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Toshiro

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"Try again.” Kaede said.

Toshiro growled, his frustration getting the better of him.

“I can’t do it.”

“Ye can.” Came her immediate, sure reply. “Thou youki is strong, but thou willpower art even more so. Ye can do this.”

Kaede had been taking him into Inuyasha’s Forest for training since his blow up with Orochi some weeks ago, believing that being surrounded by his father’s wood would encourage control. She knew the last thing Toshiro wanted was to cause another forest fire. Today they’d set up in a grove of trees, the rocks and brambles cleared away by the hanyou pup upon their arrival. Inuyasha had assured him that he should not turn feral again so long as he kept his sealing sword with him, but Toshiro had only had Akakaen for a few days and wanted to be away from the village. . .  just in case.

Toshiro glared at the thick candle he sat across from.

He was supposed to light just the wick with his youki, but he had been failing to do so for the better part of two hours. A lesson in precision and control, Kaede had said. He’d managed to singe the patch of grass he and Kaede had been sitting in, and had managed to set an entire bushel of shrubs ablaze too. The candle wick though? Not even close.

He glanced unsurely up at the old miko now, remembering how embarrassed he’d felt watching her put out his small bush fire with one of the pails of water he’d carried here, but she was just smiling at him, her legs and arms crossed patiently.

“Go on.”

He wrung his hands instead. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll slip up and burn you?”

Kaede laughed, raspy and from her gut. It made Toshiro smile. “No, child. I have faced many a thing in my long years. It would take more than a little flame to put these old bones to rest.”

Toshiro narrowed his eyes. That didn’t make him feel any better.

 But he made himself focus anyway, stared at the large prayer candle until his eyes crossed, called his flames to the surface until he flickered all over like a lantern and tried to will it beyond his skin. It was stuck to him, his youki. It resisted. Trying to get it to move away from his person and toward the candle felt like peeling off a thick, extra sticky bandage. But still he tried. And tried. And tried.

He’d thrown off his ikuchi haori an hour ago, and still his slate grey undershirt was dark with sweat and sticking to him from the strain. He rolled back a sleeve and called up his youki again, this time moving his focus to the single arm, hoping that the concentration to one area would make it a bit easier. His flames came up and out with no hesitation and no problem. That part, at least, was like second nature to him now.

Toshiro watched as his fire leapt and danced along his skin, his brows scrunched as he focused. The bright orange and yellow fire cast his caramel colored skin to a dark, earthy cocoa. His youki was beautiful, he thought offhandedly, alive, and entrancing, and frustrating. He tugged at it again, willing his flames to part from him.

Part from him dammit!

An immeasurable amount of time passed, and Toshiro watched on as the flame went from wiggling along his forearm like a worm, to nudging inch by precious inch into the air and toward the candle a few feet away. A thin strand of his youki eventually, finally, nearly reached the edge of the candle. . . only to snap back to him like an elastic band the moment he gasped in delight.

Precision and control indeed.

“Gods damn it!”

He pounded his fists down into the grass in frustration, paying no heed to the puffs of flame and smoke that curled from his hands has he did so. Toshiro damned himself again and pushed his hair back from his eyes, and cursed himself a little extra for leaving the colorful clips Kagome had given him at home; his hair was getting long again and was constantly in the way. Toshiro sighed heavily through his nose and smoke came from there too.

Kaede was laughing at his outburst.

He glared at the miko. “It’s not funny, sensei.”

“It is quite funny.” The old woman wiped a tear from her eye. “Ye art very much like Inuyasha. It is almost hard to believe that he did not sire ye himself.”

That warmed his chest. He liked to think that he was a little more levelheaded than his adopted father, but he couldn’t deny that being compared to the other hanyou made him feel proud. Inuyasha was strong, and kind, and didn’t give up even when he was faced with obstacles. He wanted to be like Inuyasha.

He pouted at Kaede despite all this, turning his nose up in the air. “I’m nothing like that baka.”

She giggled into her haori like Kagome would’ve. When she laughed, she looked so much younger, Toshiro thought. Her shoulder didn’t look so weighed down, the haunted light faded from her brown eye, the solemn lines in her forehead smoothed out.

 He liked making her laugh.

“Surely not.” Kaede said, her tone serious even as her eye twinkled mischievously. “Inuyasha would never let a simple candle cow him.”

 “I can light this stupid candle.” He said petulantly.

“Aye?” She canted her chin up and grinned at him. “Show me, then.”

            Toshiro’s ears folded back at the challenge. The hanyou pup huffed and turned back to his adversary, the candle cast in menacing light and shadow from the breaks in the trees up above. And he focused.

Toshiro woke up, blinking up into the boughs of Goshinbouku. He took a deep breath, letting the months old memory of Kaede fade with his sleep and his exhale. He missed her terribly. Her no nonsense personality, and her girly giggling, and even that Kami damned switch she’d often take to him when he lost focus. Toshiro was glad that he’d been given a happy memory to dream about for once. With everything going on he hadn’t really allowed himself to consciously miss the old woman. . . not since that day. Since that day. . . he hadn’t really allowed himself to feel much of anything.

Except for a dull, consuming rage. . . and impatience.

The two weeks since they’d come home had passed in a blur of funeral pyres and nightmares. He’d slept in the God Tree since the night of the attack, Moeru on the branch above him, Shippou beside him in a clever little nest the fox had made out of large leaves and twigs. Their own home was still half destroyed, a pile a wood and rubble that would remain that way until Inuyasha and Kagome were sure that the villagers were okay.

Toshiro wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Kagome had been staying in the village from dawn until dusk, helping calm weeping women and using the knowledge she’d gained from Kaede to treat those who had been injured when Katsumi and a small band of inu youkai had laid waste to their village. Inuyasha spent his days helping the village men remove debris from their homes and rebuild everything from huts, to market stalls, to animal pens, and spent his evenings supporting his intended mate, holding her as she cried night after night.

Toshiro and his brother had not trained at all. They’d spent the days since the attack at Sango and Miroku’s. The monk was gone most of the day, helping out with Inuyasha, and so the hanyou pup and kit joined the slayer each morning in gathering the village children and keeping their minds off of the despair and melancholy that had since coated the adults around the village like a blanket of snow. Shippou used his illusions to show them tricks and make them laugh, Toshiro taught them how to draw flowers and the saber kittens that kept them company, Sango -heavily pregnant as she was- read them stories, and hugged them close whenever one burst into confused tears, or another cried out for a family member that had long since been buried.

They worked together to keep them fed, and full, and occupied even when they themselves were lost and heartbroken.

Moeru joined Kirara at the village’s boarder, where his mother had appointed herself its protector. The two sabers parted from their partners and pack every sunrise to patrol around the village in their transformed states, their red eyes almost always watching into the trees, the fire at their feet and tails a flashing warning to those who would dare attack their home again.

While Toshiro and Shippou had returned to their temporary camp late last night, their parents had arrived even later. The hanyou pup hadn’t been able to sleep with them being away, and when they along with a lagging Moeru had finally arrived the three of them had trudged up to the tree as if boulders lay on their shoulders, the same solemn, gutted looks the whole pack had worn since Kaede’s funeral on their faces. Moeru was only half his mother’s size when transformed, but Toshiro knew his partner would fight until his flames went out to protect the people he loved. The saber was barely able to fly himself up to his perch in the tree before he out cold. Kagome and Inuyasha had barely said a word of greeting to their sons before they collapsed into slumber in the grass.

Toshiro sighed again and turned onto his stomach on his branch, an arm dangling into the open air, his eyes cast down to where his parents were passed out in exhaustion at the base of the God Tree. Kagome had her head pillowed in Inuyasha’s lap; a light blanket tucked around her. Inuyasha was propped up against the trunk of Goshinbouku, deep, dark smudges under his closed eyes and his hand still tangled in his miko’s hair.

It was hardly sunup now, the air already warm and buzzing with sound, a heavy fog blanketing the treetops. But it seemed to the hanyou pup that the forest had lost a bit of its color, a bit of its life. As if Inuyasha’s Forest knew that something vital was missing, both from their pack and from the world.

He flopped back onto his back again, restless. His movement sent the leaves shuffling around him, the thick canopy above a cool shade in what would surely be a hot day.

He raised his hand and called up his youki, moving and twisting his flames until the shape of a thick prayer candle rested in his palm. He pushed the candle up a bit, away from his skin, and watched it float there without a single tether of his youki to keep it in place. Half a thought had the little wick atop it lit and flickering.

The ease in which he was able to manipulate his flames now was the cruelest sort of irony. He’d spent months training with Kaede, day after day of the miko dealing with his outbursts, and frustration, and failure. Only for him to finally master it and himself, only for her to be brutally taken away from their pack, before she could finally see the fruits of all her time and patience.

But he’d make it up to her.

A plan had begun forming in his mind the day they’d found Kaede, a foolish, risky plan that began to twist and churn alongside him in that dark place in his mind. It would most likely get him killed, but that didn’t matter. He’d finalized it in these last few nights, when sleep had alluded him and the sound of his mother weeping had pushed back the dark place and replaced it with cool, calculating fury. He’d make Orochi pay for each tear Kagome shed. He’d make Katsumi regret ever stealing Misa’s mantel. He’d make up his failures to both Kaede and his sires by sending them company in the afterlife.

The hanyou pup snatched the fire candle from the air, and watched with cold eyes as his youki dissipate in a puff of smoke.

He’d begin tonight if things went as they should.

0:0:0:0:0:

The morning fog had begun to dispel by the time Sesshomaru found them there, moments after Inuyasha and Kagome had awoken, not a day later than he and his brother previously had agreed. No one rose to greet the Inu no Taisho as he approached the giant tree, Moeru didn’t even wake up long enough to hiss.

Sesshomaru looked on at their drawn and despairing facing, his nose twitching ever so slightly.

“What has happened?”

Shippou looked away at the sound of his voice, tears already sliding down his red cheeks at his uncle’s voice. He rolled over, burrowing further into his makeshift nest and putting his back to the dai youkai. Toshiro trampled down his scheming thoughts and reached across the tree to place a gentle hand on his brother’s head, murmuring low to him while he listened to their father’s reply.

“Katsumi attacked while we were with you. Kaede and a few other villagers were killed.”

Sesshomaru stiffened ever so slightly, his eyes going cold and hard.

“None of the assailants were caught?”

“Obviously, the fuck not. They were already long gone by the time we got home.”

“Hn.” Sesshomaru watched them blankly for a moment, before directing his attention to the boys high up in the boughs of the God Tree. “Come. We will train.”

Toshiro shot up in surprise, but before he could respond his mother spoke for him.

“Let them rest, Sesshomaru. We-we’ve all taken this really hard.” Toshiro could smell the fresh tears tracking down her face, and it whet a helpless rage inside him. “Let them rest.”

The inu youkai considered this, then turned to his brother. “I am to assume that they have not trained since the old woman’s demise.”

Shippou shuddered at the youkai’s cold indifference, Inuyasha was growling.

“You assume correctly, you heartless bastard.”

He nodded. “And I assume that this blow has not convinced you to resend the plan to infiltrate the southern keep?”

Yes.” Inuyasha’s youkai marking flashing with his impatience.

“Then I see no reason for them to abstain from training.” Sesshomaru turnedi on a heel, his mind made up. “They should train all the more because of it in fact, and so they will. Come, nephews.”

Shippou was glaring at him now, his tears tracking over the sleepless bruises under his eyes.  “We’re due at Sango’s soon.”

Sesshomaru spun back and shot the pair of them a glare so hot Toshiro could feel it from way up on his perch. “You’ve no duty but to me, and my patience is wearing thin. Come.”

Toshiro cursed under his breath, yanking Akakaen from where he’d wedged it in between two branches and leapt from Goshinbouku. He focused his youki into his feet and pushed his flames outward, using the hot air it created to cushion his landing. When he touched down, he was glaring up at the Inu no Taisho from a cloud of smoke.

Sesshomaru looked unimpressed. “How dramatic.”

Toshiro hissed like a feline at his uncle and stomped off, not looking back at his tired parents or his out cold partner or his frustrated brother. He would snarl and complain and stomp around during their training, he would make a show of being outraged at being taken from his new mandate with the village children. But of all of the emotions he hadn’t allowed himself to feel these weeks, impatience had not been one of them. Finally, Lord Sesshomaru had come. Finally, Toshiro could move forward.

Now all the pup had to do was get his uncle alone, and convince him.

This was what he’d been waiting for.

0:0:0:0:0:

Toshiro had no time for grief, or rage, or meticulous planning, because he and Shippou spent the morning and the better part of the afternoon trying not to die.

Their training had been absolutely brutal. Sesshomaru was not a male known for being consoling, or comforting, but Toshiro sensed that his uncle had allowed them to work through their feelings in the only way the Lord himself knew how; through action. He’d taken them deep into Inuyasha’s forest, and no sooner than they had reached a meadow filled with spring flowers and the smell of incoming summer did the Lord of the West disappear.

There was no warning before the first attack. Toshiro had almost been too slow releasing and bringing up Akakaen when Sesshomaru’s energy whip shot out from the shadows right for the pup’s face. He’d deflected it with a grunt of surprise and it retreated, only to shoot out again from the opposite direction, this time aiming for Shippou’s back. That was their training; the Inu no Taisho flitting between the trees surrounding the meadow, concealing his youki and location, flinging his energy whip repeatedly at the pair of brothers. There were times wherein their uncle would barrage them with attacks from all direction for ten minutes straight, and other times wherein he’d wait twenty and for one of them to lower their swords only for him slash his whip across an arm or leg. There was no telling which direction it would come from, or when the laser hot light whip would shoot out at Shippou’s side, or Toshiro’s neck. They could not see a glimpse of Sesshomaru’s haori or mokomoko-sama within the trees to give them warning.

They had had to rely only on their reflexes to block the blows, and each other.

Sesshomaru had announced the end of the days training by simply sauntering from the trees, his right hand still alight and not a drop of sweat on his person. Toshiro and Shippou meanwhile had been drenched with it and panting, their body and clothes riddled with little burns and cuts, some of the meadow flowers even dotted with their blood.

Toshiro had been so exhausted that when they’d gone to Sango’s for lunch, he’d passed out almost immediately after he’d eaten. He slept through the village children playing with the Lord of the West’s mokomoko-sama, and the great youkai allowing it. He slept through the commotion caused by Jaken and Rin arriving on Ah Uh, and how those children went from climbing all over the Brother of the Fang to cooing over the two headed dragon to Jaken’s outrage and dismay. And he almost slept through his uncle’s hunt for dinner for the lot of them, his chance to finally get the male alone nearly slipping through his fingers.

He shot awake with an inelegant snort, a disoriented line of drool clinging to his chin.

He was in the main room, Shippou passed out himself across the fire, his belly huge and distended, bits of rice from their lunch still clicking to face as he snored. Sango was coming from her bedroom, a hand on her belly and her pregnant waddle pronounced. She smiled when she saw Toshiro awake.

“Sesshomaru must have put the two of you through the wringer today.” She chuckled, then groaned as she went to settle herself onto the floor. “The last time you slept that heavily was when you’d gotten your paws into Miroku’s sake.”

Toshiro darted over to her, bracing her back with his hand and helping her ease to the floor. He chuckled dryly at the memory. “I was curious.”

Sango shot him a rueful look. “You often are.”

Once he was sure she was settled and comfortable Toshiro looked around the hut. The village children were gone. As were Miho, Ryoka, and Kaaru, probably gone off to patrol the village with their mother and Moeru. But—

“Where is Uncle Sesshomaru?”

Sango looked up from where she’d begun stitching a piece of green fabric, the beginnings of a small kimono it looked like. “Gone off to hunt us dinner. I was surprised he offered.”

Toshiro cursed under his breath, and then was out of the door before the words “I’ll go help him” even fully left his mouth.

He burst from the hut, the cool night breeze a balm against his flushed skin. He took a deep breath to center himself and his panic, and cast his senses out, hoping the youkai hadn’t gone too far. Nothing, not a speck of the Lord of the West’s youkai for Toshiro to follow. But upon a deep breath, the pup he found a hint of his scent on the air. He took off, both hoping to Kami that Lord Sesshomaru hadn’t gone too far, and glad that his parents were still busy tending to the villagers.

The hanyou was under the cover of trees before he knew it, the sound of crickets and light flickering of flying bugs the only breaks in the forest’s stillness. He padded as quietly as he could after his uncle’s scent, his heart a beating thrum in his chest, his darting around trees and shrubs sending an errant rabbit skittering away, the knowing, bright eyes of an owl watching his every step.  

Even knowing his uncle’s scent, it was difficult for the pup to follow him into the forest. He was like smoke, Toshiro thought, even his scent was light, and quiet, and disappeared on the wind even as the pup smelled it.

But Toshiro found him eventually, thank the Gods.

Sesshomaru was below a cluster of trees, his back turned and utterly still. Somehow, unbelievably, even his silver white hair and moko-moko sama blended in with the trees and night. There was a dead buck by the Lord’s feet. Toshiro stooped low to the ground, careful of branches and brambles as he heard thumping in the foliage ahead. A moment later Ah Un emerged from the trees opposite Sesshomaru and trotted to their master, Jaken at the dragon’s knee with reins in hand. The frog youkai and the Great Dog murmured to themselves for a few minutes, too low even for Toshiro to catch on the wind. Until Sesshomaru spoke up in a voice the pup could hear, but his words were not directed at his vassal.

“I know you’re there.”

Toshiro’s breathing caught, but he stepped from under the shrub he’d been crouching in without hesitation. He wasn’t the least bit surprised that he’d been detected. He’d released the containment of his youki the moment he’d gotten far enough away from the village. There were no prying ears here, be they hanyou or youkai, that was all Toshiro cared about. So, he stepped from the brush and approached his uncle, head held high.

Sesshomaru was stroking one of Ah Un’s heads, his back still to his nephew. Jaken was staring at Toshiro is shock.

“You!” The frog youkai screeched, breaking the quiet calm of the sleeping forest. “Why do you follow Lord Sesshomaru?!”

The pup cleared his throat. “I need to speak with him.”

“Lord Sesshomaru will choose when and if he speaks to you, lowly hanyou. Go awa—AH!”

Toshiro shot a ball of his youki at Jaken’s feet, his ears folding back and his teeth bared as he grinned darkly. “Learn to shut your mouth.”

“How dare you!” Jaken was hopping back and forth, batting at the little flames that licked at the ankles of his hakama. “Insolent half-breed, disrespectful little—"

“Be silent, Jaken.”

The Lord of the West finally turned, his head canted a bit sideways in question. He ignored how his vassal gaped at him, and eyed the hanyou pup warily.

“What is it you want, Toshiro?”

Toshiro looked hard eyes up at his uncle and raised his chin.

“I need your help.”

The Lord of the West turned to him fully. “Is that so?”

The pup refused to swallow nervously, he wouldn’t. “I have a plan, and I trust you.”

“Lord Sesshomaru cares not for your stupid pl—”

Toshiro lifted a hand and let his flames engulf it, let the imp see clearly the threat in his eyes. He didn’t like hurting people, but he had no time or patience right then for his uncle’s pet. The inu youkai must have sensed this, because he sent his vassal and dragon off with a dismissive wave of his hand. Toshiro put out his flames and ignored the loud, wet raspberry Jaken sent his way as he led Ah Uh into the forest. When they finally disappeared from sight and scent Sesshomaru turned to his nephew again, his arms folded behind him, the very picture of intelligence, and strength, and intimidation.

Toshiro swallowed down in his doubt. “I need you to do something for me.”

Sesshomaru sighed lowly, as if he could already tell that this would be a conversation better not had. “This has to do with Katsumi’s attack, and that old hag’s life.”

Toshiro growled at the insult, “Kaede was innocent.”

“And yet that did not stop your aunt from laying her low.”

“Tch.” Toshiro dashed an arm across his eyes. He didn’t have time to cry. If he wanted this to work, he had to try, and he had to try now. “Tomorrow is my father’s human night.”

Sesshomaru raised a single brow, not even deigning to ask why that was important. Toshiro swallowed, and pushed himself forward, his voice near trembling.

“And-and I listened well. . . really well, when Kaede did medicinal and herb training with my mom.”

“The point, nephew?”

“The point is that the oleander flower is poisonous, but in small or diluted concentrations. . . like mixed in food. . . can induce dizziness and sleep.” He got out in a rush.

The Inu no Taisho blinked at him, the only show of shock and realization that the youkai would let slip. When finally spoke his voice was, dare Toshiro say it, disbelieving. “You mean to go South.”

 “I need to go, and they won’t let me. They won’t even hear of it.”

“And you’ve decided to poison your parents to do so.”

Toshiro tugged on his cut ear unconsciously. “Tch.”

Sesshomaru pinched the bridge of his nose. “And what, exactly, do you plan to do once you reach the Southern border?”

You said I could get inside. You said, as true heir, I could allow creatures past the barriers that surround the Southern city. You said I could. If-if I run South my parents will follow, and I can find a way to allow them in. And-and if the southern inu see me maybe they will rise against Katsumi, and maybe they will join us, and maybe we can end this.”

That is a lot of hypotheticals.”

And that wasn’t a no. The hanyou pup pushed down the niggle of urgency and impatience that curled in his stomach. Sesshomaru’s eyes were unnervingly bright in the darkness, and Toshiro feared for a second that he’d made the wrong decision coming to him.

“Uncle, I need to at least try.” He knew he sounded desperate; he was. “I need to end this. I just need a head start.”

Sesshomaru cast his eyes up into the heavens for patience and then, to Toshiro’s absolute surprise, said, “A tea would be more effective than mixing the flower oil with food. Give the petals I know you’ve collected and hidden away to me, and I will give it to them myself. You will get the time you wish, and I will ensure that you do not accidentally murder your parents in the process.”

“Wha—” Toshiro blinked in shock. “T-thank you.”

Sesshomaru glared at him. “Do not thank me, nephew. For when they wake, I will tell them exactly where you have gone, and why.”

Toshiro nearly shuddered, but his mind was made up. “This has to end, Lord Sesshomaru.”

“Hn.” The youkai turned away, and paused. “You will not make it to the Southern Castle in the time allotted to you on foot. I will give you Ah Un to travel by, for he has traveled with me to the border of the South, and a dragon will surely fly faster than a hanyou pup can run.”

“Th-thank you.” Toshiro stuttered again, and bowed at the waist.

Sesshomaru had two fingers massaging his temple now, his eyes closed. After a moment he opened them, and glared over his shoulder at Toshiro as if the pup were the bane of his existence.

“You’d be smart to press Ah Un quickly nephew.”

Toshiro blinked. “Why?”

“Because when your mother wakes to find you gone, I am positive that she will purify both myself and my idiot brother.”

0:0:0:0:0:

“Where are we going?”

Toshiro toed quietly through the village, his brother whisper-shouting in his ear the whole way.

Toshiro.” Shippou tugged on his haori. “I know you can hear me.”

The hanyou pup batted the kit’s hand away, his ears straining instead for the errant village man or woman. It was late into the night, but one could never be too safe. When Toshiro was sure there was no one around he gripped his brother by the wrist and darted through the village as quickly as he could and into the thick of Inuyasha’s forest.

When they finally stopped, they were at least a mile away from the village. Shippou jerked his hand free and glared daggers at the other boy.

“You wake me up in the middle of the night, you don’t feed me, and now we’re sneaking away from the village again. I swear to the gods if this is another impromptu sparring match, I’m gonna kill you. I’m still sore from this morning with Uncle Se—“

“Shut up!” Toshiro whirled on his brother.

            He rotated his ears around in the resounding quiet, just to be sure.

            “Why are you being so paranoid? Tell me what the hell is going on, aniki!”

Toshiro took a deep, centered breath and launched into an abridged version of his plan, his voice low and urgent. Shippou just stared at him opened mouthed the whole time.

“I was wondering when it'd happen. . . For a while there I almost thought it wouldn't, but it did.”

Toshiro felt his hackles rise with his confusion and his impatience. They didn’t have time for this. “What in hell are you talking about?”

“You've lost your mind.” The kitsune just blinked. “Maybe all the trauma has caught up with you, or your youki has finally fried your brain, I don't kn—”

This isn't a joke!” Toshiro snapped, his ears folding back. “I'm serious about this. And if you’re going with me then we need to leave now.

“You're going to get us killed.” An immediate response.

“It will work.” Toshiro glared. “It has to.”

The kit gave him a look bordering on scorn.

“A fugitive prince, waltzing into his home territory with a prize youkai have literally killed for. Yeah, sure.”

“I'll be f—”

Shippou cut him off with a hysterical sort of laugh.

“The funniest part is that you think I'm talking about your aunt and her band of psychos when I mention your inevitable death.” Shippou had a terrified, almost manic light in his jade eyes. “I mean our parents, you idiot.”

Toshiro frowned, and frowned some more when he thought about the light show their parents would put on when they finally awoke to find both them and the jewel gone. But they would understand, they had to understand.

He said as much to his brother and Shippou snorted.

“Your plan is to not only steal from our parents, but to steal the Shikon no Tama from our parents. An item that Kagome has literally spent the better part of eight years of her life defending, and the reason Inuyasha spent fifty years pinned to Goshinbouku. And to go on some grand journey all the way South, meet with your crazy ass aunt and what? Trade her the jewel?!”

The hanyou pup could admit to himself that it sounded a bit crazy when said aloud. Toshiro clutched the complete Shikon no Tama where it lay in his pocket. He’d felt dirty snatching it off of his mother’s neck while she slept.

“I won’t give it to her for real. I just need Mother to track us with the jewel so she can find the Southern Border.”

“You can't think this is a good idea. There is no way that big brain of yours thinks this is even a remotely good idea. We'll be grounded until we Settle.”

Settling, when their bodies stopped growing at a regular pace and immortality seeped into their bones, slowing their aging over the centuries. Even as a hanyou Toshiro's Settling was over a decade off. 

He winced.

“It's for the village.”

“It'll still be our hides.”

“No one is forcing you to tag along! The Southern Land is dangerous; I'd be better off alone anyway.” Toshiro growled in exasperation. “You don't have to come.”

“Of course, I do! You're not going alone so you can get murdered and I get grounded for letting you go.”

Toshiro couldn’t help but chuckle at his brother’s logic. “So, you’ll be grounded either way.”

“And you’re dead either way.” Shippou snapped. “At least this way we go down together.”

Toshiro sighed loudly through his nose, craning his head back to peek through the canopy of trees and the deep, dark sky beyond. His parents had been asleep for hours before he finally got up the courage to wake up Shippou and take off, but Sesshomaru had assured the pup that the spiked tea he’d given the two at dinner would give him at least twenty-four hours.

The Shikon no Tama pulsed faintly against his palm and the pup ignored it.

Toshiro had to be out of his mind, but he didn’t know another way to protect his family and village and get Katsumi off of his back for good. 

“Don’t worry. The plan will work.”

Shippou pinched his nose in the same gesture their uncle had hours earlier.

Toshiro was beginning to think he was a little vexing.

“Of course, it will.”

Toshiro grabbed his brother around the wrist and tugged him along with a roll of his eyes. “Just come on.”

They jogged lightly through the forest, Toshiro retracing his steps back to where he’d spoken with Sesshomaru. Shippou kept up a stream of complaints the entire time.

"This is so stupid."

Toshiro vaulted himself over a fallen tree. "You've said that four times, little brother."

"And you've yet to listen!"

The pup shot the kit a glare as he watched him stomp on a pinecone. "Would you shut up?"

Shippou continued on as if the hanyou hadn't spoken. "What're you gonna do about Moeru? You know he's not gonna let you go alone."

Toshiro smirked, because they’d made it to the rendezvous point as he’d been instructed. He made a low, two tone whistle and a second later Moeru slunk from the underbrush on cue, his red eyes bright in the darkness. The saber had Au Un’s reigns between his teeth.

Shippou groaned. “Great, more accomplices.”

The hanyou pup busied himself checking the dragon’s saddle bags; Uncle

Sesshomaru had stuffed them full of food and water. He smiled to himself at the Great Lord of the West’s thoughtfulness.

Toshiro hoisted himself up onto the dragon and adjusted himself in the saddle, Moeru hopping up easily to settle between his legs. Shippou was glaring up at them with his fists on his hips. Toshiro knew it was a serious situation, but he couldn’t help but think that his brother looked like their mother right then. He forced back a hysteric chuckle at the thought.

“Not too late for you to turn around, Shipp.” He said instead.

“And see the rage dad goes into when he wakes up?” The kitsune griped. “Yeah, no thank you.”

Shippou scrambled up behind them on the dragon, grasping at his brother’s waist once he was settled. Toshiro could feel Shippou’s disapproval like a fire against the back of his neck. Ah Un turned their two heads were turned toward them, chittering in anticipation as they awaited instruction.

“Head south.” Toshiro snapped the reins, looking over his shoulder to where he could still see smoke rising from the chimney of Sango’s home in the distance. “And hurry.”