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Kintsugi

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They were almost at the broken stone steps before Kagome's second thoughts overwhelmed her. 

Reaching out, she grabbed hold of Sango's arm to stop her from passing between the remnants of the torii. 

"Kagome-san?" Almond shaped eyes landed on her with slight concern. "What is it?" 

"I'm starting to think maybe this isn't such a good idea." 

If Inuyasha was with them, she'd have no reservations. Kagome had wanted to invite the hanyou along and meet some of the people working towards a similar cause as them. But alas, this morning found her all tucked into her futon and the hanyou nowhere in sight. 

Kirara, in kitten form, peeked out from under Sango's collar, and mewled. 

Kagome reached over to gently pat the little diamond shape on her forehead, happy the nekomata seemed to have recovered well. "It's not like I don't think Miroku-sama is a bad person, but he... well, he seems to be a bit forward if you know what I mean." 

"Kagome-san, trust me when I say I can handle myself around overly enthusiastic men." Sango laughs. "Did you forget I slay demons for a living?" 

"I guess... but I'm still a bit worried. He's just here by himself and you'll be left alone with him. Are you sure you don't want to stay with me instead?" 

"I've gotten a few leads here in the city and now that Kirara's herself again, we'll be able to check a few places out. It's too conspicuous for a taijiya and nekomata to keep going in and out of the gates, no matter how careful we are." 

Kagome sighs. "I guess you're right." 

"We'll be fine. If anything, you should worry about this houshi friend of yours." 

They headed up the steps to the abandoned shrine. Again, Kagome felt again the whisper of the heralding charm strung across the front entrance when she entered. Sure enough, like last time, the jingling of metal rings was soon heard from the inner reaches. 

As Miroku appeared and caught sight of her, a pleased smile stretched across his face. 

"Ah, Kagome-sama! What a pleasant surprise this fine day!" 

"Good afterno–" 

Before she had a chance to return the greeting, the houshi had somehow crossed the rest of the distance between them in a flash and clasped both of her hands tightly in his. 

Oh no... not this again. 

"I hope this means you've reconsidered my proposal, dear Kagome-sama." 

A deceptively slender looking forearm came down on both of his wrists, making him drop his hold on her. 

"Ow!" 

Kagome hadn't noticed Sango leaving her side earlier to scope out the premises. It would make sense to get the lay of the land, considering her training. 

She looked up to see the swiftly reappeared slayer glaring crossly at Miroku, who was now rubbing his wrists. His eyes landed on Sango and promptly widened. 

"Goodness, Kagome-sama, you've brought along your beautiful friend! I'm," Miroku proceeds to make a grab for Sango's hand. "Mirok– ow!" 

This time, Sango smacked him upside the head. Miroku was either very brave, or very foolish. 

Sango turned to give her a deadpan look. "Wow, you weren't joking, were you?" 

Kagome shrugged helplessly and gave a weak laugh. 

"Wait, wait! We've clearly gotten started on the wrong foot." Miroku seemed to have recovered from the blow on the head, bowing to them in a hurry. "I'm Miroku. It is my pleasure to meet your acquaintance. I'm sure Kagome-sama can vouch for my character." 

"Hardly." She mutters. "And you're really not helping the cause." 

Sango eyed Miroku's monk's attire with a touch of disdain. "Houshi-sama, do those of your vocation not usually hold celibacy as a sacred value?" 

The man had the decency to look sheepish while rubbing the back of his head. 

"That is correct my lady but there are certainly exceptions. Contrary to common doctrine, the desire for the sanctity between that of a man and a woman, does not preclude continued existence of spiritual powers." 

Kagome was actually slightly taken aback by this. Sure, there was a very small subset of miko that did marry but she assumed they simply chose to take on more of a healer role. The thought that one could have both was a relief. The details fueling this profound sense of relief however, was something to be explored at a later time. 

Miroku motioned to the back of the shrine, jostling the rings the jingle of Miroku shakujo. "I'm assuming our conversation would be better suited to continue out back?" 

Kagome nodded. "Yes. I also brought something for Shippou-chan." 

"Ah, the kit has worked his charm on your already?" 

"Kit?" Sango inquired. 

"Yeah, Shippou is a kitsune youkai. Very cute. But don't tell him!" 

Sango couldn't help but smile at her comment, drawing the rapt attention of one houshi. Noticing immediately, the taijiya gave him a pointed look. "So, you were leading the way, houshi-sama?" 

"Ah yes, of course. May I know the name of my lady?" 

"It's Sango. Do not take it as an invitation to try anything else." 

"Of course not, you have my word, Sango-san." 

Both girls snorted almost in unison at that. Miroku gave a gracious chuckle and turned to lead them through the dilapidated shrine. 

As with Kagome's last visit, they passed through Miroku's barrier at the cave-like entrance to the natural hollow. Just like Kagome, Sango was taken aback when she straightened up and took in her surroundings for the first time. The little group paused for a few moments to allow the newcomer to admire the view. 

Behind them came a streak of youki, heading full speed straight at them, accompanied by the pitter-patter of tiny feet before a blur of orange and blue became visible. Beside her, Sango seemed to instantly tense into a battle-ready stance. She shot the taijiya a quick reassuring glance. 

"Kagome!" 

A blur of paws and fluffy tail launched straight at her and she caught him in her arms, managing to not dislodge anything from the basket hooked around her elbow. 

"Hi, Shippou-chan." 

The kitsune child turned to appraise the taller woman beside them. 

"Who's this?" 

"This is Sango, she's my friend." 

"She has a big weapon Kagome…" 

"That she does." She ruffled his messy fringe. "But only for youkai that want to hurt us." 

Satisfied with the explanation, he tentatively raised a hand to touch Sango's shoulder. At her welcoming smile and the sudden appearance of Kirara from beneath the collar of her kosode, Shippou burst into giggles. 

"Oh, that's right, Shippou-chan. I have a treat for you." Kagome fished out the package of dango and handed it to the wide-eyed child. "Don't eat it all at once ok?" 

He nodded and flashed her a fanged grin. "I won't, Kagome." 

At that, the fox child scampered off, beckoning his newfound nekomata friend to follow, eager to show off the highlights of their temporary home. 

"Ah, you spoil him so Kagome-sama." Miroku commented lightly, watching the two youkai disappear around a rocky wall. 

"He's a child, Miroku-sama. I just…" She paused, suddenly somber. "I wish he didn't have to be caught up in all this." 

"That's what we're trying to mitigate, hm? I'm assuming there's more to your visit today than a mere delivery of sweets, Kagome-sama. But if it was solely to introduce me to your beautiful friend… " 

From her side, Sango raised her arm meaningfully. 

Kagome nodded, ignoring the monk's antics. "You're correct. Sango and I, we were able to break one of those tethers." At this Miroku's brows arched. Kagome continued. "I thought since we're of different spiritual disciplines, you might be able to notice things I may have missed." 

The houshi murmured in agreement. "That is wise of you, Kagome-sama. Well then, shall we?" 

He led them to the same low table near the fire, and bustled around to prepare tea. Without Shippou's help this time, the water took a while to boil. They took the chance to make introductions, with Kagome explaining how Sango and herself met, as well as their agreement to help each other. 

It did cross Kagome's mind briefly, whether it was naive of her to trust in the motives of her companions so readily. After all, she'd known them for, at most, a fortnight. It would be easy to keep up pretenses for a short period of time. But, the three of them each had the ability to incapacitate youkai beyond that of normal humans, so the fact that they're not taking advantage of this, is telling enough. 

Kagome placed the packaged pieces of the tether that once held Kirara captive on the centre of the table and carefully unwrapped it. Even though she couldn't feel any semblance of residual aura on the bindings, it was always better safe than sorry. She'd tied the frayed cords together with her own seal, just in case. 

Miroku frowned down at the object, brows drawing together. Withdrawing a long loop of prayer beads from his robes, he coiled it several times around his hand before reaching out to prod at the tether with his finger. 

Sango, possessing no spiritual power of her own, kept glancing back and forth between Kagome and Miroku, until she finally clipped. "So?" 

The monk exhaled, and unwound the beads slowly. "I can't detect anything out of the ordinary on this." 

"Same with me." Kagome sighed, honestly a little disappointed. "It just feels like the plain hemp rope we use in the shrines." 

"Perhaps once severed from the entity it's meant to bind, the spell dissipates." Miroku pondered. 

"I could catch one for us, easy. I know for a fact they're keeping lower youkai like livestock." Sango suggested. 

"The thing is, I don't think doing that would necessarily help." Miroku rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "You said you broke this the tether by physically cutting it, Kagome-sama?" 

"Sango-san said she tried to physically sever it, but it stayed intact." Kagome glanced at Sango who nodded in corroboration. "When we tried together, I did use a blade but I channeled in reiki while Sango-san did the cutting." 

"In that case, if these tethers can be broken by pure spiritual clout, then they're the least of our worries should we need to break more of them." Miroku decided. "I think what we need to concern ourselves with, is how the higher youkai are controlled. The focus of the slave trade has very obviously shifted to humanoid youkai. And that I feel, can only get worse. If the masses are accustomed to treating humanoid beings as possessions, then it will be a matter of time before disadvantaged humans are enslaved. I'm not in any sense saying that humans are worth more than youkai by any means, but just pointing out that this can get even more out of hand very quickly." 

There was a heavy silence following the houshi's words. Kagome did not think of those repercussions, but what Miroku said made a morbid kind of sense. 

"You have a good point, houshi-sama." Sango began, nodding a little in Miroku's direction, whose countenance brightened dramatically at the attention. "My family is one of the taijiya clans near the Capital. This current situation we have on our hands came out of nowhere but took the Capital by storm seemingly overnight. It's caused a rift among the clans. Some have no qualms about capturing and selling youkai to the slave traders. Our family though, has had youkai partners living and working beside us all our lives." 

Kagome found the new bit of insight into Sango's life incredibly interesting. It certainly explained her devotion to Kirara. "Isn't Masae from the Capital?" 

"I've heard of her name in passing while I was still in correspondence with the other clans. I recall something about her working closely with the court spiritualist, and was an influential character for some time." 

"Hmm... and somehow she came here." 

"I think it's safe to say it was by design she came to Kyo. Perhaps to expand the influence of whatever circle she's part of?" Miroku offered. 

Kagome shrugged. "Seems plausible, but it's all a guess at this point." 

"If we're trying to take her out, we will need to do so discreetly and cleanly. If it is true, she has some sort of court backing, then she might be able to call in reinforcements. We can't give her notice to do that." Sango's eyes were serious as she looked at them both in turn. 

Miroku grimaced. "Yes, Sango-san, that is very true." Then doing a complete one-eighty, he shot Sango an enamoured look, then proceeding to wink at Kagome. "Isn't it glorious to have a strategist on board! Thank you so much for recruiting us a taijiya, Kagome-sama." 

It did the trick to cheer them up, Kagome laughing at the taken aback look on the other girl's face. 

After a quick break to sip their tea, Miroku spoke again, addressing Kagome. "Back to the bindings though, have you had a chance to examine any of the higher youkai slaves up close?" 

"Well... I work with Jinenji-san closely. I've been trying some passive scanning, but there's honestly nothing obvious." Noticing Miroku's nodding, she continued. "You too then, Miroku-sama? The only time it's apparent that something is amiss, is when the binding is actively in use." 

"I... I've never encountered that." 

Kagome sighed, sadness filtering into her voice. "Well, Inuyasha, the hanyou friend I mentioned. I've been there when the bindings are activated to summon him back. It... it feels black, like a void is there, sucking in his youki and almost like my own senses are pulled too." She shook her head. "I don't really know how to describe it. It's similar to miko energy but not. Just overwhelmingly wrong." 

Sango looked over sympathetically, laying a hand on her shoulder. 

"I'm sorry to say, Kagome-sama," Miroku lamented, shaking his head. "It sounds almost like a curse to be perfectly honest with you. But if you explained your motives to this hanyou friend, do you think he might allow you to more aggressively probe his youki to see if there's any obscure findings?" 

The thought had not crossed Kagome's mind. "That's actually a great idea! I've never done more than kind of send some energy out his way to check. I'll do that! Also, I think if he feels comfortable, maybe I can ask him to come with me next time and you can also check?" 

"I would be honoured." 

"Good. I think we're really starting to form some sort of plan." Sango clasped her hands together, looking determined. "As far as the slave traders are concerned, they assume I'm still a supplier. I've heard them talk about taking the newly brought in youkai for a 'cleanse'. There's a few leads I want to look into with Kirara." 

Miroku turned towards the slayer, nodding. "Yes, I've heard the same as well. If we find one of these hubs, we might uncover something else. There's been an influx of household slaves the last few weeks, mostly tanuki and kitsune youkai. And I happen to be rather friendly with the tanuki. The lovely Sango-san and I will get to the bottom of this in no time!" He winked at Kagome. 

Kagome had to bite her cheek to keep herself from smiling. Miroku was unabashedly eager to be spend more time with Sango. 

"I'll keep working from Masae's angle. She seems to have some sort of vested interest in me, so much so she's inviting me to some of her intimate gatherings. I think I'll keep riding that as long as I can." 

Sango suddenly looked serious. "Kagome-san, you will need to exercise caution. From what I gather, that woman is not to be underestimated." 

"I agree with Sango-san." Miroku added, with the same worry in his expression. 

"I will be very careful. I promise." Kagome nodded. "Sometimes, I just wish I could still turn to Kaede-sama. She would have the answers to so many of our questions, I'm sure." 

At Sango's questioning look, Miroku chimed in. "Kaede-sama was the previous head priestess of Kyo. From what I gather, she's very experienced and has been miko at Tenrinji all her life." 

"Yeah. She's my teacher. But she's been incredibly difficult to find, of late. I hope she's unharmed though." 

Just as Kagome finished her sentence, a loud snap of a twig was heard from around the corner. Miroku glanced behind them in amusement. 

"Ah... I think we've made enough progress for the day." He smiled. "And Kagome-sama, I think there's a certain kitsune who's waited very patiently to ask you to play." 

Sure enough, when Kagome got up to peek around the corner, the fox child was there, blinking innocently up at her, holding a temari ball. It did not take too much convincing for Kagome to play with Shippou and Kirara for a bit, tossing the ball between them. It was a much-needed reprieve from the heavy topics of earlier. Sango and Miroku observed them in amusement from the sidelines, opting to have more tea instead. From the few secret glances Kagome snuck in their direction, they seemed to be conversing well and Miroku was thankfully behaving himself. She was glad that Sango and Kirara would likely have a decent time staying here. 

After some time, Kagome had to excuse herself from another game. Although Shippou predictably pouted, he ultimately understood that she had other duties to attend to. When she made to say goodbye though, he brought up an expected question. 

"Are you going to bring the hanyou next time?" 

Kagome frowned a little at the slight tone afflicting the term. "His name is Inuyasha, Shippou-chan. And I will, if you promise to be nice." 

Shippou's big emerald eyes locked onto hers, unblinking. For a moment, Kagome was reminded of just how not human the little boy was. Then he beamed as he scampered up to her feet, flashing her another adorable fanged smile. 

"Ok, but only because you're nice to me Kagome." He produced a small, round object from within his vest and presented it to her with an outstretched arm. "Here, this is a present for you!" 

Kagome laughed, squatting down to be on par with kitsune's height and ruffled his hair. 

"Why thank you, Shippou-chan." 

Proudly, he pressed his gift into the palm of her hand. 

Bringing it up for inspection, Kagome found he had given her an acorn. It was perfectly shaped and evenly coloured. What a sweet gift. 

And because there was no use pretending the little boy hadn't already wormed his way into her heart, she drew out the packet of dried fruit from within her robes. She could do without a snack on the way home. 

Relinquishing it into his eager hands, Kagome bopped his nose gently. "For later ok?" 

He giggled, gave a little wave and ran off. 

She straightened up and tucked the acorn into her robes for safe keeping. Then she went off to rejoin Miroku and Sango. She wanted to summarize their plan of attack before she made her leave. Most importantly, Kagome had to assure herself one more time that it was ok to leave Sango alone with the monk. 

––-–-–-– 

Inuyasha grunted, his shoulder jamming roughly into the bark as he sagged into the tree for support. 

He should really learn to keep his big mouth shut. 

He chuckled humourlessly at the thought. But if he actually managed to do that though, would he still be Inuyasha? 

Having rested for a moment, he staggered on towards to the river, lacking his usual grace. Reaching the edge, he hastily striped off this clothing and drew his hair over one shoulder with a grimace. Even with his neck craned awkwardly around, it was difficult to see the gouges he could feel blazing across his back. 

Fuck. That bitch did a number on him after all. 

Masae had been particularly prone to lashing out that afternoon, gleefully striking any of them that so much looked at her wrong. Maybe the wicked switch she brandished was a new toy she was eager to try out. It wasn't something she'd had before and it hurt like a motherfucker. 

If she had actually wanted to do some serious damage, she could always use the binding. That never failed to elicit pain the likes he'd never felt before. As if burred wire had lodged itself in his marrow and someone was drawing it out slowly. Masae liked inflicting pain, liked it more when they remained functional enough to show suffering, so she could relish in it. 

The good thing is the binding that secured them as her slaves did not seem to be able to kill them outright. At least, if it did, Masae didn't make a show of it yet. Although, he suspected, if she could kill them just like that, she would've flaunted it already. It looked like purification is still the tried-and-true method. And that is dependent on the power of the reiki user and the strength of the youkai opponent. 

Speaking of, the badger youkai– one whose runaway mouth made Inuyasha look polite in comparison– looked seriously fucked up yesterday. He was literally missing chunks of flesh all over his body. Jinenji, the fool, even offered some herbs to help speed up the healing. When is the bumbling hanyou going to get it through his thick skull that even now, even though they were all slaves to same fucking miko, the full-blooded youkai still thought they were better than hanyou. It's each man for himself. That's all there is to it. 

It wasn't until hearing Kagome's distressed confession that he figured out what exactly happened to wound the badger youkai so. 

Inuyasha cursed as pain blossomed in the wake of the hand he swiped behind his torso. Bringing it back to inspect, he found that at least the gashes had stopped bleeding, but they seeped a sickly discharge. He couldn't get a good handle on whether the whip the miko wielded was spelled or poisoned. In any case, it felt like the wounds were sucking energy from him. 

Before, he would just find a cave to crash in for however long before the next summons and let his youkai blood do its thing but now, things were... different. 

He plunged into the deeper waters of the river, hoping to wash away any poison, if that was what it was. The cool water and the gentle swirl of the current around his body soothed the stinging somewhat. When he thought it was probably good enough, he picked his way back to the river bank. Briefly, he pondered whether he would try and use some leaves as padding between his clothing and his back or something. That way, if they continued to ooze, it wouldn't stain his clothes. 

Even though it was a nuisance to hide his injuries, he wouldn't give up this new arrangement with Kagome. It was… hella nice to go home to her. Even saying that in his mind was plain weird…tentative, like if he held onto the thought too long, the reality of it might be taken away from him. Going home to someone had never been an option for him since his mother passed long ago. 

The girl was damn perceptive though and somehow gave a fuck about him. If he wasn't careful, just the slightest variance of his body language would tip her off. Then she would fret, and god forbid, cry and he just did not want to deal with that. 

Inuyasha groaned as he settled against a tree trunk to rest and wait for his freshly washed clothes to dry. 

When the hanyou opened his eyes again, it was nearly dark. The sun had long set leaving the sky faintly touched with the last of the dying light. Inuyasha eased himself up gingerly, immediately cursing up a storm. It didn't feel like he'd healed at all in the hours he'd fallen asleep; his back still felt like it was on fire. 

Since there was only a bit of gunk seeping from the lacerations, he decided to forgo padding his clothing, hoping that the undershirt would soak up the worse of it. Hurrying the best he could, without further aggravating his injuries, Inuyasha headed for Kagome's home. 

Landing in the clearing, he could see the faint curl of smoke rising from the familiar silhouette of the house. To the side was the cockeyed shadow of an enormous pile of firewood, a new addition since last week. Kagome had tried but failed to hold in her laughter when she told him that they had enough wood to last halfway through winter at least and she would prefer they still had a forest standing around them. It was a similar situation with his hunting– apparently a human woman did not eat triple the amount he did. 

Sure, he'd overdone it just a little, but–although he still couldn't quite bring himself to call it his home– this was his temporary shelter–, he sure as hell was gonna keep everything well stocked. He didn't want to be a pity case. And he didn't want Kagome to feel burdened, with him hanging around more often. One of these days, if Masae would fucking let up a little, he might be able to go and find that mineral deposit he chanced upon earlier in the year. Humans liked that kind of shit. Maybe Kagome could trade it for some rice and things she didn't grow. It just didn't feel right for him to eat her food all the time. 

He stepped into the patch of light shining out into the field. The lights coming from the house were warm and soft. Straightening up and pulling back his shoulders from the protective hunch he was in, Inuyasha sorted himself before going inside. He was not going to let on the fact he was still in pain. 

Deliberately making noise to herald his entrance, Inuyasha traversed the genkan into the main room. The smell of the fire and familiar scent of Kagome greeted him, bringing a wave of comfort unexpected in its intensity. Said girl looked up as in he stepped into the firelight and a wide smile stretched itself across her face, travelling up to melt her eyes into a warm caramel. 

"Hey, Inuyasha." Greeted him softly, tucking a lock of her behind her ear as she carefully set down the scroll she was examining. 

A blanket was tucked around her legs and her hair was unbound, falling in gentle waves about her shoulders, free from the tight plait she wore during the day. The green robes she wore for her work was already exchanged with a light kosode. Kagome was clearly waiting for him; she normally did her reading in the study. The overall effect made her look unguarded and intimate. The thought that he was privy to see her like this, to be the recipient of this kind of domestic peace, made his insides feel all weird and squirmy. 

Caught off guard by the foreign feelings, he was uncharacteristically shy in his reply. "H-hey Kagome. Uh…" 

It'd been a damn week and he still hadn't dispelled his awkwardness when he greeted her in the evening. She's not his damn wife. This was just a living arrangement. 

Her eyes twinkled with amusement but thankfully did not comment on his predicament. "Have you eaten? I saved dinner for you." 

"'s fine. Don't haveta bother." 

"It's no trouble, Inuyasha." She told him gently, having already gotten up to prod around the ashes to uncover a partially buried container. Deftly, she replaced the ceramic pot on fire. "Don't give me that demon-body nonsense. You have to eat." 

He took advantage of her diverted attention to quickly settle himself against a wall without her catching sight of his grimaces when the movement pulled on the welts traversing his back. Propriety dictated he should probably have chosen a spot opposite where she was sitting, but fuck it. Who was he kidding? It felt so much better to sit beside her instead. 

There was a rustle as she sank back into the blanket, barely an arm's length away. 

And that was when he caught a whiff of a foreign scent. It was really faint, but it was definitely present. And it was very male. 

Before he could bite his tongue, a low snarl had already escaped his lips. A scorching flame of something swept up his throat, leaving an awful bitterness on his tongue. The feeling was almost painful, and completely unrelated to the welts crisscrossing his back. Although the background throb of the slow healing wounds may have fanned the flames of his anger. 

There was a man–a human man– in her life. Said man had to be important enough to her for her to allow him to hold her hands. He'd fucking carried her, saved her ass but it's not like he's really gotten close to holding her hand. 

Inuyasha had let his cursed human heart run away from him, letting him even indulge in the fantasy that there was tiny chance in the world, against all odds that he, the hanyou Inuyasha, could have a home. And a woman that he harboured some fondness for, reciprocate likewise. But all this time it was exactly what'd only ever known– crushing disappointment. He was at best, her friend. She was stupidly being generous by nature. That was all. Why in the world would she want a hanyou as a mate? And one that's a slave at that. Easy. She doesn't. And she never will. 

He snatched up one of her arms, though his strength was tightly controlled as to not hurt her. The image of the ugly bruise around her wrist still haunted him. 

The girl's eyes widened in surprise as her brows furrowed in abject confusion. She opens her mouth to speak but he cut her off. 

"So… does your suitor know you're shacking up with a hanyou?" He spat, voice sounding horribly harsh even to his years. 

Kagome gasped, the hurt colouring her expression. "What are you talking about?" 

He made a sharp gesture at his nose with his free hand. "I can smell a human man on you, Kagome." He leapt back to put some distance between them, as if that would ease the unexpected sting in his heart. "Fuck, I told you I don't need your pity. Forget this thing we decided on. You're not gonna get him to marry you if I'm here." 

He shot up to his feet, stubbornly ignoring the waves of pain unleashed by his careless movement and made to leave. Just leave all this behind. Leave whatever fragments of dreams he'd been foolishly allowing himself to form. 

Abruptly the fiery scent of Kagome's anger exploded around him, completely overtaking the hurt that was there seconds before. 

"Inuyasha, stop being an idiot and sit down! Or kami help me…" She yelled, the sound of it sending his ears folding in protest. 

He snuck a look at her. And that was where he went wrong. Kagome looked livid. He hadn't made her this angry since the early days. Good thing she had excellent control over her powers. 

"I said sit, Inuyasha." She repeated, voice low and surprisingly menacing. 

He gulped. Then promptly plopped his ass back on the edge of the raised platform as instructed. Weirdly enough, her anger seemed to stop whatever inner pity train he had going in its tracks. 

She stalked closer to him, squatted down and stared him straight in the eye, almost shooting fire from her slightly narrowed gaze. 

"If you're done being an ass, and actually listen to me, I will tell you what's really going on." She sent him one more glare for good measure and then her ire seemed to dissolve into exasperation. "The human male, is a houshi named Miroku. Although he does have a lecherous streak, I don't think he means any harm. Or is entirely serious. I'm not interested. So quit it with whatever stupid ideas you have in your head. You're not going anywhere. I'm not rescinding my offer. End of story. Got it?" 

He nodded mutely, eyes glued to her movements as she got up again. 

"Next time, you can just ask me." Kagome chided as she retrieved the pot of food from the fire, and plunked a tray in front of him. "Now eat, baka." 

"Sorry…" He muttered, picking up the chopsticks and stuffed a bite into his mouth. "'s good." 

Beside him, Kagome gave a long-suffering sigh. 

"I meant to tell you earlier, Inuyasha, just didn't get a chance to. I actually want you to come meet everyone. Like I said, Miroku-sama is a houshi. I met him kinda through Hisaishi-sama–that's the master healer. Miroku-sama's been keeping some young youkai safe at a hidden shrine. Oh, and there's Shippou-chan. And Sango-san is a taijiya– 

"What?" 

"No, don't worry. I think she's on our side. She has a nekomata companion–actually, she helped me carry you back that first night." 

"Whoa, slow down, woman." 

Kagome laughed, mildly embarrassed at her excited rambling. "Yeah, a nekomata. Super cute when she's a kitten but she's kinda scary full sized if you're not used to it. Um, cream coloured, black markings, two tails?" 

"Huh… what do you know…" Could it be the demon cat that visited him sometimes at the estate? 

"Hmm?" 

"Never mind, go on." 

"Anyway, so Sango-san and I agreed to help each other out, because well, we each have someone who's a slave." Kagome snuck a quick look at him, then continued on, relieved at his neutral expression. "We managed to break the tether holding Kirara yesterday! So that's really great." 

There was a moment's hesitation before he muttered. "Your 'someone' is…" 

"You." She rolled her eyes a little at the obvious answer. "Now Sango-san says she wants to help at least until we figure out how to break the hold on higher youkai like you. I introduced her to Miroku-sama today and we discussed a few theories. I want to ask if you want to meet them and join forces, you know. I think we can trust them, Inuyasha." 

She looked at him from the side, a little hesitant, waiting for his reaction. Kagome never ceased to surprise him. 

"Keh. You've been busy, Kagome." 

She smiled shyly, tucking some hair behind her ear. "I've just had some luck and a lot of help. So, you'll come?" 

"Yeah." 

"Oh good! We'll just have to figure out when." She seemed relieved by his response, then catching sight of his bowl, now polished clean, she reached a hand out, wiggling her fingers. "Want more? I made extra." 

Inuyasha felt his stomach's wholehearted response in the positive, and relinquished it to her. 

Kagome returned shortly with another heaping portion. After handing it over, she sat down beside him again, sliding the blanket and scroll closer to her. 

The peaceful quiet that permeated these evenings returned and the ensuing relief was very welcome. After a moment, Inuyasha felt the slight weight and warmth of Kagome leaning into his side. Looking down, all he saw was the crown of her head bent over the contents of her reading. He adjusted his posture to better support the both of them, letting his cheek hover over her hair. 

He didn't know what it meant. Hell, being hanyou, this was not something he was experienced in. It wasn't like he would snoop around to watch random humans inside their houses either. But what Inuyasha did know was that this subtle closeness between them was soothing. If Kagome was the one to initiate it, it must mean she was ok with it right? 

Furthermore, the thought that she wanted to include him, introduce him to these other people, against all the voices of doubt rallying in his head, gave him a rebellious spark of hope. 

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Shakujo - the metal staff Miroku carries around

Dango - sweet chewy dumpling made with rice flour, usually round and on a skewer. I like the three coloured ones; they look really cute!

Temari ball - a ball made by wrapping a wad of fabric in stripes of fabric in a specific pattern. They're more a folk art now with really nice embroidery! Look them up :) They're usually given to children by parents and symbolize deep friendship and loyalty.


A/N: Ahhhh! Rushed this week! This has hardly been edited, if you spot mistakes, help a sista out and let me know >_< Hope you liked anyhow. Till later!


Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha. However, this plot, the exact sequence of words and any original characters described therein, I reserve all rights to.