sat on the ground, scratching his back.

 "...Cliff," Inuyasha finished.

 "...Yeah, he's an idiot, all right," said Kagome.

Chapter Text

 The following morning after the whole Tsukumo no Gama fiasco and parting ways with Nobunaga, Inuyasha and Kagome had returned from their little adventure to the village. However, as soon as they got back, Kagome had packed up all her things, got on her bike, and sped off toward Inuyasha's Forest. However, not willing to let her go so easily, a certain half-demon pursued her.

 "And just where are you going, Kagome?!" Inuyasha questioned as he stood between her and the Bone-Eater's Well.

 "Where do you think I'm going?!" Kagome questioned. "I gotta go home! I have school, duh!"

 "You're not going anywhere!" Inuyasha spat.

 "Inuyasha, I have to go!" Kagome argued. "I can't let my grades slip on account of you!"

 "Your...grades?" Inuyasha repeated.

 "Never mind," Kagome muttered. "Anyway, Inuyasha, please let me go!" On that, she attempted to get past him, but he blocked her every time, causing her to groan.

 "I'm not letting you leave until we find more jewel shards!" Inuyasha barked.

 "We already got one, just two days ago!" Kagome argued. "That's three, all together!"

 "Three measly shards aren't enough!" Inuyasha countered.

 "Inuyasha, please let me go!" Kagome pleaded. "My attendance at school is already poor, and if I don't keep up my grades, I won't make it into a good high school!"

 "Is this 'school' of yours really more important than the jewel shards?" Inuyasha asked.

 "Yes, Inuyasha, it is!" Kagome answered. "Now, please, get outta my way!"

 "Nothin' doin'!" Inuyasha spat.

 "Inuyasha, I just need two days," Kagome said before she held up two fingers. "TWO. DAYS. Okay? If you let me go, I'll, uh...I'll..." She gasped as an idea came to her. "I'll get you a bag of those barbecue-flavored potato chips you like! Actually, I'll get you two bags!"

 Inuyasha's ears twitched a bit at this.

 "Really?" he asked with slight intrigue.

 "Yep!" Kagome answered. "Besides, if we're gonna be taking the journey to find the jewel shards, we're gonna need a lot of food! Especially with your appetite."

 Grrrrrmmmmmbbbgh...!! Inuyasha looked down at his stomach, then looked at Kagome.

 "So...?" she asked, causing him to sigh.

 "All right, fine," he said. "You can go home...but you better be back in 2 days!"

 "Thank you, Inuyasha!" Kagome said as she hugged him, causing him to tense up a bit. "You're a pal!" She then kissed his cheek, causing him to blush.

 "Uh...yeah," Inuyasha said as he patted her head. "Sure. Now get goin'."

 On that, Kagome jumped up onto the lip of the well.

 "Bye, Inuyasha!" she called before she leaped inside and vanished in a flash of light, leaving Inuyasha to look into the well and see nothing but the dirt at the bottom.

 "She's gone," he muttered before he stretched his arms a bit. "That went a little better than I thought...I thought she'd 'sit' me." He then put his arms down and, after a few moments, he put his hand on his left cheek where Kagome kissed him.

 'She...kissed me...?' he thought...as a small smile crept onto his face. 'She...kissed me...'

XXX


 "Coooooome baaaaaack! Come back, Kagooooomeee!!"

 Inside the well house, Sota stood at Sanosuke's side while the old man was dressed in his old priest kimono.

 "Grandpa, aren't you tired of all that chanting?" asked Sota while holding Buyo in his arms. "It's not like it actually works."

 "Of course it works, my boy!" Sanosuke replied. "This chant has been passed down through generations of the Higurashi Family!"

 "If you say so," Sota muttered. "It's just that you've been at it for three days and three nights and sis hasn't come back, yet."

 "You'll see," Sanosuke said as he picked up a bucket of sake. "And now for the sacred sake!" He then tossed the sake into the well...where a loud shriek was heard.

 "GRANDPA!!!"

 Sanosuke and Sota both looked down to see Kagome, who was glaring up at them.

 "Kagome! You're back!" Sanosuke exclaimed. "You see that, Sota? I knew it would work!"

 "Wow, what do you know?" Sota asked. "It really does work!" He then noticed his older sister's glare before he gulped and backed away. "Uh-oh, she looks mad."

 "Huh?" Sanosuke muttered before he looked down at Kagome. "Kagome? Why do you look so cross?"

 "Maybe because someone doused me with sake!!" Kagome shouted. "NOW GET ME OUTTA HERE!!!"

XXX


 A little while later, after she had taken a quick shower, Kagome was sitting at the table, enjoying a nice breakfast of toast, sunny-side-up eggs, slices of ham, and cherry tomatoes.

 "Mm, yummy!" Kagome exclaimed while Buyo sat in her lap. "Thanks, Mom!"

 "Of course, dear," said Atsuko, holding up a new school uniform. "And don't worry, I got you an extra uniform while your old one is in the wash."

 "Thanks, again," said Kagome as she began to eat.

 "Hey, Sis?" asked Sota. "Where's that dog-eared guy?"

 "Who, you mean Inuyasha?" Kagome asked. "He's back on the other side of the well."

 "Come to think of it," said Atsuko. "You didn't really introduce us to your new friend, properly, now did you?"

 "Well, circumstances were pretty...umm...serious," Kagome answered. "There wasn't time for a proper introduction."

 As she took a bite out of her toast, Kagome could only think back about everything that happened up until this point. Almost two weeks ago, she felt that she led the average life of your typical middle schooler, living in the family shrine ever since she was 4. That all changed once she was dragged back in time to the Feudal Era and met Inuyasha. Now, it seemed like her life had become anything but average. She often thought that maybe it was all just some crazy dream she was having...but at the same time, she didn't want it to be a dream. She couldn't quite explain why, though.

 All she knew was that this was part of her life, now, and she just had to find a way to deal with it.

 "Hey, Kagome?" asked Sota. "What's Inuyasha like, anyway?"

 "Hmm...lemme think," Kagome answered as she finished off her toast and started on her eggs. "Well...he's kinda rude...actually, a lot rude. He can be pretty childish and he's got a big ego. He's pretty stubborn and hardheaded, too."

 "That doesn't sound very great," Sota muttered.

 "But there are some good points to him," said Kagome. "For one thing, he can actually be pretty helpful...and he can be kinda nice...in his own brash way."

 "I see," Atsuko said with a slightly amused smile. "Well, maybe you ought to bring him over, sometime."

 "Oh, no, I couldn't do that!" Kagome replied. "A dog-eared boy from the Feudal Era in modern times? He'd have a complete culture shock!"

 "Aww, that stinks," Sota pouted. "I kinda wanted to get to know him."

 "Maybe one day," said Kagome before she looked up at the clock, only to gasp. "Oh, no! We're gonna be late!!" She then got up and ran to get dressed, only to almost trip on Buyo, who yowled as he tried to get out of her way. "WAH!! Watch out, Buyo!"

 Soon, after she had gotten dressed in her uniform and gotten her back, Kagome and Sota both ran out the front door.

 "Bye, Mom!" Kagome called.

 "See you later!" Sota added.

 "Have a nice day!" Atsuko called after her children, then chuckled. "Oh, those two..." She then glanced over at the well house. "...Inuyasha, huh?"

 Meanwhile, inside Kagome's room, there was a glass bottle that contained the three jewel shards that she and Inuyasha had obtained so far. The sunlight gave them a bit of a pristine shine as the rays hit them. However, in the shrine's storage shed, there was some sort of box that had the lid tied down and there were sutra tags plastered on it...and it suddenly started trembling.

XXX


 Ding-dong-dong-ding! Ding-dong-dong-ding! The school bell rang, signaling the students on campus to head inside to start classes. At that moment, Kagome appeared right on time.

 "Hey, guys! I'm here!" she called out to three girls wearing the same uniform as her. One girl had brown hair in a bob cut, the other had short black hair with a yellow headband, and the third had long, curly dark brown hair that was held back with a hair clip.

 They are Kagome's three school friends, Yuka, Eri, and Ayumi, otherwise known as the Gossiping Trio.

 "Kagome!" Yuka greeted. "You're back!"

 "Are you feeling okay, now?" asked Eri.

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered. "What are you talking about?"

 "Your gramps told us about what happened with your cat," said Eri. "That sure is a nasty place to get bitten, am I right?"

 "And are you sure your back's okay after you fell out of bed, the other day?" asked Yuka.

 "And we also heard that before that, you had to get tested for Lyme Disease," said Ayumi. "Did you get the results back, yet?"

 "Not to mention the ringworm you had," said Yuka. "I have a cousin that went through that...nasty stuff."

 Kagome could only groan as she smacked her face with her palm. When she asked Sanosuke to make up excuses for her recent string of absences, she expected him to make up things like 'Oh, she's away on a trip' or 'I'm afraid she has a cold', not give the school faculty the kind of diseases that an old man of over 60 years would have. She knew she should've asked Atsuko, but beggars can't be choosers.

 "Kagome! You're here!"

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered before she turned to see a teenage boy with short, light brown hair wearing a black school suit akin to the ones that the other male students on campus were wearing.

 His name is Kenichi Hojo, but everyone just referred to him by his last name, Hojo.

 "Hojo!" Kagome greeted. "Hi!"

 "Hey, Kagome," Hojo greeted back. "How are your bunions?"

 "My...bunions?" asked Kagome. "Oh! Right! My bunions! They're all better." She then chuckled, sheepishly.

 "What about your gout?" asked Hojo. "Is that okay, too?"

 "G-gout?!" Kagome questioned before she shook her head. "I-I mean, yes! Yes, I've recovered from that, too..."

 'Gramps, just wait until I get home! You're gonna hear it from me, later, I swear!!'

 "Here you go," Hojo said as he handed Kagome something that was wrapped up in pink paper, tied up with a little red ribbon. "This is from our family's shop. My Mom wrapped it up for you. Hope you like pink."

 "Oh! Thank you!" said Kagome while her friends stood nearby, watching her. "Umm...what is it?"

 "Open it and see," said Hojo, which prompted her to unwrap the present and see that it was a pair of large, colorful sandals with some sort of bumps inside them.

 "Oh...how nice," Kagome smiled, albeit rather forcefully. "They're...sandals."

 "Therapeutic sandals for your bunions," said Hojo before he turned and left. "Well, see ya later! Get well, Kagome!"

 "Uh...yeah, sure!" Kagome replied, awkwardly.

 "Kagome?!" asked Eri as she, Yuka, and Ayuma gathered around her. "Are you going out with Hojo?!"

 "What?!" Kagome questioned with a blush on her cheeks. "No! You know I don't have time for...boyfriends!"

 "Man, Hojo is totally crushing on you!" said Yuka. "I'm so jealous of you, right now, Kagome!"

 "You can count me in on that, too!" Ayumi added.

 "Come on, you guys!" Kagome complained.

XXX


 Sometime later, Kagome was now sitting in her classroom with her friends sitting around her.

 "What?!" asked Yuka. "You mean Hojo has never talked to you before, at all?!"

 "Not once," Kagome said.

 "You're kidding me, right?" Eri asked. "Aren't you even just a little excited?!"

 "Oh, no!" Ayumi gasped. "You don't think she likes someone else, do you?!"

 "Now cut that out!" Kagome snapped. "I do not like anyone! At all!!"

 "Well, if you did like someone," said Eri, "what would he be like? Would he be like...a jock? Or some kind of smart guy?"

 "...Well..." Kagome muttered as her face flushed a bit pink...as her mind traced back to earlier this morning when she was talking with Inuyasha. "I guess my ideal guy wouldn't be very aggressive. He wouldn't be so stubborn and selfish...and wouldn't have too much of a temper...but I think he can be pretty nice, sometimes. It would just take time for him to show it more often than usual."

 '...Inuyasha could...kind of be like that,' she thought...but then she shook her head. 'Wait a minute, what in the world am I thinking?! Inuyasha and I are just friends! It would be so awkward if we were...dating!! ..Wouldn't it?'

XXX

 

 Concurrently, back in the Feudal Era, Inuyasha was lying on Kaede's roof with his arms behind his head and one leg propped up. He stared up at the clouds as they drifted by, then heaved a small sigh. He had already hunted down a pheasant for his breakfast, so now he was just sitting around, waiting for Kagome to return.

 The only problem was...he was already bored.

 "Man..." he muttered. "What am I supposed to do, now? I can't really look for the jewel shards without her since she's the only one who can sense them." He then yawned and stretched out his toes a bit. "Oh, well...guess I'll take a nap."

 As he began to close his eyes, he couldn't help thinking about when Kagome kissed his cheek, right before she left.

 'I still don't understand why she'd kiss me,' he thought. 'I mean, the only girls who ever kissed me were my Mother and...and...'

 "Inuyasha!!"

 "AAAAAAH!!!" Inuyasha screamed as he almost fell off the roof before he looked down and saw Kaede, who stared up at him.

 "Stop lazing about!" she called. "Get off ye duff and seek out some information on the Sacred Jewel shards!"

 "And if ye hadn't noticed," Inuyasha began, "Kagome ain't here! How am I supposed to find the shards without her help?!"

 He sighed as he leaned back against the roof again.

 "...Dammit...these two days are gonna be longer than I thought," he grumbled.

XXX


 Back at the Higurashi Shrine, Sanosuke was just finishing up the long, hard task of sweeping up the steps. Atsuko was out shopping at the store, so she wouldn't be back for at least three hours, thus leaving the old shrine-keeper to do the chores on his own. However, as he made his way back up the stairs, his nose suddenly caught the smell of burning wood. He gasped before he hurried over to the shrine's storage shed and gasp upon seeing that flames were beginning to grow from it!

 "Oh, no!" he cried. "This is terrible! The storage shed is on fire!"

 That's when he noticed the box on one of the shelves, and strangely enough, it seemed that that was where the flames were originating from as the sutras began to burn away and the box broke open, revealing some sort of wooden mask that looked like a woman's grinning face...completely covered in scars.

 "Ah!!" Sanosuke cried. "The Mask of Flesh that had been sealed inside the box has burned through the talismans that have kept it bound for generations!!"

 "...A...body...!" the Mask droned. "I must have...a body!"

 Sanosuke growled before he grabbed a bucket of sacred sake and doused himself with it, then reached inside his robes and pulled out several talismans.

 "My great-great-great-great grandfather exorcized that mask, long ago!" he exclaimed. "The Mask of Flesh was said to have possessed terrifying malevolent! I must do everything I can to seal it away, again!!" He then threw the sutras at the mask, but the paper slips burned away!

 "I want...a body!" the Mask demanded as it flew around the room, spreading flames everywhere. "I must have a body!"

 It then landed on an old suit of samurai armor, which rattled and shook as the Mask began to take hold of it...only for the armor to crumble and fall apart.

 "Must have...a human body!" the Mask exclaimed.

 "Oh, no...!" Sanosuke whispered...before a burning rafter fell on top of him, causing him to scream in pain!

 "Give me FLESH AND BLOOD!!" the Mask yelled as it flew toward the old man.

Chapter Text

 Inuyasha grumbled as he stared down the well, tapping his claws against the aged wood and bouncing his foot.  Then he turned and walked away for just a few seconds...only to come right back and look down into the well, again, nearly climbing over as if to jump in, himself, but then he froze before he made an irritated groan, then began to pace back and forth. It had only been about 8 hours now since Kagome had left for home, but it seemed that Inuyasha's patience was wearing a bit thin.

 It was at that moment that Inuyasha felt a familiar sensation on his neck before he growled and smacked his hand against it, then pulled his palm away to reveal a flattened Myoga.

 "Ugh...squished again...!" the old flea groaned as he returned to normal.

 "What do you want, you damn flea?" Inuyasha asked.

 "I only came to check on you, Master Inuyasha," said Myoga. "You seem more restless than usual."

 "It's none of your business," said Inuyasha as he kept pacing back and forth. "I'm just bored, that's all...has it been two days, yet?"

 "I'm afraid that it's still today, sire," said Myoga.

 "Crap!" Inuyasha cursed as he kept pacing. "Where the hell is Kagome, already?!"

 "Why, sire," Myoga said. "If I didn't know better, I'd almost say you miss Kagome!"

 "What was that?!" Inuyasha questioned with a ferocious growl.

 "YIPE!!" Myoga cried. "Uh...it's a good thing I know you better...eheheheheh!"

 "That's what I thought," said Inuyasha. "There's no way in hell I miss that wench! I'm just waiting on those dried potatoes she promised me, that's all!"

 "If you say so," Myoga replied.

 "I am saying so!!" Inuyasha barked. "Don't you have some stupid animal to suck blood from, you little parasite?!" He then flicked Myoga off his shoulder. "Go on! Get lost!!"

 "YIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEE~!!!" Myoga screamed as he was sent flying while Inuyasha seethed quietly...then sighed before he glanced back at the well.

 "I just need two days. TWO. DAYS. Okay?"

 Inuyasha sighed before he flopped down on the grass, lying on his back while he stared up at the sky.

 "...Please, hurry back, Kagome," he said. "I'm going nuts over here!"

XXX


 Back in the modern era, Kagome had just gotten out of school and was on her way home when all of a sudden, she heard the wailing of a fire engine, and sure enough, one sped right by her from behind. At first, she didn't think much of it...until it turned to the left, the direction in which the Higurashi Shrine was, causing her to gasp before she hurried after it. There, she saw that a large crowd of people had gathered below the shrine's steps, being held back by police officers while several firefighters were heading towards the grounds with hoses. She could also see an ambulance with two paramedics carrying a gurney down the stairs...and Kagome gasped upon seeing that it was Sanosuke!

 "Grandpa!!" she cried as she got closer.

 "Everyone, stay back!" shouted one of the officers. "For your own safety, please stay behind the tape!"

 "Lemme through!" Kagome shouted as she pushed her way past the crowd and under the tape, but she was stopped by a policewoman.

 "Wait a minute!" she said. "You can't go up there!"

 "You don't understand!" Kagome cried. "I live here!" She then pulled her shoulder out of the woman's grip before she hurried up the steps, where she found her mother speaking with a policeman.

 "Thank you so much, officer," Atsuko said while the officer saluted her.

 "Mom!!" Kagome cried as she ran to her mother's side. "Is everything okay?! What happened?!"

 "Everything's all right, Kagome," Atsuko assured. "The storage shed caught on fire and they found your grandfather under a support beam."

 "What?!" Kagome questioned.

 "Don't worry," Atsuko said. "He's on his way to the hospital, right now, and they're going to treat him there. I'm actually about to go with them."

 "I'll go with you!" Kagome said.

 "No, Kagome," Atsuko said. "Your brother's going to be home, soon, and he'll need someone here to look after him and explain things to him while I'm gone. Please, just do that for me, okay?"

 "...Okay, Mom," Kagome nodded before she looked over to the burnt remains of the shed.

 'How in the world did the shed catch fire, anyway?' she thought.

XXX


 Inside the shed, the firefighters had managed to finally stop the fire and were trying to find the source. So far, however, they found nothing: just drenched wood from the hoses. However, as one firefighter looked around, he could've sworn he saw something moving around in one of the puddles.

 "Huh?" he muttered before he looked inside. "What's that?"

 A pause...but then, SPLASH!! Something leaped out of the water and latched itself onto his face, causing him to scream in pain as he grabbed his head.

 "Huh?" asked one of the other firefighters present before he ran over to check on him. "Hey! What's the matter?! You all right?!"

 Suddenly, the screaming stopped...then the firefighter pulled his hands away, revealing the Mask of Flesh, somehow plastered on his face!

 "W-what is that-" the other firefighter asked before he was suddenly pinned to the floor! "AAAGGH! HEY!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! LET GO!!!"

 "I need a body...!" the Mask hissed. "I must have a body!!"

XXX

 

 "KAGOME!!"

 Kagome turned to see a panicked Sota running up to her, causing her to drop to her knees and wrap her arms around him in a hug.

 "What happened?!" Sota asked. "Is everybody okay?!"

 "Everything's fine!" Kagome answered. "It's just the storage house that caught on fire! Grandpa passed out, but Mom's going to the hospital with him to keep an eye on him, okay? The house is fine and so is the main shrine."

 "...Okay," Sota nodded as Kagome hugged him tightly.

 "Come on, let's get inside," she told him as she ushered him into the house. "I'm gonna run down to the hospital, just to check on Grandpa, too, but I'll be back, okay?"

 "O-okay," Sota nodded, but just as Kagome was about to get ready to leave the grounds, she spotted something out of the corner of her eye...a trail of what looked like blood and blackish-brown slime, leading away from the wrecked storage shed.

 "Eww...what is that gunk?" asked Kagome, but then she heard a loud CRASH!! With a gasp of shock, Kagome ran over to the railing and saw the firetruck...speeding off and leaving a trail of damaged police cars behind!

 "Now what?!" Kagome questioned.

 Inside the firetruck...a massive blob of slime and blood dripped all over the dashboard with two hands gripping the steering wheel...with the Mask of Flesh as its face!

 The Mask raised its dripping hand and saw that it was starting to fall limp.

 "The flesh is rotting away...!" the Mask hissed. "No...I must have more flesh! I must keep this body from disintegrating!!"

 As the Mask continued to drive the truck...a familiar pink glow shined from its forehead.

XXX


 A while later, at dusk, Kagome had arrived at the hospital to check on Sanosuke and was soon greeted by Atsuko.

 "How is he, Mom?" she asked. "Is Grandpa awake yet?"

 "No, he's not," Atsuko began, "but he is stable. However, the doctor's a bit baffled. He said that Dad isn't seriously hurt, aside from slight smoke inhalation and some minor burns, but other than that, he should've woken up, by now."

 "Oh, Grandpa..." Kagome muttered, worriedly.

 "Now, Kagome, let's not fret too much," said Atsuko. "After all, Grandpa is about 66 years old. That's probably why he hasn't woken up, yet."

 "...Maybe," Kagome muttered before she noticed something in her mother's hands: some sutras. "Uh...Mom? What are you those?"

 "These?" Atsuko asked as she held the paper slips up for her daughter to see. "They're your grandfather's talismans. When the paramedics got to him, they said that he had them all over his face and even stuffed inside his mouth." She then sighed. "You know how superstitious he can be...something must have really spooked him."

 "...I wonder..." Kagome mused.

 "Ugh...beware..."

 Kagome and Atsuko both gasped before they turned to look inside the room where Sanosuke was resting...but the old man groaned in his sleep as he tossed and turned, slightly.

 "Beware...the Mask..." he muttered. "Beware of the flesh-eating Noh Mask...!"

 "Noh Mask...?" Kagome repeated.

 "He's been muttering that ever since he got here," Atsuko said, worriedly. "Poor Dad...I think I better stay here with him. Kagome, you go home and stay with Sota, understand?"

 "...Yeah, Mom," Kagome nodded. "I hope Gramps gets better, soon." With that, she walked away...but she couldn't stop thinking about her grandfather's words.

 'Flesh-eating Noh Mask...? What does that mean?'

XXX

 

 Later that night, Kagome had returned home, and thankfully, Sota was still there, waiting for her. However, he told her he had found out something rather unsettling on the news on TV while she was away. There had been reports of people going missing ever since the fire engine got away from the shrine, and the only evidence left of their disappearance were small pools of blood and black slime.

 Naturally, Kagome brushed it off...despite the rather unsettling feeling that was forming in the pit of her stomach.

 She decided that perhaps it was best if she focused on her studies for now, especially since she had a test tomorrow morning, so after she took a quick bath and got dressed in her PJs, Kagome sat at her desk and began to do her homework. Sota, not wanting to be alone, decided to stay in her room with her along with Buyo, which Kagome allowed as long as he was quiet.

 "Hmm...let's see," Kagome muttered as she looked at her paper, which had several math equations...and if there was one thing Kagome hated, it was math. "...Ugh! Who invented geometry, anyway?!"

 "...Kagome?" Sota asked, causing her to look back at him as he sat on the floor with a blanket and pillow. "I...I can't shake this feeling."

 "What's wrong?" Kagome asked as she turned to face him. "Come talk to me."

 Sota approached his sister, who gently pulled him into her arms.

 "...I'm worried about Gramps," said Sota as he nestled his face against her chest. "You said that when the paramedics found him, he had all those sutras on his face and even in his mouth, right?"

 "Yeah," Kagome nodded. "Why? What's the matter?"

 "...I can't help thinking something really creepy happened in the shed," Sota answered. "Ever since the day you fell into the well and came back, weird stuff has been happening...I'm not saying it's your fault, though! It's just...creepy six-armed ladies, invisible hair, and now this? You believe me, right, Sis?"

 "...I almost don't wanna believe you," Kagome said as she looked outside, "but right before I left the hospital, I heard Grandpa muttering something...something about a flesh-eating mask."

 "A...a flesh-eating what?" Sota repeated, nervously.

 "It's okay, Sota," said Kagome. "I'm sure nothing's gonna happen to us! ...I hope."

 Suddenly, she heard the window rattling, causing her to glance back at it.

 "W...what was that?" Sota asked, worriedly.

 "Uh...probably the wind," Kagome answered, although she sounded uncertain, herself.

 'I don't get it...stuff like this hasn't happened at our shrine for generations, so why now?!'

 That's when she looked over to the Sacred Jewel shards in the bottle.

 'Wait...the jewel shards! That's probably why all these weird things have been happening, lately!'

 Just then, the Higurashi Siblings could hear the sound of a siren in the distance. At first, they thought nothing of it...until they saw a pair of flashing headlights through the window...and they were heading right for them!

 "Oh, my god!" cried Kagome as she pushed Sota down against the floor. "SOTA, GET DOWN!!"

 "AAH!!" Sota screamed as he was pinned against the floor, and not long after, CRASH!!! Glass shards and bits of brick and wood went flying around the room before Kagome looked back, only to gasp in horror upon seeing the Mask of Flesh...only now, its body of slime and blood had gotten even bigger!

 "W...what is that?!" Sota questioned.

 "I think it was that mask that Grandpa was talking about in the hospital!" Kagome cried, but then she looked down and noticed that the jewel shards that she had collected had dropped on the floor.

 "The...jewel..." the Mask droned as it reached its slimy, dripping hand down toward the bottle. "Give me the shards of Shikon Jewel...!!"

 "No way!!" Kagome shouted as she grabbed the bottle, accidentally slicing her hand on the glass before she got up and ran. "Sota! Grab Buyo and let's get outta here!!"

 "I-I'm coming!!" Sota answered as he grabbed the aforementioned housecat, then grabbed Kagome by the hand and ran alongside her, headed outside. "Sis, what are we gonna do?!"

 "I have to call Inuyasha and get him to come over here!" Kagome answered. "He's the only one who can save us!!"

 "But Kagome, what about your hand?!" Sota asked, feeling her blood dripping on his fingers.

 "Don't worry about it!" said Kagome. "I just cut it on some glass, that's all!"

 Suddenly, the Mask's slimy, blob-like body leaped out in front of the siblings, causing Kagome to gasp as she shielded Sota from the abomination. As it wobbled and trembled, Kagome spotted something glowing on its forehead.

 "The jewel shards...!" the Mask hissed. "Give me the Shikon Jewel shaaaaards!!"

 'The Mask has a shard of the Sacred Jewel on its forehead!' she thought. 'No wonder it's after the rest of the shards! I've gotta get Sota away from here and out of danger!'

 "Sota!" Kagome shouted as she turned to look at him. "Go to the well house and get Inuyasha! Tell him I'm in trouble! That should get him over here!!"

 "O-okay!" Sota answered before he ran to the well house with Buyo clinging to his shoulders.

 "Hey! Over here!!" Kagome called to the Mask. "You want these jewel shards?! Then come and get 'em!!" With that, she ran off, away from the shrine grounds with the Mask giving chase after her.

 At that moment, Sota opened up the door to the well house and found the Bone-Eater's Well inside. He gasped silently, the memory of when Kagome was first dragged through the well by Mistress Centipede returning to him as he looked to the bottom. However, he knew that now was not the time to be scared. His sister was in danger, and if he didn't do anything soon, she would end up being the Mask's latest victim.

 "...I can do this," Sota whispered to himself. "Kagome's counting on me!" He then climbed up onto the lip of the well. "Okay...1...2...3!" On that, he jumped in...only to get nothing but a faceful of dirt. He then grunted as he sat up, only to gasp as he realized that nothing happened.

 "AAAH!!" he screamed. "WHAT WENT WRONG?!!"

 As for Buyo, he nonchalantly licked his paws, as if completely oblivious to the situation while Sota furiously dug away at the bottom of the well with tears welling up in his eyes.

 "I gotta get through the well," he said. "I gotta call Inuyasha!" He then sniffled and began to sob. "That mask is after her and I'm the only one who can help!! Buhuhuhuh~!!"

 All of a sudden, there was a flash of light, causing Sota to gasp as a familiar red cloth appeared before his eyes, causing him to look up and see that it was none other than Inuyasha!

 "...I...it's you...!" Sota whispered in awe. "Inuyasha!"

 "In the flesh, kid," Inuyasha smirked. "So, what's this problem you need help with?"

Chapter Text

 Inuyasha leaped across the rooftops of the buildings and telephone poles while Sota clung to his back. The two soared through the air as the half-demon ran as fast as he could in the direction that Kagome had fled. Sota was a bit surprised that Inuyasha had no trouble getting around the huge city with all its flashing lights and loud noises, but it seemed that he knew he was doing.

 "Hang on tight, kid!" Inuyasha called as he jumped over some buildings at an incredible height. "It's a long way down!"

 "I guess I wasn't strong enough to pass through the hidden well, huh?" Sota asked.

 "Lucky for you," Inuyasha answered as he landed on another telephone poll, then jumped down from that and ran along the roof of an office building. "Cuz in my world, there are plenty of monsters that would just LOVE to have you for lunch."

 "Huh?!" Sota questioned as Inuyasha jumped off the building and landed on the roof of a moving truck.

 "Whoa!" Inuyasha cried as he wobbled a bit, but kept his balance nonetheless. "Phew! I'm good."

 "Hey," said Sota. "Do you know where to find Kagome?"

 "Sure, I do," said Inuyasha. "I'm not human, remember? I can track scents from miles around with this nose of mine."

 "I don't know if it helps," said Sota, "but Kagome cut her fingers on some glass while she was running away from the Mask."

 "Heh," Inuyasha smirked. "You don't gotta tell me that. I can smell the blood from way back in the well." He then stood up, tall and confident. "Fear not. I'll rescue Kagome before she gets into any real trouble!"

 As he made this declaration, Sota thought back to when Kagome talked about Inuyasha earlier that morning during breakfast.

 "Well...he's kinda rude...actually, a lot rude. He can be pretty childish and he's got a big ego. He's pretty stubborn and hardheaded, too...but there are some good points to him. For one thing, he can actually be pretty helpful...and he can be kinda nice...in his own brash way."

 'He really is everything Kagome said he'd be,' thought Sota as he tightened his grip on Inuyasha's haori. 'Sure, his outfit's a little out of date, but I think that Inuyasha really is the only person I can trust to save Kagome!'

XXX


 Meanwhile, at a construction site, Kagome panted as she ran along some iron bars, having climbed up there to avoid the Mask of Flesh. So far, it seemed she managed to evade the monstrous mask for some time, but she knew she couldn't outrun it for very long. She prayed mentally that Sota had gotten Inuyasha in time.

 'Please hurry, Inuyasha!!' she thought, but just as she was about to turn and run, she gasped in horror upon seeing that the Mask of Flesh had leaped up off the ground and had landed right in front of her, leaving her trapped!

 "Oh, no!!" she cried.

 "Give me the shards of the Shikon Jewel!!" the Mask demanded as it advanced toward Kagome, who whimpered as she backed away.

 "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!"

 SLASH!!! The Mask's blob-like body was suddenly cut in half as Inuyasha and Sota appeared, just in the nick of time!

 "Inuyasha! Sota! You're here!!" Kagome exclaimed in relief.

 "Your brother came and got me," said Inuyasha.

 "Sis!" Sota cried as he ran up and hugged her.

 "Thank you, Sota!" Kagome said as she embraced her brother. "I knew you could do it!" She then looked him right in the eye. "See? You really can be brave!"

 Sota nodded his head, feeling a bit proud of himself. However, it was not the time to be relieved, just yet, for the Mask's "body" began to pull itself back together.

 "Who dares to attack me?" it asked.

 "So," Inuyasha began as he looked over at the Mask of Flesh, "is that the Noh Mask that the kid was telling me about?"

 "Yeah," Kagome nodded. "Inuyasha, the Mask has a shard of the Sacred Jewel in its forehead!"

 "Oh, really?" Inuyasha asked as a smirk creased his lips.

 "I am the Mask of Flesh," said the Mask. "Centuries, I was carved from a tree that had a fragment of the Sacred Jewel of Four Souls embedded in it. Ever since my creation, I craved human flesh...hence I devoured my creator and many others before I was sealed away! Now, I wish to have a living physical body that will not rot...thus, I must gather more shards of the Sacred Jewel!!"

 "So that's why you were after these shards!" Kagome realized.

 "Heh," Inuyasha chuckled as he cracked his knuckled. "I don't know how many humans you've devoured, you blob of flesh..." He then lunged for the Mask. "BUT IT'S TIME TO LOSE SOME WEIGHT!!"

 WHAK!!! Inuyasha punched the Mask in the face...or so he thought, for he found his wrist caught in between rows of hook-like teeth that went down horizontally inside the Mask!

 "W-what the-?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "You've fallen into my trap," the Mask. "Now...become one with me, half-demon!" It then pulled Inuyasha into its blob-like body!

 "Inuyasha, no!!" Kagome cried.

 "K-Kagome! Run!!" Inuyasha shouted before he was completely drawn in.

 "Now for you, girl," said the Mask as it flew toward Kagome. "Give me the shards, NOW!!"

 "AH!!" Kagome shrieked as she tried to hold the Mask back, falling backward as she did.

 "Kagome!!" Sota cried.

 "Sota, quick!" Kagome urged. "Take these jewel shards and get outta here!" She then tossed the jewel shards to Sota, who caught them in his hands before he turned and ran away as fast as he could, but the Mask soon gave chase.

 "Give me those shards, boy!!" the Mask shouted.

 "Sota, look out!!" Kagome called after her brother. "It's right behind you!!"

 Sota panted as he glanced back, but then he tripped and fell down on some wooden boards, accidentally dropping the jewel shards as he did.

 'The Mask is after this bottle,' Sota thought. 'Maybe I should throw it away! ...No, that won't work! If it gets these shards, who knows what'll happen?!'

 With that, he picked the shards back up and kept running, but he ended up hitting a dead end. One more step and he'd end up falling over the edge. As Sota turned around, he gasped in horror upon seeing the Mask, almost upon him!

 "YOU'RE MINE!!!" the Mask yelled.

 "SOTA!!!" Kagome screamed.

 Just as it seemed like that Sota was going to meet the same fate as the Mask's other victims, a red blur suddenly burst out of the blob of rotted goop and blood and darted right at the object!

 "GET DOWN, KID!!!"

 Sota gasped before he dropped down, just as something cut right through the Mask, cutting it completely in half!

 "NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" it screamed before it disintegrated into dust...leaving the Sacred Jewel shard behind.

 "That takes care of that," said Inuyasha, holding the Tetsusaiga against his shoulder.

 "Oh! You destroyed the Mask!" Sota exclaimed. "You did it, Inuyasha!"

 "Heh," Inuyasha smirked. "All in a day's work. So, you still got those jewel fragments, kid?"

 "Uh-huh!" Sota nodded as he held up the bottle. "Right here!"

 "That was too close," said Kagome as she picked up the shard.

 'The Mask said that it had a shard of the Sacred Jewel that was sealed along with it for centuries...could it be that there are shards that are scattered here, even in modern times? Just when I thought that things can't get more complicated...'

 Suddenly, she winced slightly in pain before she looked down at her hand, which was still bloody.

 "Oh, right," she said. "I was so busy running for my life, I forgot how much this hurt."

 Then, Inuyasha grabbed her hand before he took a look at it, causing Kagome to gasp silently.

 "Inuyasha?" Kagome asked.

 "Hmm..." Inuyasha hummed before he opened his mouth and began to lick the blood away, causing her to shudder a bit at the feeling of his tongue scraping against her fingers.

 "Ew, gross," Sota grimaced.

 "I-Inuyasha, what are you doing?!" Kagome asked.

 "Shut up and hold still," said Inuyasha as he tore off a strip of cloth from his sleeve, then began to wrap it around Kagome's hand, causing her to blush slightly.

 "Inuyasha..." she whispered.

 "There," Inuyasha said as he tied a knot on the makeshift bandage. "That should do."

 Kagome blinked at her hand before she looked up at Inuyasha...who gave her a soft smile as the sun began to rise behind him, giving his hair a shiny, silvery glow as the wind blew gently.

 'Wow...' Kagome thought. 'I don't know if it's the morning light or something...but he actually looks pretty...handsome.'

 "Wait a minute," said Kagome before she looked to the horizon. "Morning light?!" She then gasped in horror. "Oh, no!! It's morning already and I still haven't studied for my test!!!" She then hurried off down a flight of stairs.

 "H-hey, Kagome, where are you going?!" Inuyasha asked.

 "Thanks for your help, Inuyasha! It's been a slice!" Kagome answered. "I owe you some potato chips, okay?! Now do me a favor and take Sota home for me!"

 "Uhhh...okay," Inuyasha muttered before he felt a slight tug on his sleeve, causing him to glance down and see Sota, who beamed at him with a light blush on his cheeks.

 "You know what?" Sota asked. "I've got a new hero...and I bet you can't guess who it is~!"

 "...Oh, man..." Inuyasha bemoaned.

XXX

 

 Later that afternoon, Kagome, through some miracle, had managed to get through her math exam and after getting a bit of shopping done, she made it back home, filled up her backpack with all sorts of essentials, such as notebooks, textbooks, some extra clothes, three barbecue potato chips for Inuyasha (she figured he deserved an extra one for saving her and Sota), and some cups of instant ramen. Her friends did ask about her bandaged hand, but she told them not to worry about it and that she was just a little clumsy.

 "Sis, you're leaving?" Sota asked with Buyo clinging to his shoulders.

 "Yeah, I gotta get going," said Kagome as she tried to drag her large backpack to the well house. "I was going to wait until tomorrow, but I think I better go now. Besides, I don't have anything else to do here for right now, anyway!" She grunted as she tried to heft her oversized backpack over her shoulders, but nearly fell to the ground due to its heavy weight.

 "Whoa!" a voice called as a hand reached out and caught her and the backpack. "What are you tryin' to do, Kagome?! Break your back?!"

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered before she turned and saw Inuyasha. "I-Inuyasha, you're here!"

 "Gimme this," said Inuyasha. "If you don't mind, I'll do the heavy lifting around here."

 Kagome blinked at him in surprise before a playful smile appeared on her face.

 "Well, aren't you a gentleman?" she asked.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he walked to the well house. "Whatever."

 "See you later, Sota," said Kagome. "And don't worry. Mom will be home with Grandpa in a little while."

 "Right," Sota nodded. "Bye, sis!"

 As Inuyasha and Kagome entered the well house, the former glanced over at the latter before he cleared his throat.

 "Uh...hey, Kagome?" he asked.

 "Yeah?" Kagome asked back.

 "...The other day, when you left," Inuyasha started, "why'd you kiss me?"

 "I...I kissed you?" Kagome asked. "I don't under..." She then gasped in realization. "Oh! On the cheek!"

 "Yeah," Inuyasha affirmed. "So...why'd you do it?"

 "Well, I...I...umm..." Kagome muttered. "Uh...why did I kiss you?"

 "...You don't even know?" Inuyasha asked before he sighed and rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Let's just get going."

 "Uh...why do you ask?" Kagome asked.

 "It doesn't matter," Inuyasha replied as he climbed over the well. "Come on. We got things to do and shards to hunt."

 "...Sure," Kagome smiled before she joined the half-demon's side. "1...2...3!"

 On that, they both jumped into the well, returning to the Feudal Era, once more.

XXX


 Concurrently, at a movie theater across town...

 "Hmm..." Hojo hummed as he looked around, holding a bag of some kind. "I wonder what happened to Kagome...I was gonna give her these therapeutic herbs for her bunions." He then sighed, quietly. "...I guess she got sick, again. She couldn't have possibly forgotten we had a date, today."

 ...The limits of naiveté were being tested.

Chapter Text

 Grrrrroooooooowwwwll~!!

 Kagome winced as she heard that sound for what felt like the hundredth time that afternoon. It wasn't coming from her, that she knew since she ate sometime before leaving the village, but it was actually coming from the half-demon who was walking after her while Myoga was perched on his shoulder. Inuyasha scowled, his arms folded inside his sleeves while he grumbled in his throat...just like his empty belly.

 "Master Inuyasha, you really should eat something," Myoga said.

 "You think I don't know that by now?!" Inuyasha asked, irritably.

 Guuuuuuuuurrrrrggh~!! His stomach bellowed.

 "Okay, Inuyasha, I get it!" Kagome said. "Stop with the noises, already!"

 "You think I have any control over my stomach?!" asked Inuyasha. "Besides, it's your fault! I was about to have myself a nice, fat rabbit for lunch, but your screaming scared it away before I could grab it!"

 "It was just a cute little bunny!" Kagome argued. "I couldn't stand by and let you kill it!"

 "Yeah, well, what am I gonna eat?!" Inuyasha questioned. "I'm starvin'!!"

 "I think you're forgetting something," said Kagome before she put a hand on her oversized backpack, which was sitting on the back of her bicycle. "I have a ton of food in my backpack! If you want something to eat, you just have to ask me!"

 Inuyasha blinked before he approached the backpack, opened it up, and began to search inside it, tossing out things like Kagome's textbooks, her toothbrush and toothpaste, her notebooks, her extra outfits, etc.

 "Why do you have all this useless stuff, anyway?" Inuyasha asked as he threw Kagome's hairbrush over his shoulder. "Where are those dried potatoes?"

 "H-hey!" Kagome cried as she tried to catch the items before they hit the dirt. "Inuyasha, no! Stop it! Sit boy!!"

 BAM!! Inuyasha's face soon hit the soil, causing something to fall out of Kagome's backpack and hit his head. It didn't hurt, of course, mostly because Inuyasha was still feeling the pain of being pulled into the ground. As he sat up and was about to get ready to give Kagome the yelling of a lifetime, he noticed the item that had fallen from Kagome's bag: a cup of instant ramen.

 "Huh?" he asked before he picked it up. "What's this thing?" He then sniffed it. "...It smells like there's food in there." He then tried to bite it into the plastic covering but found his efforts fruitless. "Dammit, what is this? I can't get the food out!"

 "It's a cup of instant ramen," said Kagome.

 "Ramen?" Inuyasha repeated.

 "How strange," said Myoga. "Is this from your time period, Kagome?"

 "That's right," said Kagome. "I just have to cook the noodles, first."

 "Cook them, how?" Inuyasha inquired.

XXX


 BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP! A timer went off after a good 3 minutes while Kagome pressed the button on top.

 "There you go," she said. "Your noodles are ready!"

 Inuyasha sat on the ground, slurping up the noodles and toppings with a pair of chopsticks.

 "Mmm!" he exclaimed. "Not bad! I can see how this would catch on!"

 "Next best thing to sliced bread," Kagome deadpanned as she sat on a rock.

 "Well, what are you waiting for Kagome?" asked Inuyasha. "Aren't you gonna dig in?"

 "Speaking of 'digging'," said Kagome, "have you noticed that we just so happened to be surrounded by corpses and skeletons, here?!"

 Around the traveling trio, the ground was littered with skeletons that were pierced with old arrows, swords, and spears.

 "No, of course not!" Kagome argued. "I guess you were too busy rummaging through my bag to realize that we just happened to be sitting in an old battlefield!! 'Kagome, I'm starving', he says, and then he has the nerve to expect me to eat HERE!!" She then sat down on her rock, again. "Jeez! What's the matter with eating in a nice, pleasant meadow or under a shady tree?! Even your blood-sucking flea buddy has better manners!"

 "Finally!" Myoga exclaimed while he munched on a piece of narutomaki. "I found someone who has great taste AND tastes good! I must say, Kagome, I am quite impressed by the conveniences of your era! Your 'bye-cycle' and your instant foodstuffs. Tell me, has our land started trading with other lands?"

 "Yeah!" Kagome beamed. "Good observation, Myoga! It figures you'd notice! Actually, instant ramen was invented right here in Japan during the Space Age. Everyone eats them, but they were originally made for astronauts in outer space!"

 "Astro-nuts?" Inuyasha and Myoga asked, the former holding a mouthful of noodles.

 "Astronauts," Kagome corrected. "We've explored outer space...oh, right! I bet you don't know that we've actually been to the moon!"

 "Man has traveled to the moon?!" Myoga asked in surprise.

 "On a bye-cycle?" Inuyasha asked.

 "No, in a rocket, silly," said Kagome.

 "And a rocket would be...?" Inuyasha inquired.

 "They're long and flames come shooting out of the bottom," said Kagome, "and when the countdown hits 0, they launch into space! ZOOM!!"

 "...Huh," Inuyasha muttered before he slurped up the last of the broth. "Ahh...hey, can I have some more?"

 Kagome only sighed, indignantly.

 "Figures you'd be more interested in instant ramen than by space travel, Inuyasha," she mused. "Sure, I'll make you some more. Which flavor do you want? Beef or chicken?"

 "Can I have both?" Inuyasha asked, but before Kagome could go about making some more noodles, the sky suddenly turned dark.

 "Huh?" Kagome asked, nervously. "H-hey, who turned off the sun?"

 "I don't know," Inuyasha replied as he tossed the empty cup aside, "but it smells like trouble!"

 "Master Inuyasha, no littering!" Myoga scolded.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "This is no time to be talkin' trash!"

 Suddenly, a vortex of greenish-blue fire suddenly appeared in the sky.

 "You, there...!" a voice called. "You possess shards of the Shikon Jewel...!!"

 "Who are you?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Show yourself!!"

 "A...a demon?!" Kagome asked as she hid behind Inuyasha, who growled as he put his hand on Tetsusaiga's hilt.

 "I believe it might be a fox," said Myoga.

 "Not likely, Myoga," said Inuyasha as the vortex kept swirling until...a pink balloon with a funny face appeared before the group.

 "...Uh...okay," Kagome muttered.

 "What the hell?" asked Inuyasha in bewilderment.

 "Give them to me!" the balloon demanded. "The shards of the Sacred Jewel, or I'll devour you both!" It then bit Inuyasha's head...but that only caused him to growl as he scratched his head, then punched the balloon in the face, causing it to get sent flying a few feet before it burst...revealing its true form to be that of a young boy of at least 5 years old. He had brownish-orange hair that was tied up in a ponytail by a blue ribbon, green eyes, a turquoise happi coat with a white leaf pattern, covered up by a furry vest, and a blue sashinuki hakama.

 However, his most prominent features had to be his pointy ears, the small fangs that were in his mouth, and the large, bushy tail that was growing out of his backside.

 "It's...a little boy?" Kagome asked.

 "How dare you!!" the boy shouted, only to gasp as he saw Inuyasha reach down for him. He tried to scamper away, but the half-demon managed to grab him by the tail and hold him up in the air.

 "AAH! Put me down!!" the youngster cried.

 "Hmph," Inuyasha snorted. "Feisty little thing, aren't ya?" He then held the boy up to his face for a closer look. "Nice tail you got...so what are you, a badger or a squirrel or somethin'?"

 "I'm a fox, you ding-dong!!" the child spat.

 "A fox?" Kagome repeated. "He's...so cute...! Hey, Inuyasha? Can I hold him when you're done?"

 "Do you mind?" Inuyasha asked. "I'm in the middle of teaching this kid a lesson here- WAH!!!"

 BAM!!! All of a sudden, the dog-eared half-demon found his hand pinned to the ground by a jizo statue with a peculiar face.

 "H-hey, what the-?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "Where'd he go?!" Kagome asked, only to turn and see the boy throwing things out of her backpack. "H-hey! Stop that! You can't just go rummaging through my things!"

 "Found it!" the young fox boy exclaimed as he held up the bottles that contained the jewel shards that Kagome and Inuyasha had collected. "The Sacred Jewel!" He then looked to the duo with a toothy smirk. "Well, it's been fun! Bye!"

 POOF!! In a flash of foxfire, he had vanished.

 "Hey, he's gone!!" Kagome cried.

 "Not quite," Inuyasha answered as he pointed at a nearby skull...which had a familiar fluffy tail sticking out of it.

XXX


 "It's not fair," the fox boy grumbled as he sat on the ground with a large bump on his head, courtesy of Inuyasha. "Why do I always get picked on?"

 "Maybe if you didn't act like such a smart aleck, you wouldn't get beat up so much!" Inuyasha barked.

 "Inuyasha, stop it," Kagome chided as she held up a bottle of medicine. "Hold still, little guy. This might sting a little." She then sprayed the medicine onto the boy's bump. "So...what's your name?"

 The boy didn't answer her, instead opting to cross his arms and pout, indignantly, but Kagome smiled nonetheless.

 "I have an idea," she said. "I'll tell you our names and you can tell us yours, okay?"

 "...I guess," the boy replied.

 "I'm Kagome Higurashi," Kagome said as she gestured to herself. "I'm 15 and in 9th grade." She then gestured to Inuyasha. "And you already met Inuyasha."

 "Keh," Inuyasha scoffed.

 "And you are...?" Kagome inquired, causing the boy to glance up at her before he sighed.

 "...My name is Shippo," he said. "My Father was the one who named me."

 "Oh, I see," Kagome said. "Did your father tell you it's not polite to steal from others?"

 "...My Father's dead," Shippo replied, causing Kagome's eyes to widen while Inuyasha glanced over at him. "That's why I was trying to take the jewel shards...so that I could avenge him!"

 "A...avenge him?" Kagome repeated.

 "I see, now," said Inuyasha as he held the bottle with the shards inside. "He's not strong enough to take on his enemies on his own, so he tried to use the shards to make himself more powerful...what an idiot."

 "Inuyasha, be nice!" Kagome scolded. "And what do you think you're doing with those?! Give me that bottle!!"

 "No way! They're mine by right!" Inuyasha argued.

 "HEY!!" Shippo yelled. "I'M TALKING, HERE!!!"

 "Huh?" Inuyasha and Kagome muttered as they looked at him.

 "As I was saying," Shippo began, "my beloved Father was killed by two demons from the Thunder Demon Tribe..."

XXX


 In a battlefield, not too far from where our heroes were, two clashing armies were fighting to the death, jabbing each other with spears and cutting each other down with swords. However, as the battle raged on, the clouds suddenly grew dark as thunder rumbled in the sky, causing the soldiers to pause their battle. That's when two shadowy figures appeared before them.

 The first had the appearance of a young man about Inuyasha's age, maybe a bit older. He had tanned skin and red eyes, as well as long, black hair that was tied up in a braided ponytail, along with short bangs in front of his forehead. He had some elaborate, orange-colored armor spiked shoulder plates on his shoulders and had a light blue kimono underneath. There was a plate on his left bicep that had the kanji for "heaven" or "sky" inscribed on it, and he wore several light blue sashes around his waist and torso.

 The second, who was sitting on a thundercloud, had a more reptilian appearance with a large, bald head that only had three strands of hair and a ponytail, just like the first demon. He, too, had some elaborate armor, only his was blue, and he had purple sashes around his body...as well as a fox pelt tied around his waist.

 Embedded in both their foreheads...were shards of the Sacred Jewel; three for the first demon and two for the second one.

 "So, shall we start the hunter, Manten?" asked the first figure.

 "Aye, Brother Hiten!" exclaimed Manten. "Start the hunt!"

 "D-demons?!" questioned one of the samurai...just before Hiten charged at them while holding a spear with a blade that was shaped like a lightning bolt.

 "AHAHAHAHAHA!!" Hiten laughed. "Taste the wrath of my THUNDER PIKE!!" He then swung...leaving many bloody and dismembered bodies in his wake as a powerful lightning bolt struck them. The opposing army was soon decimated in less than an instant!

 "What power!!" the shogun of the opposing army exclaimed. "But what do those two demons want? Do they wish to be our allies?"

 "Hmph!" scoffed Manten. "What tomfoolery! You entertain thoughts at becoming our allies?!" He then opened his mouth and fire a powerful lightning blast...completely obliterating the other army!

 "Hahahahaha!" Hiten laughed. "Ah, such pleasure, eh, brother?"

 "Aye, brother!" Manten grinned as he brushed the three strands of hair on his head. "Pitiful warriors."

 "However," Hiten began, "the day is still young and I'm still feeling quite restless. With the Sacred Jewel shards in our possession, we have power to spare!"

 "So true!" Manten agreed.

 "Just think of how much more powerful we could be if we gathered even more shards of the jewel!" Hiten suggested.

 "Aye, brother!" Manten exclaimed. "We shall scour the land and relinquish any beast of their Sacred Jewel shards..." He then patted the fox pelt around his waist. "Like our friend, the fox."

XXX


 "So...the reason why they killed your father," Kagome began while she was pedaling her bike, "was because he had shards of the Sacred Jewel?"

 "That's right," Shippo nodded as he sat on Kagome's backpack. "They're killing any demon who has them!"

 "But who are they?" asked Kagome.

 "They're known as Hiten and Manten," Shippo began, "otherwise known as the Thunder Brothers."

 "The Thunder Brothers?" Inuyasha repeated as he ran alongside them.

 "Ah, yes," Myoga mused. "I've heard of those two. They are members of the Thunder Demon Tribe, and if the rumors about them are true, those two are evil incarnate."

 "Keh!" Inuyasha smirked, cockily. "Who cares? If we defeat them, then that means we get their shards of the Sacred Jewel!"

 "Ha!" Shippo scoffed. "As if you stand a chance against them!"

 "What was that?" Inuyasha asked.

 "You are a half-demon, right?" Shippo asked. "I can smell the human in you."

 "...Excuse me?" Inuyasha asked, his voice dangerously low.

 "Oh, no..." Kagome muttered.

 "My Father was a real demon!" Shippo boasted. "If he couldn't defeat the Thunder Brothers, what can a stupid half-breed like you-"

 "Shippo, that's enough!!" Kagome shouted, causing Inuyasha to look at her. "You have no right to say that about Inuyasha!!"

 "But...but he is a half-demon!" Shippo argued.

 "It doesn't matter if he's a half-demon!" Kagome countered. "He's also my friend, and if you want our help, then you need to start treating Inuyasha with more respect!"

 "Wow, Kagome...!" Inuyasha whispered as a smirk appeared on his face and he crossed his arms. "Yeah, you hear that, ya little runt? If you want our help, you gotta start treating me with respect!"

 Shippo growled before he sighed.

 "Fine," he said. "I'm sorry."

 "There," Inuyasha said. "Was that so hard?"

 "As a gesture of apology," Shippo said...before he pinned Inuyasha's hands with another jizo statue.

 "H-hey! What are you doing?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "There!" Shippo exclaimed as he put a paper slip on the statue. "Unless you can remove that sutra, that statue stays right on your hands and you're stuck there!"

 "Why you little runt!" Inuyasha shouted. "Wait until I get my hands on you!!"

 "And as for you, Kagome," Shippo began, "I'm sorry about this."

 "Sorry about what?" Kagome asked before the young fox kit jumped up and tried to chop his hand against her neck...but nothing happened.

 "Huh?!" Shippo asked. "But that was supposed to knock you out!!"

 "Hey! What was that for?!" Kagome questioned.

 "YIKES!!" Shippo cried in fright. "FOXFIRE!!!"

 POOF!!! In a burst of green flames, he was gone...or so Kagome thought, for she soon spotted him running away with the jewel shards!

 "Hey!" Kagome shouted. "Shippo, get back here with those!!"

 "No way!" Shippo answered. "With these, I can lure those two murderers out!!"

 "Shippo, get back here!!" Kagome called as she grabbed her bow and arrows and chased after him. "I'm seriously getting mad!!"

 "W-wait, Kagome!!" Inuyasha called after her. "Come back!! Take the sutra off the statue, then chase that little runt!! KAGOME!!!"

 It was too late, for she was already gone.

 "...I hate my life..." Inuyasha grumbled.

XXX


 Not too far away, Manten sat near a pond, sighing solemnly as he looked at his reflection in the water's surface, or rather, at the three hairs on his head.

 "Alas," he muttered. "If only I have luscious, beautiful locks like that of my older brother...surely, I would stir the hearts of many gorgeous maidens as he does...perhaps more!" He then sighed. "Oh, well... 'tis but a dream, I suppose..." He then looked up, completely alert. "Hmm? What's this? I sense the Sacred Jewel, nearby!"

 Hiding amongst the grass and reeds, Shippo quietly crept about, holding the bottle with the Sacred Jewel shards in his hands.

 "Where are those despicable demons?" he whispered. "They have to be here, somewhere. Just wait until I see one...then I'll-"

 "You'll what, boy?"

 Shippo froze before he slowly turned around, only to come face-to-face with Manten, who glowered down at him.

 "Oh, what have we here?" he asked. "You are the son of the fox that my brother and I had slain!"

 Shippo whimpered nervously before his eyes fell on the fox pelt around Manten's sash.

 "Ah!" he cried. "F-Father!!"

 "Ah, yes," said Manten, patting the pelt with a wicked grin. "Your father makes a fine sash!"

 Shippo stared at the pelt with an expression of horror, sadness, and anger.

 "Father...!" he whispered as tears welled up in his eyes.

 "Shippo! Get out of here!! Run away and don't look back!!"

 "Father, no! I can't leave you!!"

 "Don't argue with me!! GO!!!"

 BOOOOM!!!

 "AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGH!!!!"

 "FATHEEEEEEER!!!!"

 "...You...you killed my Father...!" Shippo whispered, then growled viciously before he lunged for Manten. "NOW I'LL KILL YOU~!!!"

 "Such insolence," said Manten before he clawed Shippo in the face, causing him to cry out in pain as he fell to the ground. "What can a little brat like you do against the likes of me?!"

 "Urrrgh...!" Shippo grunted as he held his cheek.

 "Now then," Manten began, "those jewel shards you have...unless you want to meet the same fate as your father, then hand them over!"

 Shippo whimpered as he backed away, his heart racing in his chest and his tiny body quivering.

 '...I...I know I said a lot...but the truth is...I'm too scared! I can't do anything on my own! But who's gonna help me?!'

 "Shippo! Get down!!"

 Shippo looked back, only to gasp and ducked down as an arrow flew through the air, hitting Manten right through the nose!

 "AGH!!" Manten cried. "What's this?!"

 "Huh?" Shippo asked before he looked back and saw Kagome, who was holding her bow.

 "Shippo! Run!" Kagome called. "Hurry! Get away from him while you have the chance!"

 "K...Kagome...!" Shippo whispered.

 "You...!" Manten growled as he glared at Kagome, who readied another arrow.

 "Hold it!" she warned. "Don't you move, or the next one's going right through your skull!"

 "Kagome, no!" Shippo cried. "Don't do it!!"

XXX


 Meanwhile...

 "AAAAAAH!!" a man screamed as he ran by. "A DOG DEMON!!!"

 "HEY, COME BACK!!!" Inuyasha yelled. "I'M NOT GONNA EAT YOU!!! I JUST NEED YOU TO TAKE OFF THIS STUPID SUTRA!!! COME ON!!!!"

 'Dammit, Kagome, where are you?!!'

Chapter Text

 "My nose!!" cried Manten as he glared at the arrow stuck in his snout before he snarled and glared at Kagome. "You wench! How dare you attack me?!"

 "Don't you move!" Kagome warned as she held up her bow. "Or the next one goes right through you!"

 "K-Kagome!" Shippo exclaimed.

 "Shippo, get over here!" called Kagome. "Hurry! And bring the jewel shards!"

 "R-right!" Shippo answered as he ran to her side on all fours, but Manten soon gave chase after him.

 "Get back here, you little brat!!" he shouted as he pursued the young kitsune. "Give me those Shikon Jewel shards!!"

 "No way!!" Shippo shouted. "Get away from me!!"

 That's when Kagome saw the familiar glint of the jewel shards embedded in Manten's forehead, and that's when she got an idea. If she could just hit those two shards, then maybe she could render the thunder demon helpless. Knowing that time was of the essence and that Shippo would be caught by Manten if she didn't act fast enough, she quickly notched an arrow into her bow and loosed it...but then arrow only ended up bouncing off Manten's head, the strike causing him to stop in his tracks.

 "Darn it!" Kagome cursed. "I only grazed him!"

 "Huh...haaah...!" Manten gasped as he held his head...as the two single strands of hair fell from his scalp. "HAH?!! N...no!! My hair!!!"

 "...Uh...uh-oh...!" Kagome squeaked as she and Shippo began to back away.

 "What have you done, you stupid wench?!" Manten questioned. "MY BEAUTIFUL HAIR!!!" He then growled as a familiar light began to flash inside his mouth. "You...you will PAY for this outrage!!!"

 "W-what's he doing?!" Kagome asked.

 "Kagome, run!!" Shippo cried. "That's how he killed my Father!!!"

 "What?!" Kagome questioned in shocked.

 "RAAAAAAAAAAARRRGH!!!" Manten roared before he shot a beam of lightning at the two from his gaping maw, causing Kagome to gasp before she glanced down at Shippo, grabbed him, and threw him into the grass before she tried to duck down to avoid the blast herself. While she did manage to evade the attack, she ended up hitting her head when she fell, knocking herself out cold.

 "AAH!! Kagome!!" Shippo cried as he ran to her side. "K-Kagome! Are you okay?! Wake up!!" He then gasped as he heard the sound of the grass rustling, causing him to look up and see the familiar shape of Manten's bald head. "Oh, no...!"

 As Manten pulled the reeds away, he found Kagome lying in the grass...but no Shippo in sight.

 "Damnation," he cursed. "The fox brat got away with the jewel shards." He then noticed Kagome's sleeping face. "Hmm?" He then knelt down and cupped her chin. "My...what a lovely face! She'll be perfect!"

 Not too far away, Shippo whimpered as he hid in the grass, near a rotten old tree stump before he saw a shadow fly overhead, causing him to look up and gasp upon seeing Manten, riding on his thundercloud...carrying Kagome with him!

 "Oh, no!" the little kit cried. "Kagome!!"

 He attempted to run after them, but then he stopped right in his tracks.

 '...This is all my fault...Kagome's gotten captured, and now she's in serious danger! And all because I had to go and talk big!'

 He whimpered as he clenched his tiny hands into fists.

 'I know that I have to save her...but I can't do it on my own! I'm just a kid! I don't stand a chance against the Thunder Brothers! What am I gonna do?!'

 He then gasped quietly in realization.

 "That's it!" he exclaimed before he turned and ran off.

XXX

 

 "Rrrgh...!" Myoga grunted as he tried to pull the sutra off the statue, but it was useless. "It's no use, Master Inuyasha! This thing won't budge!"

 "Damn that little runt!" Inuyasha barked. "Wait until I get my hands on him!"

 "Hey!!"

 Inuyasha looked up to see Shippo, who was standing on Kagome's oversized backpack.

 "Oh, it's you!" Inuyasha growled. "Back to take your lumps?!"

 "Listen to me," Shippo said, still trying to act proud. "I'll take the statue off...but only if you promise not to hit me! Got it?"

 "Wait a minute," Inuyasha said. "Where's Kagome? Why didn't she come back with you?"

 "I said do you promise?!" Shippo asked.

 "...Fine," Inuyasha replied. "I won't hit you."

 "...Okay," Shippo nodded as he peeled the scroll off of the statue, which caused it to shrink in size before he picked it up and stuffed inside his coat. "Now then, I-"

 BONK!!!

 "OW!!!" Shippo cried as he held the bump on his head. "YOU PROMISED YOU WOULDN'T HIT ME!!!"

 "Ah, shaddup," Inuyasha said. "Oh, yeah, that reminds me...come here!" He then picked Shippo by his tail and began to shake him up and down, causing him to let out an undulating cry as various items dropped, like leaves, acorns, and tiny statues, before finally, the bottle that contained the Sacred Jewel shards fell out.

 "Aha!" Inuyasha exclaimed as he picked it up. "They're all there!"

 "Will you worry about those stupid shards later?!" Shippo questioned. "I need your help! Kagome's been kidnapped by one of the Thunder Brothers!!"

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned as he looked at Shippo. "The same ones who killed your father, right?!" He then pulled Shippo close to his face and sniffed him, causing him to sweat nervously. "Well...if I didn't know any better, you smell like a stinkin' little coward, rather than some little punk who got revenge. Lemme guess...you hid in the bushes while you let Kagome get taken, didn't you?"

 "Well, I don't see you rushing off to save her!!" Shippo yelled. "After all, she's YOUR woman, isn't she?!"

 "Huh?!" Inuyasha muttered as his cheeks flushed a bit red, but then he growled as he bopped the kit on the head, again. "SHE AIN'T MY WOMAN, YOU LITTLE PUNK!!! SHE'S MY FRIEND AND THAT'S IT!!!"

 "OW!!" Shippo cried. "YOU HIT ME, AGAIN!!!"

 "And besides," Inuyasha began, "if anything, this is all YOUR fault! You just had to go and act all high and mighty, thinking you were better than me! If it wasn't for all your bluster, Kagome would still be safe, am I right?!"

 "I...I...!" Shippo stammered...but then he looked down to the ground. "...Y...you're right...this is my fault." He then began to sniffle while Inuyasha gently dropped him on the ground. "I know I talk big...but the truth is...I'm scared of my own shadow! When I saw Manten, I froze and I ran away with my tail between my legs! Kagome was brave enough to try and save me, but instead, she got abducted!!" He sobbed quietly as he dropped on his hands and knees. "I'm sorry, Inuyasha...please, you gotta help me save Kagome!! You're her only hope!!"

 He continued to sob as his tears fell from his eyes, forming a small puddle on the ground.

 "...Please help me...!" he said. "I don't know what else to do!"

 "...Hey, kid."

 Shippo gasped silently before he looked up and saw Inuyasha, who was holding Kagome's bike over his shoulder.

 "You gonna just sit there, crying your eyes out like a baby?" asked Inuyasha. "Or are we gonna go save Kagome?"

 "...Inuyasha...!" Shippo whispered. "...Thank you...!"

 "Yeah, yeah, whatever," said Inuyasha as he picked Shippo up and plopped him into the bike's basket. "Now let's get a move on."

 "...Right!" Shippo nodded as he wiped his eyes while Inuyasha dashed off.

 "That was very mature of you, Shippo," said Myoga as he sat on the boy's shoulder. "It's not easy, showing humility."

 "...In a situation like this," Shippo began, "pride doesn't matter."

 "...Not too bad, kid," said Inuyasha. "Maybe you know how the world works, after all."

XXX


 Meanwhile, in a mountainous area with dark thunderclouds all around, an old temple sits on high...the Thunder Brothers' home. Here, Kagome lies on the floor, still unconscious, when she moaned as she began to feel her senses return. She sat up with a gasp as she looked around, and the first thing she saw was Manten, stirring a bubbling pot of...something.

 Whatever it was, it sure smelled putrid.

 "Hmm?" Manten hummed, quizzically before he glanced back at Kagome. "Ah! The maiden awakes!"

 "W...where am I?" asked Kagome. "What is this place?" She then noticed the pot that Manten was stirring and gasped. "Oh, no...you're not gonna eat me, are you?!"

 "Heavens, no!" Manten exclaimed. "What do you take me for?! A barbarian?!"

 "Oh," Kagome replied. "Well, what is that, then?"

 "I'll tell you, my dear," said Manten with a wicked grin. "That brew you see before you is a potion for hair growth! It only needs one more ingredient: the flesh and blood of a beautiful young girl...and it seems fate has smiled upon me, for I have found just what I was looking for! I am going to boil you down and then rub the potion over my bald head, and then grow a beautiful, luscious mane of hair that is just as beautiful as my brother's, if not more!"

 "ARE YOU CRAZY?!!" Kagome screamed. "I'D RATHER BE EATEN!!!"

 "Shh~!!" Manten shushed, nervously. "Quiet, girl! If Brother Hiten hears you, then he just might fulfill your wish!!"

 SMASH!!! Manten yelped in fright as the wall was suddenly smashed open, revealing Hiten with his arm draped around the shoulder of a voluptuous, red-eyed vixen with long, black locks and nothing to cover her large breasts but a snake.

 "Well, I thought I heard your voice, earlier," said Hiten. "Back so soon, Manten?"

 "Hmm-hmm..." the woman that Hiten was petting chuckled. "So, that thing is your younger brother, Lord Hiten?"

 "H-Hiten!" Manten exclaimed, nervously. "G-good to see you, brother! Heheheh...!"

 "Hmm?" Hiten hummed as he noticed Kagome, who blinked at him. "Who's that? A girl?"

 'He looks more human than his brother does,' thought Kagome. 'Maybe I can reason with him...?'

 "Y-you can't have her!" Manten shouted, still nervous yet defensive. "I found her, first!!"

 "Ah, relax," Hiten assured. "I have no use for that wench..." He then looked to his companion. "Not when I have this beautiful vixen...right, love?"

 "Yes, Lord Hiten," the woman smirked.

 "Phew...!" both Manten and Kagome sighed in relief.

 "Ah, yes!" Hiten exclaimed. "That reminds me! Manten...any luck in finding more of the Shikon Jewel shards?"

 "Guh!" Manten gulped. "Umm...the...jewel shards? Err...well, I...umm...that is to say-"

 "What?" Hiten asked as his eyes darkened. "What is it, you oaf? Did you find any or not?"

 "Well...you see, brother," Manten started, "I...I managed to find them, but...err..."

 "...But?" Hiten repeated. "But what, Manten? Don't tell me you let that wench get the better of you and forget the jewel shards!"

 "Err...well...!" Manten whimpered, causing his older brother to growl before he threw his hand out...and completely obliterated the woman he was holding with a single blast of thunder!

 "You idiot...!!" Hiten hissed.

 "AGH!!" Manten cried as he bowed his head. "Forgive me, Hiten! Please, forgive me!!"

 'Okay, I was wrong,' thought Kagome, staring at the scene in horror. 'That guy's worse! Inuyasha, where are you?!'

Chapter Text

 "What?!" Hiten questioned. "You mean that fox demon pup ran off with the jewel shards?!"

 "Y-yes, brother," Manten nodded. "So...I take we'll be going after him, then?"

 "What else, you oaf?" asked Hiten as he turned to walk away. "Now let's go! We have a fox to hunt."

 "They're leaving...?" Kagome whispered. "This is my chance to get out of here, then." Before she could do so, however, she gasped upon seeing Manten hold up a gigantic butcher's knife!

 "Just one moment, Hiten," Manten said as he raised the knife, then swung it down on Kagome, who shrieked as she scurried out of the way.

 "W-what do you think you're doing?!" she asked.

 "What do you think, wench?" asked Manten. "I am going to kill you so that you cannot escape! I must have you for my hair-growth potion!"

 "No, you can't!" Kagome cried.

 "And why not?" Manten inquired.

 "Because...because if you do," Kagome began, "you'll...uhhh..."

 Manten growled as he glowered down at the girl, who tried her hardest not to shrink back in fear.

 "Spit it out, girl," he demanded.

 "Umm...if you kill me," Kagome started...before she gasped as an idea hit her. "If you kill me...you'll never the rest of the jewel shards!!"

 "Eh?" Manten muttered while Hiten glanced back at Kagome.

 "...Go on," he said.

 "Have either of you heard of Inuyasha?" Kagome asked. "He's a powerful demon!"

 "Inuyasha?" Hiten asked. "Oh, you mean the so-called 'Terror of the Forest'? He's nothing but a lowly half-demon...and besides, I hear rumors he's become some pet for a reincarnated shrine wench."

 "Half-demon or not," Kagome began, "Inuyasha's still powerful! In fact...he's already gathered most of the shards for himself!!"

 "Hmm?" Hiten hummed, quizzically.

 "Impossible!" Manten exclaimed in disbelief.

 'That's it, Kagome,' thought Kagome. 'Just play them, right into your hands!'

 A pause...but then Hiten sat down beside Kagome, who let out a small squeak of surprise.

 "Girl," Hiten said. "If this should be a lie..."

 "W-why would I lie?" Kagome asked. "After all...Inuyasha's in love with me!"

 Hiten and Manten both gaped in shock at this.

 "In...in love...with you?!" Manten questioned.

 "If you offer him me," Kagome began, "then he'll hand over the shards without question!"

 "Hmm..." Hiten hummed as he put his thumb to his chin in intrigue while Manten scoffed.

 "Balderdash!" he exclaimed. "Hiten, she is clearly trying to stall us! Let us not-"

 "Silence," Hiten commanded. "I think we should give her the benefit of a doubt." He then stood up, pulling Kagome to her feet, as well. "Wench! Lead us to this love-struck half-demon! And know that if I find that this is a trick...you'll end up like my little friend, earlier."

 Kagome gulped, yet still kept her defiant face.

 "I...I understand," she said.

 'Bastard...'

XXX


 "Th-there it is, Inuyasha! The Thunder Brothers' hideout!!"

 Inuyasha, who was still holding Kagome's bike and Shippo in it, looked up at the mountain range where the Thunder Brothers' lair was hidden.

 "So that's where they've taken Kagome?" the half-demon asked.

 "Uh-huh," Shippo nodded. "I'm positive."

 "...You know, Shippo," Inuyasha began, "if you're scared, you can always pull back."

 "N-no way!" Shippo shouted. "I'm going to avenge my Father and that's that!!"

 "Hmph," Inuyasha scoffed. "You got guts, kid...but let's see if you can actually back it up."

 "...Hey, Inuyasha," Shippo said. "How strong are you, anyway? I mean...no disrespect and all, but you're only a half-demon, and Hiten and Manten both have the power of the Sacred Jewel shards!"

 "Heh!" Inuyasha smirked. "If anything, that only makes the fight more fun."

 "I'm more worried about Kagome's safety than anything else," Myoga said, sitting on Inuyasha's rosary.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "I wouldn't worry too much about Kagome. She's way too stubborn to die."

 "As much as I'd love to believe you, sire," Myoga began, "the Thunder Brothers have been known to kidnap desirable maidens and devour them."

 "Wait, what?!" Shippo questioned. "Oh, no...and Kagome's already so..." He then screwed his eyes shut. "Oh, what have I done?!"

 "Will you stop whining?" Inuyasha asked. "He said 'desirable' women. Kagome doesn't have to worry about a thing."

 "How could you say that about her?!" Shippo questioned. "Are you blind?!!"

 "Indeed, Master Inuyasha," Myoga said. "I'd say that Kagome is quite the desirable type, if you get my meaning!"

 "...That sounds gross, coming from you," Inuyasha deadpanned.

 "AAAAAAAAH!!" Shippo wailed as he grabbed his head in despair. "They're probably picking her from their teeth, already!! Kagome, please forgive me for being such a coward!!!"

 "Will you be quiet?!" Inuyasha questioned as he threw the bike down to the ground, causing Shippo to spill out of the basket.

 "Hey, what was that for?!" Shippo asked.

 "There's no way Kagome got eaten, all right?!" Inuyasha questioned. "She's just fine! Don't have a cow!!"

 "Master Inuyasha," Myoga began, "if I didn't know better, I'd say you're actually worried about Kagome-"

 "Don't. Even. Start," Inuyasha glared before he glanced down at Shippo, who opened his mouth to speak. "And don't you start, either!"

 Shippo immediately clammed up, but then the clouds began to rumble, causing him to look up and gasp.

 "LOOK OUT, INUYASHA!!" he shouted, causing Inuyasha to glance back, only to gasp and jump away, carrying the young kitsune with him as a lightning bolt hit Kagome's bike!

 "What the hell?!" Inuyasha questioned as he looked up, only to see Hiten, floating in the sky.

 "Well, looks like you managed to evade it, after all," said Hiten. "So...you must be Inuyasha, the half-breed bastard."

 "That depends on who's asking!!" Inuyasha barked.

 "Master Inuyasha," Myoga began, "it's him! The eldest of the Thunder Brothers, Hiten!"

 "So that's one of them, huh?" Inuyasha asked, just as Shippo jumped onto his head.

 "Hey, Hiten!!" Shippo shouted. "Where's Kagome?!"

 "Hmm?" Hiten hummed. "Oh, yeah...the wench. Relax...she's not hurt...yet. Manten! Bring her out!"

 "Aye, brother!" Manten exclaimed as he appeared on his thundercloud, holding Kagome against him.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried.

 "Kagome!!" Inuyasha exclaimed.

 'Good...she's alive...'

 "Ah," Hiten smirked. "Judging by the look on your face, it seems that the rumors I've heard about you are true, Inuyasha...so, I'll make a deal with you. Give me the shards of the Sacred Jewel that you possess or else you'll never see your lover alive, again!!"

 KATHOOOM!!! A crack of thunder split the skies...while Inuyasha stared, dumbfounded.

 "My...my lover?" he repeated before he glanced at Kagome, who grinned sheepishly.

 "Umm...hi...?" she squeaked.

 "Uh...okay," Inuyasha replied. "I think there's been some big misunderstanding here. Kagome's not my lover!"

 "Oh, come on!" Kagome shouted. "What are you being so shy for?!"

 'Can't you try to play along?!'

 "So, it was a ruse, after all, was it?" Manten asked as he grabbed Kagome by her hair, causing her to gulp.

 "Um...maybe...?" she asked.

 "Are you kidding me?!" Inuyasha questioned. "What idiot would give up the jewel shards, you stupid wench?!!"

 "You mean you're just gonna leave me?!" Kagome questioned.

 "How can I leave you if we've never even been together?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "Uhhh..." Shippo muttered. "Are you sure about that?"

 "YOU STAY OUTTA THIS!!!" Inuyasha and Kagome barked.

 "YIPE!!" Shippo cried.

 "I've heard enough!" Hiten exclaimed as he held up his spear. "So, Inuyasha...one thing is true, at least...you do possess shards of the Sacred Jewel." He then charged at Inuyasha. "That alone seals your fate!!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he drew the Tetsusaiga. "Not in my lifetime, pal!!"

 "Taste my THUNDER PIKE!!" Hiten yelled as he shot a bolt of lightning at Inuyasha from the blade of his spear.

 "TETSUSAIGA!!" Inuyasha shouted as he blocked the blade with his own. However, he grunted as he found himself getting pushed back, so much so that Inuyasha had to hold up both hands just to try and hold Tetsusaiga up!

 "Hahahahaha!" Hiten laughed. "And just how long do you plan on holding me off, half-demon?!"

 "Rrrgh...!!" Inuyasha grunted as he felt getting pushed back, further. "Screw...YOU!!!"

 SLASH!!! With a powerful swing, Inuyasha managed to throw Hiten back into the air!

 "Well, well," Hiten said as he managed to catch himself, "looks like you're quite strong, after all!"

 "Haa...haa...!" Inuyasha panted.

 '...I have a feeling this isn't gonna be easy!'

Chapter Text

 "You're going to be a bit stubborn, I see," said Hiten. "Good...all the better for my amusement!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Plenty of demons have said that to me, punk! And believe me when I say that none of them left this world thinking of me as 'amusing'!!"

 "Enough of this talk," Hiten said as he held up his Thunder Pike. "My thunderbolts will end this!!"

 He then sent a blast of lightning at Inuyasha, who gasped as he jumped out of the way, but Hiten soon gave chase after him, swinging his halberd at the half-demon and shooting lightning bolts at him.

 "Either you block it, fully, half-demon," Hiten began, "or you die!!"

 "Rrgh!!" Inuyasha grunted as he kept blocking the lightning bolts. "Dammit! Even one brush from that lightning and I'm a dead man!"

 Not far away, Shippo watched from a safe distance, along with Myoga, who was sitting on the boy's shoulder.

 "...I guess I'll just have to leave this up to Inuyasha," he said.

 "Yes, indeed," Myoga nodded.

 "Inuyasha!!" cried Kagome as she sat in Manten's cloud.

 "Eeheeheehee!!" laughed Manten as he clapped his hands. "What joy, Hiten! Allow me to assist you, brother!" He then opened his mouth, preparing to shoot out a lightning blast.

 "Hey!!" Kagome shouted. "That's not fair, ganging up on him!!!" She then pushed Manten over, causing his lightning blast to hit the ground...and not long after, he fell over, making a small crater in the earth!

 "I got him!" Kagome cheered...only for the cloud that Manten was riding to disappear. "Uh...uh-oh...!" She then plummeted to the ground, screaming her head off!

 "Oh, no!" Inuyasha cried as he ran to help her. "Kagome!!"

 "Oh, no, you don't!" Hiten shouted as he attempted to hit Inuyasha with his Thunder Pike, but he blocked it with the Tetsusaiga. "Don't you dare turn your back on me!!"

 "Damn!" Inuyasha cursed. "Kagome! Just hang on, okay?! I'll be right there!!"

 "Hang on to what?!" Kagome questioned as she fell, only to bounce off of something and land on the ground on her rump. "Ow! Ugh...well...at least I landed on something soft...for a moment, anyway."

 However, an impending sense of dread soon overcame her as she heard a deep growl behind her, causing her to whimper as she glanced back and saw Manten, glowering down at her with darkened eyes.

 "How dare you...!!" the Thunder Demon growled.

 "AAAAAAAAH!!" Kagome screamed as she ran away. "HE'S STILL ALIVE!!!"

 "Hang on, Kagome!" Shippo called as he ran to her aid. "I'll save you!!" He then pulled out a green and red toy top from his vest. "SMASHING TOP!!!"

 He pulled the string away from the top, causing it to spin on Manten's crown. At first, it didn't seem to do anything...but then it started to grow in size to the point where Manten was completely pinned to the ground, yelling in pain.

 "AAAAGH!!" he cried. "W...what is this?! Get it off!!"

 "Kagome, quickly!!" Shippo shouted. "Run away, while you can!!"

 "R-right!" Kagome answered as she hurried over to the young kit's side. "That was really impressive, Shippo!"

 "Yeah, well...I have my moments, you know!" Shippo boasted as he ran alongside her.

 "Don't let your guard down just yet, Kagome!" Myoga cried. "Demon fox magic is all about the art of deception!!"

 "Wait...deception?" Kagome repeated. "You mean...that top is...?!"

 "It's just an illusion, meant to distract Manten until we get to a safer distance!" Myoga answered.

 As soon as he said this, the top shrunk down to normal size and dropped to the ground.

 "Huh?" Manten muttered in confusion. "It's just a mere toy! That little fox brat tricked me!"

 But then, something fluttered off of Manten's head, causing him to gasp in horror...for it was the very last strand of his hair.

 "...Uh-oh...!" Kagome squeaked. "Not again...!!"

 "No...no!!" he cried. "MY HAAAAAAAAAAAIRR!!!!"

 On that, he started wildly shoot out blasts of thunder from his mouth, setting the whole mountain ablaze, and Kagome and Shippo could barely get away without getting singed!

 "Where are you?!" Manten roared as he stomped about. "Show yourselves!!"

 Kagome panted as she and Shippo hid behind a rock, the latter whimpering as the former held him in her arms.

 'What are we gonna do?' thought Kagome. 'If that maniac catches us, we're dead meat!' That's when she spotted the arrow that was still lodged in Manten's snout. 'Wait...that's it! If I can just get that arrow out of his nose, I can use it one last time!'

 "Shippo," she said, causing the kit to look up at her. "Listen...I need you to help me, okay? I have an idea, but I need you to be brave! Understand?"

 Shippo gaped up at Kagome, but then he put on a determined face and nodded his head.

 "Right!" he said. "Just tell me what to do!"

 "There you are!!" Manten yelled as he opened his mouth.

 "LOOK OUT!!!" Kagome shouted as she and Shippo dived out of the way of the lightning blast. Manten growled as he drew closer...and found Kagome, lying limp in the midst of the flames, causing him to chuckle in a sinister manner as he approached her.

 "Well, well," he said. "I found you, my little morsel. Did you really think you could escape me?" He then picked Kagome up by her hair...but as he did, she suddenly opened her eyes, revealing them to be a turquoise color while her mouth upturned into a smirk, revealing sharp fangs hidden behind her lips.

 "Hey there, baldy!" "Kagome" shouted before her hair grew longer, wrapping itself around Manten's arms. "Look what you can do with hair if you have it!!"

 "What?!" Manten questioned before he noticed the real Kagome running toward him. "Th-there are two of you?!"

 "I'll take THIS, thank you!!" Kagome shouted as she yanked the arrow out of Manten's nose.

 "But then...who is...?!" Manten asked before he looked down to the other Kagome, whose hair began to turn an auburn-red. "Ah! The fox brat!!"

 "That's right, you scum!" shouted Shippo. "And now I'm going to finally avenge my Father!!"

 "Keep him there, Shippo!!" Kagome shouted as she thrust the arrow toward Manten's forehead, right where the jewel shards were.

 'If I can just drive the arrow into the jewel shards on his head, he's finished!!'

 Manten growled before he threw both Kagome and Shippo off of him, grabbing the former by the throat while he pinned the latter under his foot.

 "Agh!!" Kagome gagged. "L...let me go!!"

 "Hahahahaha!" laughed Manten. "I should have done this from the start!!"

 "Ugh...I...Inuyasha...!!" Kagome cried. "Help...me!!"

 "Kagome!!" Inuyasha shouted as he turned in her direction, only to cry out in pain as he felt the blade of Hiten's Thunder Pike stab into his left shoulder!

 "A bit distracted, are we?!" Hiten asked as he pushed Inuyasha back with a thunderbolt, sending him flying back for several feet. Not only that, but the force of the attack caused him to drop the Tetsusaiga, which reverted back into its rusted form!

 "Ugh...dammit!" Inuyasha cursed as he held his bloody shoulder, while Hiten pointed his Thunder Pike right at his heart.

 "Tsk, tsk, tsk..." said the Elder Thunder Brother. "I was really hoping for more of a challenge. You may talk as if you're a warrior...but you fight like a fool. Now then...how should I amuse myself? Perhaps I should rip out your limps, one at a time, starting with your fingers?"

 Inuyasha growled as he held his wound, blood seeping onto his palm.

 'I can't fight him if I can't concentrate...I gotta find a way to save Kagome, first, but how?!'

 "Hahahahaha!!" laughed Hiten. "Look here, Manten! It seems our little dog friend has lost his bark!"

 "Aye, dear brother!" Manten concurred, mockingly as he continued to squeeze Kagome's neck.

 "Ugh...!!" Kagome gagged, feeling her windpipe slowly getting crushed.

 "Heheheheh!" laughed Manten. "Has there been a lovelier sight than the face of a dying maiden?"

 "Ugh...!" Shippo groaned as he got to his feet, then growled as he turned and lunged at Manten. "Let Kagome go, right now!!"

 "Silence, whelp!!" Manten shouted as he smacked the young kitsune across the face, causing him to fall to the ground, rubbing his stinging cheek. "Hahahahaha!! What torture for you, eh, fox boy?! Perhaps I should put you out of your misery and have you join your beloved father in death!" He patted the fox pelt around his waist. "Maybe I can make a nice little scarf out of your tail! Or maybe make earrings out of your toes!"

 Shippo whimpered as he stared up at Manten, who went back to choking Kagome.

 "Now...watch as I snap this girl's neck," he said, cruelly as he squeezed tighter and tighter, causing Kagome to gag before she opened her eyes to look at Shippo.

 "Sh...Shippo...run...!" she choked out. "Run away...while you can...!!"

 Shippo gasped silently...but then he growled, viciously and bared his fangs as he glared at Manten, tears of anger welling up in his eyes. The Thunder Demon had continuously mocked the boy for his cowardice...killed his own father right in front of him...and now, he was about to kill Kagome, too. Well, not again...never again would he let someone die in front of him while he sat back, helplessly!

 "NOOOOOOOO!!!" Shippo screamed as he dashed toward Manten. "I WON'T LET YOU KILL KAGOME!!!!"

 CHOMP!! He bit down on Manten's throat as hard as he could.

 "Well, what have we here?" asked Manten. "A tick?" He then grabbed Shippo by his head. "Well, what better way to kill it than by twisting off its head?!" He then began to tighten his grip on the kit's skull, causing him to grunt in pain, but he refused to let go.

 "Sh...Shippo...let go...!" Kagome cried. "He'll kill you!"

 "I...don't...care...!" Shippo cried as he opened one eye to look at her. "I...I already put you in danger in the first place...so how can I face my Father if I let you die before me?!"

 "...Shippo...!" Kagome whispered.

 "...Heh," Inuyasha smirked. "Well said, kid..."

 "Yes, well said, indeed," said Hiten. "Too bad such words are wasted."

 "...You know something, buddy?" asked Inuyasha. "I'm not the 'refined' type of guy...but even you make me sick to my stomach!"

 "What's that supposed to mean?" asked Hiten.

 "It means this," Inuyasha said...holding up his bloodied fingers. "BLADES OF BLOOD!!"

 He swung his claws at Hiten, unleashing bloody blades of demonic energy, but the Elder Thunder Brother only blocked them with his Thunder Pike. While he was distracted, though, Inuyasha ran for the Tetsusaiga and grabbed it, causing it to turn into its Fang Form!

 "...Yes," Hiten smirked. "This is much better!" He then charged at Inuyasha, who held up his sword.

 "NOW!!" he yelled as he threw the Tetsusaiga at Hiten, who dodged out of the way.

 "Ha!" he laughed. "What kind of aim is that, half-breed?!"

 "...Perfect," Inuyasha smirked.

 "Huh?" Hiten muttered as he turned around...only to gasp in horror as he saw the giant blade going right toward his brother! "MANTEN!! LOOK OUT!!!"

 "Eh?" Manten asked...only to cry out in shock as the Tetsusaiga pierced through his back and out his chest!

 "NOOOOOOOO!!!" Hiten screamed.

 "Ugh...urrrgh...!" Manten groaned as he collapsed on the ground. As he did, the Tetsusaiga returned to its rusted form, again.

 "The sword!" Kagome cried as she ran up and pulled it out of Manten's back. "I gotta get this back to Inuyasha, and quick!"

 "Ugh..." Shippo groaned as Kagome held him in her arms. "F...Father..."

 Kagome gasped before she looked down at the fox pelt sash around Manten's waist.

 'Right! I can't leave his father's fur!'

 She quickly untied the pelt from Manten's body, just as Hiten flew toward her!

 "Kagome! Move!!" Inuyasha called, causing Kagome to gasp as she tried to run out of the way, only for Hiten to strike at her with his Thunder Pike, causing her to be sent tumbling away before he dropped down to Manten's side.

 "Manten!" Hiten cried as he helped him up to his knees. "Are you all right?!"

 "Urrgh..." Manten gurgled, blood dripping from his mouth. "Hiten...they're gone...every last strand of my hair have fallen...and with them, my hopes of becoming happy..."

 "Don't be foolish, Manten!" Hiten replied. "We can make it grow back!"

 "It's no use kidding myself," said Manten. "I'll never have your beautiful hair. You were fortunate enough to inherit our Father's looks...but fate smote me. It was my unfortunate lot in life to resemble our homely Mother, with her receding hairline and decidedly reptilian countenance...how I longed for the looks of you and Father."

 "Beauty isn't about what's on the outside!" Hiten exclaimed. "I wouldn't change a thing about you, little brother! I love every last bald inch of you!"

 "Thank you...even if you don't mean it," Manten said. "Say a prayer for me when I am gone...pray that I will be reborn as a fuzzy caterpillar, covered in hair from head to furry toe...no, brother...who am I trying to kid? I'd rather be reborn bald again...I'd make that sacrifice if I could be reborn as your brother." He then looked up at his brother with a weak smile. "Wouldn't that be nice, Hiten?"

 Hiten only smiled back at him...just as Manten gave a quiet sigh and fell limp, causing the former to gasp.

 "M...Manten?" he asked, gently shaking his body. "No...no, Manten! Please, don't die!!"

 As for Kagome, she and Shippo were thankfully unharmed as Inuyasha ran to their aid.

 "Kagome! You okay?!" he asked. "You're not hurt, are you?!"

 "I...I think I'm all right," said Kagome before she looked around, only to gasp. "Wait! Where's the Tetsusaiga?! I had it in my hand!!"

 "How's Shippo?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered in confusion, but then gasped as she looked down to the unconscious kitsune child. "Shippo!"

 "Ugh...K...Kagome?" Shippo asked as he opened his eyes. "Are you all right?"

 "...I'm fine," Kagome smiled as she hugged him tightly. "Thank you for trying to save me...my hero."

 Shippo smiled at her before looking at Inuyasha, who stared at him for a moment before he smirked and nodded his head in approval, causing him to smile back.

 As for Hiten...he sat next to his younger brother's dead body as the thunder in the clouds began to rumble louder...as if resonating with his pain.

 "...Manten...!" Hiten whispered as tears fell from his eyes...before he threw his head up to the dark heavens. "YOU WRETCHES!!! YOU SLAUGHTERED MY POOR BROTHER!!!!" He then sobbed as he hugged Manten's dead body. "...My dear, Manten...!" He then sniffled as he gently rubbed his brother's bald head. "...Rest assured...we will finish the as one, my fallen brother!!"

 On that, he opened his mouth...and bit down on Manten's forehead as his eyes flashed red and a bolt of lightning cracked the sky.

Chapter Text

 Kagome gasped in horror as she watched Hiten bite down on his dead brother's skull.

 "He's...he's eating him?!" she questioned in shock.

 "Don't be deceived by appearances!" Myoga exclaimed as he hopped up onto Inuyasha's shoulder. "Hiten bit into his younger brother's head to fuse the jewel shards he has with the ones he already has. Master Inuyasha...you must proceed with caution, for now, Hiten possesses the power of 5 jewel shards!"

 "Gee, you think?" Inuyasha asked, sarcastically. "By the way, wanna explain to us where exactly you've been until now?"

 "Err...well, I...umm..." Myoga murmured, nervously.

 "Always convenient how you seem to disappear whenever things look even remotely bad, huh, Myoga?!" Kagome questioned.

 "Talk about cowardice," Shippo chimed in, glaring at the flea demon.

 "Hear that?" Inuyasha asked. "That's sarcasm, meaning it's not convenient that you always run off whenever we need you the most!! I swear, Myoga, one of these days, you won't have the luxury of running away when the danger's passed!!!"

 "W-wait!!" Myoga cried. "Do you really think that now is the time for that?!"

 Suddenly, Inuyasha sensed something behind him, causing him to turn around, only to gasp upon seeing an enormous lightning bolt come straight toward him, Kagome, and Shippo!

 "WATCH IT!!" Inuyasha yelled as he grabbed Kagome, Shippo, and Shippo's father's fur before he leaped out of the way, just in the nick of time! The only thing that remained in their place was a large ditch...where Hiten stood, glowering down at the group...with five jewel shards now embedded in his forehead.

 "...How dare you strike down my only brother...!" Hiten hissed as thunderbolts flashed in the clouds, causing his eyes to momentarily glow red. "I shall not stop until I return the deed!"

 'Shit...!' thought Inuyasha. 'His Thunder Pike is a lot stronger than it was before. He has the power of five jewel shards, now...and that means I got a real fight on my hands, here.'

 "Kagome," he said, not taking his eyes off of Hiten. "Take Shippo and get outta here."

 "But Inuyasha!" Kagome started.

 "We can't leave you here!" Shippo added.

 "Go!" Inuyasha demanded. "Don't worry about me!"

 "...Okay," Kagome nodded...before she gave the half-demon a hug. "Please, be careful."

 "...Hurry and go," Inuyasha replied, causing Kagome to nod her head again before she took Shippo and his father's pelt into her arms and ran off.

 "Kagome, wait!" Shippo cried. "How is Inuyasha gonna fight without his sword?!"

 Kagome gasped in horror before she looked to where she had accidentally dropped the Tetsusaiga!

 "You're right!!" she cried. "He doesn't have the Tetsusaiga!"

 "I will avenge my dear Manten," said Hiten as he raised his Thunder Pike. "DIE, INUYASHA!!!" He then sent a gigantic thunderbolt at Inuyasha, who gasped in shock.

 "Crap!" he cursed. "That's way too big to dodge!!"

 "Master Inuyasha! Quickly!!" Myoga cried. "Use Tetsusaiga's sheath!!"

 "The sheath?!" Inuyasha repeated. "What are you talking about?!"

 "The Tetsusaiga's sheath can put a barrier that should be able to block the lightning bolt!!" Myoga cried. "Hurry, milord!!"

 "You had better be right about this!!" Inuyasha shouted as he pulled the sheath from his obi.

 "Prepare yourself, half-breed, for your comeuppance!!" Hiten yelled.

 BOOM!!! The lightning bolt struck, just as Inuyasha held up the Tetsusaiga's sheath, which immediately absorbed the blast!

 "What?!" Hiten questioned.

 "...Holy crap...!" Inuyasha whispered. "It worked!"

 "Of course, it did!" Myoga said. "The Tetsusaiga's sheath can keep the sword's demonic powers in check, so it should at least the power to stave off a mere lightning bolt...thank goodness my hunch was right."

 "A hunch?!" Inuyasha repeated. "You little coward!! You sent me to battle on a mere hunch?!!"

 "GAH!" Myoga cried. "Well...who can say, really?! Anyway, now that we've survived, shouldn't we be running away?!"

 "Who said anything about running?" Inuyasha smirked. "With this sheath, this battle is as good as won!!" On that, he charged at the Thunder Demon, who growled as he pointed his Thunder Pike at him.

 "DIE, DAMN YOU!!!" he cursed as he shot another thunderbolt at Inuyasha, who leaped right into it while holding Tetsusaiga's sheath.

 "If I can just reach him," Inuyasha began, "then he's finished!!!"

 "Not so fast, you fool!!" Hiten shouted as he jumped into the air, using his magic wheels to fly. "You forget that I can fly!!"

 SHUNK!! He then stabbed Inuyasha in the shoulder, again, causing him to cry out in pain as he fell to the ground.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried as she and Shippo watched from a distance.

 "Look out!!" Shippo called as he clung to her shoulder.

 Inuyasha groaned as he tried to get to his feet, but Hiten began to strike at him with his weapon, forcing the half-demon to raise Tetsusaiga's sheath to block the blows. Not only that, but he had to dodge the lightning strikes that burst from the clouds every time Hiten swung his Thunder Pike at him. Inuyasha panted, the loss of blood beginning to get to him as he staggered with fatigue.

 "Inuyasha's starting to get tired," said Kagome. "I don't know how much longer he can last!"

 "With those flying wheels," Shippo began, "Hiten's got the advantage of flight!"

 "...Flying wheels...?" Kagome whispered as he spotted the wheels at Hiten's heels, then gasped as an idea came to her. "That's it!" She then held up the arrow she pulled out of Manten's nose. "If I can just knock down those wheels, then maybe Inuyasha might have a chance!"

 "But how are you gonna shoot it?" Shippo asked. "You don't have your bow!"

 "My...bow?" Kagome repeated before she gasped in horror. "AH!! That's right! I dropped my bow, earlier today!! How am I gonna shoot this arrow if I don't have a bow?!!"

 "Hmm..." Shippo hummed, thoughtfully before his eyes went wide. "Kagome! Leave it to me!"

 "Huh?" Kagome asked.

 "You and Inuyasha have already helped me, so much," said Shippo as he put a leaf on top of his head. "Now it's time I returned the favor!" Soon, foxfire began to swirl around him, causing Kagome to gasp.

 'Of course! Shippo can turn into a bow and I can shoot the arrow with him!'

 POOF!! A...strange, curly object appeared at Kagome's feet.

 "...Uh...Shippo?" she asked. "I asked for a bow, not a snail."

 "I am a bow..." Shippo answered with a sweatdrop.

 "AAAAAAGH!!"

 Kagome gasped upon hearing that scream before she turned to see Inuyasha, clutching at his wound.

 "Inuyasha!!" she cried.

 "Hahahahaha!!" Hiten laughed. "This is it, half-demon!!!"

 "Ugh...aaahh...!" Inuyasha groaned as blood seeped onto his palm.

 "It's now or never, Shippo!" Kagome said as she held Shippo and aimed her arrow at Hiten. "Inuyasha needs us!!"

 "Hurry and shoot!" Shippo shouted while Kagome began to pull back on the bowstring.

 "And...GO!!" she yelled before she loosed the arrow, which flew right toward one of Hiten's wheels, which soon broke in half as the arrow hit! "Oh! I got him!"

 "Way to go, Kagome!" Shippo cheered.

 Inuyasha growled as he got to his feet before he grabbed Hiten's Thunder Pike, only for the Thunder Demon to send electricity through it, causing him to scream in even more pain!

 "Your confidence is really starting to annoy me, half-demon!!" shouted Hiten.

 "Oh, no! Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried.

 "What is he thinking?!" Myoga questioned...now standing on her shoulder, instead. "Master Inuyasha may be strong, but grabbing hold of the Thunder Pike is foolhardy!!"

 "...Wait a minute," said Kagome. "When'd you get over here?!"

 "Kagome, look!" called Shippo, who had returned to his original form.

 "Rrrgh...!!" Inuyasha grunted as he looked to the sheath in his hand. "Damn...useless sheath! WHO NEEDS IT?!" He then threw the sheath away!

 "No, Master Inuyasha!!" cried Myoga. "Don't let go of the sheath!!!"

 "I prefer to do this MY WAY!!" Inuyasha yelled...before he punched Hiten across the jaw, sending him flying across the ground!

 "WHOA!!" Kagome and Shippo exclaimed.

 "He...he hit him!!" Kagome shouted.

 "That was...so cool!" Shippo added.

 "Haa...haa...!" Inuyasha panted. "Not bad for a 'lowly half-breed', huh, Hiten?!"

 "Hahaha!" laughed Myoga. "That's the way to do it, Master Inuyasha! POW! Right in his kisser!!"

 "SHUT UP, MYOGA!!!" Inuyasha and Kagome yelled, causing the flea demon to yelp in fright.

 "Ugh..." Hiten groaned as he sat up and realigned his jaw and wiped the blood from his lips. "...In all the years I've lived...none have even dared to so much as even touch my face..." He then glared at Inuyasha. "And I refuse to allow it, again!!" Soon, his body began to glow a hot white aura.

 "Oh, no...this looks bad!" Kagome said.

 "This ends NOW!!!" Hiten yelled as he charged at Inuyasha and swung his Thunder Pike at him, forcing him to grab his sheath and hold it up, once more, to block the blade of the halberd...but the moment the blade struck, the scabbard started to crack!

 "Oh, no!!" Kagome cried.

 "Dammit!" Inuyasha cursed as he found himself getting pushed back. "This thing won't hold for long!!"

 "You're quite brave, half-breed," said Hiten, "and for that, I loathe you. I will relish your demise more than any other!!"

 "That sheath is the only thing that stands between Master Inuyasha and a fiery death!!" cried Myoga.

 "What?!" Kagome questioned. "That means his only chance at winning is..." She then gasped before she spotted the Tetsusaiga, still stuck in the rocks where Manten lay dead. "The Tetsusaiga...I have to get it to Inuyasha, or else he's done for!!"

 "I'll get it!!" Shippo exclaimed as he dashed toward the sword.

 "Wait! Shippo!!" Kagome cried as she ran after him while holding the pelt of his father. "Don't go out there!!!"

 "Hmm?" Hiten hummed as he spotted Kagome and Shippo out of his peripheral eye...then opened his mouth, which began to glow a hot white light.

 'Oh, no!' thought Inuyasha. 'Hiten must've gained Manten's ability to shoot lightning from his mouth, too!!'

 "KAGOME!! SHIPPO!!!" Inuyasha called out. "LOOK OUT!!!!"

 BWOOOOOOM!!! Hiten fired a blast of lightning at the two...who screamed as they were soon overwhelmed by the flames it wrought.

 "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" Inuyasha screamed in horror.

Chapter Text

 "KAGOME!!" Inuyasha called as he looked to the flames. "SHIPPO!!! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!!"

 No answer came.

 "No...!" Inuyasha whispered in horror. "It can't be!"

 "Oh, no...!" Myoga whispered in shock. "They're...they're....!!"

 "What a shame," said Hiten with a malicious smirk. "Looks like the girl and the fox boy are dead!" He then looked down at Inuyasha. "Don't worry...you'll be joining them, soon enough."

 "...You...!" Inuyasha hissed as he suddenly sprung up, pushing Hiten back. "YOU BASTARD!!"

 "What?!" Hiten questioned in surprise, but then grunted as he kept trying to push his Thunder Pike into Tetsusaiga's sheath. "Heh...nice try, half-breed...but if you keep pushing, you won't even have your scabbard to protect you!"

 "AS IF!!" Inuyasha yelled as he slammed his forehead against Hiten's own, causing him to stumble back.

 "...Well...talk about using your head," Myoga commented.

 "Urgh...that's right, half-breed!" Hiten growled. "Get angry!"

 'I don't understand this...I've never even met a full-fledged demon who would stand against me with such tenacity! What manner of creature is this?!'

 "You're gonna pay for this," Inuyasha said. "You'll pay for what you did to my friends! You might kill me, but I'll be sure to drag you down with me!!"

 "Hmph!" Hiten scoffed. "To think, you'd go mad over the loss of your woman..." He then lunged at Inuyasha with his Thunder Pike brandished. "So...I'LL SEND YOU TO HELL TO BE WITH HER!!!"

 KRAKK!! Inuyasha blocked the spear's blade with his sheath, but by now, the crack was halfway through!

 "Oh, no...!" Myoga whispered. "One more hit, and he's finished!!"

 "Rrrrgh...!!" Inuyasha grunted from exertion while Hiten laughed.

 "YOU'RE MINE, NOW, HALF-BREED!!" he yelled. "REVENGE FOR MY FALLEN BROTHER!!!"

 ...Ba-bump!

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered as the sheath began to pulsate. "W-what the-?!"

 Ba-bump! Ba-bump! The sheath pulsed even more...and then, Inuyasha spotted something flying towards him: the Tetsusaiga!

 "My sword!!" he exclaimed as he held his hand out and caught it by the hilt, just in the nick of time!

 "The...the sheath called the sword back to it!!" Myoga exclaimed.

 "This should it," said Inuyasha as he poured his demonic energy into the blade, causing it to turn into its Fang Form, again. "TETSUSAIGA!!!"

 SLASH!!! With one swing...Inuyasha cut through Hiten's Thunder Pike...as well as Hiten, himself!

 "I...Impossible...!" Hiten whispered as he dropped to his knees. "The Thunder Brothers...defeated by a mere half-demon...?!"

 As he began to disintegrate into dust...he whispered a single name.

 "...So...ten...!"

 "Soten...?" Inuyasha repeated as Hiten collapsed...leaving only his armor and his Sacred Jewel shards behind.

 "You did it, Master Inuyasha!" exclaimed Myoga as he hopped over. "You defeated the Thunder Brothers and got their jewel shards to boot!" He then looked up at Inuyasha...who was sitting on his knees. "Uh...sire?"

 "...It doesn't matter," Inuyasha replied. "So what if I got the shards? It doesn't mean anything, now that Kagome and Shippo are...are..." He then bit his lip and looked away. "Dammit...if only I had finished Hiten sooner!!"

 Myoga gasped in disbelief...because for a moment, it sounded like Inuyasha's voice was breaking...and he had never heard his employer sound like that, before.

 "Inuyasha..."

 Inuyasha gasped silently before he turned and saw Kagome and Shippo...both them of surrounded in a turquoise flame.

 "K-Kagome! Shippo!!" Inuyasha cried. "But...but how?!"

 "...These must be the spirits of Kagome and Shippo," said Myoga. "They must have come to say their last goodbyes before they head off for the afterlife!"

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Then...then they're really...?!"

 "...Thank you, Inuyasha," said Kagome. "You fought well."

 "Thank you for all your help," said Shippo. "Thanks to you, I finally avenged my Father...I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused you."

 Inuyasha gasped in shock...just as the fire began to grow larger.

 "NO!!" he cried as he ran to them. "KAGOME, NO!!! DON'T LEAVE ME!!!" He then threw his arms around them, screwing his eyes shut. "Please...please, don't go! Don't leave me alone!!"

 "...What are you talking about?"

 Inuyasha gasped before he pulled away to see Kagome and Shippo...both of them still alive and well.

 "Y...you're alive?!" Inuyasha asked.

 "Of course, we're alive!" Kagome answered. "What'd you think?"

 "But...but then...but you were...!" Inuyasha stammered...his face growing very red. "WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!!"

 "Uh...well...it must have been foxfire," said Myoga.

 "...Now you tell me..." Inuyasha glared.

 Shippo blinked at the half-demon before he gasped and looked around, only to find his father's pelt.

 "Father!!" he cried as he ran over to the fur. "Father..." He then hugged the pelt and nuzzled it. "...You must have used your foxfire to protect us...you're still looking out for me, even though you're dead...!" He then sniffled as he hugged it tighter. "Father...!"

 "Oh, Shippo..." Kagome whispered, sadly. "The poor thing."

 "...Hey, Kagome," Inuyasha spoke up, causing Kagome to look at him. "You know those little sticks that you use to start fires with?"

 "Matches?" Kagome replied. "What about them?"

XXX

 

 A while later, the group had left the mountain range and were now standing in the middle of an open field. There, Shippo had laid his father's pelt on the grass while Kagome had placed a bouquet of flowers on top of it. Inuyasha stood next to Kagome's bike, a solemn expression on his face as the girl and kitsune child stood next to him.

 "...Are we ready?" Inuyasha asked.

 "Mm-hmm," Kagome nodded.

 "Yeah..." Shippo muttered, sadly.

 Inuyasha reached inside his sleeve and pulled out a box of matches, one of which he struck on the side of the box before he tossed the match onto the pelt...which soon ignited into flames.

 "Goodbye, Father," Shippo said as tears fell from his eyes. "I love you."

 Inuyasha and Kagome both closed their eyes with the latter folding her arms in silent prayer. As Shippo watched his father's fur burn away, Inuyasha went up to him and gently placed his hand on his back, causing him to glance up at him in slight surprise...but then he gave him a small smile.

 Soon, all that remained of Shippo's father's pelt was ashes, which Kagome scooped up and buried underneath an old cedar tree where Shippo said he and his father liked to take naps.

 "...That's that, then," said Kagome.

 "...Thanks, you guys," said Shippo. "That was very nice of you."

 "...Of course," Kagome smiled. "Your father would be so proud of you for what you did, Shippo."

 "Thanks, Kagome," said Shippo. "That means a lot."

 "...Well," Inuyasha said as he turned to leave, "I guess we won't be finding any more jewel shards in this area. Might as well head back to the village."

 "I guess so," said Kagome as she turned to follow Inuyasha while Shippo remained behind, staring at the stone that made up his father's grave marker.

 "...Hey, Shippo," said Inuyasha, causing the kit to turn to face him. "You comin' or not?"

 "Huh?" Shippo asked in surprise.

 "Inuyasha?" Kagome asked, both surprised and confused.

 "Look, it's not like I've gone soft or anything," Inuyasha replied. "It's just...well...he is an orphan. He won't last a day on his own...and...since he's got nowhere to go, he might as well come with us."

 "...I can go with you guys?" Shippo asked. "Really?"

 "Don't get too comfortable!" Inuyasha interjected. "I ain't a babysitter, got it? If you're gonna be going with us, you'll have to learn to look after yourself! Understand?"

 "Yeah, I got it!" Shippo nodded.

 "Good," said Inuyasha as he walked away. "Now let's get movin'."

 "See?" Kagome asked as she put Shippo in her bicycle basket. "I knew that under all that hard exterior, there was a big marshmallow in there."

 "Keh! I ain't a marshmallow!" Inuyasha barked.

 "Sure you're not," Kagome teased.

 Inuyasha rolled his eyes...but despite that, he couldn't hide the small smile that appeared on his face.

Chapter Text

 It was a still and calm night in the village. The villagers had all gone to bed to rest for another day of hard work, hopefully without any demons coming to attack in the middle of the night. In one particular hut, Kagome lay asleep on her futon...with Shippo curled up at her side. Kaede was sleeping in another part of the hut...while Inuyasha leaned against the wall, his sword tucked in his arms with his hand around the hilt, as if ready to draw it should he hear even the slightest sound.

 As everyone slept, Shippo suddenly whimpered in his sleep as his face contorted into one of distress, kicking his back paws and swinging his arms, as if he were running. Sweat formed on his brow as he let out small fox-like yelps and his body trembled as he kept making little running motions. However, a clawed hand suddenly reached out and gently placed itself atop his hair, causing him to tense up momentarily, but then he felt the sensation of fingers tenderly rubbing his scalp, causing him to sigh pleasantly as he finally settled down. Then, the hand pulled the blanket up to his neck before pulling away from the young kitsune.

 Inuyasha quietly exhaled through his nose, his golden eyes glowing in the darkness of the night.

 It had been about 2 days now since he and Kagome had returned to the village with Shippo in tow. While Kaede was mildly surprised at the kit's appearance, she didn't sound very surprised about the circumstances behind the child joining them. After all, in the Feudal Era, children being orphaned was almost a common occurrence, whether it was due to parental abandonment, the child running away from home, the parents being eaten by demons, etc.

 Thus, Shippo was allowed to stay in the village, though it did take a bit of time for him to get used to being surrounded by humans, especially ones his age (though Shippo claimed he was a lot older than the children than he looked). At first, things went relatively well. Shippo became quite popular with the other children, particularly the girls...but then, one obnoxious little brat just had to come and spoil everyone's fun. He noticed Shippo's bushy tail and, thinking that the boy was "deformed", trying to pull on it with the malicious intention of ripping it off his backside, causing Shippo a great deal of pain.

 The next thing the bully knew, he was suddenly grabbed by the arm and was met face-to-face with a growling Inuyasha, who very specifically stated that if he ever pulled something like that again, the boy would find himself "having toes for teeth". Thankfully, Kagome was there to calm down the child's parents, the father of which threatened to stab Inuyasha with a pitchfork if the girl hadn't intervened in time. Still, Shippo was left quite traumatized by the experience and had not come out of the hut since that afternoon.

 "You really like him, don't you?"

 Inuyasha's eyes darted to see Kagome, who smiled at him with her chin in her palm, propped up on her left elbow.

 "How long have you been up?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Long enough," Kagome replied. "Plus, I heard him whimpering."

 Inuyasha only sighed and rolled his eyes.

 "...What made you decide to take him with us?" Kagome asked. "We could have just went our merry way and left Shippo alone."

 "We could have," Inuyasha began, "except he wouldn't last a day on his own. He's just a kid, and sure, he might have grit, but grit can only get you so far...if we left him, he'd end up either on some vagabond's sword or another demon's snack."

 "...Is that what it was like for you?" asked Kagome. "When you were a kid, you had to try and fend for yourself, right?"

 Inuyasha didn't answer, instead opting to avoid her gaze.

 'Yeah, I got him pegged...' Kagome thought.

 "The reason you took him in and helped him earlier with that bully," she started, "is because you actually see a bit of yourself in Shippo...don't you?"

 "...That's enough questions for tonight," said Inuyasha. "Go to sleep, already."

 Kagome chuckled before she lied back down.

 "Goodnight, Inuyasha," she said before she closed her eyes. As she did, she gently pulled Shippo closer to her in her arms while Inuyasha watched them before he sighed and shook his head. Despite this, a small smile crept onto his lips.

 "Jeez..." he muttered. "When did I become such a sap?"

Chapter Text

 "Huh?! Kagome's gone?! Where'd she go?!!"

 "Oh, right. We still haven't explained this to you, yet."

 Shippo sat next to Inuyasha, who stood by the Bone Eater's Well where Kagome had just disappeared, heading back to her own time.

 "Kagome's not really from this world, you see," Inuyasha explained. "She first came here through this old dry well. Her real home is on the other side."

 "Have you been there?" asked Shippo.

 "Only a couple of times," Inuyasha replied. "Usually to get her out of some kind of predicament that she gets herself in." He then sighed. "I swear, trouble follows her wherever she goes."

 "Why did she have to go?" asked Shippo.

 "Ah, something about a skull or some such thing," Inuyasha answered before he noticed the young kit climbing over the well. "Hey, what are you doing?"

 "I wanna see something," Shippo answered before he leaped down. "Geronimo~!!"

 THUD!!

 "Ouch!!"

 "You all right?!" Inuyasha asked as he looked down and saw that the little fox demon had fallen facefirst into the dirt at the bottom of the well.

 "Ugh...I think so," said Shippo as he shook his head. "I just wanted to see what Kagome's world might be like."

 "Yeah," Inuyasha said. "For some reason, it looks like only Kagome and I are the only ones who can travel through the well."

 "What?!" Shippo questioned. "You could've told me sooner!" He then used the ivy to climb out of the well, but once he made it out, he saw Inuyasha walking away. "Hey! Where are you going, Inuyasha?"

 "Where do you think?" asked Inuyasha as he held up the Tetsusaiga, the sheath of which was still cracked. "I gotta get my sword's scabbard fixed."

 "Oh, right!" said Shippo. "It got broken during the battle with Hiten, right? So where are we going to fix it?"

 "Myoga said something about Steel Wasps," said Inuyasha as he looked to the forest. "They live somewhere in the forest."

 "Wait...wasps?" Shippo asked, nervously, only to gasp when he saw Inuyasha leaving. "Hey! Wait up!" He soon scurried after the half-demon and jumped onto his shoulder.

XXX


 Meanwhile, at the Higurashi Shrine, Hojo had come once again to visit Kagome but only found Sanosuke sweeping the grounds.

 "Huh?" Hojo asked. "So Kagome has neuritis, now?"

 "I'm afraid so," said Sanosuke. "It's quite serious."

 "Well...can I at least see her?" asked Hojo.

 "I'm sorry, but Kagome's on strict bedrest," said Sanosuke.

 "...I see," Hojo said, a tinge of worry in his voice. "Well...here! Can you give this to her for me?" He then handed Sanosuke a bundle wrapped up in blue wrapping paper. "It's a heat compress. Maybe it'll help her."

 "Oh, Hojo," Sanosuke wept. "You're much too kind, boy...!"

 "Ahem! Dad?"

 Sanosuke cringed before he turned and saw Atsuko, who glared at him sternly.

 "What do you think you're doing?" she asked.

 "Err...well, I...uhh...that is to say..." Sanosuke stammered, causing his daughter-in-law to sigh.

 "Hello, Mrs. Higurashi," Hojo greeted as he bowed his head.

 "And hello to you, as well, Hojo," Atsuko bowed back. "Don't listen to what Grandpa, here, says. Kagome doesn't have neuritis. Rather, she had a bit of food poisoning, which is why she hasn't been at school all week."

 "Oh, I see!" Hojo exclaimed. "Will she be attending summer classes today, then?"

 "Oh, of course!" Atsuko replied. "In fact, she should be showing up...right about..."

 "Mom!"

 "Now," Atsuko smiled, just as Kagome came around the corner of the house.

 "Oh! Hi, Hojo!" Kagome greeted.

 "Kagome!" Hojo exclaimed. "How've you been? Your Mom said you had food poisoning. Are you all right, now?"

 "Uh...yeah! Much better!" Kagome answered while giving her mother a small glance and a grateful smile, which caused her to wink. "But no time to chat! We gotta get going! Don't wanna be late!"

 With that, she hurried off to school.

 "H-hey!" Hojo cried as he ran after her. "Wait for me, Kagome!"

 The moment they were gone, Atsuko glared at Sanosuke, who grinned sheepishly.

 "Dad, I know you mean well," she started, "but please, from now on, let me take care of the excuses for Kagome. Understand?"

 "Yes, Atsuko," Sanosuke answered, defeated.

XXX


 Later that afternoon, Kagome and her friends were walking home from school, eating some ice cream on the way back. The cicadas chirped in the branches as the sun remained high in the sky.

 "Wait, you're taking summer classes, too, Kagome?!" asked Ayumi.

 "Yeah," Kagome answered in exasperation. "The teacher suggested it.

 "Are you gonna apply to the same high school as Hojo?" asked Yuka.

 "Wait, what?!" asked Eri. "You mean you two are officially a couple, now?!"

 "What?!" Kagome questioned. "Oh, come on, you guys, gimme a break! I don't have time for a boyfriend!"

 "Jeez," muttered Yuka. "No need to get so defensive."

 Kagome sighed as she kept walking, absentmindedly licking her ice cream cone as she did. As usual, just like before, Inuyasha tried to stop her from leaving, so of course, she had to bribe the half-demon into letting her leave with promises of bringing three bags of barbecue-flavored potato chips, some sticks of beef jerky, and 5 cups of chicken-flavored instant noodles. Although she had to admit it was a bit cute seeing Inuyasha get all excited over food. In a way, it did make him somewhat like a regular dog who was waiting for treats.

 Perhaps she should bring Shippo something, too.

 "Hey, Kagome!" Eri called. "Look, over there!"

 "Huh?" Kagome asked before she looked over to a nearby playground and saw some kids and their mothers, playing with fireworks. "Oh, wow! Fireworks!"

 "Wow!" said Ayumi. "I haven't played with fireworks since I was 7!"

 "Sure brings back memories, huh, Kagome?" asked Yuka.

 "Yeah," Kagome said with a fond smile. "I remember when my Dad and I played with fireworks..." She then spotted something out of the corner of her eye: she could see a hand sticking out of a hideaway, and it was holding a lit sparkler.

 "What in the world...?!" Kagome whispered before the sparkler dropped onto the ground and spun toward the mothers and their children, the crackling sparks setting their own fireworks ablaze!

 "AAAH!!" one of the kids shrieked. "MOMMY!!"

 "Naomi!" a woman with glasses cried as she grabbed her daughter and pulled her away.

 "What the-?!" Kagome questioned.

 "What happened?!" asked Ayumi.

 "I don't know!!" cried Eri.

 That's when Kagome spotted the culprit: a little girl, no older than 7 or 8 years old with black hair and pigtails. She scrambled out of the hideaway and ran across the park, laughing mockingly.

 "Serves you right!" she shouted.

 "Hey, you!" Kagome called as she ran after the child. "You get back here!!"

 "What in the world?!" Yuka asked. "Kagome, who are you talking to?!"

 "Wait, right there!!" Kagome shouted as she chased after the girl, who gasped as she turned to face her. "What makes you think you can...huh?"

 Upon getting a closer look at the girl...she saw that for some reason, she was wearing a salmon pink jacket and she had nothing on her feet but her socks.

 'A jacket...? But...it's summertime. Why is she wearing winter clothes?'

 "...You...you can see me?" asked the girl, causing Kagome to gasp silently before she put on a stern expression akin to that of her own mother.

 "Listen here, little girl," she said. "I don't know who you are, but you need to go back and apologize." She then reached down to take the child by the hand, but she angrily swatted it away.

 "Get away from me!!" the girl shouted...and not long after, a ring of fire surrounded her, causing Kagome to gasp as she stumbled back.

 'Fire?!' she thought as she shielded herself from the heat...but when she opened her eyes, the fire was gone...and so was the girl.

 "W...where did she go?" asked Kagome.

 "Kagome!!"

 Kagome turned to see her friends run up to her.

 "Kagome, are you okay?" asked Ayumi.

 "Yeah...I think so," Kagome replied.

 "So...who were you talking to?" asked Yuka.

 "What?" Kagome asked. "What do you mean? Didn't you guys see the little girl that was just here?!"

 "What little girl?" asked Eri. "I didn't see anybody. You just took off running and talking to yourself."

 "Are you feeling okay, Kagome?" asked Ayumi. "Maybe you're not quite better from your food poisoning."

 "...Maybe not," Kagome said, sheepishly.

 'But...I wasn't seeing things...I know I saw her! In fact, I didn't just see her, I felt her! Who was that little girl? ...Don't tell me...is she a demon, too?'

XXX


 Later that night, back in the Feudal Era...

 "Are they done yet?"

 "Have patience, Master Inuyasha."

 Inuyasha groaned as he sat behind some trees with Shippo on his left shoulder and Myoga on his right, watching a nest of wasps buzzing around the Tetsusaiga, which was covered in sticky wax.

 "Let the Steel Wasps do their job, sire," said Myoga. "If you try and take the Tetsusaiga now, you'll be stung to death! The wax of the Steel Wasps is the only thing that will fix the sword's sheath."

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "And how long will that take?"

 "It could be a few days," Myoga replied, causing the half-demon to groan while Shippo yawned.

 "I'm getting sleepy," he said as he clung to Inuyasha's shoulder.

 "Shippo, why did you decide to tag along with me, anyway?" asked Inuyasha.

 "I didn't wanna be alone," said Shippo.

 "So I guess I was the next best thing, huh?" Inuyasha asked. "Jeez, what a pain in the butt..." Suddenly, his ears twitched as he heard the sound of a flute playing nearby. "You hear that?"

 "Ooh, it sounds pretty!" Shippo exclaimed in delight. "What is it?"

 "Wait, look there!" Myoga exclaimed as he pointed to something in the distance. "Can it be...?"

 The trio looked up to see some sort of round, yellow creature with a feathery tail, playing a tiny flute with its eyes nearly closed. Behind it, several balls of light followed, giggling with glee before they formed into young children, about 4 or 5 years old.

 "What's that thing?" Shippo asked.

 "Oh! The Soul Piper!" Myoga exclaimed.

 "The Soul Piper?" Inuyasha repeated.

 "It is a benevolent demon," Myoga replied, "given life by the souls of young children. It plays with the spirits of children who have passed away until they have come to accept their deaths and move on peacefully to the afterlife. There's no need to worry. It won't harm us as long as we don't harm it."

 "...If you say so," Inuyasha replied.

 'I dunno why...but I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach...'

 

XXX

 

 The next day at the Higurashi Household, Kagome was in her room, studying as usual. She had her tied back in a ponytail to keep the heat off her face and she was wearing a short-sleeved dress. Buyo was lying curled up on her bed, asleep. As she studied, though, she couldn't stop thinking about what happened yesterday at the park with that little girl.

 'It's so strange...what exactly is she?'

 Suddenly, she heard the door open, causing her to turn and see Atsuko walk in.

 "Hey, Mom," she greeted. "What's up?"

 "Hi, Kagome," said Atsuko. "Can I ask you for a favor?"

 "What kind of favor?" asked Kagome.

 "I need you to take Sota to the hospital across town to see a friend of his," said Atsuko.

 "...Oh, right," Kagome whispered. "He has a friend in the hospital, doesn't he?"

 "I'd take him myself," said Atsuko, "but I'm going to be busy around here."

 "Sure, I'll take him," Kagome answered. "I can always study more when I get back home."

 "Thanks, honey," Atsuko smiled as she kissed her daughter on the cheek. "I knew I could count on you."

XXX


 Kagome and Sota had just left the train station, the latter holding a bunch of paper cranes in multiple colors while the former held a bouquet of flowers.

 "Thanks for coming with me, Kagome," said Sota.

 "Of course," Kagome replied.

 "...Hey, sis?" Sota asked. "You don't believe in ghosts...do you?"

 "Ghosts?" Kagome repeated. "What's this all about, all of a sudden?"

 "Well, it's just...umm..." Sota started, only to shake his head. "Never mind...forget it."

 "...Okay," Kagome muttered.

 After a while, she and Sota entered the hospital and were now in a room where a young boy that was about Sota's age, lying on the bed in his pajamas while wearing an oxygen mask over his mouth. Next to him was a woman in her 30s, gently holding his hand.

 "Hello, Mrs. Ikeda," said Sota.

 "Hello, Sota," said Kaoru Ikeda. "Kagome. How's your mother?"

 "She's doing okay," Kagome replied.

 "How's Satoru doing?" asked Sota.

 "Well, his body's recovered," Kaoru answered, "but he still won't wake up. He's been in a coma for about 6 months, now. You're the only one in his class who still visits him, Sota...thank you so much."

 "Well, Satoru is my best friend," said Sota. "...Oh, right! We brought some presents!" He then held up the flowers and cranes. "Here you go."

 "Oh, get-well cranes," smiled Kaoru. "Thank you."

 "Huh...?" Kagome whispered as she took a closer look at Kaoru's hands. They were a bit hidden under her sleeves, but she could see what looked like burns...and they were quite bad, at that.

 "What is it, Kagome?" asked Kaoru before she looked at her hands. "Oh...the burns. I got them from a fire in our apartment, six months ago."

 "I-I'm sorry!" Kagome replied. "I didn't mean to stare!"

 "No, it's all right," Kaoru assured. "I don't blame you..." She then sighed as she looked to the floor. "Satoru was injured, six months ago...and...Mayu..."

 'Mayu...?' thought Kagome, but just as she was about to probe further, she noticed the IV tube on Satoru's arm being tugged...and then, the bag suddenly burst open, spilling fluids everywhere!

 "Whoa!!" the Higurashi Siblings cried.

 "Oh, no!" cried Kaoru. "Not again!"

 "Again?!" Kagome repeated before she noticed someone under the bed...holding Satoru's severed IV cord with a mischievous smirk. "You...the girl from before..."

 "...Satoru will die," the girl said, sinisterly. "I'm going to make sure of it!" On that, she vanished into thin air.

 "...She's gone, again..." Kagome whispered.

 "Sis?" Sota asked.

 "...I'm fine," Kagome replied.

 'Whoever that girl is, I can't just let her run rampant! She seems hellbent on having Satoru die...but why?!'

 On the hospital roof, the girl floated in the air with her hands behind her head...while the Soul Piper floated next to her, playing its flute in an eerie note.

 "Shoot," she said. "I didn't kill him, this time..."

 '...Satoru...you have to die...just like me!'

Chapter Text

 Back at the Higurashi Shrine, Kagome and Sota had made it back home. Atsuko noticed that her daughter seemed unusually tense when she got back, but Kagome assured her that she was fine. However, Sota was too nervous to sleep in his room, once again, so he decided to spend the night with his sister, and naturally, Buyo joined them.

 Sota sat on Kagome's bed while she studied for her math quiz...but then she put down her pencil and turned to face her brother.

 "Sota?" she asked. "Earlier today...why were you asking about ghosts?"

 Sota looked up at his elder sister, who stared at him with a serious expression. It made him nervous...but at the same time, it told him that he could trust her. He sighed as he pulled Buyo into his lap and stroked him, trying to calm his nerves.

 "...It's about Satoru," said Sota. "Everyone in my class has been saying he's being haunted by some kind of evil spirit or something."

 "...What do you mean?" asked Kagome.

 "When Satoru first went into his coma after that fire," said Sota, "my friends and I would go and see him. At first, everything was fine...but then...after we left, the accidents started."

 "Accidents?" Kagome repeated.

 "One of my friends, Takeda," Sota said. "He fell down the stairs after we left Satoru's room, and he said somebody pushed him...but we didn't see anyone. Then, we were all almost run over by a truck. Ever since then, my friends say that Satoru's cursed or something, so they stopped visiting him. I try to tell them that those were all just freak accidents, but they don't believe me!"

 "Why not?" asked Kagome.

 "...Because," Sota began, "in that same fire...she died...Mayu."

 "...Mrs. Ikeda said that name, earlier," Kagome realized. "Who was Mayu, anyway?"

 "Satoru's sister," Sota answered. "She's a year older than he is."

 "...Oh, my god...!" whispered Kagome in horror. "She was only 8? That poor girl..."

XXX


 In a burned down apartment...Mayu stood in the middle of the all the wreckage, staring at an empty closet. If one were to look closely, however, they could make the outline of a body. As Mayu stared at it...she could see flames surrounding it.

 "Mommy!! Where are you?! Help me, Mommy!!!"

 "...Mommy..." Mayu whispered as she looked at her hands. "...Why...why didn't you save me...?" She then growled as she clenched her hands into fists. "...Satoru...this is all his fault...Mommy loved him more than me, so she only saved him! I'll make him pay for this!!"

 Behind Mayu...the Soul Piper continued to play that same eerie note...its eyes slowly opening.

XXX


 The next day, Kagome and Sota arrived at the apartment where Satoru and his mother lived. The only clue they had was the window with soot and broken glass all over it, possibly due to an explosion from the fire.

 "That's where Satoru used to live," said Sota, holding his sister's hand.

 "And they haven't cleaned it in six months?" asked Kagome.

 "They tried to," said Sota, "but just like with my friends, some weird accident happens."

 Kagome felt an uneasy chill go down her spine. Something about this place...it made her stomach feel queasy and her heart pound in her chest. She didn't know why...but she could sense a sort of evilness in there.

 "Sis...you okay?" Sota asked.

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered. "O-oh! Y...yeah...I'm all right...I think..."

 'This place...it feels so wrong...!'

 All of a sudden, a window pane fell from the building, nearly hitting the Higurashi Siblings had they not jumped out of the way in time, narrowly avoiding the shattering of the glass. However, not long after, a potted plant fell from a balcony railing, and Kagome and Sota barely had enough time to dodge that and an incoming tricycle. While Sota was scared out of his wits, Kagome looked up and saw Mayu, standing on top of the railing!

 "It's her...!" Kagome whispered.

 "What are you doing here?!" Mayu questioned as she jumped off the railing and floated down in front the Higurashi Siblings.

 "Wait, hold on!" Kagome exclaimed. "You...you're Mayu Ikeda, right? Satoru's big sister?"

 Hearing that caused Mayu to tense up, momentarily.

 "Why are you doing all these things?" asked Kagome. "And of all people, why your own brother?!"

 "Shut up!" Mayu shouted. "Satoru has to die! That way he'll know how I felt!"

 "What?!" Kagome asked. "What are you talking about?!"

 "Sis...who are you talking to...?!" asked a shivering Sota.

 "...Mommy..." Mayu muttered as she looked down to the ground. "Mommy hated me...all she ever cared about was Satoru. That's why...that's why she only saved him instead of me!!"

 "...What...?" Kagome whispered in disbelief.

 "...Nobody loves me..." Mayu whispered...her voice taking on just a slight hint of sadness. "Nobody cared enough about me...they don't even care that I died...!"

 'Wait a minute,' Kagome thought. 'All this time, she thought that...?!'

 "Wait, Mayu!" she exclaimed. "Listen...this has to be a mistake. I know your mom because my Mom is friends with her! She's...she's a very nice lady...isn't she? You can't keep doing this...because if you do, then your mom will be really unhappy-"

 "Shut up!!" Mayu shouted. "That's what I WANT!!!"

 KRAK!!! A street lamp suddenly snapped in half and fell to the ground, nearly hitting Kagome and Sota had the former not pulled her brother out of the way.

 "I won't stop until Mommy learns her lesson!!" Mayu shouted as she ran off. "If you try and stop, then you're gonna die, next!!!"

 "Mayu, no!" Kagome cried. "Wait!!"

 Just then, she gasped as she heard the eerie tune of a flute behind her, causing her to slowly turn around, only to meet eyes with the Soul Piper...its red eyes half-lidded.

 "W...what are you...?!" Kagome questioned. "A demon?!"

 The Soul Piper only played that same somber note on its flute, causing Kagome to gasp silently.

 "Until my eyes open..."

 Then, in the blink of an eye, the Soul Piper had vanished, leaving Kagome and Sota sitting there on the street in complete shock.

 "...W...what happened?" Sota asked.

 "I dunno," Kagome began, "but...I think I need to talk to an expert about this."

 "Who?" Sota inquired. "Grandpa?"

 "No, you dummy!" Kagome argued. "Inuyasha!"

XXX


 Later that day, Kagome returned to the Feudal Era to convey what she had seen.

 "What?!" Myoga asked. "The Soul Piper's eyes weren't shut?!!"

 "The...Soul Piper?" Kagome parroted while Shippo sat next to her on the lip of the well. "So that's what that thing is called?"

 "That's right," Myoga affirmed. "It seems that it exists even in your world, as well. The Soul Piper is a demon that soothes the spirits of dead children by playing a calming tune on its flute and watches over them until they can accept their deaths and move on from this world to the next."

 "...So...what happens if that spirit is filled with hatred and anger?" asked Kagome.

 "You've heard of poltergeists," Myoga said. "Evil spirits and whatnot...well...should the child not find eternal peace, then the Soul Piper's eyes open completely and it drags the spirit of the child to the Underworld."

 "Whoa...scary...!" Shippo whispered.

 "...The Soul Piper's eyes were already half-open," Kagome realized. "If Mayu doesn't find a way to accept her death-"

 "Save your breath, Kagome," said Inuyasha. "We're talking about evil spirits here, not demons. They're two different things. They're not something you can just cut up or beat sense into, and a loss could more than just a physical injury...you could lose your life."

 "But Inuyasha," Kagome began, "spirit or not, she's still a child! I can't just turn my back on her! I come from a long line of priests and shrine keepers! There must be something I can do! Anything!!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he lied down on his side with his head propped up in his palm. "You really are hopeless, aren't you? Well, it ain't none of my business. If you really think you can handle this without me, then by all means, be my guest!"

 No answer.

 "...Uh...Kagome?" Inuyasha asked as he looked back, only to see that only Shippo and Myoga were sitting by the well.

 "She just left," Shippo said. "You know, you shouldn't talk to yourself, Inuyasha or people will wonder."

 Inuyasha only gaped...before he smacked his hand against his face.

 'What am I gonna do with her?!'

XXX


 Back in the modern era, at the hospital, Satoru continued to remain asleep in his bed while Kaoru sat next to him, sewing a blue kimono with a lotus flower and pop-eyed goldfish pattern.

 She remembered the night when the firefighters came...and found the body of a little girl inside her apartment. When she was told that it was her daughter...she was absolutely horrified and grief-stricken. She could've sworn that Mayu had gone to stay with a friend, or was somewhere playing outside.

 Had she known that her daughter was still inside, she would have gone back in to get her, regardless of her own life.

 There was just one thing she didn't understand. Why was Mayu found in the apartment in the first place? And how did the fire that took her daughter's life even start?

 ...No...none of it mattered to her, now. All she knew was that her daughter was dead...and as a mother...she couldn't help but feel like she was at fault.

 '...Mayu...it...it would have been your birthday, soon...'

 Kaoru then sniffled as a few rogue tears fell from her eyes.

 "...My little Mayu...I'm so sorry...!" she whispered as she held the kimono to her face...and quietly sobbed. "I'm sorry, Mayu...!!"

 Outside the window...Mayu floated there, eyeing her mother...unable to see her tears.

 "...Tonight's the night," she said. "When Mommy goes home, tonight...that's when I'll finally kill Satoru...then she'll know how much she hurt me!"

 Behind her, the Soul Piper's eyes slowly widened...almost opening, completely.

 If Kagome didn't do something before the demon's eyes were completely open...Mayu's fate would be sealed.

Chapter Text

 "Goodnight, Mrs. Ikeda. We'll call you if anything changes about Satoru."

 "Yes, thank you. Goodnight."

 As Kaoru walked out of the hospital, Kagome panted as she ran up to her, putting her hands on her knees as she tried to catch her breath.

 "Kagome?" Kaoru asked. "What are you doing here? Visiting hours are over, honey."

 "I know, Mrs. Ikeda," said Kagome once she had finally caught her breath, "but I needed to talk to you."

 "To me?" asked Kaoru. "About what?"

 "...I know this probably isn't my place to ask," Kagome started, "but...do you know how your daughter, Mayu, died?"

 Kaoru gasped silently, just as an ambulance came driving into the hospital, its siren wailing as it began to make its way around the back.

 "...It's strange you should ask about her," said Kaoru, solemnly. "I was actually just thinking about her." She sighed as she looked to the starry sky. "...It seemed like such a short time ago."

Flashback


 Kaoru sat in her children's bedroom, Satoru lying on the bottom bunk of the beds as she took his temperature. However, Mayu soon came stomping inside, angrily as she glared at her mother, holding her red backpack.

 "Mommy!!" she shouted. "Why didn't you come to my school's open house night?! I waited hours for you!! I had to ride home with Ms. Yamamoto!! You promised you'd come, this time!!!"

 "Mayu, please don't shout," said Kaoru. "I know I promised, but Satoru's been sick with a cold all day and he hasn't gotten any better."

 "Grrr...!" Mayu growled. "'Satoru this' and 'Satoru that'! It's always about that stupid Satoru!!"

 "Mayu, you know that's not true-" Kaoru started.

 "Shut up!!" Mayu yelled as she threw her backpack on the floor, causing her notebooks, pencil case, crayons, and coloring book to fall out. "I hate you and Satoru!!!"

 With that, she turned and ran out.

 "Wait a minute!" Kaoru called as she got up to go after her. "Mayu Ikeda, don't you run out on me! Get back here!!"

 SLAM!!!

 "...Oh, dear..." Kaoru sighed as she turned and headed back into the room as her eyes fell upon her daughter's backpack. As she reached down to pick it up, she saw a folded up piece of paper inside, causing her to reach in, pull it out, and unfold it. Once she did, she felt her heart sink with guilt.

 It was a crayon drawing of Mayu and Kaoru, smiling and holding hands with the sun shining over them, and she could make out the Japanese kanji for "I love my Mommy".

 "...Oh, Mayu..." Kaoru whispered as she hugged the drawing. "I'm sorry, honey."

 "It seemed that Mayu and I were always having arguments like that...and when I saw the picture she drew for me, I wanted to make it up to her. I went to the store so I could get ingredients to make Mayu her favorite dinner...but...when I got home..."

 As Kaoru began to round the corner to her apartment building, two of her neighbors ran up to her, shouting that her apartment was on fire and Satoru was still trapped inside. Wasting no time, Kaoru hurried inside the building, burning her hands in the process, grabbed Satoru from his bed, and was quickly escorted out by the firemen. Once the fire had finally been doused out, they made a shocking discovery: the charred body of a little girl inside the closet.

Flashback end


 "...You mean...Mayu was inside?" Kagome asked.

 "I could have sworn that she had gone to a neighbor's apartment to cool off like she always does," said Kaoru. "...Had I known...had I known my daughter was still inside, I...I would have gone back in to get her...!" She then sobbed again as she put her hand to her mouth. "Oh, Mayu...!"

 'So, that's what happened!' thought Kagome. 'Mayu's mom never really abandoned her! She thought she was somewhere else!!'

 Just then, SMASH!! They heard the sound of glass breaking, causing them to look up at one of the windows, where they saw the lights flicker on and off!

 "Oh, no...that's Satoru's room!!" cried Kaoru.

 "Mayu!!" Kagome cried as she ran into the building.

 "Wait, what?!" Kaoru questioned as she ran after her. "What do you mean, Kagome?! Kagome!!!"

XXX


 Inside Satoru's room, the lights suddenly burst open, sending sparks everywhere and causing medical equipment to explode...including Satoru's oxygen tank. As the boy lay sleeping...Mayu floated over her brother, glaring at him, hatefully.

 "...Time to die, Satoru," she said.

 "Stop!!"

 "Huh?" Mayu muttered as she looked up and saw Kagome and Kaoru.

 "Mayu, please stop this!" Kagome cried. "This is all a big misunderstanding!!"

 "What are you doing...here..." Mayu started, but then trailed off when she saw her mother. "M...Mommy...?"

 "...Mayu...?!" Kaoru whispered in shock as she began to approach her. "But...but how-"

 "Don't come near me!!" Mayu shouted, sending a pulsing shockwave that knocked Kaoru back against the wall, causing her to groan as she fell to the floor. As she did, she dropped the bag that was holding Mayu's kimono.

 "Mayu, you need to leave your mom and brother alone!" Kagome urged. "Please, don't blame her!! Your mom didn't abandon in that fire, do you understand?!"

 Mayu tensed up at this.

 "Mayu, your mom didn't know that you were still inside!" Kagome cried. "Try to think back!!"

 "...She didn't...know I was at home...?" Mayu whispered before her eyes widened. "...That's right...I remember."

Flashback


 "Ahh..." Mayu sighed as she walked into hers and Satoru's bedroom. "It's so nice and warm in here!" She hung her scarf up onto a clothesline, right over an electric stove where a tea kettle was set.

 "Unh...Mayu?" Satoru asked as he opened his eyes. "Mom says...we're not supposed to hang clothes over the stove..."

 "Shut up!" Mayu spat. "I don't care!" She then walked over to the closet and opened the door. "Listen. I'm gonna play a prank on Mommy. I'm gonna pretend that I never came home and make her worry about me...that'll teach her."

 "But...Mayu..." Satoru started.

 "And you better not tell her," Mayu began, "or I'm gonna be mad!" With that, she closed the closet door, hiding inside.

 '...My scarf...I put it over the stove...it must've fallen off and caught fire! ...It's my fault that our apartment got burnt down...and Mommy...she didn't know that I was home...'

Flashback end


 "Mayu..." Kagome whispered as she cautiously approached the spirit, who growled as she clenched her fists.

 "...I may remember," Mayu began, "but it doesn't matter...BECAUSE I STILL HATE HER!!"

 KRAK!! The force of her scream was so powerful, it caused the floor to burst into flames, forcing Kagome to back away...but then she gasped as she saw Satoru about to fall out of his bed and out the window!

 "NO!!" Kagome cried. "SATORU!!!"

 As she ran to grab him...she gasped as she saw a familiar pair of pointy ears hanging from above the window.

 "Yo," Inuyasha greeted, casually, while holding Satoru in the crook of his elbow and holding onto the Tetsusaiga. "You drop somethin'?"

 "Inuyasha, you're here!" Kagome exclaimed. "And the Tetsusaiga's sheath is fixed!"

 "Good thing I came along," said Inuyasha. "Otherwise, this kid would be splattered all over the ground." He then glanced at Mayu. "...Look, Kagome...give up on the girl. It's too late for her."

 "But Inuyasha-" Kagome started.

 "Even if you shoved the truth right in her face," Inuyasha began, "it's not gonna be that easy."

 "But there must be something we can do!" Kagome cried, but then, the Soul Piper appeared behind Mayu...its eyes now wide open!

 'Oh, no...!' thought Kagome.

 "Huh?" Mayu muttered as she glanced back, only to gasp upon seeing the Soul Piper's blood red eyes. "W...what do you want?!"

 "...To...hell...!"

 "No!" Kagome cried. "Please, don't take her! Give her another chance!!"

 Unfortunately, her pleas fell on deaf ears. All of a sudden, Mayu's arms and torso were wrapped in chains, causing her to let out a scream of protest as the Soul Piper flew off with her!

 "HELP ME!!" Mayu cried.

 "MAYU, NO!!!" Kagome cried.

 "...Poor kid," Inuyasha said as he turned to leave, only for Kagome to grab him by his sleeve.

 "Inuyasha, we have to go after them!" she urged.

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Are you outta your mind?!"

 "We've got to!" Kagome said. "Spirit or not, she's still a little girl! She doesn't deserve this!!"

 "Kagome, I told you," Inuyasha started, "it's too late!"

 "Inuyasha...please," Kagome pleaded. "We've got to help Mayu!"

 A pause...but then Inuyasha sighed.

 "Sheesh..." he muttered. "Okay, fine. But don't say I didn't warn you!"

 "I knew you had a heart!" Kagome exclaimed.

 "Yeah, and now I'm chokin' on it," Inuyasha said as he squat down, allowing her to climb onto his back. "Now listen, I don't know Jack Squat about ghosts and spirits and whatnot, so whatever else happens, you'll be on your own, got that?!"

 "Yes," Kagome nodded. "Now let's hurry!"

 "Hang on!" Inuyasha called as he leaped out of the window and bounded across the rooftops.

Chapter Text

 "So where's the girl's apartment, Kagome?" Inuyasha asked as he leaped across the buildings.

 "It's just up ahead!" Kagome replied. "You'll know when you see it! It's all black from soot and ash from the fire!"

 "Got it!" Inuyasha replied. "Myoga said that before the Soul Piper drags the child's spirit to the underworld, it takes the spirit back to the place where it died!"

 "There!" Kagome called as she pointed to Mayu's apartment...which had an eerie purple glow within. "Wait...something's different about it."

 "...It's the portal to the afterlife," Inuyasha replied as he sat on the balcony railing. "The Soul Piper must have taken Mayu in there."

 Kagome gasped silently, but then she put on a determined expression as she got down from Inuyasha's back and walked toward the apartment...but then stopped to look at him.

 "You're not going with me?" she asked.

 "I can't," Inuyasha replied. "This is where the Soul Piper drags human souls to hell...and since I'm only half-human, I can't get past that barrier. I told you, Kagome...from here on out, you're on your own."

 "...I see," Kagome replied before she faced the empty apartment. "Well...here I go."

 "Kagome!" Inuyasha called, causing her to stop and turn to him, one more time. "...Good luck...and...be careful. Please."

 Kagome smiled and nodded her head before she turned and headed inside...where she soon disappeared, leaving Inuyasha to wait for her outside.

 "...I hope she knows what she's getting herself into," he muttered.

XXX


 At the hospital, Kaoru sat outside the hall, her temple bandaged after she got thrown to the wall by Mayu. As she sat on the bench, she stared at her hands, nervously.

 'I knew I wasn't seeing things...that really was Mayu...just the way she looked that day when she died. Could it be...? Was that her...her ghost?'

 "Mrs. Ikeda!"

 Kaoru gasped as she looked up to see a nurse run up to her from the intensive care unit.

 "You have to come quickly!" she called. "It's Satoru! He...he's awake!"

 "What?!" Kaoru asked as she ran into the room, and sure enough, there was her soon...his eyes slowly opening.

 "Unh...w...where am I?" Satoru asked as he looked around and soon noticed his mother. "M...Mommy?"

 "Satoru!" Kaoru cried as she ran up and hugged him. "Oh, thank goodness! You're finally awake!"

 Satoru chuckled weakly as he returned his mother's hug...but when she pulled away, she noticed a worried expression on his face.

 "What's wrong?" Kaoru asked.

 "...Mommy," said Satoru. "Mayu...she's hiding from you in the closet."

 Kaoru gasped silently.

 "Mommy...you gotta go get her," Satoru urged. "Hurry...!"

 The nurses in the room glanced at each other, worriedly, while Kaoru sighed.

 "...Satoru," she said as she put her hands on her son's shoulders. "Your sister...she's..."

 "Huh?" Satoru muttered.

XXX


 "Ugh...where am I?"

 Mayu sat up and looked around, only to find herself in pitch darkness...but for some reason, it felt very warm.

 "Why is it so hot?" asked Mayu as she got up and went to open the door...only to be met with a blast of flame, which caused her to shriek in fright as she shielded herself. As she looked up, she gasped upon seeing that she was back in her apartment...only it was completely covered in fire!

 "Aah!!" Mayu cried as she stumbled back into the closet and hugged herself. "Mommy!! Where are you?! Help me, Mommy!!!"

 But no answer came...causing Mayu to gasp.

 '...That's right...this is exactly what happened when I died...I called for Mommy, but she didn't come for me!'

 "MAYU~!!!"

 Mayu gasped upon hearing her name being called.

 "Mommy...?" she asked as she looked up, only to see Kagome, who held her hand out to her.

 "Mayu! Come on!" Kagome urged. "Gimme your hand! I'm gonna get you outta here!!"

 Mayu gasped silently. Even after everything she had done, this girl was still trying to save her?

 "Hurry, Mayu!" Kagome cried. "Give me your hand, now!!"

 "...Are you stupid or something?!" Mayu questioned. "I'm DEAD!! Don't you get it?! You can't save me!!!"

 Just then, the floor beneath Mayu began to open up...revealing a fiery abyss below her!

 "AAAAAH!!" Mayu screamed as the chains around her arms began to pull her down.

 "Hang on!!" Kagome shouted as she grabbed the girl by the wrist.

 "K...Kagome!" cried Mayu.

 "I've got you, Mayu!" Kagome said. "Don't let go, okay?!"

 Mayu whimpered as she looked down...only to see the Soul Piper's eyes.

 "To hell~!!"

 The ground rumbled and Mayu cried as the chains began to tighten around her, threatening to pull her and Kagome down into the very pits of hell.

 "AAH!!" Mayu screamed. "Kagome, I'm scared!! What do I do?!"

 "You have to go back, Mayu!" Kagome said. "Go back and make peace with your mom!!"

 "What?!" Mayu asked.

 "You can't let it end this way!" Kagome cried. "Please, Mayu...don't you wanna at least see her one last time and say goodbye to her for good?!"

 "...But...but I thought that Mommy was mad at me," Mayu said, causing Kagome to gasp silently. "...Kagome...are you sure that Mommy's not angry?"

 "...Of course, she's not mad," Kagome replied, her eyes softening as a warm smile appeared on her face. "She just loves you and she misses you very much...that's all."

 "...Really?" Mayu asked as her eyes started to well up with tears. "I always thought...that she loved Satoru more than me."

 "Mayu, you know your mom better than anyone," said Kagome. "She could never be mad at you...you know that, don't you?"

 Mayu's eyes went wide as she began to think back. She remembered, now...all those happy times that she and her family would spend together, whether it was helping to cook meals at home, going to summer festivals to watch the fireworks, and playing at the beach. Even if there were times she was a little naughty, like drawing on the walls with her crayons or tracking muddy footprints into the apartment...she never once saw Kaoru get mad at her. She'd scold her, yes, but she would never get mad...and whenever Mayu was sad or scared, Kaoru would always give her a big hug to make her feel better.

 Of course...Kaoru always loved her daughter and son equally.

 "...Mommy...!" Mayu whispered as her tears spilled from her eyes. "MOMMY~!! I'M SORRY, MOMMY!!! I WANNA MAKE IT UP TO YOU!!! YOU AND SATORU BOTH!!! I'M SO SORRY, MOMMY!!!!"

 SNAP!!! The chains binding Mayu snapped in half...and sank down into hell while Kagome pulled the sobbing girl into her arms.

 "Mommy...!!" Mayu cried.

 "Shh..." Kagome shushed as she hugged Mayu. "There, there...you're okay, now, Mayu."

 "...Thank you, Kagome...!" Mayu whispered. "Thank you for not giving up on me!"

 Kagome chuckled as she wiped the girl's tears away.

 "Anytime," she said. "Now...there's just one more thing you need to do."

XXX


 The following morning, Kaoru returned to the apartment...and stood before the closet where Mayu's body had been found. She could still see the outline that showed where Mayu had been laying before she sighed.

 "...Oh, Mayu..." she said, sadly. "If I had just known you were here, sooner."

 "Mommy?"

 Kaoru gasped silently as she turned around...and saw Mayu walk up to her.

 "Mayu...?!" Kaoru asked...but then she ran up and hugged her. "Mayu! Oh, my little Mayu!"

 Mayu smiled as she hugged her mother back.

 "Oh...Mayu, I'm so sorry," Kaoru said as she pulled away from her. "I didn't know you were still in the apartment, honey...I'm so sorry!"

 "It's okay, Mommy," said Mayu. "I'm sorry I hurt you...and Satoru, too...I was just really sad and lonely because I thought you loved him more than me."

 "...Oh, Mayu," Kaoru said. "That's not true...I love you and Satoru equally."

 "I know that, now," Mayu replied. "...I love you, too, Mommy...goodbye."

 "...Goodbye, Mayu," Kaoru whispered...as her daughter's spirit vanished...and the dark, burnt room suddenly became lighter.

 Up on the apartment's rooftop, Inuyasha and Kagome sat together as the wind blew gently.

 "...I guess she finally did it," Kagome said.

 "Yeah," Inuyasha replied. "You know, Kagome, that was a hell of a risk you took. That kid could've dragged you down to hell with her if you hadn't calmed her down."

 "Yeah, I know," Kagome replied as she looked at the sky, "but...it was worth the risk."

 Later on, after Inuyasha went back through the well, Kagome returned home to continue her studies. Sota told her that Satoru would be cleared to go home from the hospital next week and that Kaoru sends her thanks. As Kagome sat at her desk and took notes, she heard giggling outside, causing her to look out her window and see Mayu, who was dressed up in the very same kimono that her mother had made for her.

 "Mayu!" Kagome exclaimed.

 "Hi, Kagome!" Mayu greeted, gleefully. "I wanted to say goodbye to you one last time...and thanks for everything."

 "You're welcome, Mayu," Kagome smiled. "I just love your kimono. It's so cute!"

 "Thank you!" Mayu said. "My Mommy made it for me!"

 Soon, she heard the sweet, calming melody of a flute behind her, causing her to turn and see the Soul Piper...this time, with its eyes closed.

 "Time to go, now, Mayu...to heaven..."

 "I'm coming!" Mayu called before she faced Kagome and gave her a hug. "Bye, Kagome."

 "Bye, Mayu," Kagome replied as she hugged her back. "Rest in peace..."

 Mayu giggled before she floated off with the Soul Piper, turning into a little ball of golden light before they both disappeared while Kagome smiled, warmly.

 'Mayu...I don't think you ever were an evil spirit...you were just a little girl who loved her mom very much...and just wasn't ready to say goodbye to her, yet...but I'm glad you finally found peace.'

Chapter Text

 It was just another typical afternoon at the Higurashi Shrine. Kagome was still at school and wouldn't be home for another few hours and Sota was out at the park with his friends, playing soccer. Thus, Atsuko was left with Sanosuke, today.

 Right now, she had just finished sweeping away any old leaves and dirt off the steps leading up to the shrine, thus finishing her chore list. She had already washed the dishes and did the laundry, so now there was nothing else left to do but just sit in the living room and wait for her kids to come home for dinner later. As Atsuko entered the house and sat on the living room couch, she poured a cup of nice, hot tea for Sanosuke, who was reading his newspaper with Buyo curled up next to him.

 "Thank you, Atsuko," said Sanosuke.

 "Of course, Dad," Atsuko replied as she sat down on the couch to pick up the book she had been reading for the past couple of days.

 She had to admit it, as nice as it was to have a little peace and quiet...it was a bit lonely without her kids in the house. That was especially the case with Kagome due to her recently adventuring in the Feudal Era. While she didn't quite understand what was happening on the other side, it seemed that Kagome was quick to accept what was happening with her life, now, so if Kagome was comfortable with it, then Atsuko was comfortable, too.

 Just as Atsuko was getting ready to get really into her book, she heard the front door open, followed by footsteps.

 "Hello?" a gruff voice called. "Kagome, are ya here?"

 As Atsuko looked up, the sliding door opened up to reveal none other than her daughter's new companion, Inuyasha.

 "Hey, Kagome-" the half-demon started, only to stop in his tracks when he saw that the girl in question was nowhere in sight; just Atsuko, Sanosuke, and Buyo.

 "Oh! Uh...hello," Inuyasha greeted.

 "Well, look who it is!" Atsuko greeted back as she put her book down on the sidetable and stood up. "You're Kagome's new friend...Inuyasha, right?"

 "Umm...yeah," Inuyasha replied. "That's me...and you're...Kagome's mother, right?"

 Atsuko only chuckled, causing the half-demon's face to flush a bit.

 "I'm Atsuko," she greeted. "Atsuko Higurashi, and yes, I am Kagome's mother...we didn't meet properly back then."

 "Right," Inuyasha replied, "because of the whole...demon hair thing." He then chuckled, awkwardly as he scratched the back of his head. "So...is Kagome here? I came to bring her back with me."

 "Oh, Kagome's not here," Atsuko replied. "She's still at school. She should be home in a couple of hours, though."

 Upon hearing that, Inuyasha immediately scowled and crossed his arms inside his sleeves.

 "You're kidding me, right?" he asked. "I come all this way and Kagome's not here?!"

 "Sorry," Atsuko said. "You're welcome to stay here and wait for her if you want."

 "Nah," Inuyasha replied as he turned to leave. "I'll come back later. See ya around."

 Just as he was about to walk out, however...

 Grrrrrooooooooooowwwll...!!

 Inuyasha froze, his cheeks flushing a bright red as he looked down at his stomach as it rumbled. He didn't even realize how hungry he was until he heard it growl like that. Come to think of it, he actually hadn't eaten all day. He wanted to have some more instant noodles, or "ninja food" as he put it, and he was looking forward to them so much, he skipped eating breakfast at Kaede's.

 Big mistake, apparently.

 "Oh, dear," said Atsuko. "Are you hungry?"

 "Uh...I guess so," Inuyasha answered while scratching the back of his head.

 "Well, how about I make you a little something to eat?" Atsuko inquired.

 "Oh, no, that's fine!" Inuyasha replied. "I don't wanna impose-"

 "Oh, nonsense!" Atsuko interjected. "Your Kagome's friend. You're more than welcome to eat here."

 "...Well...I am hungry," Inuyasha replied, "and since you're offering, I guess it would be rude to refuse."

 "There we go," said Atsuko as she took the half-demon by the hand, causing him to tense up a little as she led him over to the couch. "Now, you sit right there and I'll pour you a nice cup of tea and some rice crackers to snack on."

 As she walked out, Inuyasha stared after her, blinking in bewilderment.

 "Umm...okay," he muttered. "That was...kinda weird." He then noticed Sanosuke staring at him out of the corner of his eye, causing him to tense up a little as the old man seemed to glare at him.

 "So, you're Kagome's friend, are you?" he asked.

 "Umm...yeah...?" Inuyasha replied.

 "...I see," Sanosuke said before he went back to reading the paper. "That's fine, I suppose. Make yourself comfortable."

 "Uh...sure," Inuyasha replied.

 'I almost thought for sure he was gonna slap those useless sutras of his on me...oh, well.'

 "Here you go," Atsuko said as she put down a cup of tea on the tea table and a bowl of rice crackers. "Help yourself."

 "Umm...thank you," Inuyasha replied as he took a rice cracker and bit into it, crunching it up into bits as he chewed. It was a bit bland for his tastes, but when you're hungry enough, you're willing to eat anything. That much he knew from his childhood.

 As Inuyasha drank his tea and ate his little snack, his sensitive hearing could make out the sounds of Atsuko humming as she walked about the kitchen. He could hear small cluttering noises and the sound of water rushing for just a few seconds before it stopped. He wondered what she was doing in there.

 He then took a look around the room as he ate another rice cracker. It didn't look that much different from the homes in the Feudal Era...although he did wonder about that strange black box in the corner of the room. It didn't look like it opened, so maybe it wasn't all that important.

 Come to think of it, this was the second time had been inside Kagome's house. He just never got the chance to actually look around. He had to admit...it did look pretty nice and it was a lot bigger than the huts in the village. In fact, it almost looked like the old abandoned manor that he and his mother used to live in. Of course, the castles he had seen were a lot bigger than this, so there was no way Kagome was THAT wealthy.

 As Inuyasha was about to eat another rice cracker, it fell from his fingertips and dropped to the floor. Just as he was about to reach down and grab it, though, Buyo came sauntering up and picked it up in his mouth before eating it.

 "Hey!" Inuyasha exclaimed. "That was mine, you stupid cat!"

 Buyo only leaped up onto the couch and curled up onto the half-demon's lap, causing him to gasp for a moment as the cat yawned and stretched his legs.

 "Well...I guess you can lay there if you want," said Inuyasha as he gently stroked Buyo's head and back, causing him to purr. "You're soft."

 "Mrow..." Buyo meowed as he rolled over, revealing his round belly.

 "Heh," Inuyasha snickered as he rubbed it a little. "Well...I know who gets all the food here." He then grabbed Buyo's front paws and started to wave them a little, although the cat seemed to mewl in protest. "Heheheh! Look at the dancing kitty!"

 "Aww, isn't that nice? You made friends with Buyo!"

 Inuyasha looked up to see Atsuko walk up to him, holding a large steaming bowl in her hands, which she put down on the table in front of him to reveal that it was a steaming hot bowl of katsudon, as well as a pair of chopsticks to eat it with.

 "Here you go," said Atsuko while Inuyasha gaped at it, drool dripping from his lips and his stomach grumbling. He looked just about ready to attack the bowl...until he noticed just how big it was.

 "What's the matter?" Atsuko queried. "Everything all right?"

 "This is a pretty big bowl," Inuyasha replied as he looked at Atsuko with a suspicious glare. "You're not trying to fatten me up so you can eat me, are you?"

 A pause...but then Atsuko gave the half-demon an almost mischievous smirk.

 "Don't tempt me, dear," she said, causing Inuyasha's eyes to go wide, which prompted Atsuko to burst into laughter. "Oh, relax! I'm just kidding!" She then reached up and gently patted his head, right between his ears, which caused him to tense up a little. "You are cute, though."

 "Uh...thank you...?" Inuyasha replied in confusion before he picked up the bowl of katsudon and began to eat it...and the moment he took that first bite, he just started shoveling it in his mouth, savoring the taste of the fried pork, the mayonnaise, the rice, and egg all mixed together.

 "Is it good?" asked Atsuko.

 "Mm-hmm!" Inuyasha nodded as he continued to eat.

 "I'm so glad you like it," Atsuko replied as she got up and walked up the stairs. "Let me know if you need anything else."

 Inuyasha nodded his head again as he kept eating the katsudon, eating every last morsel he could get.

XXX


 "Ohhhh...man, did I stuff myself..."

 Inuyasha lied on the couch and rubbed his belly, which had taken on a bit of a rounder shape.

 "That food sure was good..." he said before he gave a loud burp, then looked down at his stomach. "...Wow...I don't think I ever ate THIS well."

 He then looked up to the stairs where Atsuko had disappeared.

 '...She...gave me food...just like Kagome...but why? I mean, Kagome I could understand...but her mother, cooking me a meal? She barely knows me...'

 Just then, Atsuko came downstairs, holding an empty laundry basket, but as she walked by, she noticed Inuyasha lying on the couch with a bulging tummy. It didn't take her long to realize how it got there as she chuckled, warmly.

 "My goodness!" she exclaimed as she went to pick up the bowl so she could take it to the kitchen to wash it. "You ate the whole thing?"

 "Uh-huh," Inuyasha nodded. "Thanks for making me that...umm...what's it called?"

 "Katsudon, dear," said Atsuko as she headed to the kitchen. "I'll just wash this out for you, okay? And then I need to take the laundry out of the dryer."

 Inuyasha stared after her, a sleepy look in his eyes before he gave a yawn and scratched his chest. Once Atsuko came back, she saw that he had already conked out, snoring mildly loudly while Sanosuke continued to read his paper. Atsuko blinked at Inuyasha in surprise, but then she smiled before she went over and sat down beside the half-demon, who continued to sleep his meal. She looked him over...and she could just barely make out the tiny, silvery scar tissue that marred his hands, feet, and face...and if she had to guess, there were probably more scars under his robe.

 "...You poor thing," Atsuko whispered as she gently stroked his silvery white hair. "Just where on earth did you come from?"

 Inuyasha just kept snoring, causing Atsuko to smile before she got up and went to take the laundry out of the dryer.

XXX


 About an hour and a half passed by until Kagome and Sota finally arrived home, just as the sun was starting to set.

 "We're back!" Kagome called as she and her little brother entered the house and walked into the living room, only to find Inuyasha, still sleeping on the couch (although he now lacked the slight Buddha Belly). That didn't surprise her, too much, though. What really surprised her was that her mother was sitting next to him, casually reading her book.

 "Whoa!" Sota exclaimed. "Inuyasha's here!"

 "Uh...Mom?" Kagome asked, causing Atsuko to look up at her.

 "Oh, Kagome, Sota!" she greeted. "Welcome home, kids!"

 "Welcome back," Sanosuke greeted, as well as he finally put down his newspaper.

 "What's Inuyasha doing here?" asked Kagome.

 "Oh, he came about an hour ago," said Atsuko. "He was hungry, so I made him some food to eat until you got here."

 "I see," Kagome replied. "Umm...he didn't do anything weird, right?"

 "Oh, no, he basically just sat here," said Atsuko. "He was very well-behaved."

 'Inuyasha, well-behaved?!' Kagome thought. 'I don't believe it!'

 "...Kagome?" Atsuko asked. "Can I ask you something?"

 "Yes, Mom?" asked Kagome.

 "...How long has he been without a mother?" Atsuko inquired, causing her daughter to gasp silently.

 "Y...you know that his mom is dead?" asked Kagome.

 "No," Atsuko began as she looked at Inuyasha's sleeping face, "but I had a feeling...I can tell he's experienced a mother's love."

 "...He never really talks much about his parents," said Kagome, sadly. "All I know is that they're both dead."

 "I see," Atsuko said. "I can't imagine how his mother must've felt, knowing she died too soon...she never got to see him grow up. She must have loved him, so much."

 "...She did," Kagome replied, "and Inuyasha loved her...in fact, he still misses her. He just...doesn't show it often."

 "I suppose I understand that," said Atsuko. "It must have been very hard for him...growing up all alone with no one to turn to."

 "...At least he's not alone, now," Kagome said, causing her mother to chuckle.

 "No," Atsuko replied. "Now that he's with you."

 "...I don't get it," Sota spoke up, causing his mother to gently ruffle his hair.

 At that moment, Inuyasha snorted as he began to wake up.

 "Huuuuuh?" he slurred as he sat up, sleepily blinking his eyes. "Ugh...I guess I fell asleep for a bit..." He then noticed Kagome. "Oh! Hey, Kagome!" He then yawned and stretched his arms. "When did you get here?"

 "Just now," Kagome replied.

 "Well, good," Inuyasha said as he got up from the couch, "because we got jewel shards to find."

 "Wait, what?!" Kagome questioned. "We're leaving, already?! But I just got home and I haven't had dinner yet!"

 "Oh, it's all right, Kagome," Atsuko assured. "I had a feeling he'd be rushing to leave, so I packed you something to eat, just in case."

 "Oh, thanks, Mom!" Kagome said in relief as she hugged her. "You're the best!"

 "I have my moments," Atsuko smiled. "Now go on...and be careful, honey."

 "I will," Kagome replied as she kissed Atsuko on the cheek. "See you later, Mom!"

 "Yeah, see ya!" Inuyasha called as he walked out with her.

 "Bye!" Atsuko called as she heard the door close.

XXX

 

 Outside, Inuyasha and Kagome walked toward the well house when all of a sudden, the former stopped in his tracks, accidentally causing the latter to bump into him.

 "Oof!" Kagome cried. "Inuyasha, what'd you stop like that for?"

 "...Your mother," Inuyasha said. "She was...she was nice to me."

 "So?" Kagome asked.

 "It's just that," Inuyasha began, "I don't understand why."

 "Why not?" Kagome inquired. "I mean...she fed you, she welcomed you into our house...what did you think she was trying to do?"

 "Fatten me up so she could eat me," Inuyasha answered, causing Kagome to snort as she covered her mouth. "Shut up! It ain't funny!!"

 "I'm sorry," Kagome said with a chuckle. "But Inuyasha...there's no need to put a reason behind why my Mom would do that. She obviously likes you." She proceeded to head to the well house. "Now come on. We can't keep Shippo waiting...I hope he likes the candy I bought for him."

 As Inuyasha walked after Kagome, he scratched at the top of his head where he felt Atsuko pet him. He couldn't quite explain why...but when she pat him on the head and called him "cute", it gave him this warm, tingly feeling in his chest. As he thought about it...a small smile creased his lips before he followed Kagome to the well.

Chapter Text

 It was a chilly, windy night in the Feudal Era. Crickets chirped into the night air while an owl sat perched in a tree, its round eyes aglow. Up in the sky, the crescent sat amongst the clouds...giving almost little to no light to the forest below.

 Under the canopy of the treetops, Kagome lied in her sleeping bag with Shippo curled up beside her in her arms. Her backpack, filled to the brim with school supplies, a bag of candy for Shippo, and the instant noodles that Inuyasha liked so much. The campfire flickered as it remained in the pit...under the watchful eye of Inuyasha, who sat against a tree trunk with the Tetsusaiga in his hands with his golden eyes glowing, just like the campfire before he turned his gaze up to the moon. He glared at it, almost hatefully...his body seeming more tense than usual.

 "...Tomorrow..." he muttered.

 "Hrrrmm..." Shippo moaned as he suddenly squirmed his way out of Kagome's grasp. "Nature calls..."

 As he made his way to a nearby bush to relieve himself, he glanced over at Inuyasha, who continued to stare up at the sky. The kit blinked in curiosity, seeming to forget about his sudden urge, before he made his way over to the half-demon and climbed up on his shoulder, following his gaze, but only seeing the moon. Shippo tilted his head in perplexity before he looked at Inuyasha, who just kept staring skyward.

 "Whatcha lookin' at?" the fox demon asked, causing Inuyasha to cry out in surprise, which in turn caused Kagome to gasp as she woke up with a start.

 "Don't do that!!" Inuyasha barked at Shippo, who shrunk back in fright.

 "I-I'm sorry!" the young fox demon cried. "I didn't mean to startle you!!"

 "Uh...who said I was startled?" asked Inuyasha with a light blush of embarrassment on his face. "I wasn't startled!"

 "Are you sure?" Shippo inquired. "Because you looked pretty startled to me."

 "...Didn't you have to use the bathroom?" asked Inuyasha, causing the fox child to yelp before he jumped off the half-demon's shoulder and went to do his business, leaving Inuyasha to sigh as he looked forward, only to be met with Kagome's soft gaze.

 "...What's with that look on your face?" asked Inuyasha with a glare.

 "Is everything okay?" Kagome questioned in concern. "You seem pretty tense, tonight."

 "It's nothing," Inuyasha replied. "Go back to sleep."

 "But Inuyasha-" Kagome started.

 "I said it's nothing!!" Inuyasha spat, causing the girl to shrink back for a moment...but then she sighed in resignation as she prepared to lie back down...but she gave the half-demon one last look.

 "Inuyasha," she started, "remember...there's nothing you can't tell me. We're friends."

 With that, she went back to sleep, leaving Inuyasha to sit there, pondering her words...but then he scoffed as he looked away.

 '...As if she would know...tomorrow night...is the only time I ever feel afraid...'

XXX


 The following day...

 "Ooh, this feels so nice!"

 Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo (as well as Myoga) were drifting down a river by boat. As Kagome took in the refreshing breeze, Shippo leaned over the side of the boat, his face is a sickly green color while Inuyasha sat at the bow, his eyes focused on the path forward.

 "Oh, look over there!" Kagome exclaimed as she pointed at the water. "Fish!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Listen here, Kagome. We don't got time to play around."

 "Aww, come on, Inuyasha," said Kagome. "Just look at all the lovely scenery! Relax, once in a while, y'know?"

 "We're not here to relax!" Inuyasha barked.

 "What is going on with you?" Kagome asked. "You've been acting weird since last night...is there something you wanna tell me?"

 "As if," Inuyasha muttered.

 "Inuyasha," Kagome said in concern.

 'I don't understand...I feel like he would have trusted me just a little more, by now...why does he continue to put up a front with me?'

 "Uuuuuggh..." Shippo groaned. "I don't feel so good."

 "Seriously, Shippo?" asked Inuyasha. "Whoever heard of a seasick demon?"

 Suddenly, a loud shriek pierced the air, causing the group to look up and see a young girl of at least 12 years old, standing on a cliff while holding a bouquet of wildflowers.

 "Who's that?" asked Shippo.

 "I dunno," Kagome began, "but it looks like she's in trouble! Look there!"

 Behind the girl, there was a shadowy figure with glowing yellow eyes, glaring after her.

 "What is that?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "Master Inuyasha!" Myoga exclaimed. "It's a demon!!"

 "What the-?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Where the hell did you come from?!!"

 Then, it suddenly lunged at the girl, who stumbled back as she tried to run, only to fall off the cliff with a terrified scream!

 "Oh, no!!" Kagome cried.

 "She's about to fall right on top of us!!" Shippo shouted as he jumped into Kagome's arms.

 "Relax," Inuyasha said as he stood up. "I got this." He then leaped up and caught the girl in his arms with relative ease.

 "Wow!" Kagome exclaimed. "Great catch, Inuyasha!"

 Soon, Inuyasha landed on the river bank, holding the girl in his left arm before he looked up, only to see the shadowy creature walk off to who knows where.

 'What in the hell was that thing?'

 "Unh..." the girl groaned as she began to come to. "Th...thank you for saving me...from that horrible..." That's when she spotted Inuyasha's ears and gasped, only to growl and smack him in the face. "UNHAND ME, DEMON!!!"

 "OW!!" Inuyasha cried as he and the girl both ended up falling back into the river.

 "Oh, no!" Kagome cried in alarm.

XXX

 

 Inuyasha grumbled in irritation as he shook himself dry.

 "Jeez," he muttered. "Why do I even bother with these ungrateful mortals?"

 "So, do you live here on this mountain?" asked Kagome as she bandaged the girl, Nazuna's wrist.

 "Why would I tell you that?" asked Nazuna as she looked away.

 "Is that how you talk to people who just saved your life?" asked Shippo, incredulously.

 "Be quiet!" Nazuna spat. "I know a demon when I see one, fool, and if there's anything I feel for demons, it's nothing but pure hatred!!"

 "So...Nazuna, right?" asked Kagome. "What was that thing that was chasing you?"

 "...It's called a 'Spider-Head'," said Nazuna. "It and many others of its kind have been living on the mountain since the spring. They take the heads of their victims and weave their nests inside their corpses. They've already killed many innocent people."

 "I see," Kagome said, sadly.

 'I don't really feel any hint of the Sacred Jewel from it...but...'

 "Inuyasha," she said. "Let's help the girl."

 "Uh, gee, lemme think," Inuyasha replied. "NO."

 "What?" Kagome asked in surprise. "Why not?!"

 "We're leaving, Kagome," Inuyasha replied. "We need to get past this mountain range before sundown!"

 "But...but why?" Kagome asked.

 "Just because!" Inuyasha barked.

 "But Inuyasha," Kagome began, "there are demons killing innocent people! We can't just go on about our business and pretend that-"

 "Enough, already!" Inuyasha interjected. "I told you before, Kagome, I don't fight demons for the sake of mortals, so just drop it!!"

 Kagome only stared at the half-demon in concern.

 'What's going on with him?' she thought. 'Usually, he'd jump at the chance to fight...in fact, he's been acting strangely since last night.'

 "I'm going home," said Nazuna as she prepared to climb up the cliffs on some ivy.

 "Wait, Nazuna!" Kagome called. "It's too dangerous for you to go alone! We'll go with you!"

 "No thank you," Nazuna said. "As if I'd ever ask a bunch of despicable demons for help."

 As she tried to pull herself up, though, the ivy snapped, causing her to tumble down onto the ground, again, with a yell of pain.

 "...Yeah...she won't last a minute," Shippo muttered as he clung to Inuyasha's shoulder.

 "Eyup," Inuyasha agreed.

XXX


 Later on, as the sun was slowly beginning to set beyond the horizon, the group made their way up the mountain path toward a flight of stone stairs. While Kagome and Shippo were walking, Inuyasha was forced to carry a reluctant Nazuna, piggyback style.

 "Stop squeezing my ribs!" Inuyasha barked. "What do I look like to you?! A pack mule?!"

 "Maybe I wouldn't squeeze them if you didn't move so quickly!" Nazuna spat.

 "Will you two stop it?!" asked Kagome.

 "He/She started it!!" Inuyasha and Nazuna shouted as they pointed at each other.

 "I don't care who started it!" Kagome snapped. "I'll finish it!"

 "Hey, look!" Shippo exclaimed as he pointed to something ahead. "I think I see it!"

 The group looked up to see an old temple, sitting upon the mountaintop.

 "Is that it, Nazuna?" asked Kagome.

 "Yes! There's the temple!" Nazuna exclaimed as she got off of Inuyasha's shoulders and ran toward it. "Master! I'm home!"

 As she approached the temple, an old man soon came out to greet her, dressed in dark bronze and yellow robes like that of a typical Buddhist monk.

 "Nazuna!" the monk exclaimed. "There you are, child!"

 "Oh, Master," Nazuna said as she ran up and hugged him, causing him to chuckle as he pet her head, gently.

 "Are you all right, my dear?" he asked. "You're not hurt, are you?"

 "I was out picking flowers for the graves," Nazuna began before she glared at Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo, "but then these vile demons forced me to bring them here!" She then bowed her head before the monk. "Forgive me, Master..."

 "Who's she callin' vile?" Inuyasha glared.

 "Demons, are you lot?" asked the monk.

 "Well...not me," Kagome replied.

 "It doesn't matter," Inuyasha said. "We're not staying, old timer."

 "Oh, but you must," the monk implored. "Please, stay here with us in the temple for at least one night."

 "What?!" Nazuna questioned. "But...but Master! They're demons!"

 "Nazuna," the monk started, "go and prepare a feast for our guests."

 "But...but...!" Nazuna stammered...only to sigh. "Yes, Master..." She then glared hatefully at the trio before she turned and headed inside.

 "Psh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Nice attitude..."

 "You must forgive her," said the monk. "You see...Nazuna hates demons because her father, her only family, was killed by the Spider Head demons. The experience terrified her so much that she feels nothing but spite for demons of any kind."

 "I see," Kagome said, sadly. "I guess I can't really blame her."

 "Yeah, me neither," Shippo added.

 "Thus, it is with my poor, weak magic," the monk began, "that I have placed a barrier around this temple so that no demons may enter!"

 "But...Inuyasha and I are demons, aren't we?" Shippo asked. "How come we're able to enter?"

 "Hmm..." the monk hummed. "Well, as far as I can tell, boy...you may be a demon, but you are just a child. You're a bit too weak to be repelled by the barrier."

 "Hey!" Shippo snapped.

 "But as for your dog-eared friend, here," the monk said as he looked to Inuyasha, "I sense no demonic energy from him, whatsoever."

 "Excuse me?" Inuyasha asked as he glared. "Well, let's test that little theory, old man!"

 "Inuyasha, don't you dare!" Kagome shouted.

 "But-" Inuyasha started.

 "Don't make me say the 'S' word!" Kagome scolded. "And believe you me, I don't wanna say it, either!"

 "...Fine," Inuyasha muttered.

 "We would love to stay the night," said Kagome. "Thank you very much, good monk."

 "Of course, my child," said the monk. "Please, come inside."

 With that, they all headed inside the temple...except for Inuyasha, who continued to stare out toward the setting sun.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome called. "What are you waiting for? Come on inside! Aren't you hungry?"

 "...For once, I don't have an appetite," Inuyasha muttered under his breath as he reluctantly headed inside the temple.

XXX

 

 Later that night, Kagome and Shippo were eating a nice meal of fish, rice, and simmered beans...but Inuyasha, to their surprise, wasn't eating a single bite.

 "...Am I the only one who's worried, here?" Shippo asked.

 "No," Kagome replied, worriedly. "I don't understand...Inuyasha's almost ALWAYS hungry."

 Inuyasha just at near the porch, staring out at the night sky...almost tentatively clutching his sword.

 "Inuyasha?" Kagome asked, causing the half-demon to glance back at her. "Is everything okay? You've been acting really weird since last night...and today, too! I mean...you seem jumpier than normal, you seem reluctant to fight other demons...you even went off on that monk over something so minor!"

 "Kagome speaks the truth, sire," said Myoga. "You should be proud of who you are. After all, your father was a great and powerful demon while your mother was a beautiful and noble princess...thus, you are of noble birth."

 "A noble half-demon?" Shippo asked. "Who'd have thunk it?"

 "Shut your traps!!" Inuyasha barked, causing both Shippo and Myoga to yelp as they hid behind Kagome.

 "...Inuyasha," Kagome said. "I can't help feeling like there's something bothering you...if I didn't know you any better...I'd almost say you were afraid."

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned. "Of all the stupid things that have come outta your mouth, that's gotta be the stupidest thing I've EVER heard! Me, afraid?! As if!!"

 "But Inuyasha," Kagome began, "everyone's afraid of something."

 "Everyone but me!" Inuyasha barked as he turned away. "Leave me alone!"

 "...Inuyasha," Kagome said, causing him to turn to look back at her, only to be met with her sad gaze. "I thought we were friends...I thought you trusted me."

 Inuyasha gasped silently while Shippo looked back and forth between them in concern.

 "...Forget it," Kagome said as she looked away. "If you don't wanna tell me...I won't force you."

 Inuyasha's ears drooped as he felt a slight tinge of guilt in his stomach, then he sighed.

 "...Kagome!" he called, causing her to stop in her tracks as she looked back at him. "I...I'm sorry, okay? You're right...you're my friend and I need to start trusting you more...and the truth is...I am afraid, okay?"

 "You are?" Kagome asked in surprise. "W...why?"

 "Because-" Inuyasha started, only to be interrupted by a shrill scream from Shippo.

 "S-S-S-SPIDER HEADS!!!" he cried as he pointed outside, causing Inuyasha and Kagome to look out and see a bunch of glowing red eyes in the trees!

 "Oh, no!" Kagome cried, only to shriek as they burst inside the room, as well! "They're everywhere!!"

 "Kagome! Take Shippo and get outta here, now!" Inuyasha shouted.

 "But what about you?!" Kagome asked.

 "Just go!!" Inuyasha shouted as he drew the Tetsusaiga...only it didn't transform!

 'Huh?' thought Kagome. 'The Tetsusaiga's not changing form! What's happening?!'

 As Inuyasha tried to fight off the Spider Heads, one of them jumped on his back and tried to bite his neck. "Get off of me...YOU EIGHT-LEGGED FREAK!!!" He then punched the creature in the jaw, but others soon clambered onto him, holding swords and spears!

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried.

 "Hang on, Inuyasha!" Shippo called as he ran toward them. "FOXFIRE!!!"

 He threw a large ball of foxfire at the Spider Heads, causing them to screech as they backed away while Kagome grabbed Inuyasha by the arm, his head covered in spider webs.

 "Let's get outta here!!" she shouted as they all ran out, heading deep into the forest.

XXX


 "MASTER!!"

 Nazuna gaped in horror at what she had just found: the monk, lying on the floor, surrounded by the Spider Heads as they began to weave their webs around him.

 "...No...!" she whispered, tearfully.

XXX

 

 "Haa...haa...haa...haa...I think we're safe..."

 Inuyasha, Kagome, Shippo, and Myoga all sat in the middle of the forest, panting heavily as they tried to catch their breath.

 "Damn those stupid spiders," said Inuyasha.

 "Inuyasha...are you okay?" Kagome asked.

 "...Yeah," Inuyasha answered. "More or less...besides, if I were you, I'd be more worried about myself."

 "How come?" Shippo asked.

 Inuyasha sighed as he reached up to the spider webs that were stuck to his hair.

 "...You wanna know why I've been acting so strange, lately?" he asked as he pulled the webs away...revealing his hair to have gone from a silvery-white to charcoal black, his dog ears had turned into human ears, and his eyes had turned into a deep indigo color. "THIS is why."

 "I...Inuyasha!" Shippo cried. "He's...he's...!"

 "...Human...!" Kagome gaped in disbelief.

Chapter Text

 "Inuyasha," Kagome said in disbelief. "You're...a human?! But how is that possible?!"

 "...It's the night of the new moon," Inuyasha answered as he looked to the ground as if in shame.

 "The new moon?" Kagome asked before she looked up at the sky and saw that the moon was nowhere in sight. "Oh, my gosh! You're right! The moon's gone!"

 "But what does the new moon having to do with you turning human?" asked Shippo.

 "It's because of Master Inuyasha's lineage," said Myoga. "You see, half-demons cannot completely sustain their demonic blood. Thus, there comes a period when they lose their demonic powers and become mortals...and in Master Inuyasha's case, it's the night when the moon disappears from the night sky. Since they are rendered vulnerable in this state, they try not to let their enemies discover this period of weakness."

 "And the new happens only once a month," Kagome surmised. "So this must always happen for Inuyasha, huh?"

 "I don't believe you, milord!!" Myoga shouted as he jumped onto Inuyasha's knee. "Why didn't you tell me, your most trusted vassal, this was the night when you are most vulnerable?!"

 "'Most trusted vassal', my ass!" Inuyasha barked. "If I told you, you'd bolt the moment you found out, am I right?!"

 "Err..." Myoga muttered. "Well...haven't I earned just a little more trust than that?"

 "I'll tell you what you earned!" Inuyasha shouted as he squished the flea in his fingers. "THAT!!"

 "...Typical...!" Myoga groaned.

 "...I can't believe it," Kagome said. "So...you're really human, right now."

 "Just for this one night," Inuyasha replied. "In the morning, I'll be back to normal." He then sighed as he looked at his clawless fingers. "Still...I hate having to deal with this every month...the feeling of being so weak and helpless." He then clenched his hands into tight fists. "This is the only night...I ever feel any fear for my life. I can't tell you how many times I was close to death whenever this night came...sometimes, it got so bad, I couldn't even sleep."

 "...Inuyasha," Kagome whispered before she looked to the ground. "I'm sorry...I insisted on staying here...and now, we're all in this mess because of my stupid mistake! Had I known earlier, I never would've have forced us to stay in that giant spider's nest!"

 "It's not your fault!" Inuyasha spoke up, causing her to look up at him. "I...I should've said something, sooner...a lot sooner." He then closed his eyes as he sighed. "It's just that...I grew up all alone...trying to survive to the age that I am, now. During that time...there was always somebody who was out to get me, demons and humans alike...so I learned that I couldn't trust anybody." He then looked at Kagome. "...Until now, that is. I'm sorry I let my stupid beliefs keep me from telling you, Kagome."

 "Oh, Inuyasha," Kagome whispered before she went over and hugged him, causing him to tense up for a moment...but then he slowly embraced the girl while Shippo smiled fondly. However, the moment was short-lived, for the sound of a snapping twig soon put everyone on alert.

 "YIPE!!" Shippo yelped as he jumped onto Inuyasha's head. "W-w-what was that?!"

 "A Spider-Head?!" Inuyasha asked, gripping the Tetsusaiga.

 "Don't tell me they followed us!!" Kagome exclaimed...but then, out of the bushes came Nazuna, who shrieked as she fell to the ground, panting breathlessly with her hands and knees smudged with dirt and sweat.

 "Nazuna!" Kagome and Shippo cried.

 "Ugh..." Nazuna groaned as she sat up and looked at the trio. "Please...you must help!"

 "Huh?" Kagome asked. "What's wrong?"

 Soon, Nazuna explained herself to the group.

 "What?!" Kagome questioned. "The monk's been captured?!"

 "Yes," Nazuna answered, "and he's still alive. He told me to escape with you all...but I can't just leave him behind!" She then got down on her hands and knees and bowed her head. "Demons or not...please...you must save him!"

 "...Umm...that might be a problem," Kagome said as she glanced back at Inuyasha, who glared as he looked away.

 "Huh?" Nazuna muttered. "What happened to the dog demon that was with you?"

 "That's...him," Kagome replied. "Nazuna...I'm afraid Inuyasha can't help you. It's the night of the new moon, so this is the night that he loses his demonic powers and becomes human, just like you and me."

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he got up and turned to leave. "Come on, Kagome. Let's get outta here. The farther away from that temple that we are, the better."

 "But what about the master?!" asked Nazuna. "Please, we can't just leave him!"

 "In case you haven't noticed, we can't help you!" Inuyasha barked. "Sorry, kid...but it looks like the old man is bug food."

 "...This can't be," Nazuna whispered, tearfully. "Master...!"

 "Come on, Kagome, Shippo," Inuyasha said. "We gotta go."

 "...We're sorry about this, Nazuna," Kagome said as she turned to follow after Inuyasha...only to gasp as she stopped in her tracks. "Uh...uh-oh...!"

 "What?" Inuyasha asked. "What's the problem?"

 "I left my backpack at the temple," Kagome answered.

 "So what?" Inuyasha asked. "You can just go back to your own time and get a new one, right?"

 "Uh...that's the thing," Kagome replied, sheepishly. "The Sacred Jewel shards are inside."

 "...They're...what?" Inuyasha asked, his eye twitching.

 "...You're not mad, are you?" Kagome asked.

 "...Pardon me for a second, please," Inuyasha said as he walked out of sight for a moment.

 "Uh...what is he doing?" Shippo asked.

 "3...2...1..." Kagome counted down, and soon, an angry howl soon broke through the air. "Yep, he's mad."

XXX

 

 Soon, the group was back at the temple...where they could see several Spider Heads skulking about.

 "I don't see the monk," Kagome whispered. "He must be further inside."

 "Kagome," Inuyasha whispered as he held a few branches under his armpit while Shippo sat on his shoulder. "You and Nazuna wait here for me, okay?"

 "Right," Kagome nodded.

 "And here," Inuyasha said as he handed her the Tetsusaiga. "Take the Tetsusaiga. It should be able to protect you from the Spider Heads."

 "Are you sure you don't need it?" asked Kagome.

 "It's not like I can use it anyway," Inuyasha said. "Shippo...let's go...and be prepared to run when I tell you, got it?"

 "Y-yeah," Shippo nodded before Inuyasha headed inside the temple, leaving Kagome and Nazuna outside.

 "...Please be careful, you two," Kagome whispered.

 "...Kagome?" Nazuna asked. "Will the demon- I mean...will Inuyasha really be able to save the master?"

 "Inuyasha may put up a front," Kagome said, "but he's really a good guy at heart..."

 'Still...how will he fight without his demonic powers?'

XXX

 

 Inuyasha and Shippo entered the temple, the main altar of which was completely covered in spider webs.

 "Ugh..." Inuyasha shuddered. "Normally, I'm not afraid of spiders, but even this gives me the creeps."

 "Oh, no!" Shippo exclaimed as he pointed to where Kagome's backpack was last seen. "Kagome's bag! It's gone!"

 "Damn," Inuyasha cursed, but then he heard some sort of scratching noise up ahead, causing him to glare toward the darkness.

 "There's...something here...!" Shippo whimpered.

 "Shippo," said Inuyasha as he held up a branch, "light 'er up."

 "Right!" Shippo nodded before he lit up the wood with some foxfire, which Inuyasha threw to burn away the webs, revealing Kagome's backpack, surrounded by the Spider Heads!

 "AAH!!" Shippo shrieked.

 "Relax," said Inuyasha. "They're not after us. They only want the Sacred Jewel shards in Kagome's bag." He then grabbed another branch. "Shippo!"

 "Got it!" Shippo exclaimed before he lit that one up with some foxfire, too, which Inuyasha swung at the Spider Heads, which shrieked in fear as he drew closer to them with the flames.

 "Get back!" Inuyasha yelled as he swung the flaming branch at the arachnid-like demons, which screeched as they backed away. "Get away from there, you freakin' bugs!!"

 "Yeah! That's telling 'em, Inuyasha!" Shippo cheered as the Spider Heads retreated into the darkness, but just as Inuyasha was about to grab the backpack, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye: there, covered in spider webs and bound to a support beam...was the old monk, lying completely still.

 "Oh!" Shippo exclaimed. "It's the monk!"

 "Yeah," Inuyasha said, "but...we might be too late."

XXX


 Kagome and Nazuna looked toward the temple, the latter hugging her knees to her chest, prompting the former to gently place her hand on her shoulder.

 "Are you okay, Nazuna?" she asked.

 "...I can't help but worry for the Master," said Nazuna. "He used up nearly all his spiritual power to protect this mountain. He risked his life, every day, to appease the souls of the those who were slain by demons so that they would not return as vengeful spirits...and he did everything he could to protect me, as well. After my Father was killed by the Spider Heads...the Master is all I have. He's the only family I've ever come to know."

 "...That's very sweet, Nazuna," Kagome smiled...although she seemed uneasy.

 'There's just one thing I don't understand...why were the Spider Heads able to enter the temple so easily? ...Unless...'

 Then, she gasped in shock.

 "Oh, no...!" she whispered.

 "What?" Nazuna asked. "What's the matter?"

 "Nazuna," Kagome said, "we gotta get in the temple, and quick!"

XXX


 Inuyasha and Shippo cautiously approached the monk, who was still wrapped up in spider webs...but for some reason, he seemed, for the most part, unharmed.

 "I don't get it," Shippo said. "Shouldn't the Spider Heads have eaten him, by now?"

 "...Something doesn't add up," Inuyasha muttered as he got closer. "Hey, old man...you okay?"

 "Ugh...Inuyasha...?" the monk groaned. "Is that you? Did you come here for me?"

 "So you're alive," Inuyasha said as he reached toward the monk. "Hold still, okay? I'm gonna get you out." He then grabbed the monk by the hand and pulled...but when he did, the monk's hand stretched!

 "Huh?!" Shippo questioned. "I...Inuyasha, did you see that?!"

 "What the hell- OOF!!" Inuyasha started, only to gag as the monk's hand wrapped itself around his throat and pinned him up against the ceiling. "Ugh! W...what in the...?!" He then looked down at the monk...who gave a wicked grin and snickered, sinisterly.

 "Got you...half-demon..."

Chapter Text

 "Rrrgh...damn!" Inuyasha cursed as he tried to pull the monk's hand away from his neck. "I get it now...the reason why the Spider Heads got in so easily...is because you're actually their leader, aren't you?!"

 "He's what?!" Shippo asked.

 "Clever deduction," said the monk, or rather, the Spider Head Leader...whose body began to take the form of a giant, gangly-looking spider web with eight limbs. "I have heard about you, Inuyasha...the half-breed who bears the shards of Shikon Jewel and is scouring the land for the remaining ones. Thus, I lured you here in the hope that I would steal the shards you possess from you...and how fortunate for me that you should happen to lose your demonic powers on this very night!"

 "So what?!" Inuyasha questioned as he struggled to get the Spider Head Leader's hand off of his throat. "Even if I don't have my powers, I can still squash you like the bug you are!!" He then pulled the hand off his neck and lunged for him, but the Spider Head Leader opened his mouth, entangling Inuyasha in his webs!

 "Inuyasha!!" Shippo cried as he ran to his aid. "Hang on, I'll save you!!"

 "No, Shippo! Get back!!" Inuyasha yelled, but it was too late, for the leader soon had the young fox demon pinned under his hand!

 "AGH!!" the kit cried as he struggled to get away while the spider demon chuckled sinisterly.

 "And as for you, half-demon," he said as he opened his mouth...revealing to gigantic fangs, "let's see if your human body can survive my venom!!"

 CHOMP!! He then bit down on Inuyasha's neck, causing him to gag.

 "INUYASHA!!!" Shippo cried in horror.

 "Sh...Shippo...!" Inuyasha croaked. "...Run...!!"

 Shippo gasped, but then growled as he bit the Spider Head Leader's hand, causing him to cry out in pain as he let go of the kit, who scampered outside as fast as he could. As he ran, someone suddenly picked him up off the ground, causing him to yelp in fright, but then he gasped upon seeing that it was only Kagome and Nazuna.

 "Shippo!" Kagome cried.

 "Are you all right?!" Nazuna asked.

 "Kagome! Nazuna!!" Shippo exclaimed.

 "Where's Inuyasha?!" Kagome asked.

 "In the temple!" Shippo answered. "Kagome, the monk had us all fooled! He's the Spider Heads' leader!"

 "What?!" Nazuna questioned. "No...that has to be a mistake!"

 "And that's not all!" Shippo cried. "Inuyasha's in danger! He got bit in the neck and...and...HE'S BEEN POISONED!!!"

 "POISONED?!!" Kagome shrieked before she looked to the temple, then ran as fast as she could!

 "Wait for me!!" Shippo cried as he ran after her, and Nazuna, though seeming hesitant, followed suit.

XXX

 

 "Ugh...uuuugh...!" Inuyasha groaned as his body began to grow limp, dangling in the spider webs.

 "That takes care of him," said the Spider Head Leader as he reached inside Kagome's backpack. "Now then...where are those...aha!" He then pulled out the bottle that contained the Sacred Jewel shards. "The shards of Shikon Jewel...at last, they're mine!"

 "INUYASHA!!"

 "Hmm?" the leader hummed as he turned to see Kagome, Shippo, Myoga, and Nazuna.

 "M...Master...?!" Nazuna whispered. "It...it can't be...!"

 "Hmph...about time you finally figured it out...foolish girl," said the Spider Head Leader. "You look just as idiotic as your father...before I devoured him."

 Nazuna gasped in horror at this. Not only had she been living with the very demon who murdered her father, but she had been deceived, all along. The shock was so much, she just sighed and fainted!

 "Nazuna!!" Kagome cried as she caught her, then glared at the Spider Head Leader. "You coward! How could you do deceive Nazuna like that?!"

 "Kagome!!" Shippo called as he pointed up at the spider webs. "Inuyasha's up there!!!"

 Kagome looked up, only to gasp upon seeing Inuyasha, dangling upside-down from the webs...and blood dripping from his mouth as his eyes dulled.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried. "Inuyasha, can you hear me?! Say something!!!"

 No response, causing her to gasp in horror.

 '...No...don't tell me he's...!'

 "Foolish girl," said the Spider Head Leader. "I filled every bit of his blood with my venom! Soon, his innards will be liquified!"

 "No!!" Kagome cried as she climbed up the leader's cage-like limbs. "I won't let you kill him!!"

 "Hahahaha!" laughed the Spider Head Leader. "So, you plan to meet the same fate, mortal?!" He then spewed more webs at Kagome, who gasped before she held up Tetsusaiga, which caused the webs to burn away due to them colliding with its barrier.

 "Kagome!" cried Shippo.

 "Hurry! Save Master Inuyasha!!" Myoga shouted.

 "Right!" Kagome nodded as she kept climbing. "Hang on, Inuyasha! I'm coming!!"

 "K...Ka...gome...!"

 Kagome gasped as she looked up at Inuyasha, who let out a gasp of air.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome cried. "Just hang on, okay?!"

 "...Ka...Kagome...get away...!" Inuyasha croaked. "Save...yourself...!"

 "No!" Kagome shouted as she jumped toward him. "I'm not leaving you here!!"

 As she drew closer, Inuyasha's eyes went wide as he noticed something: Kagome's eyes were welling over with tears.

 'She's...she's crying....?'

 "Kagome! Look out behind you!!" Shippo yelled, causing Kagome to look back and saw the Spider Head Leader, lunging toward her with his jaws and fangs agape.

 "Curse you, girl!!" he shouted.

 "No!!" Kagome cried as she swatted him back with the Tetsusaiga's scabbard, then grabbed Inuyasha, causing them to fall to the floor.

 "Rrgh...huh?" Nazuna groaned as she woke up and shook her head, then saw Kagome and Inuyasha. "Oh, no! Kagome! Inuyasha!!"

 "Nazuna!" Kagome cried as she carried Inuyasha toward her. "We need to get out of here!!"

 "Uh...oh!" Nazuna exclaimed before she ran over to a nearby wall, but then she began to pull it open, revealing it to be a door to a hidden room. "This way! There's an alcove behind the main altar! We can hide in here!"

 "Hurry!!" Kagome yelled as she dragged Inuyasha into the room while Nazuna followed.

 "Wait for me!!" Shippo cried as he ran after them, and once they were inside, Kagome quickly closed the door!

 "Kagome! Quick!" Myoga cried. "Put the Tetsusaiga against the door!! Don't ask questions, just do it!!"

 "Right!" Kagome nodded as she unsheathed the sword and thrust the blade into the door, causing the Spider Head Leader to yell in pain as he was hit by a powerful barrier.

 "You wretches!!" he yelled. "Rrrgh...no matter...at least I have the Shikon Jewel shards!" He then looked to one of his hands...only to gasp in shock when he saw only an acorn. "What?! They're gone!!"

 He then gasped as he saw the acorn suddenly grow a face...and it promptly blew a raspberry at him before it bounced away!

 "...That fox brat...!" the Spider Head Leader hissed.

XXX


 Inside the hidden room, Kagome, Nazuna, and Shippo panted as they tried to catch their breath.

 "Thank goodness we got away," said Nazuna.

 "Yeah, that was too close!" Shippo answered.

 "You can say that again," Myoga said as he sat on Shippo's head.

 "Inuyasha?"

 The group turned to see Kagome, who was gently shaking the motionless Inuyasha.

 "Inuyasha!" she called. "Inuyasha, wake up! Please!" She then held his hand, only to gasp. "Oh, no...his hand is getting colder...!" She then began to shake him, again. "Inuyasha, please! You have to snap out of it! Please don't die!"

 "Wait, Kagome!!" cried Myoga as he hopped over to her. "Don't jostle him, so much! You'll only spread the venom faster!"

 "Then...what'll I do?!" Kagome asked.

 "...It might already be too late for the master," said Myoga. "His human body is helpless against strong demonic venom."

 "...No...!" Kagome whispered as tears formed in her eyes. "This can't be happening! He can't die!"

 "...Inuyasha...!" Shippo whispered as he felt his eyes start to well up with tears, while Nazuna sat nearby, remaining quiet.

 "...Wait," Myoga said. "There just might be a way to save him, yet."

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

 "...Kagome...you might not want to watch this," Myoga told her as he stuck his proboscis inside the spot at Inuyasha's neck where he had gotten bitten, then began to suck out the blood. As he kept sucking, the flea demon began to grow in size until he was about as big as Shippo!

 "What in the world?!" Nazuna questioned. "What's he doing?!"

 "I...I think he's sucking out the poison!" Kagome exclaimed. "Of course! Myoga's a flea demon!"

 Before too long, the bloated Myoga had finished engorging himself on Inuyasha's blood.

 "Guh..." he groaned, drunkenly. "The name's Myoga...always a beast but never a burden...!" He then dropped to the floor and fainted...and that's when Inuyasha opened his eyes.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome exclaimed.

 "K...Kagome...?" he asked as he looked up at her. "W...what happened? Where am I?"

 "It's okay," Kagome answered. "We're safe, now." She then sighed. "Well...I don't know for how long. The Spider Head Leader got the jewel shards."

 "Jewel shards, you say?" Shippo asked with a cocky smirk before he reached into his happi coat and pulled out the Sacred Jewel shards! "You don't mean THESE jewel shards, do you?"

 "Shippo!" Kagome exclaimed as she took the bottle and gently ruffled his head. "You got the jewel shards back! You clever little fox!"

 "Well...I try," Shippo said, crossing his arms with pride, but then he dropped them to his sides as he walked up to Inuyasha, who was breathing softly. "So...is Inuyasha gonna be okay?"

 "I got out as much of the poison as I could," said Myoga. "Now the rest is up to Master Inuyasha. He just needs to rest...hopefully, he'll pull through." He then looked over to the Tetsusaiga. "Let's also hope that the Tetsusaiga's barrier holds until daybreak. Until then...we best stay here and bide our time."

 "That's probably the best idea you've had, Myoga," said Kagome before she looked to Nazuna, who was leaning against the wall, which prompted her to put her hand on her shoulder. "How are you feeling, Nazuna?"

 "...Tired," Nazuna replied, "but...also sad...and betrayed."

 "...I know," Kagome said.

 "...I can't believe I was staying with the very demon who slew my father," Nazuna said, sadly. "I feel like such a fool."

 "He fooled a lot of people, Nazuna," Kagome said. "Not just you." She then put on a serious expression. "Trust me...he's gonna get what's coming to him."

 "...Thank you, Kagome," Nazuna smiled, causing her to smile back.

 Soon, the group began to fall asleep, one-by-one. Nazuna quietly dozed against the wall while Shippo and Myoga lied beside each other, the latter shrinking back to his normal size as he began to digest the blood. As for Kagome, however, she was sitting by Inuyasha's side, keeping a watch on his condition. She noticed that the room was slowly getting lighter, signifying that the sun would be rising in the next hour or so. She then glanced down at Inuyasha, who had a strained look on his face as sweat formed on his face and he let out labored breaths.

 'He must still be in pain,' thought Kagome as she reached into her pocket and pulled out her handkerchief, which she used to try and wipe off the sweat from Inuyasha's brow, which caused him to open his eyes.

 "K...Kagome?" he asked.

 "Inuyasha," Kagome said, softly. "I'm sorry...did I wake you?"

 "No," Inuyasha replied as he turned his head away from her. "...Hey...Kagome...tell me something."

 "Yeah?" Kagome asked.

 "...Why were you crying?" Inuyasha asked.

 "You mean earlier?" asked Kagome. "Because...I thought I was gonna lose you...I thought you were gonna...die."

 "...You...you shed tears for me," Inuyasha said. "Cried...for me..."

 'Just like...Mother....'

 "...Kagome...can...can I lay my head in your lap?"

 "Huh?" Kagome muttered in surprise.

 "...Please..." Inuyasha whispered.

 "...Okay," Kagome nodded as she gently raised his head up and placed it upon her lap, being careful not to move him too quickly. "There...is that better?"

 "Uh-huh," Inuyasha nodded as Kagome gently pet his head and stroked his long hair. As he did...a brief image appeared in his mind's eyes. He saw himself, back when he was a child...at least 4 or 5 years old. It was a night just like this one...a night where the moon had disappeared, rendering him as nothing more than a mere human boy. However...a hand gently stroked his blackened hair as he slept...his head resting upon lap covered in silk robes, under his mother's tender gaze, her soft, soothing voice humming a gentle tune in his ears...

 Just as Kagome was doing to him.

 "...Kagome...you...you smell kinda nice..." Inuyasha whispered.

 "Huh?!" Kagome asked, even more taken back. "Okay, this is weird...I-I thought you said you hated my scent!"

 "...I did," Inuyasha replied, "but...I was lying." He then sighed as he turned over.

 'What in the world...is he saying?' thought Kagome as a blush appeared on her face. 'Is he delirious?'

 "Inuyasha?" she called, gently...only to be met with the sound of his soft snoring. "...He's sleeping..."

 Ba-bump! Ba-bump! Ba-bump! Kagome gasped as she put her hand to her chest.

 'What's going on? My heart won't stop pounding...!'

 Suddenly, the room began to shake, causing everyone, except for Inuyasha, to gasp as they looked up.

 "What's that?!" Shippo asked. "What's happening?!!"

 "The Spider Head Leader must be in pursuit again!!" cried Myoga. "Quickly! Get Master Inuyasha out of here!!"

 "We're going to have to carry him!" Kagome cried. "He's unconscious!!"

 Suddenly, the roof broke apart...revealing the Spider Head Leader, pulling it open!

 "AAAAH!!" Nazuna screamed. "IT'S HIM!!!"

 "Found you!!" the Spider Head Leader roared. "Give me the Shikon Jewel shards!!!"

Chapter Text

 "Rrrgh!" Kagome grunted as she tried to hoist the unconscious Inuyasha up off the floor. "Nazuna! Help me!"

 "Right!" Nazuna cried as she grabbed Inuyasha by his legs and tried to help carry him out, but the Spider Head Leader slammed his hand down on the floor, blocking their path and jarring the Tetsusaiga from the door.

 "Ah! Oh, no!!" Shippo cried as he backed away, only for the leader to grab him by one of his legs and pull him up into the air!

 "Shippo!!" Kagome cried.

 "Give me the jewel fragments!!" the Spider Head Leader yelled as he shook the young kit up and down, causing the jewel shards to fall out of his happi coat.

 "Oh, no!" Shippo cried. "The jewel shards!!"

 "Hahahahaha!" cackled the Spider Head Leader. "At last, they're mine!!" He then tossed Shippo to the ground, but luckily, Kagome managed to catch him. Then, the giant spider demon devoured the jewel shards, causing him to grunt as he felt the change in his body, then, his human skin was torn away, revealing a dark green skin, large fangs, and bulbous yellow eyes!

 "AAAAARGH!!" he roared. "The power...I can feel it coursing through my very veins!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"

 "Oh, no...this is bad!" Kagome said.

 "What are we gonna do, Kagome?!" Shippo asked.

 Nazuna growled as she glared up at the Spider Head Leader, but then she noticed the Tetsusaiga lying on the ground. Without giving a second thought about it, she grabbed the sword and charged at the demon with a loud cry.

 "Nazuna, no!!" Kagome shouted. "Come back!!!"

 "Curse you, you murderous beast!!" she shouted. "I WILL AVENGE MY FATHER!!!" She then swung the blade at the Spider Head Leader's arm, but it didn't even leave a scratch on him, and yet, in spite of that, she kept trying to cut the demon, who grabbed her and held her up in the air!

 "Nazuna!!" Kagome and Shippo cried.

 "Rrrgh...damn you...!" Nazuna cursed.

 "Aww, don't fret, my dear child," the Spider Head Leader grinned. "Once I devour you, you will join your father, again!"

 "...Father..." Nazuna whispered. "Forgive me...for trusting this monster..."

 Sorrowed by the feelings of regret and failure, the girl dropped the Tetsusaiga...only for it to be caught by someone else.

 "Jeez...can't a guy get some sleep around here?"

 The group looked up and gasped upon seeing that it was Inuyasha, who was standing on his own two feet!

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome exclaimed. "You're all right!"

 "Heh!" Inuyasha smirked. "Sure am." He then looked up at Nazuna. "Hey, Nazuna!"

 "Huh?" Nazuna asked.

 "You got guts," Inuyasha began, "for a human...and I do like guts."

 "So, you're alive after all, eh, half-demon?" asked the Spider Head Leader as he tossed Nazuna aside, then grabbed him and picked him up so that he could meet his face.

 "Oh, no!" Kagome cried. "Inuyasha!"

 Just then, a familiar light began to shine over the horizon.

 "Kagome, look!" Shippo exclaimed. "The sun's starting to rise!"

 "Well, well," said the Spider Head Leader as he held Inuyasha up to his face for further inspection, "you're quite unique, even as far as humans go!"

 "I wouldn't be so sure about that," Inuyasha said...as his eyes began to glow a golden yellow, his ears became pointier, and his hair began to go from black to silvery-white.

 "What?!" the Spider Head Leader questioned. "You're beginning to transform!!" He then opened his jaws. "But I will devour you before you do!!!"

 "I don't think so," Inuyasha said as he raised the Tetsusaiga. "If there's one thing I hate, it's an arrogant spider who doesn't know when to keep his grubby hands off!!" He then squeezed the hilt of his blade, causing the sword to turn into its true form before he cut the leader's arms off!

 "No!" the Spider Head Leader cried. "The sword has regained its power!!"

 "That's right, Spider Head," Inuyasha replied as he pointed his blade at the demon. "Say your prayers!! HYAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

 SLASH!!! With a single swing, Inuyasha cut the giant Spider Head completely in half, causing him to scream in agony before his body completely exploded, causing the remaining Spider Heads to disintegrate, as well!

 "YES!!!" Kagome cheered.

 "He did it!" Nazuna exclaimed. "He destroyed the Spider Heads!"

 "But...what about the Sacred Jewel shards?" asked Shippo, but it was at that moment that Kagome spotted something sparkling on the ground. As she approached, she saw that it looked like a large piece of the Sacred Jewel.

 "Oh, my gosh!" Kagome exclaimed as she picked it up to take a closer look. "The shards must have fused together inside the demon's body!"

 "Wow, it's pretty big!" Shippo mused. "There has to be at least a quarter of it, at least!"

 "Wait a minute!" Inuyasha exclaimed. "That's all we have so far?! I thought we got way more than that!"

 "Hey, it's enough to impress this girl!" Kagome said.

 Nazuna smiled as she watched the trio...but then she looked down the ground, sadly.

 "What's wrong, Nazuna?" asked Kagome.

 "...What am I going to do, now?" she asked. "I have no home...no family...nothing."

 "Oh, Nazuna..." Kagome said, worriedly.

 "Ah, don't sweat it too much," Inuyasha said. "There should be a human village not too far from here that'll take you in. We can take you there by boat, but you'll have to walk the rest of the way."

 "...Inuyasha," Nazuna whispered.

XXX

 

 "I think this is close enough. I can make it to the village from here."

 Nazuna stood on the river bank while Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo sat in the boat.

 "Are you sure you can make it to the village from here?" asked Kagome as she sat next to Inuyasha at the stern.

 "Yes," Nazuna nodded. "Thank you, everyone...especially you, Inuyasha."

 Inuyasha flicked his ears as he glanced at her.

 "I'm sorry for misjudging you," said Nazuna. "It seems...there are good demons out there, after all. I'll try to remember that, next time."

 "Don't get too comfortable," Inuyasha answered. "Not all demons are gonna be so friendly, so I suggest you still watch your back."

 "Same old Inuyasha..." Kagome muttered.

 "I understand," Nazuna said. "Still...thank you all for everything."

 "No problem," Kagome smiled. "Take care, Nazuna."

 "I will," Nazuna nodded.

 Soon, the trio drifted off down the river, waving Nazuna goodbye as they left until she walked away, out of sight.

 "I guess we're going back to Kaede's Village for a while, huh?" Kagome asked.

 "Probably," Inuyasha replied. "...By the way, you guys...my little...um...weakness could be a huge problem for us in the future, but...let's just try and keep it our little secret, understand?"

 "Secret's safe with us," Kagome replied.

 "Yeah!" Shippo nodded. "Our lips are sealed!"

 "...Good," Inuyasha nodded back...but he quietly glanced back at Kagome, who stared out towards the scenery.

 '...He said...I smell nice...' thought Kagome. 'I didn't imagine that, did I? ...I wanna ask him...but...'

 "Kagome?"

 Snapped out of her train of thought, Kagome turned to Inuyasha, who blinked at her.

 "Is everything okay?" he asked. "How come you're just spacin' out like that?"

 A pause...but then Kagome smiled and shook her head.

 "It's nothing to worry about," she said. "Just thinking to myself."

 "...Eh," Inuyasha shrugged as he looked out towards the horizon...but then he glanced down at Kagome's hand. His eyes darted left and right, as if to check and see if anyone was watching...before he slowly inched his hand toward Kagome's...and then wrapped his pinky around hers, causing her to let out a small squeak of surprise before she looked down at Inuyasha's finger, then she looked up at the half-demon, who glanced at her before looking away. Despite that, Kagome smiled as she intertwined her fingers with his, which prompted him to give her hand a gentle squeeze.

 However, their silence was soon interrupted when they heard a groan behind them, causing them to glance back and see Shippo, who was holding his tummy and hiccuping.

 "Whoa," Inuyasha said. "Shippo, you don't look so good."

 "I don't feel so good, either," Shippo replied...before he gagged and covered his mouth.

 "Uh-oh," Kagome muttered.

 "No, no, wait!" Inuyasha cried. "Shippo, hang on! Don't-"

 BLEEEEEGH!!

 "OH, COME ON!!! SERIOUSLY?!!"

 "Sorry..."

 And all Kagome could do was heave a sigh.

Chapter Text

 He was running. The forest floor and trees blurred past his vision with each sprint he made. The wind whipped around his ears and his silvery locks.

 Then, all of a sudden, something whistled through the air, followed by the strong thrum of a bowstring, and as he jumped in front of this lone tree, he gasped in pain as he felt the sharp point of an arrowhead in his chest, pinning him against the tree. Inuyasha grunted as he tried to pull the arrow out, but he felt his body grow weak with each attempt. That's when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching, causing him to look up and see a woman with raven hair, clothed in white and red robes while holding a longbow in her hand. Immediately, Inuyasha growled as he narrowed his eyes, glaring hatefully at the priestess.

 "Kikyo...!!" he hissed, venomously. "Why?!"

 A pause...but then the priestess raised her head, causing Inuyasha to gasp...for it was not Kikyo's face he was staring at.

 "...K...Kagome...?!" he whispered in horror, while Kagome reached into her quiver, pulled out another arrow, and aimed her bow at Inuyasha. "N-no! Kagome, stop! What are you doing?!"

 "...Die, Inuyasha," Kagome said, scornfully as she loosed the arrow...which sailed right toward Inuyasha's heart.

 "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

XXX


 "Inuyasha!" Kagome cried as she shook the half-demon, who was leaning against a tree, moaning in distress, while Shippo stood nearby, watching in concern. "Wake up, Inuyasha! Wake up!!"

 "No...no...!" Inuyasha cried out in his sleep as he tossed and turned. "No!" He then shot straight up and slashed his claws blindly, causing Kagome and Shippo to shriek as they narrowly avoided his talons.

 "Inuyasha, what are you doing?!" Kagome asked.

 "I'll get you for this!!" Inuyasha yelled as he slashed his claws again, this time hitting a nearby tree. "I'll find you, wherever you are!! SHOW YOURSELF!!!"

 "Inuyasha, calm down!!" Kagome cried as she and Shippo dodged another swipe from his claws. "Wake up! You're having a nightmare!!"

 Inuyasha growled as he turned to Kagome, who gasped upon seeing his dulled eyes. Shippo whimpered as he hid behind the junior high school girl, his tail puffed out about twice as big as it usually is. That's when Inuyasha let out a roar as he charged at Kagome, who ran straight toward him and wrapped her arms around him, causing him to gasp as he stopped in his tracks.

 "Stop it, Inuyasha!" Kagome urged. "Please, snap out of it!"

 Inuyasha's eyes went wide...and then he shook his head as he began to regain his senses.

 "K...Kagome?" he asked. "What happened? Where am I?"

 "You're right here," Kagome answered.

 "You were having a bad dream," Shippo began, "and you were trying to attack us in your sleep!"

 "...I was?" Inuyasha asked.

 "It must have been really bad to make you act like that," Kagome said. "What happened?"

 Inuyasha looked to Kagome, who stared at him in concern...before he sighed and looked away.

 "...You don't wanna tell me, right now?" asked Kagome, causing Inuyasha to shake his head. "That's fine. Just tell me when you feel like you're ready, okay?"

 "...Thanks, Kagome," Inuyasha replied as he looked at her, causing her to smile and nod her head.

 '...Why?' thought Inuyasha. 'Why must Kagome have Kikyo's face? Why did they have to look so much alike? And...why am I even thinking about Kikyo, now? ...No...the truth is...she's always been on my mind...'

 Just then, as the wind blew gently through the trees, Inuyasha's nose caught an unfamiliar scent, causing him to look up to the sky and sniff the air.

 "Inuyasha?" asked Kagome. "What's wrong? Do you smell something?"

 "Yeah," Inuyasha replied. "Trouble...a whole stinkin' heap of it."

 "Hey, what's that up there?" asked Shippo as he pointed up at a shadow, flying across the night sky...and Kagome could make the shape of a sickle, being held by the mysterious figure.

 "Who's that?" Kagome asked.

 "I dunno," Inuyasha said. "All I know is that whoever it is, they reek of human blood...and..." He then sniffed the air, again.

 'Wait a minute...that smells like...!'

 "Inuyasha?" Kagome asked. "Is something wrong?"

 "...We need to get back to Kaede's village," Inuyasha said as he turned to leave. "Pronto!"

 "Wait, now?" Kagome asked. "Why? What's the matter?"

 "...I just have a really bad feeling," Inuyasha answered before he bounded off into the trees.

 "Inuyasha..." Kagome whispered before she went to get her bike, then pedaled after him with Shippo riding in the basket.

XXX


 The following day, Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo had arrived back at the village...and needless to say, they were quite surprised to see that some of the village men were in bandages. However, nothing prepared Kagome for what she saw next: Kaede with her right arm in a sling and her forehead wrapped in bandages!

 "Oh, no! Kaede!" Kagome cried as she ran to her side. "Kaede, are you okay?!"

 "Kagome!" Kaede exclaimed as she noticed her. "Ye have returned!"

 "What happened to you?!" Kagome asked.

 "Keh," Inuyasha scoffed. "I'm surprised you're still alive, old lady."

 "Inuyasha...ye are here, too?" asked Kaede. "But why?"

 After a while, Kagome explained to Kaede that Inuyasha had insisted on returning to the village and how he had noticed something was wrong, immediately.

 "I see," Kaede said as the group walked up the shrine steps. "So ye smelled my blood in the air, did ye not?"

 "Well, I wasn't too surprised," Inuyasha began, "considering the fact that you're almost always getting sliced up in some way."

 '...Was Inuyasha worried about her?' thought Kagome as she helped Kaede up the steps, and soon, they reached a large creature that was in front of a broken shrine.

 "...Alas," Kaede said, woefully. "I'm afraid my powers were not strong enough to stop her."

 "Stop who?" Kagome asked as she looked to the crater, which also had slash marks. "And...what is this?" She then looked over at the broken shrine. "And...who did this, for that matter?! Why would anyone desecrate a shrine like that?!"

 "...This is my sister Kikyo's final resting place," said Kaede, causing Kagome to gasp while Inuyasha tensed up.

 "...Kikyo's...grave...?!" Kagome asked. "W-what happened here?!"

 "...Last night, she appeared," Kaede said. "The evil ogress known as Urasue...she came and defiled Kikyo's grave, taking her ashes and bones."

 "What?!" Kagome asked. "Her ashes and bones?!"

 "Even to the eyes of witches," said Kaede, "me older sister possessed extraordinary spiritual power. If those bones should fall into the wrong hands...there is no telling of the disaster to come." She then glanced to Inuyasha, who glared at her. "...Inuyasha...might ye be willing to-"

 "Get Kikyo's ashes back?" Inuyasha asked. "Nothin' doin'!"

 "What?!" Kagome questioned. "But...but Inuyasha-"

 "Don't even start!" Inuyasha barked. "I ain't helpin', Kagome! Besides, you're forgetting that Kikyo and I are sworn enemies!" He then placed his hand over his chest. "I can still feel the pain of when she pierced my chest with that arrow of hers!"

 "...Of course," Kaede replied, sadly. "Forgive me, Inuyasha."

 "...Hmph!" Inuyasha snorted as he walked away.

 "...Inuyasha..." Kagome whispered, worriedly.

XXX


 Inuyasha sat underneath a tree, staring out at the village...and if one didn't know better...he almost seemed melancholy.

 "...Myoga," he spoke up. "How long are you gonna hide?"

 "I hate when you do that," said Myoga as he popped out of Inuyasha's hair. "I really don't want to get involved, you know."

 "Shut up," Inuyasha said. "Now, this 'Urasue' person...who is she, anyway?"

 "To be truthful, sire," Myoga began, "I haven't the foggiest idea. All I know is that she is an ogress and a sorceress."

 "...Something stinks around here," said Inuyasha. "When I caught her scent, last night, I didn't just smell blood...there was also the smell of graveyard soil."

 "Graveyard soil, you say?!" Myoga asked.

 "Why?" asked Inuyasha. "You know something about it?"

 "...No," Myoga replied.

 "...You better not be lying to me, you damn flea," said Inuyasha. "Otherwise, you're gonna find your puny body between my toes!"

 "Eep!" Myoga cried.

 "Inuyasha?"

 Inuyasha looked up and saw Kagome walking up to her.

 "Kagome?" he asked. "What are you doing here?"

 "I came to get you," Kagome said. "Come on...let's go."

 Inuyasha blinked at Kagome...but then he flattened his ears and looked away.

 "And go where, exactly?" he asked. "You better not say to go get Kikyo's remains."

 "Oh, come on, Inuyasha," said Kagome as she sat next to him. "Even sworn enemies should be able to rest in peace, right?"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed.

 "And besides," Kagome began, "it's been 50 years...Kikyo's been dead since then, right?"

 Inuyasha's eyes went wide at that.

 "Can't you just move on from what happened between you two?" asked Kagome...but the half-demon didn't answer, causing her to blink at him, worriedly. "Inuyasha?"

 "What?" Inuyasha asked as he turned to look at her.

 "What's going on?" asked Kagome. "You've been doing that since last night!"

 "Doing what since last night?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Avoiding eye contact with me," Kagome answered before she glared at him. "Don't tell me it's because you still that I look like Kikyo! That's it, isn't it?! That's why you can't look at me!"

 A pause...but then Inuyasha turned to face Kagome completely and grabbed her hand, causing her to gasp.

 "I-Inuyasha?!" she stammered.

 "You're wrong, okay?!" Inuyasha shouted...before his eyes softened. "It's...it's not what you think."

 Kagome gasped...while Inuyasha slowly leaned closer toward her.

 'W...what's he doing?' she thought as he got closer, causing her to gasp.

 "WHOA, WHOA, WHOA, WHOA, WHOA!!" she cried as she pushed him away. "HOLD THE PHONE!!!"

 "AAAH!!!" Inuyasha screamed as he fell backwards, while Kagome whimpered as she held her hands over chest, where she could feel her heart drumming overtime.

 'Okay, now I'm officially weirded out...what's going on with him? He almost...kissed me!'

 "What the hell did you push me for?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "I-I'm sorry!" Kagome stuttered. "It's just...well...you were getting so close and I didn't know what you were going to do and I...I...!" She then sighed. "...I'm sorry, Inuyasha."

 "...I'm sorry, too," Inuyasha said as he looked away with his ears drooping, causing Kagome to walk up to him and put her hand on his shoulder, which prompted him to look at her.

 "Hey, it's okay," she said. "What's an awkward moment between friends, right?"

 "...Heheh," Inuyasha chuckled...albeit halfheartedly. "Yeah...friends."

 Suddenly, they heard the snort of a horse, causing them to look back and see Kaede, holding the reins of a horse as she walked up to them.

 "Kaede?" Kagome asked. "What are you doing? You should be resting!"

 "I have reconsidered," said Kaede. "I, too, am a priestess. I shall recover my sister's ashes on my own strength. Inuyasha...please do me the kindness of pointing me in the direction of Urasue."

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "And just why would I do that? What are you tryin' to do, get yourself killed?"

 "Don't be so harsh, Inuyasha," Kagome said, "although...I do agree with him, Kaede. You're still hurt!"

 "It matters not," Kaede replied. "I'm going. I shall deal with the consequences when I arrive."

 "But Kaede," Kagome started.

 "Oh, save your breath, Kagome," Inuyasha interjected. "There's no point in trying to talk her out of it. The old woman's as stubborn as a freakin' ox." He then grabbed the horse's reins. "Well, let's get a move on, Granny. We'll lay Kikyo's remains to rest again."

 "...Inuyasha," Kaede smiled. "Thank you."

 "...I better go get Shippo," Kagome said. "Something tells me that we should go with you guys."

 "Kagome?" asked Kaede as the girl turned and walked away.

 '...Inuyasha wasn't looking at me, just now...was he?' thought Kagome.

Chapter Text

 The sunset had turned the sky into a deep crimson color...almost giving it the appearance of blood had it not been for the bright yellow clouds. Soon, there would be no daylight to follow the trail. Despite this, Kaede pushed her steed onward while Kagome pedaled along behind her on her bike with Shippo riding shotgun in the basket, and up above, Inuyasha leaped across the rocky cliffs, leading the group whilst he followed the scent of Kikyo's bones.

 As Inuyasha stood atop a rocky outcrop, Kagome looked up at him...and noticed this melancholy expression on his face. She had actually noticed it before...several times, in fact. The very first time she saw it, though, it was when he first heard about Kikyo's demise. He tried to be subtle about it, but Kagome could just barely make out just a hint of sadness in his eyes...just as he had, now.

 'Earlier...Inuyasha wasn't looking at me...he was looking straight through me...to Kikyo...part of him still thinks that I'm her.'

 That night, the group had set up camp and had gathered around a bonfire. Kagome decided to lend Kaede her sleeping bag for the night, not wanting the elderly priestess to face the chill of the night alone. Shippo had already fallen asleep during the journey, so Kagome just put him down next to Kaede. Even though the girl had so many questions she wanted to ask, she didn't want to put any more strain on Kaede than there already was.

 "...Kaede's finally asleep, Inuyasha," said Kagome, softly.

 "...Then we should get to sleep, ourselves," Inuyasha replied. "We got us a big battle coming up, come morning."

 "Wait, what?" Kagome asked in surprise. "You mean we're almost there, already?"

 "Yep," Inuyasha nodded. "I can smell Kikyo's remains...they're not too far off." He then lied down on his side with his arm propped up to hold his head.

 "...Hey, Inuyasha?" asked Kagome, but he didn't answer, meaning he was either asleep or he was just pretending to sleep. Either way, Kagome decided not to bother him.

 If she didn't know better, Kagome would say that Inuyasha looked the same as he did when she first saw him when he was pinned to the Sacred Tree in a 50-year sleep: a peaceful, almost death-like state with roots wrapped around his body. She couldn't imagine what it must have been like. Everything around him had changed with age...but time lost its effect on him while he was sealed by that arrow.

 What happened 50 years ago must have felt like just yesterday to him.

 ...50 years ago...

 'I still don't understand,' thought Kagome. 'Why is Inuyasha going through all this trouble for someone who pinned him to a tree with an arrow? I thought he hated Kikyo...but...earlier...when I looked into his eyes, I didn't see any trace of anger or hatred for her.' She then placed her hand on her chest, where she could still feel her heart beating, overtime. '...My heart is still pounding from what happened, earlier today...I can't believe Inuyasha tried to kiss me!'

 She then gasped silently as she looked up at the half-demon, who was still lying on his side.

 'Wait...could it be...? Was Inuyasha...in love with Kikyo, all along?!'

 The campfire flickered, burning away until the morning light.

XXX


 The next day, after Shippo had gotten through washing his face and taking care of any other...business, the group continued on the path to Urasue's lair, way up in the mountains.

 "Time is of the essence," said Kaede. "We must make haste and recover Kikyo's remains, lest Urasue use them to some evil end. I sense trouble on the path ahead. Dreadfultrouble!"

 "Oh, that's just what we need to hear!" Inuyasha said, sarcastically as he stood atop the backside of Kaede's steed. "If you were so damn worried about Kikyo's remains, why didn't you just scatter her ashes in the river in the first place?! We wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for your humans and your stupid sentimentality!"

 "Inuyasha," Kaede chided. "Have ye no regard for man's gravesites and tombstones?"

 "...Well...a little," Inuyasha muttered.

 "A grave is not just a place to bury a body or ashes," said Kaede. "It is a place of refuge...a shelter for the hearts of those loved ones left behind."

 "...A shelter..." Kagome repeated.

 "Loved ones...left behind...?" Inuyasha whispered.

 "Wow," Shippo spoke up. "I never thought of it, that way."

 "Aye," Kaede said. "My sister, Kikyo, was born a priestess...she and I lost our parents when we were still quite young. I barely remember them, nowadays, mostly because Kikyo was left to raise me on her own. Over time, she used her spiritual powers to protect myself and the village. She warded away specters and evil demons and battled famine and illness, countless times. Ever since her demise, Kikyo's spirit continues to encourage the villagers to overcome any hardships they may face."

 "...The villagers must have really loved her, then," said Kagome.

 "That, they did," said Kaede, sadly, "and so did I." She then sighed. "But the human heart is weak...and people can easily be swayed by the winds of danger and uncertainty. Kikyo's grave was like a reassurance...a haven to encourage the villagers to brace themselves against the storms of life."

 "Hmph," Inuyasha scoffed. "How stupid..."

 '...He's lying,' thought Kagome as she looked up. 'He can talk big all he wants, but I know that behind all that bluster, he's thinking about Kikyo again...he had feelings for her...but she shot him in the chest with an arrow.'

 She then stopped pedaling on her bike as she stared at the half-demon.

 "Huh?" Shippo asked as he looked up at her. "What's the matter, Kagome?"

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered as he glanced back at Kagome, as well, and noticed the almost sad look in her eyes. "...What the...?"

 '...Kikyo...she didn't love Inuyasha in return,' thought Kagome. 'She didn't love him, at all...!'

 "...Okay, that's it!" Inuyasha shouted as he turned around with an irritated look on his face. "What the hell are you gawkin' at?!" He then leaped toward her, landing on the handlebars of her bike. "That's pretty bad when you can even give a half-demon the heebie-jeebies."

 "Uh..." Kagome muttered.

 "I told you before," Inuyasha began, "I don't like it when people look at me that way because just that tells me that you're showing me pity! What's with that misty-eyed look you're giving me?!"

 "Uhh...nothing!" Kagome answered. "I was just thinking about something stupid that's all!"

 "Stupid?" Inuyasha replied. "Stupid like what?"

 "Forget it!" Kagome answered with a sheepish.

 "Out with it, already!!" Inuyasha yelled, only for her to speed downhill on her bike. "Kagome!! I want some answers, NOW!!!"

 "Look! Just drop it!!" Kagome shouted while Shippo sighed.

 "And people say I'm a kid," he muttered.

XXX


 Meanwhile, somewhere up in the mountains...something sinister takes place. Smoke billowed into the air from a stone chimney, and in front of it stood an old, haggard-looking woman with bulbous, red eyes and holding a scythe in her hands.

 It was Urasue, the ogress. She chuckled sinisterly as she raised her sickle and slashed apart the rocks that blocked the opening of the hut, which fell apart to reveal some sort of casket, surrounded by fire.

 "Now then," Urasue said, "let us see what magic my demon kiln has brought to the mixture of bones, ashes, and graveyard soil." She then snickered as she approached the burning casket. "Ah, yes...this could prove to be my finest creation, yet!" She pulled out the sprig from her hairband and threw it onto the casket, causing it to glow as the flames disappeared.

 "Perfect," Urasue grinned as she raised her scythe. "Now, Kikyo...ARISE!!"

 KRAK!! She slammed the tip of the sickle's blade into the head of the casket, causing it to crack in half...and soon after, something, or rather someone emerged from it. Urasue gasped in awe as she backed away...revealing a young woman, her body completely bare. The only thing covering her breasts were her hands and her long, flowing, charcoal black hair.

 Urasue snickered, her sharp fangs glinting.

 "Welcome back...Kikyo," she whispered.

XXX


 Inuyasha gasped as he looked up at the mountaintop, causing the others to stop, as well.

 "What's wrong, Inuyasha?" asked Kagome.

 "You gotta use the bathroom?" Shippo inquired.

 "...Hey, Kaede," said Inuyasha. "You sense that, right?"

 "...Aye," Kaede said. "I'm beginning to fear the worst."

 "...Then let's get going," Inuyasha said as he ran ahead. "We don't have a second to lose!"

 "Hey, wait for us!" Kagome cried.

XXX


 Kikyo sat in her casket, her eyes dull and listless as she looked up at Urasue, who cackled in delight.

 "Kikyo," she said. "Back in the days you were alive, you thwarted many a demon in their attempts to steal away the Shikon Jewel from you...but now, things are different. You will gather the shards of the jewel for me, Urasue! Now rise, Kikyo...rise and fight!"

 Kikyo blinked her eyes, then wordlessly tried to stand. Her legs wobbled under her weight, and when she tried to take a step, her knees buckled and she quickly fell to the floor.

 "What?!" Urasue questioned as she approached her and grabbed her by the hair. "How can this be?!" She then took a closer look at her face...and noticed that her eyes lacked any shine in them. "Her body may have been brought back, but her soul has not returned to her! This body is nothing more than a useless empty husk..." She then tossed Kikyo to the floor. "Curses! My magic could not bring her soul back to her body...which means...her soul could already be reborn into another body!"

XXX


 "I can't believe what I'm doing...!"

 Kagome whimpered as she tried to steady herself on an old, rickety rope bridge, trying to follow Inuyasha while Kaede clung to one side and Shippo scampered along behind them.

 "Inuyasha," Kagome began, "are you sure it's safe to cross this bridge?"

 "Not really," Inuyasha replied, bluntly.

 "What?!" Kagome questioned. "Are you kidding me?! This bridge could give out from right beneath our feet!"

 "Oh, stop whining!" Inuyasha barked. "Just keep walking and don't look down!"

 "Why?" Shippo asked as he looked over the edge. "What happens if you look down-" He then gasped when he saw just how high up they were...so high, that he could barely see the bottom. "AAH!! TOO HIGH, TOO HIGH!!!" He then jumped onto Inuyasha's face, causing him to cry out as he grabbed at him, but in doing so, the bridge began to sway, which caused Kagome to shriek as she and Kaede held on tightly.

 "INUYASHA, DO SOMETHING!!!" Kagome cried.

 "SH-SHIPPO!!" Inuyasha yelled as he tried to pry him off his face. "SHIPPO, GET OFF ME!!!" He then pulled the fox kit off his face. "Dammit, didn't you hear me say don't look down?!"

 "Sorry...!" Shippo squeaked, but then he spotted something out of his peripheral vision. "Hey! What's that up ahead?!"

 The group looked up to see a bunch of shadowy figures approaching, and upon getting a closer look, they saw that they were a bunch of soldiers in armor, lumbering towards them in groups of two, three, and even more than that!

 "Oh, no!" cried Kagome. "Enemies!"

 "Heh," Inuyasha smirked as he cracked his knuckles. "I was just thinking I could use some exercise!"

 "Look out!!" Shippo cried as he pointed behind Kagome and Kaede. "They're coming from behind, too!!"

 "Aah!!" Kagome shrieked as she turned and saw the soldiers beginning to advance on them from behind, as well!

 "Hang on tight, ladies!" Inuyasha called to the two females behind him. "Things are about to get bumpy!" He then charged ahead at the soldiers in front of them. "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!"

 SLASH!!! With a slash of his claws, Inuyasha struck down the soldiers...which shattered into bits of clay.

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered. "They're all made of mud!"

 "FOXFIRE!!" Shippo shouted as he threw a ball of foxfire at the clay soldiers, but it didn't seem to do anything but slightly singe them, causing him to gulp nervously. "Uh-oh! It didn't work!"

 Luckily, Kaede managed to smash them with her bow, even though it looked like she was starting to get tired, especially because the soldiers were still coming toward them!

 "I wish all my enemies were this weak," Inuyasha said as he slashed down some more of the walking clay mummies. "Only problem is they just keep coming!"

 At that moment, Urasue appeared, having heard all the ruckus.

 "Damnation," she cursed. "Why would intruders appear at a time like this?" She then gasped silently as she spotted Kagome. "Hmm? That girl...could it be...?!"

 "Inuyasha, look out!!" cried Kagome, causing the half-demon to turn around and slash another soldier.

 "Urrgh..." he groaned. "Dammit, there's no end to 'em!"

 "AAH!!" Shippo screamed as he pointed at the sky. "LOOK OUT!! INCOMING!!!"

 The group looked up, but the moment they did, the bride was suddenly sliced in half, causing Inuyasha, Kaede, and Shippo to fall toward the abyss, below...and as for Kagome, she found herself in the clutches of Urasue!

 "Oh, no!!" Shippo cried. "Inuyasha, she's got Kagome!!!"

 "Kagome!!!" Inuyasha yelled as he kept falling.

 "Inuyasha!!!" Kagome screamed as she reached her hand out. "Kaede!! Shippo!!!"

 It was too late, for they had disappeared out of her sight while Urasue flew off, carrying the young girl off.

 "Put me down, you crazy old hag!!" Kagome yelled.

 "Silence, girl," Urasue hissed as she put the blade of her sickle dangerously close to Kagome's neck. "Your friends' fates are sealed...and as for you, I do not plan to let you go so easily. Now that I have Kikyo's reincarnation, her revival will soon be complete!"

 "...Kikyo's...revival?" Kagome asked, nervously.

Chapter Text

 "WHOOOOOOOOOAAA!!"

 THUD!!! Inuyasha fell to the ground with Urasue's clay soldiers falling on top of him, shattering into pieces of dried mud and bone. After a moment, he grunted as he pushed the debris off of him and then dusted himself off, grumbling in annoyance.

 "Dammit, what a pain in the balls," he cursed. "I wonder what happened to Shippo and the old bat."

 BAM!! He grunted as a giant leaf fell on top of him...holding Shippo and Kaede.

 "...That answers that question...!" Inuyasha groaned.

 "Sorry, Inuyasha!" Shippo called. "Didn't see you!"

 "That's okay..." Inuyasha replied as he got up. "Where did Urasue go with Kagome?"

 "No doubt she has taken her back to her lair," said Kaede.

 "Why should she take Kagome, anyway?!" asked Shippo, worriedly. "She's not gonna eat her, is she?!"

 "I doubt that, Shippo," Kaede said. "What Urasue has planned for her mayhaps be just as bad, if not worse."

 "What do you mean?" Inuyasha asked.

 "Do ye not remember what I had said about Kagome when she first came to this era?" asked Kaede. "That she is the reincarnation of Kikyo?"

 "Yeah, what about it?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Inuyasha...I implore ye," Kaede said. "Ye must tell me what truly happened between ye and my sister."

 Inuyasha tensed up a bit, but then he glared as he turned away.

 "Keh!" he scoffed. "You think I have time to humor an old woman's-"

 "Ye must tell me, now!" Kaede urged. "If my instincts are correct...ye may just reunite with Kikyo."

 Inuyasha gasped silently while Shippo blinked up at him in confusion...and worry.

XXX


 Meanwhile, up in Urasue's mountain lair, Kagome was lying in a tub full of greenish-blue fluid, surrounded by herbs and her hands and feet bound by ropes.

 'What's going on? I...I can't move...!'

 Nearby, Urasue chuckled as she glanced over at Kikyo...who was now dressed in her old priestess robes, leaning against the rock wall with a listless look in her eyes.

 "Soon, Kikyo," said the ogress. "Soon, your soul will rise from this mortal flesh!"

 Kagome narrowed her eyes in a venomous glare.

 "How many do I have to say it, you old bat?!" she asked. "I'm nobody's reincarnation! How are you gonna explain this if it turns out you're wrong, huh?!"

 "Hmm?" Urasue hummed in bewilderment. "How can this be? The girl speaks, even though she is soaked from head to toe in my mystic herbs! She should be paralyzed, inside and out!" That's when she spotted a familiar pink light, causing her to gasp silently as she eyed the large Sacred Jewel fragment around Kagome's neck. "Ohh...what's this? A shard of the Shikon Jewel, I see!!"

 Kagome gasped silently while Urasue reached for the gem.

 "How fortuitous!" the ogress exclaimed. "I humbly accept this treasure!"

 "Keep your hands away from me!!" Kagome yelled, causing Urasue to shriek as she was hit by some sort of static electricity.

 "Curses!" Urasue hissed as she held her burned hand. "A barrier around the casket?! She really does possess Kikyo's soul!"

 Kikyo blinked before she turned her head away...as if she were looking for something.

XXX

 

 Not too far away, Inuyasha was carrying Kaede on his back while Shippo ran on ahead of him. As they continued to ascent the mountain...Inuyasha had a distant look in his eyes, deep in thought.

 'Kikyo and I...I met her, 50 years ago. In a bid to become a full-fledged demon, I sought the power of the Sacred Jewel of Four Souls...but every time I made the attempt to steal it for myself, Kikyo always stopped me...'

 

Flashback

 

 THUNK-THUNK-THUNK!! Inuyasha grunted as he found his robes pinned to a tree...while not too far from him, Kikyo stood, holding her longbow and a quiver of arrows. The half-demon growled as he glared at her as she prepared to fire another arrow at him, which caused him to gasp and tense up as she began to take aim...but then, she lowered her bow, put the arrow back in the quiver, then turned and walked away. Inuyasha blinked in bewilderment...then growled in irritation.

 "WILL YOU KNOCK IT OFF?!!" he questioned, causing Kikyo to stop in her tracks before she turned and glared at Inuyasha. "Why do you never finish me off?!!"

 "...Leave me alone," Kikyo answered. "I do not wish to waste my arrows on you."

 On that, she walked away, leaving Inuyasha to try and get himself out of the tree.

 'I couldn't understand her, at first. As much as I wanted the Sacred Jewel...I never tried to kill Kikyo...and she never tried to kill me.'

 After a while, Kikyo was seen, sitting upon a grassy hill as the wind blew gently.

 "...Inuyasha, I know you're there," she called. "Why don't you come down and join me?"

 Inuyasha peeked his head out from the trees, blinking in perplexity. After contemplating it for a moment, he decided to take the priestess up on her offer and sat down next to her like a dog on his haunches. However, he still kept his distance, eyeing her warily, as if expecting her to suddenly jump up and attack him at any moment.

 "...This is the first time that you and I have sat together so closely, is it not?" Kikyo asked.

 "Yeah, what about it?" asked Inuyasha.

 "...Inuyasha," Kikyo said. "Tell me...what do I look like to you? Do I look...human?"

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered. "What are you babbling about, now?"

 "...I cannot show any weakness," Kikyo said. "Not a moment's hesitation...not to anyone. If I did, I could be struck down by demons within a moment's notice." She looked up at the sky. "I appear human...and yet, I cannot truly be human."

 Inuyasha blinked at the priestess, who sighed as the wind blew, once more.

 "Inuyasha," said Kikyo. "You and I...we are kindred spirits. You, too, fight for humanity...and that's why I could not kill you."

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed as he stood up. "What gives you the right to complain? I ain't anything like you!" He then turned to leave...only to see that Kikyo was smiling at him...a forced, sad smile.

 "...No," she said. "I shouldn't complain, should I?"

 Inuyasha's eyes went wide...and he felt his heart sink.

 'When I saw those lonely eyes and that sad smile...I realized...Kikyo really was like me...and it made me feel so guilty...after that...I just couldn't get her out of my mind...and I started to follow her pretty much everywhere...'

 

Flashback end

 

 "Hmph..." Inuyasha scoffed. "That turned out to be a mistake..."

 "Pardon?" Kaede asked.

 "...Nothing," Inuyasha replied.

 "...Inuyasha," Kaede began, "if I didn't know better, I would almost say you are remembering the love you once felt for my sister."

 "Don't be ridiculous!" Inuyasha bit back. "Kikyo tricked me!"

 "...She tricked ye?" Kaede asked. "I don't understand."

Flashback

 

 "I can...turn into a human?" asked Inuyasha, sitting on the hill with Kikyo as the sun set behind them.

 "Yes," Kikyo said. "Tomorrow, at dawn, wait for me here....and I will bring you the Sacred Jewel. With it, you can wish to become human."

 "I agreed to it...I agreed to become a human using the jewel's power, but the next day, as I was waiting for Kikyo to bring me the Sacred Jewel..."

 Inuyasha stood in the middle of the forest, waiting for Kikyo to arrive. He yawned, feeling a bit bored and a little hungry from waiting...but then, his ears twitched as he heard the creaking of a bowstring.

 "Huh?" he muttered as he looked back. "Kikyo? Is that you?"

 THUNK!! THUNK!! THUNK!!! Inuyasha gasped as he dodged the arrows, then turned to see Kikyo, who glared at him with her longbow drawn.

 "Die, Inuyasha!!" she shouted.

 "K...Kikyo...?!" Inuyasha whispered. "But...but why?!"

Flashback end

 

 "The rest you know, you old hag," said Inuyasha, coldly. "I attacked the village and tried to steal the Sacred Jewel...but then Kikyo sealed me to the Sacred Tree."

 "What?" Kaede asked. "But...that's impossible!"

 "How is impossible?!" Inuyasha asked. "Kikyo betrayed me!!"

 "That cannot be!" Kaede argued. "The one who betrayed my sister was thou, Inuyasha! You wounded her shoulder!"

 "...Wait," Inuyasha said as the realization struck. "That big bloody wound...that's what she died from?!"

 "...Ye do not remember?" Kaede asked, even more puzzled.

 "Of course not!" Inuyasha shouted. "I don't remember because I didn't do it!!" He then looked down to the ground. "Come to think of it...when Kikyo attacked me...there was something different about her scent. She looked the same, and yet..."

 Kaede's eye went wide at this.

 'None of this makes sense...Kikyo said that Inuyasha was the one who attacked her, yet Inuyasha claims my sister attacked him. Something is definitely amiss...'

 "Inuyasha! Kaede!" Shippo called as he pointed up at the mountaintop. "I can see smoke rising from the top! I think we're almost there!"

 "Then let's hurry," said Inuyasha as he grabbed Shippo and began to jump up toward the summit. "Hang on, Kagome! We're coming!!"

XXX

 

 Back with Kagome, the barrier that shielded her from Urasue was growling larger, forcing the ogress to step back.

 "Inconceivable...!" Urasue hissed. "How can it be that this child's soul could form something so huge?!"

 "Urgh...!" Kagome gagged. "I feel like I'm gonna puke...!!"

 "Why?" Urasue asked. "Why is the soul within her so willing to stay within its new vessel?! ...Unless..." She then glanced back at the motionless Kikyo. "Perhaps this one's life ended in such a tragedy that the soul refuses to return...?!"

 'I...Inuyasha...!' thought Kagome. 'Where are you?! Please help me!!'

 "Kagome~!!"

 Kagome gasped as she looked up to see Inuyasha, Shippo, and Kaede!

 "I...Inuyasha...!" Kagome cried.

 "Kagome!!" Inuyasha cried as he ran towards her and yet stepped away, due to the barrier. "Urgh...damn! I can't get close enough!" He then glared at Urasue. "You! What did you do to Kagome?!"

 "Ah...so you're alive after all," Urasue mused as she held her scythe. "I should have known...half-demon."

 "Ha!" Kaede gasped upon seeing the lifeless husk that was her sister. "K...Kikyo! She lives!"

 "What?" Inuyasha asked before he looked toward Kikyo, causing him to gasp silently. "W...what the...?!"

 Kikyo slowly blinked at Inuyasha...then opened her mouth, as if attempting to speak.

 "Don't speak...do not say my name!!"

 'Huh?' Kagome thought. 'Who...whose voice is that?!'

 Inuyasha gaped in disbelief, unable to comprehend what he was seeing...and yet, the more he stared at this woman with a body of clay and graveyard soil...the more he felt compelled to believe. Here she was...Kikyo, his former love, back from the dead, and looking the same as she did when she died.

 "...K...K...Kikyo...?" he whispered.

 BA-BUMP!! Kagome's heart suddenly throbbed as her body tensed...then, several orbs of white, vaporous light leaped out of her chest!

 "Kagome!!" Inuyasha cried.

 "Kagome, what's wrong?!" Shippo asked.

 "Hahahaha!!" Urasue cackled. "The soul...it is freed!! When you mentioned Kikyo's name, her heart skipped a beat and the barrier burst open!!" She then looked to Inuyasha. "I must thank you, Inuyasha...for you have given me the final ingredient needed to revive Kikyo, at last!"

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "No!" Kaede cried.

 "And now, Kikyo," Urasue began, "may your soul return to its proper body!!"

 Soon, the orbs flew into Kikyo's body, causing her to gasp as she finally took a deep breath...then she shuddered as her body slumped. As for Kagome, she lied limp in the tub of herbal water while Shippo began to shake her.

 "Kagome!" he cried. "Are you okay?! Wake up! Say something!"

 "Foolish fox," Urasue grinned. "That girl is nothing more than an empty husk, now. Now that I'm done with her, I will pickle her in miso and then eat her."

 'Kagome's soul...in Kikyo's body...?!' thought Inuyasha, too shocked to even speak.

 "Urasue, you wretch," Kaede glared. "You dared to use my sister's remains?!"

 "Ah, yes, Kaede," Urasue replied as she looked to Kikyo, who began to stand up, "and with my demonic powers, I have given her a living body from her own bones! In a way, you could say that I am now her mother!"

 "You...you hag!!" Inuyasha growled.

 "And now, Kikyo," Urasue began, "as your mother, I give you these orders: drive off these pests with your restored powers and...eh?"

 Kikyo put her hands on Urasue's shoulders...before she squeezed them, causing the ogress' body to go up in flames!

 "AAAAAAAAAGH!!" Urasue screamed as she writhed about. "YOU FOOL!! NOT ME!!! AAAAAAAAAAARRRGH!!!!"

 "...How dare you...!" Kikyo hissed as she glared, hatefully, at the ogress' burning corpse. "How dare you bring me back to life...from a death that I had no desire to leave from!!"

 "...Kikyo...!" Kaede whispered in shock.

 "...Kikyo," Inuyasha said as he walked toward the revived priestess. "Is it...is it really you?"

 "...Inu...Inuyasha...?" Kikyo asked as she looked toward him before she walked up to him. She stumbled forward, causing Inuyasha to gasp as he ran up and caught her in his arms, which prompted her to look up at him. They stared into each other's eyes, silently, while Kaede and Shippo watched in anticipation.

 "Kikyo..." Inuyasha whispered.

 "Inuyasha..." Kikyo whispered...before she glared at him and thrust her hands against his chest, causing him to scream in pain as he felt a powerful electric shock. Thankfully, he managed to push himself away from her before it could hit his heart, then panted as he looked down at his haori, which had been reduced to shreds.

 "Kikyo," he said as he looked up at her. "W...what's wrong with you?!"

 "...Why?" Kikyo asked as she glared up at him. "Why?! WHY DID YOU BETRAY ME, INUYASHA?!!"

 "...Be...betrayed you...?" Inuyasha repeated.

Chapter Text

"I...I betrayed you?!" Inuyasha repeated. "What the hell are you talking about, Kikyo?!"

 "Don't play games with me!!" Kikyo spat. "Why else would I use the last of my power to seal you?!" She looked down to the ground. "We were never supposed to meet...never again...and yet...!"

 "Kikyo!" Kaede cried as she grabbed her resurrected elder sister. "Stop this madness!!"

 "Who...who are...?" Kikyo asked before she got a closer look. "...It can't be...Kaede?"

 "Yes!" Kaede replied. "'Tis I, your younger sister, Kaede! It has been 50 years since your demise!!"

 "...If you are really my younger sister," Kikyo began, "then why are you defending Inuyasha?!" She then glared at Inuyasha, who stared at her in shock. "That...that damned, detestable half-demon...he tricked me! He wounded me and stole the Sacred Jewel!"

 "Kikyo, what are you talking about?!" Inuyasha questioned. "You were the one who attacked me-"

 "SILENCE!!!" Kikyo yelled, causing him to tense up. "You told me...you told me that you wanted to become human! I trusted you, Inuyasha!! But then...on the day when I was bringing the jewel to you..."

Flashback


 Kikyo walked through the grassy hills, on her way to the forest where she was going to meet Inuyasha...seeming unaware that someone was rushing up to her from behind.

 "Hmm?" she hummed before she glanced back. "Inuyasha?"

 SLASH!! Kikyo screamed in pain as she felt sharp claws rake through her shoulder causing her to fall to the ground...dropping the Sacred Jewel in the process. As she held her bleeding shoulder...she looked up and gasped upon seeing Inuyasha, his claws dripping with blood and a wicked smirk on his face as he held the jewel in his fingers.

 "I...Inuyasha...!" Kikyo whispered. "W-why?!"

 "You're a fool, Kikyo," said Inuyasha. "As if I would ever want to become a human...but I will be taking the Sacred Jewel, nonetheless. Thanks." On that, he turned and walked away. "I think I'll go and see how that little village of yours is doing..."

 "...Inu...Inuyasha...!!" Kikyo said before she growled. "You'll pay for this!!"

Flashback end

 

 "You...you betrayed me, Inuyasha!" Kikyo hissed. "You betrayed my trust and stole the jewel from me!!"

 "...No...!" Inuyasha whispered. "Kikyo...you have it wrong! That wasn't me, I swear-"

 "LIES!!" Kikyo yelled as she snatched Kaede's longbow from her and tried to shoot Inuyasha with an arrow. Thankfully, he jumped out of the way, causing the ground to explode from the impact of Kikyo's spiritual power!

 "Kikyo!" Inuyasha cried.

 "Don't move!!" Kikyo yelled as she prepared to shoot another arrow. "This time, I really will kill you, you half-demon scourge!! I SWEAR IT!!!"

 "...Kikyo...!" Inuyasha whispered in disbelief. "You really hate me...don't you?"

 Meanwhile, Kaede and Shippo were tending to Kagome, who was still unconscious.

 "Kagome," Kaede said as she held her. "Wake up, child!"

 "Is she gonna be okay?!" Shippo asked, worriedly.

 '...Kikyo...' Kaede thought as she looked up at Kikyo. 'Could it be that your soul will not return to Kagome unless you slay Inuyasha for good? Unless the soul can let go of all this scorn...it will never return to the mortal coil. Kagome will never open her eyes again!'

 "Kikyo, please!" Inuyasha urged. "Put the bow down! I don't wanna fight you!"

 "Then you will die for your cowardice," Kikyo said as she loosed the arrow, forcing Inuyasha to draw the Tetsusaiga from its sheath and cut down the projectile...but then, he tossed the sword away and grabbed Kikyo by her wrists!

 "What do you think you're doing?!" Kikyo questioned. "Release me, at once!!"

 "Shut it!" Inuyasha yelled. "I'm not even dreaming about making you care about me, anymore, Kikyo...but I'm not gonna stand here and let you kill me over something I didn't even do!!"

 "You think I will fall your lies?!" Kikyo questioned. "I saw your face!! Who else could it have been?! You deceived me, Inuyasha...you tore into me with your claws...and stole the Sacred Jewel from me!!"

Flashback

 

 Inuyasha and Kikyo sat together on the hill like they always did when they met with each other as the sun began to set behind them.

 "So you...you really think that I can become a human?" asked Inuyasha.

 "Yes," Kikyo replied. "You are already half-human. If the Sacred Jewel falls into the hands of a demon, it powers increase exponentially...it will never be destroyed. However...if it is used to make you an ordinary man, then the jewel will be purified and will disappear from this world, forever."

 "...And you, Kikyo?" Inuyasha asked. "What'll happen to you?"

 "...I am the one who protects the jewel," said Kikyo. "If it disappears...then I will no longer be bound to guard it." She looked up at the sky. "I will become...an ordinary woman."

Flashback end

 

 "You told me you would become human for me," Kikyo said. "Then...you and I would live our lives together!"

 "And I meant it!" Inuyasha argued.

 "More of your lies!!" Kikyo shouted. "I was a fool to trust you, Inuyasha!! I dared to imagine that I would be able to live out my life with you and-"

 "SHUT UP!!!" Inuyasha yelled...as he pulled Kikyo into his arms in a tight embrace, causing her to gasp.

 "I...Inuyasha...?!" she whispered as she slumped against him.

 "Kikyo," Inuyasha began, "I understand...you went through hell, just like I did...and because you're just a regular human...what was really hard for me...must have gone double for you!"

 Kikyo bit her lip as tears welled up in her eyes...then she buried her face into Inuyasha's shoulder.

 "Inuyasha...!" she whispered.

 "Kikyo...!" Kaede said. "Has she been...appeased?"

 "...Inuyasha," Kikyo said as she grabbed Inuyasha's arms. "Release me...it's far too late."

 "What...?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "Inuyasha! Let go of her, now!!" Kaede cried. "Get away, quickly!!"

 "AAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!" Inuyasha screamed as Kikyo sent her power through his body, forcing him to let go of her, once again. He panted as he stumbled back, then looked at Kikyo, who glared at him.

 "...I died hating you," Kikyo said. "My soul cannot move on from that! So long as you live, Inuyasha...MY SOUL CANNOT FIND PEACE!!"

 "...Kikyo...!" Inuyasha whispered in disbelief...his voice breaking.

 "Inuyasha!" Kaede cried. "Make haste! Destroy that body!"

 "What?!" Inuyasha asked.

 "Kaede...!" Kikyo whispered in shock.

 "That body is nothing but a sham, created by demonic magic!" Kaede exclaimed. "Ye must free her, Inuyasha! Free Kikyo's soul from that body!"

 "...It's hopeless," Kikyo hissed. "So long as my hatred remains unspent...my soul can never return to that body." She then glared at Inuyasha. "Inuyasha...all that matters to me, now...is your death!!" She then lunged for Inuyasha, who growled as he cracked his knuckles...and yet, he looked away.

 '...Dammit to hell...I just can't do it...I can't kill her!!'

 "Inuyasha!!" Kaede cried.

 "Watch out, Inuyasha!!" Shippo yelled.

 Then, all of a sudden, Kagome's body jerked...and her eyes flew open!

 "Kagome?!" Kaede asked while Kikyo suddenly collapsed.

 "W...what's happening?!" she asked as the orbs of white light began to fly out of her. "No!! Not now!!!"

 "What's going on?!" Shippo asked.

 "Her soul is being ripped away from her!!" cried Kaede.

 "No!!" Kikyo cried. "CURSE THIS!!!"

 'Kagome...!' thought Kaede. 'Were you trying to call your soul back?!'

 Soon, the orbs flew up into the air...and flew back into Kagome's body!

 "Kagome!!" Inuyasha cried as he ran to her side. "Kagome! Are you okay?!"

 "...Unh...!" Kagome moaned, quietly.

 "...She lives," Kaede said. "Thank the heavens..."

 "Kagome...!" Shippo said, tearfully.

 "Phew..." Inuyasha sighed in relief. "Maybe now, Kikyo can rest in peace..." As he looked back, however...he saw that Kikyo was stumbling away!

 "What?!" Kaede questioned.

 "She's...she's still moving!" Inuyasha exclaimed.

 "It's possible she still has a bit of her soul left!" Kaede exclaimed.

 "Hahahahaha...!"

 The group turned to see Urasue's charred body.

 "Fools," the ogress said, weakly. "What moves Kikyo now...is nothing more than her hatred."

 "U...Urasue?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "She's still alive!!" Shippo cried.

 "Most of her soul seems to have returned to the one you call 'Kagome'," said Urasue, "and yet, the dark power of vengeance stays behind within a body of bones and graveyard soil...it actually suits her. A priestess with a pure heart...has become as vengeful and hateful as any demon she could ever face...how...ironic..."

 With that, she disintegrated into dust.

 "...Damn you, Urasue...!" Inuyasha cursed before he turned and ran after Kikyo. "Kikyo! Come back!!"

 "No! Inuyasha, don't follow her!" Kaede cried.

XXX

 

 Kikyo panted as stumbled away from Urasue's lair, shrouded by fog.

 'I must get away...from that girl...!' she thought. 'If I stay near her...the rest of my soul will be drawn back into her body! I must...get...away...!!'

 Just then, her body grew heavy and she sighed as she slipped off the edge of a cliff, causing her to gasp as she was about to fall towards the abyss below...only for a hand to catch her by the wrist.

 "Kikyo!!" Inuyasha cried.

 "I...Inuyasha?!" Kikyo asked.

 "Kikyo, please! You can't do this!" Inuyasha shouted. "It can't stay like this!" His eyes then softened. "Kikyo...please...you have to go back...go back inside Kagome!"

 "...Go back?" Kikyo repeated. "Inuyasha...are you implying...that you wish for me to die, again?"

 Inuyasha gasped silently.

 "...If I am to return to that girl," Kikyo began, "that means...I shall no longer be who I am. That's what you want...isn't it, Inuyasha?"

 "K...Kikyo...!" Inuyasha whispered.

 "...I refuse," Kikyo said as she grabbed the half-demon's wrist...and sent a powerful shock through his body, causing him to scream, again. "I told you before, Inuyasha! The day I die...is the day that YOU die!!"

 "Kikyo...stop!" Inuyasha cried. "PLEASE!!"

 Suddenly, the cliff crumbled and Kikyo slipped from Inuyasha's grasp, causing him to gasp as he grabbed onto the ledge.

 "NO!!" Inuyasha cried as he reached his hand out to her. "KIKYO~!!!"

 It was too late...Kikyo disappeared beneath the fog.

 "...Kikyo...!" Inuyasha whispered before he turned away, then climbed back up to the mountaintop. As he began to limp back to Urasue's lair...he began to think back to what happened, 50 years ago.

 '...Dammit...why did it have to end this way? 50 years ago...an impostor took on Kikyo's form and attacked me...and that same impostor took on my appearance and attacked Kikyo. Whoever did this...they held a grudge against the both of us...! Damn them!!'

 Soon, Inuyasha made it back Shippo, Kaede, and Kagome, who groaned as she woke up.

 "Unh...Shippo? Kaede?" she asked. "Where am I?"

 "Kagome!" Shippo exclaimed. "You're awake!"

 "Are ye all right, child?" Kaede asked.

 "Aside from the fact that it feels like my head feels really heavy," Kagome began, "I think I'm okay." She then looked up and noticed Inuyasha, causing her to gasp as she tried to get up. "Inuyasha! Oh, my god, are you all right?! What happened?!"

 "...Kagome," Inuyasha said. "Are you okay?"

 "Never mind me!" Kagome argued. "What happened to you?!"

 "...Don't worry about it," Inuyasha answered. "I'm just glad you're all right." He then grunted as he held his arm. "Come on...let's just go home, already."

 "But...but Inuyasha!" Kagome cried.

 "I said let's go!" Inuyasha shouted as he limped away.

 "...Inuyasha," Kaede said, causing him to turn and look at her. "...What happened to Kikyo?"

 A pause...but then Inuyasha looked away, his eyes cast to the ground.

 "...I see," Kaede said, sadly.

 "Wait, what?" Kagome asked. "Did I miss something?"

 "It's over, Kagome," said Kaede. "That's all that matters."

 "She's right," Inuyasha said as he kept walking. "Let's just go."

 Kagome blinked at Inuyasha, worriedly before she followed him, grabbed onto his shoulder, and leaned against him to support his weight. Inuyasha blinked at her...but then he smiled as they began to head off.

 'We may not have gotten her remains back,' thought Inuyasha, 'but...maybe now...Kikyo can rest in peace.'

 ...Or so he thought.

XXX

 

 Down below the mountain cliffs...a hand emerged from the river before dragging itself out...revealing Kikyo, who panted and coughed as she stumbled onto the bank. As she did...she gave an eerily giddy laugh as she hugged herself.

 'I...I'm alive...Inuyasha...I'm still alive...!!'

Chapter Text

 Raindrops showered the village, giving much-needed water to the farmers' crops. The creatures of the forest, big and small, took shelter beneath the canopy of the trees and underneath stones to keep dry from the weather. However...one did not find any shelter of any kind...nor did he choose to.

 Inuyasha sat in the branches of the Sacred Tree...the raindrops soaking him head to toe. The water dripped off his face and down his clothes. He sighed as he stared up at the sky, filled with gray clouds as the rain continued to fall.

 It had been 2 days after the encounter with Urasue as well as the resurrected Kikyo...who bore nothing but intense hatred for Inuyasha, claiming vehemently that the half-demon had betrayed her 50 years ago. Despite Inuyasha's best efforts, he failed to convince the spiteful priestess that it was not true. Just when Kikyo was preparing to kill Inuyasha, Kagome suddenly summoned her soul back to her body, forcing Kikyo to flee. Inuyasha tried to save her from plummeting off of a cliff to her doom, but alas, Kikyo refused to allow herself to be saved.

 She had not been seen since that very day...and has been assumed dead since then...and ever since that day, Inuyasha had grown rather morose. He wouldn't eat, he didn't talk to anyone, he'd just...sit here in the tree, just staring up at the cloudy sky. He sighed as he leaned against the tree, then glanced down at the trunk, where he could make out the bare spot where he had been pinned.

 "Inuyasha?"

 Inuyasha looked down upon hearing his name being called and spotted Kagome, who stared up at the tree with a concerned expression on his face as she held an umbrella over her head.

 "Inuyasha, can you come down from there, please?" Kagome asked. "I wanna talk to you."

 "Why don't you just slam me into the ground, instead?!" Inuyasha questioned, causing Kagome to glare up at him...then she sighed before she dropped her umbrella, climbed up the tree, although it was a bit slippery due to the rain, and sat down on the branch next to Inuyasha, who glanced at her for a moment before he looked away.

 "...Kaede and Shippo told me what happened," Kagome said. "About Kikyo."

 "What of it?" Inuyasha asked. "Kikyo thinks I betrayed her...so what?"

 "So what?" Kagome repeated. "So everything! Inuyasha, Kikyo's wrong and you know it! Some faker attacked her, not you!"

 "It doesn't matter anymore!" Inuyasha barked. "It's over and done with, all right?! Kikyo's dead again, just as it should be!!" He then looked away...but Kagome just stared at him before she reached over and put her hand on his shoulder.

 "Inuyasha," she started, "please...you're hurting...and I want to help you, but not if you won't let me...please?"

 "...You won't understand," Inuyasha said.

 "I can try," Kagome countered. "Inuyasha, I know you say you're fine, but I know that you're anything but fine...in fact, you're far from fine. You're upset and heartbroken...because you loved Kikyo."

 Inuyasha's eyes went wide.

 "And it hurts you that she died hating you," Kagome said.

 "...I...I thought she loved me," Inuyasha said...his voice beginning to crack. "I thought I finally found someone who accepted me...but when I found out what happened to her and tried to tell her the truth...she didn't believe me...and it hurts...!" He then sniffled as tears welled up in his eyes. "It hurts so much, Kagome...! It wasn't supposed to end this way!" He choked back a sob, just as a thunderclap rumbled in the sky. "It wasn't supposed to end like this!!"

 Soon, the dams broke and Inuyasha's tears came falling at full force, prompting Kagome to pull him into her arms, which caused him to return her hug, sobbing into her shoulder as the rain kept pouring down on the two of them. As Inuyasha cried, Kagome bit her lip as she felt tears sting at the corners of her eyes.

 'I'm so sorry, Inuyasha...I'm so very sorry...!'

 "...Kagome?"

 "Yeah, Inuyasha?"

 "...Please...don't leave me...!"

 Kagome gasped silently...before she hugged Inuyasha even tighter.

 "Of course not!" she declared. "I'll never leave you, Inuyasha...not ever."

 Inuyasha sniffled as he pulled away from Kagome, who stared up at him...and then, he pulled her into his embrace...and captured her lips in his own. Kagome squeaked in surprise, her eyes widening and her cheeks flushing red. Inuyasha's eyes remained closed as he continued to kiss Kagome...whose eyes softened before she leaned against him, her arms wrapped around his neck. They soon pulled away from each other and stared into one another's eyes, wordlessly before they embraced each other.

 They didn't know what this meant...but right now, they didn't care. They just had each other. That was all that mattered to them.

Chapter Text

 Kagome lied on the futon in Kaede's hut, staring up at the ceiling while Shippo lied curled up at her side, completely unaware of her anxiety. She clutched at the blanket before glancing out the window to see the stars and the moon. It had to be at least past midnight by now...and yet, she just couldn't sleep.

 'I just can't believe it,' thought Kagome. 'Inuyasha...he kissed me...on the lips!'

 She then sighed as she turned over onto her side.

 'So...what does this mean, now? Does this mean Inuyasha's my boyfriend? ...Or maybe...he only kissed me because he felt so many emotions at once and couldn't help himself...I mean, I guess I can't blame him. His dead girlfriend died hating him...and now she's dead, again...and she'll probably never know that Inuyasha never betrayed her.'

 She then pulled the covers over her head.

 '...Does...does this mean Inuyasha actually loves me? I'm so confused...'

 Up on the roof, Inuyasha lied on his back with his hands behind his head, staring up at the night sky.

 'I can't believe I kissed Kagome,' he thought. 'What does this mean for us? Are we still friends? Or...maybe it was just how I was feeling about Kikyo...?'

 He then growled in frustration as he turned over.

 "Screw it," he said. "I just can't sleep..."

XXX


 The following day...

 "Ye are off, again?" Kaede asked.

 "Yeah," Kagome agreed as she stood next to her bike while Inuyasha stood next to her and Shippo sat in the basket, as usual. "Gotta keep looking for the jewel shards. Who knows how many are left out there?"

 "I understand," Kaede replied. "I wish ye a safe journey."

 "Thanks, Kaede," Kagome said.

 "Well, are we gonna keep standing here, jabberin' on?" asked Inuyasha with his arms folded inside his sleeves. "Let's get a move on, already!"

 "Right," Kagome nodded before the trio headed off on the open road. As they walked, Kagome glanced at Inuyasha, who glanced back at her, but then he looked away with a light flush on his cheeks, which prompted Kagome to do the same. Shippo blinked back and forth between the two in bewilderment as he sat in the basket.

 '...Am I the only one who sees there's something going on between them?' he thought.

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, at a castle that was quite a ways from the village...

 "A monk of high virtue, you say?" asked the lord of the castle.

 "Yes, milord," answered a servant. "At least...he claims to be one."

 "Hmm..." the lord hummed. "All right, let him enter. If he fails, chase him out like all the others!"

 "Yes, milord," the servant bowed his head before he went to the castle gate, where a young man sat waiting. He had to be at least 18 years old with black hair that had thick bangs and the back was tied up in a small ponytail. He wore rather extravagant robes of purple and black, as well as some sort of arm protector around his right hand, plus some light blue rosary beads. In his hand was a Shakujo staff, a traditional weapon for monks of this era.

 "Ahem," the servant cleared his throat. "Monk Miroku, is it?"

 "Yes," the monk, Miroku, affirmed.

 "Know that if you fail to exorcise the demon that from the princess," the servant began, "this castle will not even allow you so much as a single bowl of gruel."

 "I understand," Miroku said as he stood up and entered the castle courtyard.

 Soon, the lord brought Miroku inside the castle, where he sat in his bedchambers and found it filled with all sorts of lavish treasures.

 "My word," the monk said. "In these times of war and strife, you seem to live in great luxury, milord. I do hope you are not the subject of envy for your people."

 "Bite your tongue, monk!" the lord shouted. "Now then, allow me to explain. Three months ago, my dear daughter collapsed, outside in the castle garden. We have tried all the medicine we could think of, yet nothing works. Our only hope is perhaps the Divine Mercy of Buddha."

 "Say no more," said Miroku as he stood up. "Take me to your daughter."

XXX

 

 Inside a shrine, a woman lies before a statue of Buddha, completely motionless. The only sign that she was still alive was the steady rising and falling of her back as she breathed. At that moment, her father entered the room with Miroku following after her.

 "Princess?" the lord asked. "My dear daughter, a monk has come to attend to you."

 "Let me take a closer look," said Miroku as he gently rolled the princess over, revealing a rather pudgy-looking face and small eyes. "Goodness! Her face is immensely swollen!"

 "That's how she always looked!" exclaimed the lord.

 "...Do tell," Miroku muttered in slight annoyance before he glanced at the idol. "Hmm? Milord, tell me...where did you get this statue from?"

 "That?" the lord asked. "It's just something we salvaged from some down-and-out aristocrat."

 "Is that so?" Miroku asked as he took a closer look at the statue...which, for some reason, seemed to sweat nervously. "I understand the situation entirely. Milord, I ask that you remove your household from the premises...but leave your daughter here."

 "What?!" the lord asked.

 "Understand this," Miroku said in a warning tone. "No matter what sounds you might hear, you must not come in. Do you understand?"

 "I...I understand," the lord nodded before he left.

 Once Miroku was certain that the entire castle was empty, save for himself and the princess, he held up his staff toward the statue.

 "Now then," he started, "why don't you show yourself and I just might forgive you with a merciful heart."

 A pause...but then the statue began to tremble before it took on a much more sinister appearance, complete with an evil grin on long fangs!

 "I didn't think it would be so easy," said Miroku as something leaped out of the statue: a giant weasel! And that wasn't all, for the monk spotted a familiar shine on the top of its head!

 "Aha!" he exclaimed. "A shard of the Sacred Jewel!"

 WHACK!!! He thrust the tip of his staff against the weasel demon's head, causing it to shriek in pain.

XXX

 

 "What was that?!" asked one of the castle staff. "The shriek of a beast?!"

 "What's going on in there?" asked another.

 "We must not enter!" the lord ordered. "The monk stated for us not to enter, no matter what we heard! And besides, I don't need to get any exorcism backwash on me!"

 That was when they heard odd crashing sounds from inside the castle.

 "But...milord!" said one of the servants. "It sounds like the palace is getting ransacked!"

 "Wait! Just wait!!" the lord insisted.

 After a while, as the sun began to set, the lord and his household assured themselves that it was safe to enter the castle after the noises had finally ceased. As they walked in, they found their princess now awake and a dead weasel by her side. Apparently, the weasel had turned into a demon and disguised itself as the statue of Buddha in order to eat the princess' soul. However, as the staff went to go find and thank Miroku for expelling the demon, they were all horrified to find all the castle's treasures had vanished!

 "We've been had!!" the lord shouted. "Even the horses are gone!!!"

 Not too far away, Miroku chuckled as he sat in a wagon that was pulled by three horses, and the wagon itself was filled with all sorts of valuables, such as vases and silk.

 "I think that went well," said Miroku. "Now...where should I sell these?"

XXX

 

 But meanwhile, in another part of the mountain, Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo were still out on their hunt for the Sacred Jewel shards...but for some reason, the latter seemed distant.

 "Kagome?" Shippo asked. "I'm worried about Inuyasha."

 "Me, too," Kagome whispered, "but try not to let him know it. You know how he likes to put up a front, sometimes."

 Shippo glanced back at Inuyasha, who stared up at the sky with his arms folded.

 '...I wonder if maybe he feels bad about kissing me,' thought Kagome. 'He's probably thinking that we should have just stayed friends...and...I'm starting to think the same way. After all, Kikyo died all over again and he had to watch her. There's no way he's over that so quickly...she was his first love.'

 Inuyasha stared up at the orange and red sky, watching as two sparrows flew overheard, tweeting and chirping happily as they flitted around each other, rubbing their heads against one another as a sign of affection...and seeing it caused his heart to clench.

 "Inuyasha!" Shippo called. "Come on! I thought we were in a hurry to find the jewel shards!"

 "I know that, you little runt!" Inuyasha barked before he sighed.

 '...I still wanna find the Sacred Jewel shards,' he thought, 'but...after the jewel is put back together...what will I do, then? If I become a fully-fledged demon...what will happen after that? Will my heart and soul become stronger, too? And...what about Kagome? What will she do? What will...we do?'

 "Inuyasha, are you coming?" Kagome asked.

 "Uh...yeah!" Inuyasha answered as he followed her. "Here I come!"

 'What's wrong with me?' he thought. 'Every time I even look at Kagome...I feel like things have gotten more awkward between us...and yet, I also feel like I can't be away from her...what's wrong with me?'

XXX

 

 Later that night, in a hot spring hidden in the mountains, Miroku sat in the soothing waters with a small troop of monkeys...but it seemed he didn't really take much pleasure in his soak.

 "So much so for valuable," he muttered. "Turns out all those treasures that 'lord' had are all worthless." He then sighed before he held up the Sacred Jewel he had collected in his fingers. "Well, at least some good came out of this. However, one measly shard is not enough, in my opinion. Oh, well."

 "Oh, wow! A hot spring!"

 "Hmm?" Miroku hummed inquisitively as he peeked out from behind a rock. "A traveler, this far up in the mountains?"

 As he looked, he saw Kagome, who had shed her clothes and was taking herself a nice dip in the hot springs, as well. However, that wasn't the only thing that got Miroku's attention, for he also spotted the large Sacred Jewel fragment around the girl's neck.

 'What in the world?!' thought Miroku. 'A Sacred Jewel fragment, and they're- err, I mean...it's huge!'

 "Inuyasha, you wanna come in with me?" asked Kagome. "I bet you'd like a nice soak."

 'Inuyasha...?' Miroku thought, only to gasp silently upon spotting him standing near a tree, nearby, his back turned away from the springs.

 "Uh...no thanks," Inuyasha said. "I don't like to bathe much."

 "Well...maybe after I'm done, you can get in?" asked Kagome.

 "...Maybe," Inuyasha replied.

 "...Okay, that's fine," Kagome said before she looked at Shippo, who blinked at her, curiously, which caused her to smile. "Shippo, you wanna come in with me?"

 "Can I, really?!" Shippo asked in delight.

 "Sure! Hop in!" Kagome replied.

 The eager fox kit giggled as he soon stripped off his clothes before he jumped right in with Kagome, who giggled as she held him close to her so that he wouldn't sink to the bottom.

 "Ahh..." Shippo sighed in content. "This is nice."

 "Yeah," Kagome smiled. "This is just what the doctor ordered."

 "Hey, Kagome?" Shippo asked. "How come Inuyasha doesn't wanna come in? Isn't it more fun if we all bathed, together?"

 "Hmm?" Kagome hummed. "What do you mean?"

 "Well, when my Mother and Father were still alive," Shippo began, "we all used to take baths in the creek together and we'd have a great time! So how come Inuyasha doesn't wanna come in?"

 "Oh, he's just respecting my privacy as a woman, that's all," Kagome replied. "You know what they say: chivalry isn't dead."

 "Huh?" Shippo muttered.

 "You'll get it when you're older," Kagome replied.

 'I thought maybe a dip in the hot springs would help Inuyasha relax a little...but I guess he really is like a dog in some ways.'

 Just then, something grabbed Kagome by her hair and pulled, causing her to let out a shriek.

 "Kagome?!" Inuyasha asked as he jumped out of his hiding place. "What's wrong?!" He then gasped as he saw Kagome standing in the water while holding Shippo. Behind her was a monkey that was chittering playfully as it pulled at a lock of her hair...but that wasn't why Inuyasha stopped.

 It was because Kagome's body was completely bare for all the world to see, her breasts and...lower areas shrouded in mist, causing both her and Inuyasha to blush a deep red. Then, Kagome yelped as she quickly covered herself, still holding Shippo in the crook of her arm, while Inuyasha stumbled out of the water and slumped against a rock.

 "...Well...I wasn't prepared to see that," he said.

 "Umm...hey, Inuyasha?" Kagome asked, causing the half-demon to glance up at her...and see that she was all wrapped up in a towel, as well as Shippo. "If you want...you can go in, now. Shippo and I are done."

 "...Uh...yeah," Inuyasha replied as he stood up. "I'll...see you back at the camp."

 "Mm-hmm," Kagome nodded as she walked away and took her clothes and Shippo with her, and once they were out of sight, Inuyasha sighed as he began to take off his clothes next.

 'Nice way to screw things up, Inuyasha. Now she's probably mad at you!'

 Not too far away, Miroku was just getting out of the springs, himself, putting his robes back on.

 'So, that girl is with another man, is she? Too bad...I do hate having to resort to violence.'

 "Oh, well," he muttered as he cracked the joints in his right hand.

XXX

 

 THWAK!!

 "OUCH!!"

 Miroku stood before a large raccoon dog wearing a white and red suikan, a purple vest, and a pair of blue hakama.

 "Allow me to explain!!" the tanuki cried. "I merely asked for a guarantee!!!"

 "I told you would be compensated, Hachi," said Miroku.

 "Yes, Master Miroku," the demon, Hachi, nodded his head.

Chapter Text

 The next day, Inuyasha and Kagome were walking through a mountain pass while Shippo, as usual, rode in the latter's bicycle basket. Inuyasha was walking at least several feet behind Kagome, his arms crossed inside his sleeves and a distant look in his eyes. Kagome glanced back at the half-demon, who glanced back at her, which prompted her to give him a soft smile, but Inuyasha only looked away, which caused the young priestess to sigh.

 "Come on, Inuyasha," Kagome said. "How long are you gonna gimme the silent treatment? I told you, I'm not mad at you! What happened last night was an accident! It's not like you meant to see me naked!"

 "I saw nothing!" Inuyasha rebutted with a slight blush on his face.

 "Uh...you kinda did," Shippo pointed out.

 "Nobody asked you, Shippo!!" Inuyasha barked, causing the kit to yelp as he looked ahead.

 Meanwhile, up on a cliff overhead, Miroku stood with Hachi as they watched the passing group.

 "You're saying that I should attack the half-demon?" asked Hachi.

 "That's right," Miroku began, "and in the confusion, I'll make off with the girl."

 "I don't really understand, Master Miroku," said Hachi. "Why not use the power of your right hand to subdue him?"

 "I would," Miroku began while holding up his right hand, "except I would risk using it against anyone in the vicinity...including you."

 "Uh...fair point," Hachi said as he put a leaf on his head. "I hope you remember who your friends are, should this go out of control."

 With that, he jumped up into the air before he was enshrouded in a puff of smoke.

 Down below, Kagome continued to walk ahead of Inuyasha.

 "Come on, Inuyasha," she said. "Can't you at least say one word to me? Let's just try and enjoy the nice day!"

 "She's right!" Shippo agreed. "It's a great day out! And listen to the sounds of the forest! The birds chirping, the wind blowing, the sound of a boulder rolling toward us-"

 "BOULDER?!!" Inuyasha and Kagome questioned as they looked up and saw a giant boulder rolling toward them...and the boulder had a face!

 "DIE~!!!" it roared.

 "HOLY CRAP!!!" Inuyasha cried before the boulder crashed into him while Kagome and Shippo jumped out of the way, although the latter ended up falling with Inuyasha!

 "Inuyasha!! Shippo!!!" Kagome cried.

 "WHOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAA!!!" both demons cried out as they fell toward the ground, but then, Kagome found herself grabbed from behind and pulled onto the lap of Miroku, who was sitting on her bike!

 "W-what the-?!" Kagome questioned. "Who are you?!"

 "Have no fear, young miss," said Miroku as he began to (somehow, without falling) pedal away. "I am but a humble monk who happened to seek the Sacred Jewel shard...and got a young lady to boot."

 "Excuse me?!" Kagome questioned. "What do you think I am, some kind of consolation prize?!!"

 "Rrrrgh...!" Inuyasha growled as he tried to hold the boulder back, but then he spotted Miroku riding off with Kagome. "Ah! Kagome!!"

 'And who the hell is that with her?!'

 "I don't got time to mess with you, you bastard!!" Inuyasha yelled as he punched the boulder in the face, causing it to get sent flying off against the cliff wall, and as it looked up, it gasped in horror upon seeing Inuyasha holding the Tetsusaiga.

 "If you don't get outta my way..." the half-demon warned, causing the boulder to shriek before it shrunk in a puff of smoke, revealing it to be Hachi, all along.

 "Please, don't hurt me!" the tanuki cried. "I'm nothing more than an innocent raccoon dog!!"

 "Oh, dear," said Miroku. "It seems my cohort has been caught." He then raised his right hand while pulling away the beads from his palm. "This is why I often work alone..."

 Just as Inuyasha was preparing to cut Hachi down, his sword was inexplicably pulled out of his hand, and not long after, he was pulled, too, right into the cliff wall!

 "OOF!!" he cried with his feet sticking out. "...Well, this is embarrassing..."

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried before she pushed Miroku away. "Put me down!"

 "Of course," Miroku obliged as Kagome ran to Inuyasha's side...not realizing that he was holding the Sacred Jewel fragment in his hand. "Especially now that I have what I came for." With that, he pedaled off on Kagome's bike.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome cried as she slid down the cliff. "Are you okay?!"

 "Don't just stand there," Inuyasha said in a muffled voice. "Get me outta here!"

XXX

 

 A few minutes later, Kagome had gotten Inuyasha out from the cliffside.

 "Dammit to hell!" Inuyasha cursed. "That bastard...making a monkey outta me! Who the hell does he think he is?!"

 "He said that he was a monk," Kagome answered, "but..."

 'Earlier...when he held up his hand...he did...something...and I felt like I was being pulled toward some sort of powerful wind...but how could he do something like that from such a distance.'

 She then gasped in realization.

 "Oh, no!" she cried. "That jerk stole my bike!!"

 "...Seriously?" Inuyasha asked. "All you're worried about is your dumb iron cart?! You were almost kidnapped, y'know! I can't take my eyes off you for even a second, can I?!"

 "...Were you...worried about me, Inuyasha?" Kagome asked.

 "...A little," Inuyasha admitted with a slight blush on his face, causing her to smile.

 "...I'm sorry," she said.

 "Keh," Inuyasha scoffed. "Well, you're okay...but anyway, let's get going."

 "...Um...Inuyasha?" Kagome asked. "I realized something else."

 "What?" Inuyasha inquired.

 "Well...do you notice anything else missing?" Kagome asked, sheepishly.

 Inuyasha blinked for a moment...before he gasped in horror.

 "SHIT!!!" he cursed. "THAT BASTARD TOOK THE SACRED JEWEL SHARD!!!!"

 "Hello...?" Shippo asked, weakly as he climbed up. "Have you guys forgotten about me?"

XXX

 

 A few minutes later, Inuyasha was leaping down an open road, headed towards a heavily populated village while Kagome and Shippo rode on his shoulders.

 "Damn that monk!" Inuyasha cursed. "That rotten thief! I'll find him, yet! He couldn't have gotten too far! It's impossible to ride that iron cart of yours without falling over!!"

 "...Uh...Inuyasha?" Kagome asked. "Did you...try to ride my bike?"

 "SHUT UP!!!" Inuyasha yelled as his face flushed red in embarrassment.

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, in the village, Miroku had decided to stop here for a rest after he had absconded with Kagome's bicycle and the jewel fragment and decided to indulge himself at a geisha house...except they were anything but beautiful.

 "Would anyone like to dance?" asked one of the girls...who had a rather plump face.

 "Anyone like to dance with me?" asked another, this one looking just as homely as the last.

 "Haa..." Miroku sighed as two women sat at his sides, one serving him sake while the other rubbed his shoulders. "So much for beautiful geishas..."

 'I knew I should have brought that girl along...what a wasted opportunity.'

XXX

 

 "Umm...Inuyasha?"

 "Quiet! I'm trying to track down that punk's scent! Dammit, it's so hard to differ that bastard's scent from every other person in the village..."

 Inuyasha was on the ground, sniffing like a dog on the hunt while Kagome and Shippo stood nearby. Now Kagome wouldn't have such a problem with it...if not for the fact that they were all surrounded by the villagers. Even the animals seemed suspicious!

 "Inuyasha, please get up," Kagome pleaded. "People are staring!"

 "Yeah, and I don't like the looks they're giving us," Shippo added, nervously.

 "I said don't bother me!" Inuyasha said as he kept sniffing.

 "Demons?" asked one of the village men. "Here, in the village? Amongst so many of us human folk?"

 "The ones with the dog ears and the fox tail are certainly demons," whispered another, "but what of the girl? She has such peculiar clothes."

 "A demon, she must be..." whispered an old man.

 "EEK!!" Kagome yelped.

 "Hurts, don't it?" Inuyasha asked.

 Soon, at Kagome's urging, the trio moved to a more barren part of the village, away from the people's eyes, and yet, they found no sign of the monk.

 "Inuyasha," Kagome said, "maybe he didn't come through here."

 "He was here, all right," Inuyasha rebuked. "I can smell him!"

 "Even if he did come through here," Kagome began, "a thief wouldn't just make himself obvious like- OH!!" She pointed toward the nearby geisha house...where her bike was standing.

 "Bingo," Inuyasha smirked.

XXX

 

 "Oh, come now, monk," said one of the homely women as she held Miroku's left hand. "Please, why don't you come and join me?"

 "Umm...I would," Miroku began, "except I'm...so terribly shy."

 "Oh, don't be so coy," said the geisha. "I promise, I won't bite!"

 Miroku groaned at his misfortune.

 'By the Buddha, someone, ANYONE get me out of this mess that I'm in!'

 "AAAAAAAAAH!!" a woman shrieked. "DEMONS!!!"

 Miroku turned around and saw none other than Inuyasha and Kagome while Shippo was made to wait outside.

 "There you are!" Inuyasha yelled.

 "Bicycle thief!" Kagome shouted.

 "Oh! It's you!" Miroku exclaimed...as he ran to Kagome and held her hands. "It seems fate has smiled upon me, yet! I'm ever so happy to see your face...err...I'm sorry, I don't think I ever got your name."

 "Uh...Kagome...?" Kagome answered in bewilderment. "Kagome Higurashi..."

 "Kagome," Miroku smiled. "Such a lovely name. It suits you."

 "...Thank you...?" Kagome replied, even more perplexed.

 "Excuse me..." Inuyasha growled as he cracked his knuckles. "JUST WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!!"

 "Whoa!" Miroku cried as he ducked down from the half-demon's claws as he swung, hitting the doorframe while the monk backed away. "Now, now...let's not be reckless!"

 "Give back the Sacred Jewel fragment you took from us," Inuyasha growled as he cracked his knuckles, again.

 "I think not," Miroku said as he held up said-fragment. "Such a treasure should not be held in the hands of a demon."

 "Like you have room to talk!" Inuyasha barked as he lunged at Miroku, who quickly jumped away before he ran out toward the village, but the half-demon gave chase after him. "Get back here, damn you! Turn around and fight me, you coward!!"

 "I will not fight a pointless battle!" Miroku answered as he kept running.

 "Then I'll give it a point," Inuyasha said as he drew the Tetsusaiga. "YOUR DEATH!!"

 "Oh, dear," Miroku said before he turned around and blocked Inuyasha's sword with his staff with little to no effort!

 'What the?!' thought Inuyasha. 'He parried the Tetsusaiga so easily?! This guy...he's no ordinary monk!'

 "So, my friend," Miroku began, "what if the point of this battle...is your death?"

Chapter Text

 "Everyone, gather around!!" cried one of the villagers. "The monk is about to slay the demon!!"

 A large crowd had gathered at the village square, among them being Kagome and Shippo. Inuyasha stood on one side while Miroku stood on the other, a confident grin on his face.

 "Just who the hell are you?" Inuyasha asked, gripping Tetsusaiga's hilt.

 "I am Miroku, a monk who serves Buddha and helps the needy," Miroku answered.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Helps the needy, my hairy ass. You're nothing but a lowly thief!"

 "Such hurtful words you speak," Miroku said as he held up the Sacred Jewel fragment he stole from Kagome. "I think it's better if you left this shard of the Shikon Jewel in my hands, Inuyasha."

 'He knows my name?' thought Inuyasha.

 "How do you know about me?!" the half-demon asked.

 "Honestly, I don't," Miroku answered, bluntly, causing him to comically face-fault. "It was your lovely companion who called you by that name."

 "...Lovely companion...?" Kagome whispered. "Oh...does he mean 'me'?"

 "Kagome!" Shippo chastised. "Get your head out of the clouds! Remember, he stole your jewel shard!"

 "Oh, right!" Kagome exclaimed.

 "Well," Inuyasha began, "by the time I'm done with you...you won't be flapping your gums, EVER AGAIN!!" He then lunged for Miroku, who jumped back while using his staff to deflect Inuyasha's blade as he swung wildly.

 "You're quite the strong one, aren't you, my friend?" Miroku asked.

 "Shut up!" Inuyasha barked. "I ain't your friend, smartass!!"

 'What's with this guy?! He blocks every stroke of the Tetsusaiga so easily!!'

 Inuyasha grunted as he kept swinging his sword at Miroku, who continued to block or dodge his strokes. At one point, while Inuyasha was in mid-swing, the monk innocently waved to Kagome, who waved right back at him with a cheery smile on her face, to Inuyasha's growing anger.

 "PAY ATTENTION, YOU IDIOT!!!" Inuyasha yelled as he swung at Miroku again, only for the monk to dodge. "WE'RE FIGHTING, HERE!!!"

 'AND DON'T WAVE TO KAGOME, EITHER!!!'

 Just then, Miroku accidentally slipped on some logs, causing him to fall backwards. Seeing his chance, Inuyasha swung his sword and knocked Miroku's staff out of his hands, causing it to land on the ground behind him. Inuyasha smirked as he pointed Tetsusaiga at the monk's face, almost threateningly.

 "You've lost this one," he said. "Hand over the Sacred Jewel fragment and I just might let you live."

 Miroku glared at Inuyasha...before he stood up and bolted!

 "Hey!" Inuyasha yelled as he ran after him. "Get back here! Where do you think you're going, you coward?!"

 "Villagers!!" Miroku called out. "Evacuate this place and get as far away as you can, or else your lives will be in danger!!!"

 The villagers all gasped, as did Kagome.

 "Wait...what did he just say?" she asked...before she began to follow after them. "Come on, Shippo!"

 "Whoa!" Shippo cried as he hung onto her shoulder. "K-Kagome, wait! What are you doing?!"

XXX

 

 Inuyasha had chased Miroku to the very outskirts of the village until the monk stopped running, turning to face the half-demon.

 "It's over, Miroku," Inuyasha said as he advanced toward him. "I've got you cornered. You can't win this fight!"

 "Is that what you think?" asked Miroku as he held up his right hand.

 'Huh?' thought Inuyasha. 'Just his hand?'

 "I try to be humble, my friend," Miroku began, "but the truth is...I hate to lose!" He then pulled off the beads that were wrapped around his right hand. "WIND TUNNEL!!!"

 HWOOOOOOOOOO~!!! As Miroku opened his palm, what seemed like a vortex opened up...and began sucking in everything around him, even Inuyasha!

 "WHOA!!" Inuyasha cried as he pierced the ground with the Tetsusaiga to try and keep himself from getting sucked in, but everything else, like horses, chickens, wagons, trees, and even small houses weren't so lucky, for they soon disappeared within the void of Miroku's right hand!

 'His right hand...it's pulling me toward him!' thought Inuyasha as he tried to hold on. 'It's like some kind of black hole!!'

 "AAH!!" Inuyasha cried as he felt himself getting dragged toward Miroku, inch by inch!

 "How long do you think you can hold out?!" Miroku questioned.

 "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!" cried one of the villagers as they ran. "THAT VOID WILL DEVOUR US ALL!!!"

 As the panicked villagers ran as far as they could, Kagome and Shippo were the only ones who remained behind, hiding behind a broken support beam.

 "AAH!!" Shippo screamed. "THIS IS SCARY!!!"

 "Hang on, Shippo!!" Kagome cried as she held him in her arms.

 'This guy's not your ordinary monk,' she thought. 'Just what kind of power does he have?!'

 "Kagome!" Shippo cried. "We can't stay here! We need to leave!!"

 "I can't!" Kagome answered. "I've got to stop that monk!!"

 "What?!" Shippo questioned. "Why?!"

 "I really don't think he was trying to hurt anybody!" Kagome replied. "That's why he told everyone to run! I have to stop him before Inuyasha gets pulled in, too! He can't hold on, forever!!"

 "Rrrrgh...!!" Inuyasha grunted as he got dragged closer and closer toward Miroku.

 "Just give up!" Miroku shouted. "Once you're pulled in, there's no way out!"

 "Shut up!!" Inuyasha barked. "If I have to, I'll slice your arm right off!!!"

 Soon, he started getting dragged faster, holding the Tetsusaiga so that he would make due on his promise, but Miroku did not yield.

 "It's no use!" the monk exclaimed. "Both you and your sword will be sucked in and...huh?"

 "STOP!!" Kagome cried as she jumped over Inuyasha, letting herself get pulled toward the void!

 "K-KAGOME!!!" Inuyasha yelled. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!"

 "KAGOME!!!" Shippo cried.

 "Oh, no!!" Miroku shouted as he quickly wrapped the beads around his hand, causing Kagome to crash into him instead as they both hit the ground!

 "Kagome!!" Inuyasha cried as he ran up to her.

 "Ugh...ow...!" Kagome groaned as she rubbed her head, then looked down at Miroku's right hand. "...The prayer beads...they sealed his hand, just like I thought."

 'This guy sealed his hand up of his own accord...he's not a bad guy, after all!'

 "Kagome!" Inuyasha exclaimed as he approached her. "Are you okay?"

 "Yeah, I'm fine," Kagome said.

 "Oh, good," Inuyasha replied in relief. "THEN WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, JUMPING IN LIKE THAT?!! YOU COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!!!!"

 "Okay, first, don't yell," Kagome said. "Second, if Miroku wanted to, he could've used the power in his right hand to kill us all a lot earlier! Let's give him a chance. Maybe we could talk to him or- YAAH!!" She shrieked when she felt Miroku's palm rubbing against her left buttock, causing her to run into Inuyasha's arms.

 "On second thought, KILL HIM!!" Kagome cried.

 "You just blew your last chance, buddy!" Inuyasha growled while holding Kagome in his arms, protectively.

 "Calm down," Miroku said as he raised his hands, defensively. "Let me explain myself."

XXX

 

 As the sun began to set, Inuyasha and Kagome sat down in front of Miroku under a persimmon tree, where Shippo was happily munching on the fruits.

 "I am hunting for the shards of the Sacred Jewel, just like you," Miroku conveyed. "You see, I'm hoping to track down and destroy a certain demon."

 "A demon?" Kagome repeated.

 "Yes," Miroku answered. "He goes by the name of 'Naraku'."

 "...Naraku..." Kagome whispered while Inuyasha, who had his back turned to Miroku, twitched his ear and glanced back at the monk.

 "You see," Miroku began as he held up his right hand, "the void that I have in my right hand is actually a curse that was placed upon me by Naraku."

 "And...what kind of demon is Naraku, exactly?" Kagome asked.

 "He is an evil spirit," Miroku replied. "He is known to devour human flesh...but other than that, I don't really know."

 "You're kidding me!" Kagome exclaimed while Inuyasha rolled his eyes.

 "Figures..." he muttered.

 "Well, you see," Miroku continued, "the one who really fought Naraku, back in the days of his youth, was my Grandfather, Master Miyatsu. It was 50 years ago when they clashed. Their battle went on for many years, and it was said that each time they encountered one another, Naraku would take on the form of a completely different person."

 "So...Naraku's a shapeshifter?" Kagome inquired.

 "Something to that effect," Miroku replied. "In their final confrontation, it was said that Naraku had taken on the form of a beautiful courtesan. My Grandfather possessed great spiritual power...but..."

 "Lemme guess," Kagome deadpanned. "He was a lecher, wasn't he?"

 "How did you know?" asked Miroku.

 "Lucky guess," Inuyasha replied, sarcastically.

 "Anyway," Miroku continued, "Naraku pierced through my Grandfather's hand, straight through his sealing sutras and escaped him forever. He said that the hole he pierced through my Grandfather's hand was a curse that would eventually swallow him up...and that curse would be passed down to his children and his children's children. As long as Naraku is alive...the curse will be passed down until my family line has completely vanished from this world."

 Kagome gasped quietly while Miroku stared, grimly at his own right hand.

 "The Wind Tunnel grows over time," Miroku said, "and gets stronger as it expands...but if I cannot find Naraku and destroy him...then eventually, I, too, will meet the same fate as my Grandfather and my Father before me..."

 "...You mean...you're gonna die?" Kagome asked, sadly.

 "Sadly, yes," Miroku replied. "I do admit...the very thought of it does frighten me...but I am prepared to resign myself to my fate." He then looked up with a serious expression. "However...I cannot bear the thought of leaving Naraku to his own affairs. Especially since the Shikon Jewel that was thought to have been destroyed 50 years ago has now reappeared, its shards scattered throughout the land. If nothing is done, Naraku will surely try to gather all of the shards of the jewel to obtain even greater power."

 "The thought of it bugs me, too," said Kagome.

 "Feh," Inuyasha muttered. "It's not like it's any of our business. So this 'Naraku' put a curse on you. Everybody's gotta go, sometime!"

 "Inuyasha, don't be so harsh!" Kagome chastised. "It sounds like we really should be worried about this Naraku guy!"

 "Your friend speaks wisely," Miroku spoke. "You see...50 years ago, Naraku almost did come into possession of the Sacred Jewel...by killing the priestess who guarded it."

 Inuyasha gasped as a chill went down his spine.

 "Inuyasha?" Kagome asked.

 "What's wrong?" asked Miroku.

 "...He killed...a priestess?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "Yes," Miroku nodded, causing the half-demon to growl viciously and clench his fists.

 'So that's what happened...Naraku...he was the one who killed Kikyo! He took on my form and then attacked her! It had to be him!!'

 He then grabbed Miroku by the collar of his robes and pulled him closer.

 "You said that Naraku's a shapeshifter, right?!" Inuyasha asked. "Well, what does he look like, now?! Tell me!!"

 "Calm down!" Miroku answered. "If I knew that, I would have destroyed him, long ago!"

 "Inuyasha, let him go!" Kagome pleaded. "Please!"

 Inuyasha looked at Kagome...before he sighed and pulled his hands away from Miroku.

 '...Naraku...that damn bastard snared me and Kikyo with his lies...tricked us into thinking we betrayed one another! And now, he's still out there...looking for the Sacred Jewel shards, just like us! I'll find him...I'll find him...and when I do, I'll kill him and avenge Kikyo's death!!'

 "...Inuyasha..." Kagome whispered before she looked at her jewel fragment. "...Hey, Miroku. If we keep gathering the Sacred Jewel shards...there's a chance that we're bound to run into Naraku eventually, right?"

 "Oh!" Miroku exclaimed. "W-when did you take it back?!"

 "I grabbed it when I crashed into you," Kagome answered. "Since we're all looking for the Sacred Jewel shards, then let's all look together!"

 "HUH?!!" Inuyasha questioned. "What are you, nuts?!"

 "Well, it's not like you have any intention of giving it up, right?" asked Kagome.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "As if!"

 "There, you see?" Kagome asked. "What do you say, Miroku?"

 "...Well...I've never really been good at working with others," Miroku replied as he looked away.

 "But Miroku," Kagome began, "if we don't find Naraku and defeat him, you'll die...you don't really want that, do you?"

 "...Are you...concerned for me?" asked Miroku.

 "Of course, I am," Kagome replied. "I can see that deep down, you really do have a good heart."

 "...Your kindness is most appreciated," Miroku said as he gently took Kagome's hand, "which is why I have a favor to ask you."

 "Uh...sure," Kagome replied. "What is it?"

 "...Would you do me the honor of bearing my child?" Miroku asked, causing Kagome to gasp while Inuyasha's jaw dropped.

 "Uh...excuse me?!" Kagome questioned. "Don't you think we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves?! I'm only 15!"

 "In the event that I am unable to defeat Naraku," Miroku began, "it is essential that I produce an heir to my family's mission."

 "Oh, like I haven't heard THAT before!!" Inuyasha barked as he pushed himself in between Kagome and Miroku. "Just who the hell do you think you are, buddy?!"

 "I told you, I am but a humble monk," Miroku replied, casually.

 "Humble, my ass!!" Inuyasha barked. "If you lay even one hand on Kagome, I'll rip you apart!!!"

 'Inuyasha...!' Kagome thought.

 "Oh, do forgive me," Miroku said. "I thought she was merely traveling with you...but if you two are lovers, then-"

 "LOVERS?!!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "...Not lovers, either?" Miroku replied.

 "Listen, dumbass!" Inuyasha shouted. "Kagome and I are friends! Uh...I-I think."

 "Yeah, we're just friends!" Kagome added.

 'Even though we did kiss that one time....'

 "Then why are you being so defensive?" Miroku asked.

 "Defensive?!" Inuyasha repeated. "Who's defensive?! I'm not being defensive!! You're defensive!!"

 "Oh, boy..." Kagome bemoaned while Shippo sat in the tree.

 'And these guys are supposed to be working together?' he thought. 'If being a grownup is this complicated, I'd rather stay a kid.'

Chapter Text

 Kagome hummed a little tune to herself as she filled up a plastic water bottle at a nearby stream. Inuyasha sat cross-legged nearby, leaning against a tree trunk with his hands tucked behind his head, a bored look in his eyes. He yawned as he scratched his chest, lazily, just as Kagome finished filling up the water.

 "There," she said as she put the water bottle in her backpack. "Now we have fresh water for the journey."

 "Can we go, now?" asked Inuyasha. "We've been here all morning."

 "First, I gotta find Shippo and Miroku," Kagome answered. "They wandered off, somewhere. I'm sure they're not far."

 "I don't know why we let that pervy monk stick around us, anyway," said Inuyasha. "We've only known him for a day, and I already know he's a fraud."

 "Oh, Inuyasha, don't make such a fuss," said Kagome. "Look, it's like I said before: we're gonna run into this 'Naraku' guy, sooner or later, so obviously, it's best if we work together with Miroku, okay?"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed.

 "I'll be right back," Kagome said as she got up and walked away, leaving her bicycle behind. "Do me a favor and watch my bike for me while I'm gone, okay?"

 "Whatever," Inuyasha mumbled.

 Taking this as his acceptance, Kagome left...prompting Inuyasha to glance at her bike, curiously. He soon stood up and looked around, first to the left and then to the right. Finding no one in sight, the half-demon looked to the futuristic contraption before he approached it.

 "If that monk can ride it, then why can't I?" he asked as he soon put his hands on the handlebars. "Okay...first Kagome grabs these handle thingies..." He sat down on the bicycle seat. "Then she sits on this..." He put both feet on the pedals. "Puts her feet on these...block things...and..." He then grunted as he began to pedal the bike...and to his utter amazement, this time, he didn't fall over!

 "H-hey!" he exclaimed as he began to pedal down a hill. "I'm doing it! I'm riding the iron cart! HA!! Take that, you stupid monk! I...whoa, whoa, wait a minute! Whoa! WHOA!! AAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!"

 CRASH!!!

XXX

 

 "So that iron chariot is actually something called a 'bye-cycle'?"

 "Yes. We use it as transportation in my era. It's a lot faster than walking."

 "How fascinating! It's amazing how far we've come as far as transportation goes!"

 As Kagome, with Shippo riding on her shoulder, and Miroku approached the spot where she left Inuyasha with her bike...but neither were anywhere to be seen.

 "Hey, where's Inuyasha?" Shippo asked.

 "It seems he disappeared," Miroku replied.

 "And my bike, too," Kagome added. "Inuyasha~! Where are you?"

 She soon got her answer when she heard the rustling of leaves, followed by incoherent grumbling. As she looked up, she saw said half-demon trudging up the hill with small twigs and leaves in his silvery-white tresses. His pants looked a bit torn, too, and he was carrying Kagome's bicycle on his shoulder...and for some reason, it seemed to have a flat tire and bent handlebars.

 "Inuyasha?" Kagome asked. "What happened to you? Are you okay? And...what happened to my bike?"

 "Stupid iron cart!!" Inuyasha shouted as he threw the bike to the ground and continued to stomp away, pulling the bits of foliage out of his hair as he did.

 "What's his problem?" Shippo asked.

 "If I had to guess," Miroku began, "I'd say he attempted to ride Kagome's 'bye-cycle'."

 "...Oh, boy," Kagome muttered before she looked to her disheveled bike. "Good thing I remembered to pack a bike pump."

Chapter Text

 "Don't let him get away! He has a shard of the Sacred Jewel!!"

 The thundering of hooves and loud, murderous cries filled the air as his pursuers chased him through the tall grass. He gasped as he ducked beneath arrows that whizzed over his head before he came to rest next to an old, dead tree, cradling a bunch of calligraphy scrolls in his arms. Just when he started to think he was safe, he yelped as two arrows hit the tree before he looked back, realizing his aggressors were not too far.

 "Oh, no..." he whispered as he grabbed one of the scrolls...which began to glow an eerie pink light while the soldiers searched for any tracks.

 "He can't have gone far," said their leader. "We mustn't let him get away with the jewel fragment!"

 Just then, one of them looked up in the sky, only to scream in horror and alarm, which prompted the other bandits to look up, as well. Lo and behold, a huge, ominous cloud appeared overhead...carrying with it a horde of hundreds of demons such as ogres and goblins, riding on the backs of one-eyed and even three-eyed horses and dragons! The bandits screamed as they turned to flee, but the demons were upon them before they could get so much as two feet away. The men and horses were soon cut down by swords and axes and skewered by spears as the demons slaughtered them without mercy.

 "Guh..." one of the soldiers gurgled, his body bloodied and gored. "Help me...someone...!" He soon collapsed on the ground as he breathed his last.

 In the grass, the bandits' target chuckled sinisterly as he watched...although he also seemed nervous, too.

 "These demons are indeed thirsty for their fill of blood," he said. "Tonight, they shall drink to their hearts' content...!" He then held up a bamboo ink bottle...in which he held a shard of the Sacred Jewel.

XXX

 

 The following day...

 "Ugh...look at all those bodies," Shippo said in disgust and fear as he sat in Kagome's bicycle basket...staring at the dead corpses of the bandits and their steeds while a hungry murder of crows flew overhead, anxious to pick off their flesh. "Must've been some battle...I'd hate to see what the other guys look like."

 "Why am I not surprised?" Kagome asked. "Another battlefield filled with dead bodies in the Feudal Era...what else is new?"

 "You're mistaken," Inuyasha spoke up. "This was no battle."

 "What do you mean?" Kagome inquired.

 "Something's not right here," said Inuyasha. "For some reason, there's the suspicious lack of the scent of blood."

 "Obviously, this was the work of a demon," said Miroku, who had just finished praying for the bandits. "A very strong one if it had wrought this much destruction..." He then grinned. "Meaning it must possess a shard of the Shikon Jewel...wouldn't you agree, Inuyasha?"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Listen here, Miroku. I have absolutely no intention of teaming up with you, or of sharing any of the jewel shards with you, you got that?!"

 "Every man for himself...is that you're implying, Inuyasha?" Miroku asked with a cocky smirk.

 "Looks like we finally agreed on something," Inuyasha replied as the wind blew.

 "...In that case," Miroku began, "I shall take my leave of you. Better for us to compete from afar." He then looked to Kagome. "Farewell, Kagome...perhaps fate will let us cross paths again, one day."

 "Yeah," Kagome nodded. "See you later, Miroku."

 With that, Miroku walked away.

 "Too bad," Shippo said. "I was actually starting to get used to him."

 "Inuyasha, are you sure you want Miroku to leave like this?" asked Kagome...only to get no answer. "Uh...Inuyasha?" She looked around, only to see that he was gone. "Huh? Where'd he go?!"

 "HELP!! A DEMON!!!"

 "....That figures..." Shippo muttered.

XXX

 

 "Hmm..." Inuyasha hummed as he sniffed a paper scroll while holding a man by the collar of his robes. "Is this the scent that I was picking up?"

 "Please, return that letter at once!" cried the man as he struggled to get away. "I must deliver before the sun sets!"

 "Inuyasha! Let him go!" Kagome cried as she pedaled up on her bike.

 "But-" Inuyasha started.

 "Please!" Kagome urged.

 "...Oh, all right," Inuyasha said as he gave the letter to the man. "Here, take it."

 "Thank you!" the man cried as he grabbed the scroll and ran off.

 "What were you doing, pestering that poor guy?" asked Kagome.

 "Look, it's not my fault!" Inuyasha spat. "I smelled the same scent of ink as the one from the battlefield!"

 "So what?" Shippo asked.

 "If I could trace the source, I might be able to find the demon and the jewel shard it has," Inuyasha answered. "Then we can get it before Miroku does."

 "Jeez, what do you have against him, anyway?" Kagome asked. "...Are you jealous of him?"

 "Jealous?!" Inuyasha repeated. "Of that lecher?! Puh-lease!!"

 Kagome sighed and shook her head, causing the half-demon to glare at him.

 "Don't tell me you actually started to like him!" Inuyasha shouted.

 "Oh, yeah, I do!" Kagome replied without skipping a beat.

 "...Hah?" Inuyasha muttered as his ears drooped.

 "...Oh, please..." Kagome whispered. "Obviously, it was a joke- huh?!"

 "...She...she really likes men like that...?!" Inuyasha whimpered with a look of dread.

 "I-Inuyasha!" Kagome cried. "I-I'm sorry, okay?! It was just a joke!"

 "Oh, brother..." Shippo muttered. "I wonder if Miroku's doing better than we are, right now."

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, at a castle not too far away...

 "Oho! So it was you who defeated those soldiers, last night, was it?"

 "Yes, milord..."

 The lord of this particular province had been visiting by a man wearing a dark red kimono and dark bluish-green hakama. He kneeled before the lord with his head bowed.

 "And what did you say your name was again?" asked the lord.

 "It is Kotatsu, milord," said the visitor.

 "Ah, Kotatsu," the lord acknowledged. "So you say you defeated that army of men...and all on your own, no less? If it is the truth you speak, then I would be honored to have you join my military forces!"

 "Milord," said Kotatsu, "I had heard how much those mercenary soldiers had become such a nuisance to you, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show my capabilities."

 Just then, one of the castle guards walked in.

 "Milord," he said. "May I have a word, if you please?" He then whispered something in the lord's ear, causing him to gasp before he glared at Kotatsu, who gulped.

 "Throw this charlatan out of my castle, at once!!" the lord ordered.

XXX

 

 "AAAAAAGH!!" Kotatsu screamed as he was thrown out of the castle grounds.

 "Your claims of power are unfounded!!" shouted one of the guards. "You're just some wandering artist from the capital!!"

 "No, I spoke only the truth!!" Kotatsu insisted. "I really am powerful! I'm not a wandering artist! Please...allow me to speak with your master once again!!"

 "Liar!!" shouted one of the guards as they began to beat on him with their staves. "You were selling your paintings at the market!!!"

 As Kotatsu was being pummeled, he groaned as he reached for his scrolls.

 'I'll show them...!' he thought...but then...

 "Stop it! Go easy on the poor man!!"

 The guards and Kotatsu gasped as they looked up to see a woman with long black hair and dressed in beautiful robes. She had a kind smile on her face, which caused Kotatsu to gape at her in awe.

 "O-Of course, princess!" answered one of the guards. "Forgive us for not seeing you!"

 The princess stood for a moment before she walked away with her ladies in waiting.

 "Ohh...!" Kotatsu whispered. "That woman...she is stunning...!"

 "Who said you could stare at the princess, you wretch?!" asked one of the guards before he smacked him with his staff, again.

 After they had finished beating on him, they wrapped him in a straw mat and tossed him off a bridge and into a rushing river.

 "Hahahahaha!!" they laughed after him. "Good riddance!!!"

 Kotatsu screamed as he was carried away by the current. As the sun set, he eventually washed up the bank. He discarded his nobleman outfit on the ground, wearing his regular ragged clothes underneath that. He growled as he carried his scrolls in his arms, trudging along the road.

 "Curse them all," he hissed. "They'll regret the day they crossed me...I can summon my demon brigade and crush all who dare to oppose me! I deserve to live in the lap of luxury as a warlord! Once they witness my awesome power, none will be able to criticize me!! I shall possess my own castle and be surrounded in riches...and I'll even marry that lovely princess...eheheheheheh!!"

 Just then, someone reached out and grabbed Kotatsu by the back of his suikan, causing him to look up and see that it was Inuyasha.

 "Hey," Inuyasha said. "You mind telling me somethin', mister?"

 "Huh?!" Kotatsu questioned. "A-a demon!!"

 "Not again!" Kagome bemoaned as she pedaled up on her bike with Shippo riding in her basket. "Inuyasha, stop it!"

 "That's the 6th time he's done this, today!" Shippo added.

 "Release me, at once!!" Kotatsu demanded. "I warn you, I am very powerful- err...I mean...I'm nothing more than a humble wandering artist."

 "Psh!" Inuyasha buzzed his lips. "Humble artist, my ass...if what you say is true, then answer me this: how come you reek of the stench of charcoal ink and fresh human blood, huh?"

 "What...?!" Kagome whispered in disbelief.

 "Come to think of it," Shippo began, "I can kinda smell it, too!"

 "R-release me!!" Kotatsu shouted as he wrenched himself from Inuyasha's grasp.

 "Hey!!" Inuyasha yelled as he attempted to give chase, but then Kotatsu brought out one of his scrolls and unrolled it, revealing a picture of a large oni.

 "Get him!!" Kotatsu ordered...causing the picture to glow as the oni came out of the painting, gaining blue skin and holding a giant spear!

 "AAH!!" Shippo shrieked in fright. "WHAT IS THAT?!!"

 "Holy hell!!" Inuyasha exclaimed in shock while Kotatsu got in a boat and began to paddle away.

 'Who is that man?!' thought Kagome as she watched him make his escape. 'A demon?! ...No...I think he's just an ordinary man...but then...'

 She was interrupted from her thoughts when the oni roared and held up his spear, then slammed it down toward Inuyasha, who jumped out of the way and then lunged at the gargantuan demon as he drew the Tetsusaiga. The demon attempted to skewer him with his spear, again, but Inuyasha easily jumped over the weapon before he cleaved his foe in two.

 "Ha!" Inuyasha laughed. "Too easy!"

 The oni groaned as it stumbled back...and then, its body exploded, releasing a burst of black fluid that soon drenched Inuyasha!

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried.

 "What's going on?!" Shippo questioned. "The oni's blood...it's black!"

 "Ugh...bleh!" Inuyasha coughed as he sat up in the puddle of muck. "What the hell?! This...this is blood and black ink...GAAH!!" He then fainted, his eyes comically swirling in a daze.

 "Inuyasha!" Kagome cried as she ran up to help him. "Hey, get ahold of yourself!"

 Inuyasha only responded by laughing, drunkenly.

 "His nose is so sensitive," Shippo began while holding his own nose shut, "that the smell of blood and ink got to him!"

 "Hey! Can you hear me, Inuyasha?!" Kagome asked. "Say something!"

 "Is that you, Mommy~?" Inuyasha slurred, causing Kagome to sigh in exasperation.

 As for Kotatsu, he had managed to get to the other side of the stream and hid behind a tree.

 "Haa...haa...!" he panted. "Safe at least...what manner of beast was that man? How was he able to detect the smell of black ink and blood?!" He then grinned. "And yet...is he who should be afraid...I have an endless stream of demon battalions to back me on my command!"

 Inside his ink bottle...the Sacred Jewel shard began to glow an eerie light.

Chapter Text

 A while later...

 "How do you feel, Inuyasha?" Kagome asked.

 "Yeah...I think so," Inuyasha answered as he held his head, then looked around. "Where'd that creepy little man go?"

 "Gone, now," Shippo answered. "It's nighttime, already."

 "Damn!" Inuyasha cursed. "I can't believe I let him get away!"

 "Sorry, Inuyasha," Kagome said. "I guess I should've believed you when you said you were onto something. I thought you were bullying that guy."

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Maybe next time, don't be so quick to judge, huh?"

 "So what are we gonna do, now?" Shippo asked. "That man got away."

 "That's no problem," said Inuyasha. "I'll just track down the smell of blood and ink, again."

 "Are you sure about that?" asked Kagome. "I don't want you to get overwhelmed by the smell again."

 "...You're worried about me?" Inuyasha asked.

 "Don't I have a right to be?" Kagome asked back, causing the half-demon to chuckle lightly...but then his nose twitched before he looked to the west.

 "What is it, Inuyasha?" Shippo asked.

 "That way...I can smell it," Inuyasha said. "The smell of blood and black ink."

 Kagome and Shippo both looked to where Inuyasha was looking, only to gasp upon seeing a large black cloud with these ominous purple lights, floating off in the distance.

 "Kagome!" Inuyasha called.

 "Right! Let's go!" Kagome answered as she got on her bike while Shippo got in the basket and Inuyasha stood behind the seat, and soon, she pedaled off, following the cloud.

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, at the castle...

 "An exorcism?"

 "Yes. I sense an evil shadow hanging over this mansion...I could drive out the demons in a single night."

 The castle was being visited by none other than Miroku, who stood at the entrance while holding his hand up in prayer, as usual. It looked like the monk was up to his usual tricks of claiming to try and exorcise a demon, again. However, it seemed the guards were not as gullible as the many others he had come across in his travels, for they glared at him, suspiciously.

 "Some claim he makes," said the guard on the left. "This castle is not cursed with demons. Every year, a reputed priest of much higher standing than yourself comes to bless the grounds, here."

 "Leave this place, at once!" shouted the guard on the right as he got in Miroku's face. "The only curse we have is being plagued with visits of rogues like you!!" He then backed away. "Evil shadow, he says. Ha!" He then spat on Miroku's foot, causing his eye to twitch in disgust as the guards walked away.

 "There you have it," Miroku muttered with a defeated sigh. "I suppose I shall have to retire to the woods, tonight." He then turned and walked away, but as his eyes turned to the night sky, he gasped as he saw the same black cloud that Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo happened to be following.

 "By the Buddha...my prediction has come true!" the monk exclaimed before he turned to the castle. "RUN!! THE EVIL SHADOW THAT I SPOKE OF IS UPON US!!!"

 "Ha!" laughed one of the guards. "Listen to him. His arrogance goes unbridled..." As he turned around, however, he soon realized that Miroku was indeed right to warn them, for the two purple lights that the cloud rode upon turned into two demons, both of them looking like a humanoid horse and ox, respectively. The guards screamed as they turned to run, but they were soon skewered and bludgeoned to death by the demons' spear and spiked club, respectively.

 "The Horse-Face and Ox-Head demons?!" Miroku questioned. "I've only seen them in paintings of Hell!"

 Soon, the demons broke into the castle, where a shrill scream was heard.

 "Help! Someone save the princess!!"

 Miroku's eyes widened before he grinned.

 'What a stroke of luck!' he thought.

 "Hang on!" he called. "I'll save the princess, posthaste!!"

 Soon, he ran inside the castle, hoping to beat the demons to the princess...and perhaps get a kiss or two as a reward.

XXX

 

 "Princess...! Princess...!!"

 Kotatsu tossed and turned on his futon, sweat forming on his face as he slumbered. Surrounding him were the paintings of demons from Hell, all of them made with his mixture of blood and black ink. As Kotatsu slept, he groaned as he gripped at his blanket.

 "Princess!!" he cried out.

~Dream sequence~

 

 "Heheheheheh...!" Kotatsu laughed as he hobbled toward the princess, who had his back turned to him. "Priiiiinceeeess...!"

 As Kotatsu approached the princess and reached out his hands toward her, she suddenly turned around and opened her eyes...revealing them to be glowing red!

 "GAH!!" Kotatsu cried in alarm. "P-Princess! Your eyes glow red!!"

 "I want your blood..." the princess grinned, evilly, as she grabbed Kotatsu by the throat, causing him to let out a choked gasp as he struggled to get away, then she grabbed his left wrist...and not long after, what looked like ink sprayed out of her hand, causing Kotatsu's hand to shrivel up.

 "AAAAAAAAAHH!!" he shrieked. "STOP THIS MADNESS!! RELEASE ME!!!"

~Dream end~

 

XXX

 

 At the castle, Miroku had just arrived at the princess' room, preparing to fight off the two demons just as they burst in and reached down to grab her.

 'Please...stop this!!'

 Suddenly, the demons froze...and then, began to melt away into black ink, which soon flew away.

 "...Well...that was different," said Miroku.

 "Oh, good monk!" exclaimed the princess. "You saved me!"

 "Oh!" Miroku said before he bowed his head. "But of course, my dear princess...you are unharmed, I hope."

 "Yes," the princess answered. "Thank you so much!"

 'He's quite handsome, actually...!' she added, mentally.

XXX

 

 "STOP THIIIIIIIIIIS!!" Kotatsu cried as he sat up, awake. He panted as he looked around, only to realize that he was still in his house, lying on his bed. He whimpered as he shivered, violently, looking at all his paintings, when suddenly, he heard a loud pattering on the rooftop. Bewildered, he stepped outside and saw black ink, falling from the night sky.

 "The skies are raining black ink?" he questioned, just as the ink stopped falling...and then practically leaped back into the ink pod from which it originated

 Kotatsu gaped in disbelief as the ink pod glowed an eerie pink from the Sacred Jewel shard inside.

 "The demons must have sprung into action of their own accord...while I lay sleeping...!" he whispered. "What does this mean...?!"

XXX

 

 Meanwhile, at the castle...

 "I'm indebted to you for saving my daughter," said the lord. "Monk, I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive my men for their earlier rudeness."

 "You need not thank me," said Miroku...who had been present with a rather lavish meal of fish, vegetables, and sweet buns while the princess sat behind him, "and I bear no grudge toward your men...however, I fear that the danger has yet to pass. The demons will surely return to attack, again. Perhaps the princess would be safer if she stayed here with me...in the same room...sharing the same bedding."

 "He's at it again!! And I suppose you'll wanna search through her robes, too, you pervert?!"

 Miroku, the princess, and the castle lord looked up to see Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo, riding in on Kagome's bike.

 "Well, well!" Miroku exclaimed. "If it isn't my old friends, Kagome, Inuyasha, and Shippo!"

 "Can it, perv!" Inuyasha barked as he hopped off the bike and looked around. "Hmm...I don't smell the scent of blood and black ink, here. He must've escaped!"

 "Miroku," Kagome said. "Tell us, did the ink demons come through here?"

 "Huh?" Miroku muttered. "There were demons, here, but I didn't realize they were made of ink. Why?"

 "We need to talk," Kagome replied.

XXX

 

 Soon, Kagome and Miroku were conversing inside while Inuyasha and Shippo sat on the porch, eating some sweet bean buns together. After all, Inuyasha had gotten a bit hungry, so he figured he might as well partake in some free food, especially the kind he hadn't eaten in a while. Besides, he was going to need his strength for when he faced the demons, again.


 "So let me see if I have this straight," said Miroku. "You're saying that the one behind manipulating the demons is an artist?"

 "Yes," Kagome answered, "only he's not a demon. He's a regular human man!"

 "I see," Miroku mused. "That means that the only way he could have the power to do so is if he had a shard of the Sacred Jewel...this is very troubling."

 "Yeah, that's just what we've been thinking, too," said Kagome.

 "The question is," Miroku began, "how do we stop an artist who has the power to bring the demons he paints to life?"

 "I've seen the Shikon Jewel give people some incredible powers, before," said Shippo, "but I didn't think they'd actually bring paintings to life!" He then looked up at Inuyasha. "What do you think, Inuyasha?"

 Inuyasha didn't answer the young kitsune. Instead, he simply glared at Kagome and Miroku...but mostly at the latter.

 "Inuyasha, why do you sit there?" asked Shippo. "Don't you wanna join the others in forming a plan to stop the artist?"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed.

 "Oh, Inuyasha, stop sulking!" Kagome chided.

 "I have every right to be sulking!" Inuyasha argued.

 "Is something wrong, Inuyasha?" Miroku inquired.

 "Leave me alone!" Inuyasha barked.

 "Oh, Inuyasha, can't you just get over yourself?" Kagome asked. "There's nothing wrong with working with Miroku, just this once!" She then sighed. "He's so jealous..."

 'Although I guess I can't blame him...we did kiss, after all...'

 "J-jealous?!" Inuyasha repeated with a bit of a flustered appearance. "Hardly! Why the hell would I be jealous?!" He then gasped when he saw Miroku holding Kagome's hands.

 "Your faith in me is strong," the monk said. "Thus, you must be able to sense my pure intentions!"

 "Sure," Kagome said as she pulled Miroku's hands away from her. "Plus the fact that you have some jewel shards."

 "I...I do?" Miroku stammered while absentmindedly placing his hand over the right side of his chest...through which Kagome could see a familiar glow.

 "There's two...oh, no! Three!" the girl said with a smirk.

 "Astounding," Miroku whispered. "You have the power to see the jewel shards!"

 "I sure do," Kagome smiled.

 "Hey, how'd you get those, anyway?!" Inuyasha questioned. "...Lemme guess, you stole 'em, right?"

 "Of course not," Miroku denied. "I happened to find these on my own."

 "Hmph!" Inuyasha scoffed. "I don't believe you for a second."

 "Figures..." Shippo muttered.

 However, while the group was talking, they didn't realize that someone just happened to be eavesdropping: two of the lord's guards. Realizing the predicament, they went to tell the lord, at once.

 "What?!" the lord questioned. "That artist was the one who was manipulating the demons?!"

 "Yes, milord," answered one of the guards. "It seems that the Shikon Jewel shard he possesses grants him that power."

 "He possesses a fragment of the Shikon Jewel?!" asked the lord. "I've heard rumors of its power...they say that even a single shard of the jewel can increase one's natural powers at least a hundredfold!"

 "Perhaps we should...liberate it from the artist?" one of the guards suggested.

 "Hmm..." the lord hummed, inquisitively.

 "Milord," the other guard spoke. "It seems that the monk also possesses shards of the Sacred Jewel."

 "The young monk does?!" the lord question in shock.

XXX

 

 Miroku lied asleep on the warm futon, out of the cold night air. Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo were all sleeping in the next room...seeming unaware of what was about to happen. While the monk slept, two shadows appeared through the paper doors...which opened to reveal the two guards, who yelled as they lunged at Miroku and stabbed him with their swords...or so they thought. The shade nearby fell, revealing Miroku hiding behind it!

 "What is this about?!" he questioned. "I have done nothing to warrant this violent and traitorous attack!" He then smirked. "Not yet, at least..."

 "Listen here, monk!" shouted one of the guards. "Hand over the Sacred Jewel shards you possess!!" He and his partner then charged at Miroku, who easily blocked their swords with his staff, then knocked them both of them down with one strike!

 At that moment, Inuyasha and Kagome came rushing in after hearing all the commotion.

 "Miroku, you okay in here?!" asked Inuyasha.

 "Just fine, actually," said Miroku as he held the two men in a chokehold with his staff.

 "Look!" Kagome exclaimed as she recognized the guards. "Those two are vassals to this lord!"

 "Now then," Miroku began, "what were you two saying about a jewel fragment?"

 "Ugh...it wasn't our idea!" one of the guards cried. "The master demanded we take your jewel shards while you slept!"

 "The master, himself, went to take the jewel shard from the artist!" yelled the other.

 "You know the whereabouts of this artist, do you not?" Miroku asked. "Tell me where he is!"

 "He lives somewhere up to the north!" cried one of the guards. "Please, let us go!!"

 Soon, Miroku released the two guards before he ran up and hopped on Kagome's bike.

 "Kagome!" he called. "Lend me your iron chariot for a bit!" He then pedaled off, away from the castle grounds.

 "Wait, Miroku!" Kagome called as she followed. "I'll go with you!!"

 "Me, too!" Shippo added as he hopped onto her shoulder, but then, they were both picked up by Inuyasha, who bounded off after Miroku while carrying them piggyback style.

 "Keep going, Miroku!!" Inuyasha called after the monk. "I'm right behind you!!"

 'These demons are being created by the power of a jewel fragment!' thought Inuyasha.

 'Mere mortals cannot possibly defeat these monsters!' thought Miroku as he pedaled off toward the north.

 "...I still don't know how Miroku can use my bike...!" Kagome whispered.

Chapter Text

 Kotatsu's house was completely surrounded by the lord's army, an ominous cloud of black ink hanging over the house. They were all armed to the teeth with spears and swords, prepared to rush in at the heed of their master, who sat on horseback. He then turned to his men and pointed forward, thus signaling the charge. The men roared as they ran toward the old house, where Kotatsu waited inside with many scrolls of demons lying at his feet.

 "Heheheheh...!" he chuckled, evilly. "I have an infinite number of demon soldiers at hand...and if any of them are destroyed, they can be immediately replaced by the stroke of a brush!" He then picked up the scrolls. "Come forth, my loyal demons of hell!" He waved the scrolls, causing dark clouds to emerge from the paper that billowed out of Kotatsu's hut and formed into a vicious demon horde. 

 The soldiers screamed in horror at the sight of the demons before they turned and ran, but some of them were unfortunate enough to be slain by the monsters, blood spilling everywhere.

 "Wait, you fools!!" shouted the lord, whose mount was soon spooked by the demons. "Come back!" He gasped as he noticed that the demons were about to turn on him. "AAH! Someone, help me get my horse under control! Please!!"

 Not too far away, Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo had arrived on the scene.

 "There they are!" Inuyasha exclaimed as he grabbed the Tetsusaiga.

 "Wait a minute, Inuyasha!" Shippo cried. "You mustn't slay them, or else the stench of blood and ink will overwhelm you again!"

 "Be quiet!" Inuyasha shouted as he drew his blade. "I know what I'm doing!!"

 Soon, with lightning speed, Inuyasha slashed through the demons, reducing them to puddles of ink.

 "You saved me, young man!" the lord exclaimed. "You shall be compensated-"

 SPLOOSH!! Inuyasha, Kagome, and Shippo were soaked in the ink, causing the lord to shriek in terror before he rode back to his mansion on his horse.

 "Ugh...someone needs a bath!" Kagome groaned, drenched in blood and black ink.

 "Inuyasha, are you okay?" Shippo asked while holding his nose.

 "I'm just...fiiiiiine..." Inuyasha slurred as he swayed back and forth. "Ugh...me go night-night, soon..." With that, he collapsed on the ground with comically swirled eyes.

 "Oh, no! Not again!" Kagome cried.

 "Well, I warned him," said Shippo before he looked up at the sky, only to shriek in fright as more demons appeared. "HERE COME MORE OF THEM!!!"

 "AAH!" Kagome screamed before she shook Inuyasha's shoulder. "Inuyasha, get up!!"

 "Five more minutes, Mommy..." Inuyasha mumbled, still out of it due to the smell of the ink, just as one of the demons lunged for the group.

 "LOOK OUT!!!!"

 THWAK!!! All of a sudden, Miroku appeared just in the nick of time, slaying the demon with his staff.

 "Miroku!" Kagome exclaimed. "Boy, are we glad to see you!"

 "Yeah, but there are more demons coming this way, and Inuyasha's still out of it!!" Shippo cried as he pointed to the massive demon horde.

 "Fear not," Miroku said as he removed his prayer beads from his hand. "I know what to do. Stay behind me, friends, for this is dangerous...WIND TUNNEL!!!" He then opened up his right palm, sucking all the demons into the void within. Kagome and Shippo sat behind the monk while Inuyasha began to regain his senses.

 "What's this?!" Kotatsu questioned as he watched from inside his hut. "That monk is drawing in all my demons!!"

 Eventually, the demon hordes had all vanished within Miroku's Wind Tunnel, forcing him to seal it back up before he fell to his knees.

 "Miroku! Are you okay?!" asked Kagome in concern.

 "Ugh...I've never had to draw in so many demons in one attempt," Miroku answered. "If...I may rest a bit."

 'Dammit,' thought Inuyasha. 'I knew we couldn't depend on him!'

 Just then, the ground began to rumble and shake.

 "Now what's happening?!" asked Kagome.

 KRASH!! Kotatsu's hut suddenly burst open, revealing the artist riding on the back of a giant, 3-headed serpent demon with red and black scales and a horn on each head!

 "WATCH IT!!" Inuyasha shouted as he grabbed Kagome, Shippo, and Miroku and ran out of the way of the serpent.

 "He must have created another demon!" Kagome exclaimed.

 "I'll get him!" Inuyasha declared as he ran after the beast, but ducked down as it lunged for him and the others, who quickly ducked their heads as well.

 "Kill them all, my demon servant!!" Kotatsu ordered as the serpent lunged at Inuyasha with gaping jaws, but the half-demon managed to jump out of the way.

 "Kagome!" Inuyasha called. "Where's the jewel fragment he has?!"

 "Uh..." Kagome muttered as she looked around for the jewel shard, and that's when she spotted a familiar glow coming from Kotatsu's ink pod. "It's in there! In the bamboo ink pod on the artist's waist!"

 "Got it!" Inuyasha exclaimed as he jumped onto the serpent's back. "Oh, right, I almost forgot..." He then glanced back at Miroku. "Hey, Miroku! You'll never impress anyone with those flashy antics!!"

 "Is now really the time for that?!" Kagome questioned. "Seriously!!"

 "Urrgh...that miserable wretch...!" Kotatsu growled before he pulled out another scroll. "Behold the Demons of Death!"

 Soon, a large horde of demons emerged from the scroll and charged at Inuyasha, who snarled in irritation.

 "Isn't that trick getting old?!" the half-demon questioned before he jumped at the demons, and instead of cutting them down with the Tetsusaiga, he punched them away with his fists!

 "My goodness!" Miroku exclaimed. "What do you call that technique?"

 "That's something I like to call 'good old fashioned whaling'," Kagome answered, casually.

 "All right," Inuyasha said while he held onto the serpent's back. "I've finished off those demons, now hand over that jewel shard before I really lose it!"

 "Never!" Kotatsu shouted. "Get him!!"

 The serpent's left and right head soon breathed out jets of flames at Inuyasha, who quickly shielded himself from the fire.

 "Hahahahahaha!!" laughed Kotatsu. "You underestimate me, dog man! My demon's hellfire shall burn you to the bone!" He then gasped when he realized that Inuyasha was standing up, completely unharmed. "W-what?! But how?!!"

 "As if fire could ever hurt me," Inuyasha said, his Robe of the Fire Rat protecting him from the flames. "Now, this is your last chance to surrender!"

 "No!" Kotatsu shouted. "You cannot have the jewel shard! It's my last chance at happiness!!" He then leaped off the demon's head, just as Inuyasha lunged for him.

 "IT'S OVER!!!" he shouted as he drew the Tetsusaiga...and cut Kotatsu's ink pod in half, causing all of the ink to spill out and the serpent demon to disintegrate!

 "AAAAAGH!!" Kotatsu screamed as he tumbled along the ground and hit the trunk of a tree, then gasped in horror as he saw all his ink falling to the ground. "No! My ink!! My ink has all been spilled!!!" Looking around desperately, Kotatsu picked up a sword that had been discarded by one of the lord's soldiers from earlier and stabbed his own wrist, causing blood to spill out of the wound.

 "AAAGH!!" he screamed in pain, but then a sadistic grin appeared on his face as he raised his hand up. "Hear me, ink! I give you my blood! Drink well and fill yourself! Come to life...feast on my lifeblood!!"

 Soon, the ink flew around Kotatsu, who laughed maniacally as it swirled about him...but then, he gasped as he began to shrivel up.

 "AAAAH!! W-what is this?!" he cried.

 Kagome gasped as she stood by Inuyasha, who quickly embraced her as she hid her face in his chest, not wanting to see the gruesome sight before her.

 "Ugh...my...my blood...!" Kotatsu cried. "The ink did not fuse with my blood...it devoured it...!" He then screamed in agony as he reached out to Inuyasha. "H...HELP ME~!!!"

 Inuyasha only looked away as Kotatsu exploded into a puddle of ink and blood.

 "W-what happened to him?!" Shippo asked.

 "The fool," Inuyasha said as he looked down at the puddle. "The ink devoured him from the inside out."

 "What a terrible way to go," Kagome said, sadly.

 "Yeah, you said it," Inuyasha replied. "The artist's madness must have turned the ink into some kind of parasite. Imagine...he'd rather have his own blood sucked dry than to part with the jewel fragment...and in the end, he paid for his foolishness with his life."

 Amidst the black, bubbling goop, the familiar glow of the jewel shard shined...but no one dared to pick it up.

 'Damn,' thought Miroku. 'The jewel shard that I worked so hard to get is tainted with malice and evil! I dare not even touch it!'

 Then, Kagome reached down and plucked the jewel shard up from the puddle...and it began to shine its pure pink light, to Miroku's surprise.

 "What in the world...?!" he whispered. "She...purified it with a single touch...!"

 "So, who wants this?" Kagome asked.

 "Well, it's obviously mine!" Inuyasha shouted. "Gimme!"

 "Ah-ah!" Kagome exclaimed. "Miroku did his fair share of work, too."

 "Why don't you keep it, Kagome?" asked Miroku.

 "R-really?" Kagome asked. "Well...okay!"

 "...Well...fine," Inuyasha muttered as he crossed his arms.

 "Another job well done!" Shippo added as he sat on Inuyasha's shoulder. "So...can we go home, now?"

 "Yeah, I think so," Kagome replied.

XXX

 

 The next day, the group were walking along the dirt road...only this time, Miroku was walking alongside them.

 "So you decided to stay with us after all, Miroku?" asked Kagome.

 "Yes, indeed," Miroku replied. "After all, what better way to travel than in the company of a beautiful young woman?"

 "Oh, you!" Kagome said with a flattered blush.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed, indignantly.

 "And despite Inuyasha's gruff exterior," Miroku began, "he's not really such a bad fellow on the inside."

 "No, he really isn't," Kagome replied. "He's really a big teddy bear, deep down."

 "I heard that!" Inuyasha barked.

 "Why not?" Shippo asked. "It's the truth! You really are a nice guy on the inside, Inuyasha!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed, again. "Whatever..."

 'It really is true,' thought Kagome with a fond smile. 'Inuyasha could have just killed that man...but instead, he spared him and went for the ink pod. Inuyasha can say what he wants, but he really is a good guy on the inside.'

 And so, the quartet continued on their journey to find the Sacred Jewel shards...but none of them could ever predict the trials that lied in wait ahead.

XXX

 

 Somewhere in a deep, dark place...a mysterious figure sits in the shadows, chuckling darkly to himself as he held up...a shard of the Sacred Jewel in his fingers.

 "...It seems that the time to act has finally come. Soon, it will time for us to meet...Inuyasha."

Chapter Text

 It was a cold, dark, and windy night. Dead leaves were being carried along by the gale and crickets chirped as they hid in the tall grass. However, that was not the only sound that accompanied them, for if one was to listen carefully enough...they could hear a gurgled groan.

 "Ugh...help...someone...please...!!"

 This plea came from a dying man in samurai armor...surrounded by corpses and pools of splattered blood, staining the soil. Some of them were missing limbs and even their heads were missing...and in the midst of it all stood the culprit: Sesshomaru.

 Yes, he had survived his encounter with Inuyasha and Kagome at his father's tomb...and now, after he had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of his younger half-brother, not to mention losing his left arm...he was out for blood.

 Sesshomaru approached the last remaining survivor, who gasped in horror as he struggled to crawl away...but then, the pureblooded dog demon raised his left arm, which had dark blue skin and three clawed fingers.

 "No...no, please!" the man cried. "Have mercy!!"

 "Mercy is for the weak," Sesshomaru said, his golden eyes flashing viciously before he swung his arm down...and his victim let out a bloodcurdling scream as he was mercilessly torn apart.

 At that moment, Jaken soon emerged from the tall grass.

 "Masterfully done, Lord Sesshomaru!" he praised. "That was nothing less than what I had expected of you, milord!"

 "...Really?" Sesshomaru asked as he looked at his arm.

 "Indubitably!" Jaken answered. "Especially since that arm is from an ogre that you, yourself, had slain- UGH!!" He was soon silenced by Sesshomaru stamping his foot against his face.

 "Do you take me for a fool, Jaken?" asked Sesshomaru as he looked at his new arm...which was beginning to fall apart. "This arm is already rotting." He then tore it off and threw it to the ground. "Be sure to find me a stronger demon with a better one, or else I'll have your head."

 Jaken gulped, nervously.

 "O-of course, Lord Sesshomaru," he said.

 'Damn that detestable Inuyasha! If he hadn't cut off Lord Sesshomaru's arm, I wouldn't be in this mess, right now!!'

 "Having trouble, are we, gentlemen?"

 "Hmm?" Sesshomaru hummed as he turned around...only to see a man come skulking out of the tall grass, wearing the pelt of a white baboon.

 "Lord Sesshomaru, I presume," said the mysterious figure as he dropped down to his knees and bowed his head. "You are the older half-brother of Inuyasha, am I correct?"

 "And just who are you?" Sesshomaru inquired.

 "I am someone who despises Inuyasha as much as you do," said the stranger as he held up...a severed human arm. "Here...take this arm."

 "How dare you mock Lord Sesshomaru, heathen!!" Jaken barked. "That is a human arm!!"

 "Indeed, it is," the man replied. "Or rather...a human arm that has been imbued with the power of a shard of the Sacred Jewel."

 "The...the Sacred Jewel?" Jaken repeated in disbelief.

 "And with a human arm," the man continued, "you should be able to grip the demon blade that is so rightfully yours."

 Sesshomaru's eyes widened, slightly.

 "The Tetsusaiga is a sword that was forged to protect humans," the stranger elaborated. "Thus, its mystic power defies the grasp of a pureblood demon such as yourself."

 "...Hmph," Sesshomaru scoffed with a small smirk. "Such cowardice...you speak of despising Inuyasha as much as I, and yet you are afraid to face him on your own strength. Instead, you wish to use me as a means to an end, don't you?"

 "Precisely," the stranger confirmed.

 "H-h-how dare you!!" Jaken stammered, angrily. "Lord Sesshomaru is not some tool!!!"

 "Silence," Sesshomaru spoke, causing Jaken to gasp.

 "M...milord...?" he asked.

 "...Interesting," Sesshomaru said. "I shall take that arm."

 "But...but Lord Sesshomaru!!" Jaken cried.

 "There is one more thing," the man said before he handed Sesshomaru a strange pinecone-shaped object. "Take this hive...I believe it will come in handy."

 "...And just who are you?" asked Sesshomaru.

 "Hmm-hmm..." the man chuckled, his mouth visible underneath the baboon's skull. "Call me...Naraku."

 "...Naraku," Sesshomaru repeated before he smirked. "I shall remember it."

XXX

 

 The following evening, as the sun slowly sets beyond the horizon, our heroes had stopped at a portside town during their search for the Sacred Jewel shards. Kagome suggested that the others stay here for the night, and Miroku agreed...and somehow, he managed to get the group lodgings in a very high-class manor.

 "Ahh~!" Kagome sighed, eating a bowl of simmered beans. "This is the life, huh, you guys? It's so nice to actually sleep in a warm bed and not have to worry about bugs and snakes in your sleeping bag, am I right?"

 "Not to mention the yummy food," said Shippo as he lied against Inuyasha's side while the half-demon was lying sprawled out on the floor, both of them with slightly distended stomachs. "Right, Inuyasha?"

 Urp! Inuyasha responded by giving off a noisy belch, which made Kagome giggle.

 "And it's all thanks to Miroku," she said. "If it wasn't for his exorcisms, we wouldn't have found decent shelter!"

 "...Oh, please..." Inuyasha muttered while rolling his eyes.

XXX

 

 "There we are," Miroku said as he placed a sutra on the support beam. "Now the ill-omened cloud hovering over this house shall be dispersed."

 "You have my thanks, O monk!" said the house's caretaker.

 "Of course," Miroku replied. "It is the will of Buddha, after all!"

XXX

 

 "Do you really think that Miroku is actually exorcising any demons here?" Shippo asked.

 "Of course, he is!" Kagome replied. "He just wants to make sure we're all safe from any demons that might be hiding around in here."

 "So glad you think so, Kagome," Miroku spoke as he walked into the room. "It's nice to know that someone appreciates my skills."

 "Oh, really?" Inuyasha asked as he sat up, causing Shippo to tumble away from him. "Then lemme ask you something, 'O great monk'. Why is it that whenever we need to shack up somewhere for the night, you always have to pick the finest house in the place?!"

 "Didn't you know?" Miroku asked. "That was just something I like to call 'telling a fib'."

 "...You...fibbed?" Inuyasha repeated.

 "Wait, what?!" Shippo questioned. "He was telling a lie, the whole time?!"

 "Oh, boy," Kagome muttered. "Somehow, I knew something was up...why don't I ever trust my instincts?"

 "And you call yourself a holy monk!!" Inuyasha barked.

 "And yet," Miroku began, "was it not you and Shippo who made pigs of themselves, every time we stay in a place such as this?"

 "Hey!" Inuyasha spat. "That's different, okay?! I was really hungry and I hadn't eaten anything all day long and-"

 Suddenly, Kagome shot straight up to her feet with a gasp, catching everyone's attention.

 "What's up, Kagome?" Inuyasha asked. "Is everything okay?"

 "...I sense a shard of the Shikon Jewel," said Kagome, "and it's coming in, fast!"

 "What?!" Inuyasha questioned as he stood up, his stomach shrinking back to normal size while Miroku stood up, as well.

 "And that's not all," Kagome added. "I sense a strong demonic aura!"

 BOOM...BOOOM...BOOOOOOOM!! The house suddenly started trembling as the sound of heavy footfalls filled the air. Shippo yelped as he quickly scurried behind Kagome while Inuyasha and Miroku glanced toward the outside. Without a word, Inuyasha quickly headed out while the others soon followed...and soon, they saw the source of the trembling: a giant ogre had appeared from over the mountainside!

 "AAAAAH!! DEMON!!!" Shippo screamed.

 "And it's huge!!" Miroku exclaimed.

 "Keh," Inuyasha scoffed as he cracked his knuckles. "Nothing I can't handle."

 "Inuyasha! Wait!" Kagome called. "Look there! On the ogre's shoulder!!"

 "Huh?" Inuyasha muttered before he looked to where Kagome was pointing, only to gasp upon seeing none other than his older half-brother, sitting on the monster's shoulder along with Jaken. "Sesshomaru!!"

 "Ah, Inuyasha," Sesshomaru said, casually. "We meet again, little brother."

 "So you're still alive, huh?" Inuyasha asked, glaring as his hand hovered over the Tetsusaiga's hilt.

 "That's right," Sesshomaru replied, "and this time, I'm not leaving until I take what's mine, and I'm going to get it, even if I have to lift it off of your lifeless, bloody, disemboweled carcass."

Chapter Text

 "Who is that guy?!" Shippo asked as he stared up at Sesshomaru, hiding behind Kagome's head.

 "Is he a friend of Inuyasha's, Kagome?" Miroku inquired.

 "Hardly," Kagome answered. "He's Inuyasha's older half-brother. They have the same father, but Sesshomaru is a full-fledged demon."

 "I have the feeling he's not here for a family reunion," Miroku said, warily. "What does he want?"

 "He wants Inuyasha's sword, the Tetsusaiga," said Kagome. "The only problem is the Tetsusaiga has a barrier around it that rejects pureblooded demons like Sesshomaru. Only Inuyasha can wield it...but I don't think Sesshomaru got the memo!"

 Inuyasha growled as he glared up at his older half-brother, who stared at him before he leaped off the ogre's shoulder...and appeared right in front of Inuyasha before he could even blink, causing him to gasp before he jumped away from him.

 "Well, well," Sesshomaru said. "Still as slow as ever, eh, Inuyasha?"

 "What the hell do you think you're doing here, Sesshomaru?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "You know very well why," said Sesshomaru. "Draw it, Inuyasha...the Tetsusaiga. I will at least allow some token resistance."

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed before he drew his blade. "This time, you're gonna lose your head instead of your arm, Sesshomaru!!" He roared as he swung the giant blade of Tetsusaiga at Sesshomaru, who easily dodged the attack and stood behind his half-demon brother.

 "Just as I thought," he said. "You haven't mastered the Tetsusaiga, at all...such a waste."

 "What did you say?!" Inuyasha questioned before he rushed at Sesshomaru. "I'll show you mastery, you bastard!!!"

 Then Sesshomaru reached out with his right arm and grabbed Inuyasha's right wrist, the one that was holding the sword...his claws digging into his flesh, causing Inuyasha to scream in pain as his skin began to burn.

 "What happened?!" Miroku questioned.

 "Sesshomaru's Poison Claws!!" Kagome cried.

 "L...let...go of me...!!" Inuyasha grunted as he struggled to pull his wrist away from Sesshomaru.

 "Your swings are too wide and obvious," Sesshomaru said. "It's like you're waving a flag."

 By now, Inuyasha's arm began to turn red from the burns of Sesshomaru's poison.

 "Inuyasha!!" Kagome cried.

 "Get out of there!!!" Miroku yelled.

 "Oh, no!" Shippo added as he hid behind Kagome's shoulder.

 "If I were you," Sesshomaru began, "I'd let go, or else you might just lose your arm...but then again, you do owe me that much, since you cut off mine."

 "Rrrrgh...!" Inuyasha growled...before he put both hands on the hilt of the Tetsusaiga. "So what...if I do?!" He then began to push Sesshomaru backward. "I'll cleave you in two before that happens!!"

 "He's forcing him back!!" Miroku exclaimed.

 "Yeah!" Shippo cheered. "Go get him, Inuyasha!!"

 "...Hmph," Sesshomaru snorted. "Little brothers are such annoying vermin." He then swung his mokumoku at Inuyasha and smacked the Tetsusaiga out of his younger half-brother's hand, causing the sword to land in the ground.

 "Dammit!!" Inuyasha cursed as he ran to grab his sword back...but then, Sesshomaru appeared in front of him...and to Inuyasha's shock, he managed to pick it up!

 "What the-?!" Kagome questioned.

 "Whoa!!" Inuyasha cried as he narrowly avoided getting hit by his own blade.

 "...Allow me to show you, Inuyasha," Sesshomaru began, "the true power of the Tetsusaiga."

 "Y...you're holding the sword?!" Inuyasha asked in disbelief. "But how?!"

 "Jaken," Sesshomaru called.

 "Yes, milord!" Jaken answered. "We shall flush out the demons of this moutan, shortly!" He then smacked the Staff of Two Heads against the ogre's face, causing it to growl. "Hey, you fool! Get moving!!"

 The ogre begrudgingly obliged before it turned toward the trees growing on the mountainside, then it raised up its hand and slammed it down...and soon, a massive horde of demons appeared. At least a hundred of them at best!

 "Whoa! That's a lot of demons!!" Shippo cried.

 "What's he planning to do with them?!" Miroku asked. "Is he going to sic them on us?!!"

 "Wait! Look!!" Kagome shouted as the demons suddenly charged at Sesshomaru. "They're going for him!!"

 "What are you up to, Sesshomaru?!" Inuyasha questioned.

 "...You see, Inuyasha," Sesshomaru began as he held up the Tetsusaiga, "one swing from this sword...can fell 100 demons!!"

 WHOOSH!! He swung the phantom blade, and with just that stroke alone...the demons were completely obliterated! And not just that, but the mountainside crumbled from the mere pressure of the swing!

 "Whoa!!" Shippo cried. "H-He destroyed the demons!!!"

 "Forget the demons," Miroku said in shock. "He destroyed the mountainside!!"

 "...Inuyasha...!" Kagome whispered, worriedly, while Inuyasha growled at Sesshomaru, who smirked at him.

 "You see, little brother?" he asked. "It is I who am superior. Only I can wield the Tetsusaiga to its full potential while you, a mere half-breed, could never use it as I could." He narrowed his eyes. "Father was a fool to entrust you with his heirloom sword." He then pointed the blade at Inuyasha. "The Tetsusaiga has a new master, now...so you have two choices. Either take your friends and run away with your tail between your legs like the whimpering pup that you are...or be killed by our Father's fang."

 Inuyasha growled angrily, flexing his fingers as the joints popped.

 "You can take it over my dead body...!" he hissed.

 "...That can be arranged," Sesshomaru grinned.

 '...I've got a very bad feeling about this,' Kagome thought as she looked at Inuyasha. 'Sesshomaru has the power of a jewel shard, now...and if Inuyasha's not careful, he could get himself killed!'

Chapter Text

 "I have to do something!!" Kagome cried as she rushed out.

 "Wait! Kagome, no!" Miroku called as he reached out after her.

 "Come back! It's too dangerous!!" Shippo cried.

 But Kagome didn't heed their cries as she stood in between the two brothers.

 "Stop right there, Sesshomaru!!" Kagome shouted.

 "K-Kagome!" Inuyasha exclaimed. "What are you doing?! Are you outta your mind?!"

 "Ah...the girl from before," said Sesshomaru. "So, you wish to die alongside my brother? How sweet of you...and foolish."

 "You wish!" Kagome spat, but then Inuyasha stood up and gently pushed her aside.

 "Stay out of this, Kagome!" he told her. "Sesshomaru wouldn't hesitate to kill a woman!"

 "Not so fast, Inuyasha," Miroku said as he came and stood in front of the pair. "I can't just stand idly by while my friends are in danger!"

 "Miroku?!" Kagome questioned.

 'A monk...?' thought Sesshomaru.

 "Who the hell told you that you could butt in?!" Inuyasha questioned as he got in Miroku's face.

 "You have no chance of defeating him, Inuyasha," Miroku answered.

 "What?!" Inuyasha asked. "Why you smug little...no one stands in front of me, got it?!"

 "Guys!" Shippo called from his hiding place. "Now's not the time to be arguing!!"

 Meanwhile, Jaken, who was still sitting on the ogre's shoulder, gasped silently as he spotted Miroku.

 "Is that him?" he whispered. "The monk that Naraku mentioned? He said that the monk might be more troublesome than Inuyasha!" He then scoffed. "But how could such a feeble human be such a threat to Lord Sesshomaru?" He then looked down to his employer. "Milord! Please, don't sully your noble hands with these plebians! Let me take care of them!"

 "...A fair point you make, Jaken," Sesshomaru concurred. "And I will enjoy watching."

 "Get them, you oaf!" Jaken ordered the ogre, who roared as it attempted to grab the trio.

 "Stand back!" Miroku said as he prepared to pull off his prayer beads. "I'll handle this demon!"

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "Fine. You can have this one, then."

 "WIND TUNNEL!!" Miroku yelled as he held up his right hand, and soon, the ogre was being pulled toward the void. Even Sesshomaru seemed stunned as he felt the power of the Wind Tunnel, momentarily drawing him in, but he quickly used the Tetsusaiga to pierce the ground, holding him in place. As for Jaken, he shrieked in horror as the giant ogre was getting sucked in.

 "All right!" Kagome cheered. "Way to go, Miroku!" She paused, briefly, before glancing at Inuyasha. "Not that you weren't awesome, too!"

 "Don't push it," Inuyasha grumbled.

 "...That monk..." Sesshomaru muttered before he reached inside his robe and pulled out the object that Naraku gave him, earlier. "I wonder...if this is what he meant."

 "HELP!!" Jaken cried as he clung to the ogre's arm. "Lord Sesshomaru!! The monk's hand is pulling me in!!! SAVE ME~!!!"

 "Cease your halfwitted blubbering, Jaken," Sesshomaru said as he tossed the ball at Miroku...and suddenly, it burst open to reveal a dozen large wasps with red eyes!

 "W-what in the-?!" Miroku questioned as the insects flew toward him...right into his Wind Tunnel!

 "What's going on?!" Kagome asked. "They're going in, willingly?!"

 Suddenly, Miroku tensed up, and he could feel his body growing incredibly hot. Without a word, he quickly sealed his Wind Tunnel closed.

 "Inuyasha!" he cried. "I'll leave the rest up to you!"

 Inuyasha gasped silently before he looked to the rest of the swarm of wasps, just as Miroku collapsed behind him.

 "Miroku!!" Kagome and Shippo cried as they ran to his aid, while Inuyasha growled and flexed his fingers, making the joints pop.

 "IRON REAVER SOUL STEALER!!!" he yelled as he tore through the insects, killing them with one swipe of his claws.

 "Miroku, are you okay?!" Kagome asked.

 "Ugh..." Miroku groaned. "It seems...that I'm susceptible to their venom..."

 "Venom...?" Kagome repeated. "You mean...like poison?!" She then stood up and headed back to the manor. "Wait there! I'll see if I can get an antidote!!"

 "Phew!" Jaken sighed in relief, lying on the only remains of the ogre that had not been pulled into the Wind Tunnel. "I'll never swat another hornet, again..."

 "Well, this has all been quite entertaining," Sesshomaru began as he held up the Tetsusaiga, "but I'm afraid playtime is over...now die."

 "You wish," Inuyasha hissed as he grabbed at his burned arm. "BLADES OF BLOOD!!"

 SLASH!! He swiped his bloodied claws at Sesshomaru, sending blades of demonic energy at him, which caused him to grunt in annoyance as he stepped back in annoyance. While he was distracted, Inuyasha grabbed Miroku while Shippo hurried after him, carrying the monk's staff.

 "Miroku, what the hell has gotten...into..." Inuyasha trailed off when he felt Miroku's body under his armpit. It was burning hot to the touch and his robes were already drenched with sweat.

 'Shit...don't tell me he's dying!'

 "Shippo!" Inuyasha said as they hid behind the ogre's remains. "Watch Miroku for me, okay?!"

 "What are you gonna do?!" Shippo asked.

 "...I gotta stop Sesshomaru," Inuyasha answered. "He won't relent until he kills us all!"

 "It is useless to hide!" Sesshomaru yelled as he swung the Tetsusaiga, obliterating the ogre's corpse. All that remained was lumps of burning flesh and bone...and no sign of Inuyasha, Miroku, or Shippo anywhere.

 "Hmph," Sesshomaru scoffed. "Killing that half-breed was worth one ogre."

 Just then, Inuyasha came bursting out of the ogre's remains, lunging at Sesshomaru with claws outstretched!

 "I ain't that easy to kill, Sesshomaru!!" he yelled.

 "Typical," Sesshomaru said, nonchalantly. "At least, not until you come charging out like the wild beast that you are!" He swung the Tetsusaiga, again, but this time, Inuyasha was ready for him. He held up the sword's sheath and blocked it, just in the nick of time!

 'What's this?' thought Sesshomaru. 'He's using the sheath to parry the Tetsusaiga? How innovative...but also useless.'

 "Rrrgh...!" Inuyasha growled as he tried to push his older half-brother back, but alas, Sesshomaru wouldn't budge and began to push the half-demon down to his knees.

 Meanwhile, Jaken peeked his head out over the ogre's skull, sighing in relief.

 "Lord Sesshomaru certainly doesn't have any sentiment," he said. "Had Inuyasha not addled him with his Blades of Blood, I would have been as dead as this ogre!"

 "You don't say?"

 Before Jaken could process what was happening, he felt his head get grabbed and forcibly turned to see Miroku, who was glowering at him despite his condition while Shippo stood next to him.

 "I'm curious about something," Miroku said. "This is the first time we've met...and yet that nest of demonic hornets seemed to have been crafted especially for me...so tell me...how could that be?"

 "Bah!" Jaken scoffed as he pushed Miroku's hand away. "What do you take me for, a fool?! I owe you no such explanation!!"

 "...No...of course, you don't," Miroku grinned...before he punched Jaken across the face.

 "GUBLEGH!!" he cried as Miroku grabbed him by the collar of his suikan.

 "But you're going to tell me...aren't you?!" the monk asked with a dangerous glare.

 "EEP!!" Jaken squeaked in fright.

 "...And he calls himself a holy monk...!" Shippo said, nervously.

 Meanwhile, Inuyasha continued to struggle against Sesshomaru, who chuckled darkly as he continued to push his younger half-brother to the ground.

 "Do you honestly believe that useless scabbard will protect you against me?" he asked.

 "Keh!" Inuyasha scoffed. "This is no ordinary sheath, you know!!" Suddenly, he sprang up, pushing Sesshomaru back! "I can split your head with it, at least!!"

 "Then show me!!" Sesshomaru yelled as he swung the Tetsusaiga at Inuyasha, who quickly jumped back, but stumbled a bit. "Or must I imagine it after you've died?!" He held up the sword again, preparing to swing in a downward slash, making Inuyasha gasp as he attempted to parry the blade with his sheath, again...but then...

 "INUYASHA!!"

 The thrumming of a bowstring was heard, followed by the sound of an arrow whistling through the air as said projectile flew between the brothers...and not long after, the Tetsusaiga returned to its original rusted form!

 "What?!" Sesshomaru questioned.

 "Where did that arrow come from?!" Inuyasha asked before he turned around...only to see Kagome, standing on the stairs, reaching into her quiver to pull out another arrow. "K-Kagome?!"

 "Sesshomaru!!" she shouted as she aimed her weapon at the pureblooded dog demon. "Drop the Tetsusaiga and back off, or else the next one is gonna hit you!!"